The other night, my Dad related to me a conversation about food he had with my brother. They attempted to determine the top five favorite dishes they had ever eaten, and soon expanded that list to ten. I thought I could give that a try, but I am pretty sure I could come up with far more than ten!
A lot of it has to do with the time and location of the meal, as well as the company. Something as simple as a hamburger can be remembered as one of the best meals ever because bread was broken with a cherished friend or relative. Some favorite meals were the first tasting of something and have thus become iconic examples of a particular dish or ingredient. For example, I have never found a match to a creme brulée eaten at the London home of a business associate of my Dad. I've had (and made) many a fine one in the 25 years since that first taste, but none have reached that level of excellence. The rest of the meal was memorable as well - a simple repast of roast lamb and the first fresh asparagus I ever ate.
Later that same year, Dad took me and my cousin Tony to Europe as a high school graduation gift. We had the best-ever bolognese sauce in a tiny Italian restaurant somewhere off the Champs Elysées. It was so good, we ate it two nights in a row. No sauce since that has tasted even close.
So what are my favorite dishes? Here are a few - I didn't number the list because I can't really rate one over another.
My Mom's baked mac and cheese, topped with breadcrumbs and thinly sliced tomato that caramelized in the oven
Basil Duck from Thai Luong in Herndon, VA
Black tagliatelle with corn from Babbo
Grapefruit gelato (not ice or sorbet - gelato) from Gelatiamo in Seattle
Mr Minx's pilaf - a simple dish of leftover rice, capellini, onions, butter, and saffron that I can eat and eat
Grandma's spaghetti and meatballs
Seafood gumbo at NOLA in New Orleans
Several varieties of dim sum at Jesse Wong's Hong Kong (fried noodles, hom sui gok, cheung fun)
Thai red curry from Bangkok Place
Black squid ink risotto with prawns and lobster @ Bolo
Mom's pot roast
Study of Duck at Emeril's Orlando (my first taste of foie gras, plus duck confit and seared duck breast served with a wild mushroom bread pudding)
See - that's already more than 10! What are your favorite dishes?