Monday, 30 March 2009

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens....etc...my favourite things

Attending a wedding yesterday, I met an ex-Hobart restauranteur who previously had a vibrant restaurant in Battery Point quite a few years ago. We chatted about what she had been doing since she sold her business, and how she’d progressed onto what she is currently doing.

That conversation led me to thinking about past restaurants and meals. I tried to think back to THE most outstanding meal I’d ever had in my whole life, whether it was in a restaurant, or at home or wherever. I tried to pinpoint exactly what it was that had made it THE very best meal I’d ever had. I thought it would also be interesting to hear other people’s ideas of what they would classify as their own best meal of all times.

After a lot of soul searching, delving back into the annals of Rita’s food history, and the very depths of Rita’s fast fading memory, I decided that probably the most memorable meal for me was my first taste of Thai food. I was at a family dinner party in Sydney around 25 years ago. The couple hosting the meal were your quintessential yuppy couple who prided themselves on being on the cutting edge of all things fashionable, including food and furnishings.

We ate a Thai Beef Salad with various Thai-related accompaniments. Never had I experienced this kind of Asian food. I had had Chinese and Japanese food before but this was nothing like those two. I absolutely loved the sweet/sour/spicy/salty combination. This brand new flavour combination exploding inside my body made a lifelong impact. I asked for the recipe there and then, still have the copy of it in my collection today, and make it regularly, as I have since that day 25 years ago. Naturally I don’t have need to refer back to the recipe now.

Whilst that was a first, another meal which I rate right up there is the Peppered Steak and chips meal I have at Le Provencal. For me, that meal encompasses everything I want in a perfect steak meal. God knows what Jean-Claude does with the steak and pepper sauce, but no way have I ever achieved such perfection in such a simple meal as he does.

I am like a little piggy in the proverbial shit when at Le Provencal with that meal in front of me. Bring on death at that particular moment in time, as that’s exactly the minute I would choose to die – having eaten most of my steak and peppered sauce and chips!

24 comments:

steve said...

Hi Rita-Probably for me its returning to the comfort of the ol bacon & eggs with plenty of bread to mop up the remains. Actually a plump roasted chook with all the trimmings comes close. Then again it could be that perfectly chargrilled & rested rib eye with my favourite Dijon mustard... I could go on.

PS. to Sir G, My wardrobe department is still in its infancy & I am yet to attract the services of a stylist of renown, so you'll have to endure my shirt choices for the next couple of eps!

nutsdeb said...

Lanzaracs in South Australia in 1996. Best three courses ever. First course Adelaide Rock Oysters, simple yet divine. Second course Atlantic Salmon poached in white wine, herbs and garlic served with seasonal vegetables and mustard potatoes. Last course a chocolate creme brulee to die for. The courses were simple, the food well cooked and the companionship was so good I married him later. It was my first taste of several of the foods and I loved them. I still think about that meal and recreate some parts of it in my kitchen. Next memory is my first taste of Thai as well... a love affair started after that. And finally nanas comfort food from Holland, dutch beef croquets. Simple, tasty and reminds me of Nana.

sir grumpy said...

There are loads of such moments for me, Rita.
Down here it would be the first time I had Dom's Beef Rendang.
He was up Macquarie St then.
Wow, magnificent, still is. My cousin from the UK was over recently and he was mad for Dom's Rendang too.
Best thing he had here, he said.

Rita said...

Hey Sir G - I used to go to Dom's Macquarie St restaurant too! Crikey - we're going back a long time with that. When was it he was up there?
Steve - your plump roasted chook plus trimmings, and chooky gravy, is exactly what I had for dinner last night! It was gorgeous too!

sir grumpy said...

It was in the 80s, Rita that Dom was up Macquarie St. I remember nights with friends with the table groaning with food.
You had to go through the kitchen to get to the toilet!
The food was wonderful.
Then a stroll down into town, to work off the grub, for drinks at Salamanca or the New Sydney. Sometimes the old horseshoe bar at The Aberfeldy.
Aah, happy days.

Little K said...

What a topic on which to make my first comment for Rita's Bite! I have two meals tied for first place as my most memorable: The first was a family dinner at my aunt's house some years ago. She had a scrumptious smorgasboard laid out including a whole baked salmon, new potatoes, a myriad exotic salads and (aged 16) I remember being very taken with her home-grown tomatoes stuffed with goat's fetta and chives.

