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What’s the Best Meal You Ever Ate?

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Aired 8/10/09

Food is a vital part of life, but sometimes, a favorite meal can be so good, that we remember everything about it. As part of our monthly Food Hour, we'll recount memorable meals in San Diego and around the globe.

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. You may forget the names of the people you were with, you may even forget the name of the restaurant, but there's something about a really great meal that lingers in your memory. Maybe it was a fancy French dish, something unusual like perfectly-prepared escargot or maybe it was just a fabulous steak with a baked potato and a cold beer. Perhaps you'll never forget a wonderful meal that changed your life, one that might have made you decide you could be a vegetarian after all, or a dinner that was so good it made you fall in love. Today on our monthly food hour we're going to be talking about the best meals we all ever had. What made them so delicious? And will you ever be able to re-create that experience again. Joining me to talk about the most delicious meals ever are my guests Caron Golden, freelance writer, food columnist for SDNN.com, and author of the blog, San Diego Foodstuff. Caron, welcome to These Days.

CARON GOLDEN (Food Columnist): It's great to be back with you.

CAVANAUGH: And Maureen Clancy, former food editor and restaurant critic for the San Diego Union-Tribune. Maureen, welcome.

MAUREEN CLANCY (Former Food Editor, San Diego Union-Tribune): Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: We want to invite our listeners to join this conversation about great meals. You know you've had them. So what was, or what are, your favorite meals? And what made them so special? Give us a call. The number is 1-888-895-5727, that's 1-888-895-KPBS. Okay, Caron, let's start off with – I know that you don't just have one but what are some of your favorite meals at local restaurants?

GOLDEN: Well, I do enjoy going to some fine dining and there have been a couple of meals recently that I've had that have just been so over the top. It's been the food, it's the service, it's the ambience, it's often the conversation. One of those recently was at Addison where I had this multi-course meal and oftentimes you'll be presented with food and it looks stunning and it just – the taste can't compare. And in this case, William Bradley, everything looks and tastes beautifully. And not only that, but the service is just stunning and you feel like you're a princess in, you know, just being cared for. And the other one recently was actually just a couple of weeks ago. I went to Georges California Modern, which is, you know, the old Georges at the Cove and Trey Foshee is the chef there and he was there before they redid, you know, the restaurant and Maureen and I were talking about this. It's as though the remodeling sort of set him loose and he has – is making some wonderful dishes. With both of them, the emphasis is on, you know, fresh, local seasonal foods, and if you go to Chino Farms, you'll see that, you know, Georges has got a spot where they prepare all of the products that they're going to give to them for that day and Trey goes and picks them up himself. And you can see that in the cooking, and the freshness of it, and it just – and it's just a beautiful, wonderful experience.

CAVANAUGH: Well, before I go on to Maureen, I have to ask you. What did you have at both Addison and Georges?

GOLDEN: Well, Georges, for instance, one of the things he – he's got is this fish taco and it is not like a regular fish taco. The fish is the taco. And he – what he does is, he makes yellowfin tuna tempura in the shape of a shell and then he stuffs it with cabbage and with spicy aioli and then he grinds corn nuts and sprinkles it over so you get like the corn taco flavor but you've got just the nuts. It's just lovely, and it's, you know, it's small portions and so you're getting just the lovely, you know, taste of something and it's very creative and really beautiful. The other thing I fell in love with there was a corn risotto and right now corn is at its peak, and he makes this risotto—I've got the recipe now, I'm going to be posting it on SDNN soon—and with chanterelle mushrooms and burrata cheese, which, of course, is just the sexiest cheese in the world. And it's just – you just want to dive in that bowl and just work your way out of it. It's just wonderful.

CAVANAUGH: I'll have to try some of that. Oh, Maureen, let me move on to you. Now we're talking – apparently, we're talking about fine dining right now and local restaurants, so I want to ask you some of your favorite meals.

