Ever since I was shorter, I loved food. I remember the first time food captured my senses and I couldn’t believe how wonderful that experience was.
I was five years old, had oatmeal for breakfast, played all day in anticipation of the barbecue my parents would prepare later for their friends. I threw the ball to myself, climbed a tree, ran around the neighborhood and played with the neighborhood kids until I was hungry. I’ll never forget that meal as it was the first time I felt like it wasn’t just sustenance, it was more then that. It was the combination of flavors between charred, sweet, and savory.
That delicious sensory experience catapulted me into the passionate realm of food lover. I will share with you that magical recipe for the barbecue sauce as written down by my mom. She had several recipes in her repertoire but as I mentioned, this was the first time I paid attention to food.
- 4 Tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire
- Chopped onion to taste
- 1 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 cup chili sauce
- 8 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 cup catsup
- 1 cup water
- 2 tablespoons dry mustard
- Sea Salt to taste ( substituted from original table salt)
As we traverse the landscape of any culinary event we are blessed at times to remember that dining experience. Usually for me, when I now enjoy a meal at a restaurant it isn’t something I could prepare at home. I save for the meal that has the potential (based upon menu description and reviews) to create that very special memory associated not only with the restaurant but the city that restaurant is located in. It is the culture, ingredients, and the slightly different demeanor of the staff that captures the heart beat of that place and time.
In the fall, Nancy and I went to Chicago, a city I’ve never been. We took the architectural boat cruise, went to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, had deep dish pizza, enjoyed jazz from the Winters Jazz Club, but the event that elevated our trip was a meal at Spiaggia.
The staff was amazing, gracious, eloquent in menu description, and the kitchen was spot on. In every coursed meal there is one dish that stands out. In this case it was the hand-crafted fettuccine with the chef coming to our table and grating fresh white truffles into a mound of savory delight over the top of the pasta sitting in a Parmesan cream sauce.
Sometimes when I think of that trip to Chicago I’ll remember that beautiful dish. I remember the effort it took to create the perfect marriage of ingredients, and the chef with a smile on his face when he realized he elevated our dining to a memory that will never be forgotten.
One other meal that took place for me that I will never forget was over 30 years ago at the St. Orres Inn in Gualala California. In this case it was a combination of the meal and the way it was described. Before I even tasted the dish I was convinced it would be the best lamb I’d ever had.
The server compared the lamb in France, where they came from, the grass they ate, the topography of the surrounding landscape, and the breeze that gently cascaded over the plain to create the perfect conditions for raising the lamb. He then compared the exact same conditions to a small (farm to table) ranch producing the finest lamb in Northern California. This meal was prepared and served inside a building with a Russian Mosque design, 40 foot ceilings, limited tables with long stem roses, and Miles Davis “Kind of Blue” album playing in the background.
You see, these amazing dining experiences would not be possible without the passion necessary to create a symbiotic relationship between the design of the restaurant, chef, server, and the guest. It is this devotion to elevate the dining experience that promotes a dance inside us musically, spiritually, and figuratively.
Next time you dine I hope you are blessed to find that culinary dance that promotes an event you will never forget.
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