The second meal was my very first taste of haggis while travelling in the Scottish Highlands a year and a half ago - haggis and oatcakes with whiskey sauce. Mmm. I also had a very memorable sea bass lunch in a gastropub near Edinburgh.

Christina said...

I've put some thought into this and have come up with a few tastes that stand out for me.

Lee Christmas's wonderful ham
Marque IV Pork Belly
Red Velvet Lounge Oyster Soup
Pickled Cherries
Fee and Me Avocado Cheesecake
Eating on the Edge Chicken Liver Pasta
D'angelo pizza
Republic Bar Garlic Aioli
Peking Buck Bow Farn
Gingerboy the whole meal
Siam Garden Thai Beef Salad
Josef Chromy Pinot Noir

These are tastes and meals that I'll remember always the first time I had them.
Right up there, even though I can't remember the very first time is
Mums Golden Syrup Dumplings and Irish Stew
Nan's Shepards Pie made with leftover roast lamb and her pasties made with same.

Mmmm, can taste it all now.

Rita said...

Well done Little K - I welcome and congratulate you on your first comment on Rita's Bite. The family dinner sounds gorgeous, but I'm drawing the line at the haggis! I've never tasted it, and in my own narrow-minded way, never will either! What exactly did it taste like?
Christina - excellent meal choices, and I'm pretty well there with you all the way. Looking at your list, I think I could/should have done it the same way, had I had you to consult with before I wrote the post!
Interested that you popped the pickled cherries on your list. I had them at Farm Gate a few months back and LOVED them, so bought a jar there. It sounds like such a weird food item but they are fabulous, aren't they? I need to use them though. Any suggestions as to alternative ways to use them other than including them on an antipasta or cheese platter?

Tassiegal said...

Rita - Haggis, done properly is lovely. Its like a spiced mince, with lovely subtle flavours such pepper and oatmeal and allspice. I have very distinct memories of the first time I tried it..at an ex-boyfriends parents house. Haggis, tatties, neeps the whole kit and caboodle. It was good. My BEST haggis memory is eating it with oatcakes at 2am in the flat of the assistant steward of The Burn in Scotland, with a pile of mates after we were kicked out the main lounge as ppl were trying to sleep upstairs.

Little K said...

Yes, i agree with Tassiegal's description of haggis and it is so difficult to compare to anything else. The texture and flavours are lovely and it is not stodgy, as one would imagine. If you are ever in Scotland, you MUST try it!

Maggie said...

When I was a young(er) girl my mum used to take me to this little cafe at the back of an antique shop in Tyabb, Victoria. She always ordered the ploughmans plate, and I the pumpkin soup. Even though now I wouldn't order pumpkin soup in a restaurant (although I make it for myself every other week) I still remember these lunches as being the best meals I'd ever eaten.

I think the emotional attachment to a meal cana greatly impact the memory.

steve said...

Couldn't agree more Maggie about the emotional attachment that we often make with food.
As a kid in Melbourne I remember going out to a pub for a countery with my parents & my late grandfather. I was amazed as he always only ever ordered a 'roast of the day' & this time was no different.
However I had fried whiting in breadcrumbs with crinkle cut chips. To this day I have never tasted such fresh whiting & repeating this experience has eluded me ever since. Perhaps that meal will never be bested as I have canonnised it, right up there with my crush on my Grade three teacher, Miss Bevan(not real name) & my worship of my lucky Chuck Taylors.

Christina said...

Rita, I too got my cherries from Lee after tasting them on his ploughmans plate. How yummy are they.
I have made a gravy/jus type sauce and put the pitted cherries into this, after I've reduced the red wine.
From memory I think it was a rack of pork and instead of redcurrant jelly I halved some cherries and threw them in. It was delicious.

steve said...

Its interesting to note Rita that many chefs who are at the cutting edge of culinary exploits often crave the most basic of food needs when not in 'creative mode'. Be they beans on toast, a burger with the lot or some pasta with spinach & garlic.

To me, this highlights what we all might all know intrinsically: & that is, we all gravitate to food that makes us feel good. Not just that appropriately & generally well understood meme of 'comfort food' but the notion of its general mass appeal.

I trully beleive we are all blueprinted with a 'comfort food' gland(& whatever that comfort food might be!) in which we all gravitate back torward, not unlike a metronome & its centre.

This might happen in childhood, it might be prompted throughout our ever changing lives BUT I reckon it happens & regularly.