CLANCY: Well, I've been doing some time – spending some time reminiscing about great meals because I was teaching a course at – I mean, teaching a cooking class at Great News. And the cooking class was the five or six recipes from the best restaurant meals I ate around the world in my 30 years as restaurant critic. And so it really got me thinking and all of a sudden I realized, you know, some of those best meals in 30 years were right here in San Diego and they aren't necessarily at the new, trendy, hip places, they're at some real old-timers. Some of – One of my favorite things in 30 years was at Bertrand's restaurant. Bertrand was actually one of the very first people to bring fine food to San Diego and to develop it, in my opinion. And they had a Confit de Canard, which is basically duck cooked in its own fat, and it's a very traditional dish. But we in San Diego didn't know from Confit de Canard 30 years ago, 25 years ago. But that was one of the all-time greats. And then anybody who was around 20, 25 years ago remembers the bavarois, which is a chocolate sort of like a chocolate domed affair with ganache and beautiful – beautiful fondant and a crème and it was just a spectacular dessert and we're talking 25, 30 years ago.

CAVANAUGH: Wow. And I want to ask you both a little bit more about what Caron mentioned as the whole experience that makes you remember a meal, the ambience, the service. How do you think that lends itself? Can you have a really, really great meal just simply because of the way the food tastes, Caron?

GOLDEN: Oh, yeah. I mean, one of my favorite things has been a Banh Mi sandwich at Lucky Seafood, which is a Vietnamese supermarket in Mira Mesa. And I got this sandwich and brought it into their little restaurant next door, which they used to – they have Pho and different Vietnamese food, and took a bite of this and it was the most inauspicious setting but I had never bitten into anything so amazing where you have sweet and hot and spicy and – and crunchy and salt – and all these flavors just popping in my mouth. And, for me, that was just all about the food. So you can certainly have that. If you're going to a fine dining establishment, I think the ambience – they've taken great care to make the ambience what it is so you're probably going to have to include that, but there are so many great taco trucks and places in town that you can get really great meals and who cares about the environment.

CAVANAUGH: And just, once again, what was the name of that sandwich?

GOLDEN: Banh Mi, b-a-n-h and then m-i.

CAVANAUGH: Okay.

GOLDEN: And you can get them in different parts of town but, for me, that first one at Lucky Seafood was just amazing. And they're basically like, I don't know, sort of submarine sandwiches. They're made with French style baguettes and then they're stuffed with either pork or pates or things like that and cabbage and sliced carrots and pickled vegetables and, I mean, it's just this whole – and cilantro, and you get a lot of different flavors going on.

CAVANAUGH: That sounds wonderful. Maureen, back to the fine dining. When you are – when you're there in an elegant restaurant, does that – does the service, does the way you're treated, make the meal that much more memorable for you?

CLANCY: Not necessarily. In fact, a restaurant that's super elegant, in my opinion, can diminish the experience.

CAVANAUGH: Really?

CLANCY: Because people who are fussing over you and fawning over you, sometimes you – they don't allow you to enjoy yourself. There are restaurants around the world that consider themselves temples of haute cuisine and they want you basically to genuflect and my group of friends has often been in – perilously close to being kicked out of these places because we go there and we have a wonderful time and we love the food and we love the experience and we love sharing that experience and we don't want to just genuflect in front of the food. So that's not always a good thing. To me, more important, you can indeed sit all by yourself and focus on some fabulous, fabulous dish. But to me, the whole – the ambience and the camaraderie plays a very important role and, for instance, is one of my favorite places is above Lake Anisee in France and I feel like Heidi when I go because it's deep in the woods. It's a massive log structure, and everybody sits at long tables so log – log tables. So you may be – You're with your group and you're with a lot of people that you didn't know at the beginning of the evening but you know quite well by the end of the evening. And you're digging into these bubbly cheese pots. You know, you're dipping potatoes and little pickled onions into little cheese pots and you're drinking inexpensive wines and it's just a wonderful experience. And that's what makes a meal memorable, it's not just the food.

CAVANAUGH: We are talking about the greatest meals you've ever had. We're taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. And let's take a call right now. Let's go to Fern in Clairemont. Good morning, Fern, and welcome to These Days.

FERN (Caller, Clairemont): Well, the previous discussion, I missed a little bit of it and the previous discussion really fits into what I want to say. I don't – I can't say what was my best meal, it's the experience. And, you know, I'm an older person and I've lived on the east coast, I've lived in Latin America, I've traveled and it's always been the surprise. Oh, my God, I had these lamb chops in France in this little town—I have the pictures—of this little town in France where they have this pre-sale. Does anybody there know French?

CLANCY: Yes, that's delicious. It's lamb of gra – in grazing…

FERN: Pre-sale, what does that mean? Early birth?

