December 7th: Feast: Hopefully you’ve had more than one spectacular meal in 2012, but what is the first that comes to mind? Were you surrounded by family at the dining room table? Sitting on a bench by the lake? Bring us there.
I’ve had a lot of great meals this year. Some were fantastic because of the food; some were wonderful because of the company. Many of them were near-Bacchanalian and expensive and winesoaked, and were probably not as good as I remember them, but because my recall is shaded in a grapey fondness, everything seems glorious in retrospect.
I think it was in January that D and I had dinner at Hakkasan — the one in Mayfair. While the place is more remarkable for its scene than it’s food, the dinner was rather late-night so the restaurant was quiet. The meal was excellent. I went back the following month for a business dinner and literally fought someone over shards of caramelly Peking duck.
And then in one of the rare times that I’ve cooked this year, Winesday had our Burns’ Night at my house. It was a small, weird affair, but I’ve discovered that of the things I can cook — and cook relatively well — British food seems to be within my repertoire. Though this seems not to sit well on the American palate (i.e., my horrorshow vegetarian haggis was not…a hit, though my cullen skink did not seem to fare badly.)
However, the meal was great because we laughed all night. And because I am a sucker for plaid.
I eat at great restaurants all the time. I live in New York City; I travel for business. My friends are foodies, and while I would hardly consider myself one, I have the benefit of their expertise.
I would say, though, that one of the most memorable meals I had was when we were in Portugal. There was nothing memorable about the lunch N, R, D, and I had, except that it was piles and piles of seafood — stacked up on the table and extremely fresh. Sardines, freshly caught and grilled to order.
The story of the Lisbon trip, by the way, is slightly more complicated than lunch or dinner. R had invited me to come along with them after we’d had dinner one night in the spring. And I’d cleared it with D: That’s not going to be…weird, is it?
Why would it be weird? he replied, as if I’d asked the stupidest question in the world.
(When someone deciphers the emotional makeup of the 40-something-year-old British man-boy, please call me. I will pay cash money in your currency of choice for that cracked code.)
So we walked around hot, sunny Lisbon all day; baked our skins in the sun. Then we stumbled upon a cafe where the proprietor spoke little English and we spoke less Portuguese and we tried to order a selection of fish for a late lunch. It was presented — grilled, salted, oiled, lemon’d — and we tucked in.
Later that night, we had dinner in an old water tower up on a hill. The meal was tapas, and fabulous — each bite more exquisite than the last. The wine flowed freely, and the company was excellent. Then we stumbled into taxis and went back to the dusty concert venue to watch The Cure play under the starry Portuguese sky.
It was a memorable day. A memorable evening; a memorable suite of fish and sea and dust and laughter and music in the open night air. Everything tastes good under those circumstances.