When you actually stop to think about it, aren't most of your food memories mostlty about base feelings & tastes, things that you 'picked up earlier on', things that actually shaped your tastes from that point forward.
This is not to deny that these later experiences in life can profoundly influence & at times change ones tastes but I reckon this might explain why people are so m'dyed in the wool' when it comes to explaining those inexplicable food preferences we all might have.

Anonymous said...

Bacon & Eggs, My mums roast dinner, potato cakes, fresh bread from the oven with good cheese and butter. a fish I caught in New Zealand and cooked in the steaming volcanic earth of the beach I was stood on. A good glass of wine, the beer you deserve on a hot day. The entrecote steak Diane I ate in a small cafe in the latin quarter of Paris the night I asked my wife to marry me.

Cartouche

sir grumpy said...

Bit posh, cartouche with with kiwi volcanic beaches and Paris!
How about a white pudding supper with a pickled onion in Anstruther, Scotland followed by a clootie dumpling and custard at me gran's?
After a plate of her kale soup with bannocks.
Oh Yes.

Anonymous said...

Tatties and neaps, in the freezing cold in Scotland after a hike with the army, or bangers and mash from a tin with a cup of hot tea out of the back of an army truck in N.Ireland. No its not about posh its about memorable. If you want posh... well now I could freak you with this shit, think, Heston, Adria, White, I've eaten this stuff, but I'm not putting any of it up with Bacon and eggs, and my mums roast.
However Fish and chips whilst dangeling your legs over the harbour wall in Colwyn Bay Wales, ahh heaven.

Cartouche

sir grumpy said...

Is that Charlton Heston, Adriana Xenides and Tony Joe White, Cartouche?
And do you use Ayrshire bacon......the best. By the way, the Scottish army gave me soup and a pie when I had my last dealings with them just north of Aberdeen on a soaking wet day!
Good soup and a surprisingly good pie made by their own cooks.
Howzat?

Rita said...

Somehow I managed to separate what I wrote about in my post, from meals with the emotional ties such as Steve spoke about, but since the boys are going there, the (emotional) flavour that takes me straight back to the warmest and fondest of memories of my wonderful, long dead Grandma in my very young childhood is the taste of flavoured milk - strawberry, banana, chocolate and caramel, in Sydney. We tiny little country bumpkin children from Huonville couldn't believe our eyes when staying with Grandma in the 50's in Maroubra - not only did they have their milk delivered to the front door in bottles, but you had the option of flavoured milk delivered as well!! OMG!
My lovely Grandma would go to any lengths to make us kids happy.
I mostly buy Big M today in silent tribute to my Grandma.

sir grumpy said...

Yes, being a small-town boy, Rita, I couldn't believe my eyes and nose when I experienced my first trip to London. Even the lunchtime sandwich shop in Fleet Street was amazing.
Loads of different styles of bread, every pickle you could imagine, a cornucopia of cold meats, spreads......I held up the street-savvy London queue making up my mind. First time I'd even had a sandwich wrapped in that crinkly sandwich paper too.....!!!!

Anonymous said...

You know bloody well what people they are Sir G. you shit stirring twat. Bet those scottish servings were small though. I'll say nothing against the Argyle and Southern Highlanders though, or the Guards for that matter. I don't think I have tried Ayreshire Bacon, mostly it was Danish, but I have had some decent Tamworth, but the Gloucestshire one was the stand out for me, thick cut, salt cured and just, well, you know tasting like bacon.
Rita, oh yeah, You have to love them memories.

Cartouche

Anonymous said...

I think I must have a penchant for rabbit. When I first read this blog, i thought about the best meal i have ever eaten out... a rabbit lasagne from Blakes (which was located on Southbank in Melbourne, where the now fantastic Pure South tasmanian produce restaurant is). Then yesterday, I would have to have experienced my second favourite dish... right here in Hobart at Piccolo. Potato and herb gnocchi with braised rabbit, squash, roasted tomatoes and percorino with fresh herbs baked in the oven... absolutely divine. Luckily I had an interstate client with me who was equally blown away.

Just had to share. TJ.

Rita said...

Hi TJ - thanks for contributing. I'm a frustrated Piccolo diner. I really need to get there asap to eat one evening. You've just reinforced that. Wanna take another client there?

sir grumpy said...

I think you deserved a serve cartouche, you were getting a wee bit pretentious. The serves in scotland were generous, just like the people. the english like to spread the myth of scottish meanness after plundering their small neighbour and leaving them with bugger all! Ask any Aussie about who are the biggest whingers in the world and they'll tell you every time it's the poms.