CLANCY: No, they're grazing – they're grazing on like salted – land where the ocean…

FERN: Oh, yeah, I know that.

CLANCY: …comes in and moistens the soil, yeah.

FERN: Who am I – Who's speaking?

CAVANAUGH: That's…

CLANCY: This is Maureen Clancy.

FERN: Maureen?

CLANCY: Yes.

FERN: Oh, great. Hi, Maureen.

CLANCY: Hello.

FERN: I read your paper. Well, anyway, that is the whole thing. I can remember in Greenwich Village, New York. Anybody out there know where Greenwich Village is?

CLANCY: Oh, yes.

GOLDEN: Oh, yes.

CAVANAUGH: Surely, yes, indeed.

FERN: Sitting on a wooden bench rather than on a chair, which was a sign for me to what? A bench that other people chaired in this little place called the Skazka. I don't remember what we ate. It was – it was a rest – Maureen?

CAVANAUGH: I tell you I think…

FERN: Maureen Cavanaugh.

CAVANAUGH: Yes. Thank you so much, Fern. I appreciate the phone call. And that, you know, the whole ambience and that – but we are also including the food, not just the benches.

CLANCY: But, you know – And, you know, lamb chops, for me, lamb chops – she – Fern is right.

CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh.

CLANCY: Lamb chops seem to make a memorable impression. Lamb chops are, when they're done well, that is one of the all-time great dishes. Mille Fleurs here does a spectacular lamb chop – Mart – Chef Martin Woesle is the – but that's someplace – that – that's a dish that they can just do great things with.

CAVANAUGH: Now opposed to the taco trucks and so forth that you were talking about, if you're in a restaurant does the price – is there any connection between how much you spend for a meal and how much you're going to remember, Caron?

GOLDEN: You mean my $3.50 Banh Mi sandwich? I remembered it. No, I think – you know what it is? It's, as Maureen was saying and as I was saying, the fine dining, to me, is a wonderful thing to do periodically and I don't like to be fussed over and I think the trick with the fine dining is to find a restaurant that has really well-trained staff so that they do let you enjoy yourself and they're not hovering and – and all of that. But I think, in general, with most of us, we're social creatures. Certainly, there are times when we go someplace and eat alone but most of it we're – it's a social – it's an event. It's a way of bonding with people. And I think you can have a really great grilled cheese sandwich with a friend and that can be a memorable meal.

CAVANAUGH: It's true. Well, we have to take a short break. When we return, we'll continue to talk about the best meals you ever had, great restaurant meals, home cooking, outside of San Diego, around the world. Give us a call with the best meals you've ever had. The number is 1-888-895-5727. We'll return in just a few moments.

[break]

CAVANAUGH: Welcome back. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days in San Diego. We're talking about your favorite meals, your most memorable meals, perhaps your most memorable food experience. We are taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. I want to reintroduce my guests. Caron Golden is a freelance writer, a food columnist for SDNN.com and author of the blog, San Diego Foodstuff. Maureen Clancy is former food editor and restaurant critic for the San Diego Union-Tribune, and she has a website. You can reach it at maureenclancy.com. It is called "Matters of Taste." And, once again, our phone number is 1-888-895-5727. Let's go right to the phones and speak with Helga in Oceanside. Good morning, Helga. Welcome to These Days.

HELGA (Caller, Oceanside): Hello. Good morning.

CAVANAUGH: Yes, hi.

HELGA: Hi.

CAVANAUGH: You have a great meals story for us?

HELGA: I do. It was a breakfast. It was 1990 and it was in Innsbruck, Austria.

CAVANAUGH: And what did you have?

HELGA: Well, if I can remember everything, there was, I believe, one boiled egg, orange juice, yogurt, delicious bread and their delicious butter, and honey and just the best coffee and fruit, I believe, also.

CAVANAUGH: So it sounds so simple. Why does it stick in your memory?

HELGA: Well, I'm from Austria and we've had – I've had many meals and very simple. I can't remember any food I didn't like over there.

CAVANAUGH: Umm.

HELGA: But this, I'm not sure, I guess also it was unexpected and there was – and such a variety and so fresh and, of course, all natural. And the first…

CLANCY: I think the fresh…

HELGA: I'm sorry.

CLANCY: The freshness, you're absolutely right, is…

HELGA: Yes.

