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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

what’s the best meal you’ve ever had?


As we (in the northern hemisphere, anyway) hunker down for the worst, most miserable part of winter, thoughts turn to comfort and nesting as a way to get through the weeks until it starts getting lighter and warmer again. And so, this weekend’s Question:

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had? In a restaurant, at home (or someone else’s home), whatever.

My friends and I keep a running tally of Top 10 Meals. It’s not written down or official or anything, but every once in a rare while, after a meal, we’ll look at each other and nod. “Top 10,” we’ll agree. Some of them on my list:

• the first time I had dim sum, in a restaurant in Chinatown where we were the only white people there (our guide was Chinese-American), and the waitstaff gathered to laugh at how much we ate

• the first time I ate at St. John Bread and Wine in Spitalfieds (and every time after, including the incredible takeaway bacon sandwich I just had this past Christmas Eve morning; that’s what’s pictured above, photo from DollyBakes)

• the greasy late-night fish and chips in Stratford-upon-Avon after seeing David Tennant in Hamlet at the RSC

• you won’t believe this, but the meal on a Midwest Express flight from New York to Milwaukee in 1996; the food was divine, but the topper was the fresh-baked chocolate-chip cookies for desert: the smell of them baking at 30,000 feet, suffusing the smallish plane with cookie goodness, is one of the most memorable aromas of my life (the cookies were famous)

Your turn…

(If you have a suggestion for a Question, feel free to email me.)

  • rurugby

    My grandmother Avis Neal’s Christmas Eve feast when I was a kid. Didn’t get to see her enough since we lived 3,000 miles away in New Jersey from her Quartz Hill, CA home.

  • RogerBW

    A hot salt beef and mustard beigel (sic) at the Brick Lane Beigel Bake, at six in the morning after an all-night bike ride. (Be warned, they use English mustard as if it were French.)

  • Sounds to me that most of your best meals are special because of the events surrounding them, and not necessarily what you ate. Perhaps I’m wrong, but that’s how I read that.
    I have a horrid memory. Whatever was the best meal I ever ate has been long forgotten. I recall general things, but rarely any details. It’s kind of sad.


  • Driving down The 5, north of San Diego, 2006. I stopped at a small little bar called “Las Olas” in Carlsbad, CA. The fish tacos absolutely ruled. Sitting on a barstool with a view of the ocean. One of my favorite memories.

  • LaSargenta

    The setting has a huge effect. I have vivid memories of meals that made me physically ill because of the emotional turmoil in the gathering of people despite exquisite (and not poisoned) food on the table.

  • LaSargenta

    1) In a small motor boat with my nephew (by marriage, little contact with him now) taking him fishing in Lake Huron, pulled up onto an island, and cooked just caught whitefish in lard with some packaged fries that had thawed in the bucket brought from the dock. That and water out of the canteens.

    2) I was 14 and had walked out onto the shingle at low tide in Maine and gathered mussels. Got blisters removing the beards. Put them in an iron pot with a little water and seaweed into a fire in a woodstove in the cabin we’d rented. Also put potatoes in foil into the embers at the side. Served them to my father with butter for dinner. They were great.

  • Kathy_A

    I’ve had some really fantastic fish, once in a restaurant in Florence, Oregon (it had a marionberry glaze, which is a fruit specifically from Oregon–yum!!), and then some halibut at Prairie Grass Cafe in Northbrook, Illinois, which IMO is one of the best restaurants on the North Shore. Oh, so good!

    For my favorite ever dessert, I have to go for the fruit tart at Zoe’s in The Plains, Ohio, which is a tiny little town near Athens, Ohio, where my aunt and uncle live. Zoe’s is their favorite restaurant, and I had an excellent rack of lamb there, but the fruit tart was simply divine–custard poured over fruit in a shell made from shortbread.

  • Jonathan Roth

    Most of my favourites revolve around Christmas.

    Christmas morning tradition: Home-made Belgian Waffles with grandma’s blackberry syrup and real whipped cream, bacon, eggs, and a mimosa.

    Table d’hote at Les Filles du Roy in Montreal (again, christmas with family), which included crown lamb roast and grilled portobello with goat cheese and microgreens.

    Also, a cheeseburger on the patio at the Huron Club in collingwood wih sweet potato fries and a chipotle-lime aioli for dipping, served with a belgian style farmhouse saison. So good…

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