CLANCY: …is the key to that. I've spent some time in Innsbruck, I lived in Innsbruck, and that egg that you ate probably got laid by some chicken that morning. The bread, I can guarantee you, was still warm out of the oven, and their yogurt, I don't know what they do but they make it – it just is so fabulous.

HELGA: Oh, it was great and…

CLANCY: And you were up high. You were in the mountain air and that makes for a wonderful breakfast even though it's a pretty standard buffet.

HELGA: Right, and just the whole excitement of being there. It was the first morning that – after we had arrived, the first morning of the vacation.

CAVANAUGH: Well, Helga, thank you so much for sharing that. That was wonderful. Move – We're moving outside of San Diego now and I know that you, Maureen, are definitely a world traveler, as are you, Caron. And so what are some of these memorable meals? Helga's was very simple, as she mentioned, but it stuck in her mind all these years.

GOLDEN: I got to tell you, one of the things that I think is – For me, one of the great travesties of the problems going on south of the border is that I'm not comfortable going down there right now. And I used to go down to Rosarito to this place called Popotle, which was a little fishing village just below the Fox Studios. And I'd go with friends. One of them used to live there. And this is a very downscale – I can't – To call these places restaurants would be giving them far more credit than they really deserve. But they sit on the ocean and into the bay, and you sit down at a table and they – the people there are – mama is making, you know, all of the tortillas and they're all into frying the food. And one of the best meals I think I've ever had was going there and they had rockfish just laying everywhere. It had just been caught and you could watch the boats, little boats, coming in. And they – we had a quesadilla that she dipped in batter and fried, which was amazing. We had the rockfish that you just pulled chunks out of and put in the tortillas with homemade salsa and beans and rice. And normally we've gone there for crab but they didn't have any and they're very apologetic, and we were finish – finishing our meal and all of a sudden one of the women comes up and she's beaming and she's got this big tray. The crabs had just come in. And they just grabbed like three of them and put them in the fryer and brought them out to us with…

CLANCY: That's helpful.

GOLDEN: …with big sea rock, you know, the stones, the smooth stones for us to use, and you just smash them and eat them. And it was – And, you know, it's a beautiful day. The seagulls are like our buddies waiting for the – you know, for us to get rid of whatever scraps that we've got. And it's just a wonderful thing, an absolutely marvelous thing.

CAVANAUGH: Well, mine is not as – as really sort of lyrical as yours but I think that Helga was talking about there was an unexpected element to what – and I remember one meal I had while I was visiting Washington, D.C. It was a very small restaurant and we just went in, we weren't expecting much, and we ordered the Maryland crab cakes and they were so wonderful. They were so delicious and so unexpected in this little restaurant. We had no real feeling that we were going get anything but a, you know, maybe a sandwich or something and there it was. And I remember it to this day. So there is that element of not really expecting…

CLANCY: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: …and then being overwhelmed by something out of left field.

CLANCY: Right, right.

CAVANAUGH: We have another caller, let – And I want to tell everyone that they can join the conversation at 1-888-895-5727. Larry is calling from La Jolla. Good morning, Larry, and welcome to These Days.

LARRY (Caller, La Jolla): Hey, good morning. 1970 I was on a helo mission in Vietnam near the demilitarized zone. We landed to refuel at a little Navy base, a guy came out and said you guys got time for something to eat? And it happened to be Thanksgiving Day and we had turkey, pumpkin pie, and the whole enchilada. And my Vietnamese counterpart said, this is the greatest thing I've ever seen.

CLANCY: Umm-hmm.

LARRY: And that's a very memorable meal. And months later the whole base was overrun but everybody got out. So…

CAVANAUGH: Wow.

CLANCY: Wow. Thanksgiving. That's hard to beat…

GOLDEN: Yeah.

CLANCY: …a good Thanksgiving.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, Larry, thank you for sharing that. That's a remarkable story.

LARRY: You betcha.

CAVANAUGH: I – And on your travels, Caron, do you remember some foods that you really – really restaurant experience or – or individual foodstuffs that you really, really love?

GOLDEN: Well, I want to go back to Nice so that I can have socca. And if you haven't had this, it's a thin pancake made out of garbanzo bean flour. And it's made on what looks almost like an upside down wok and very thin batter and they make it up, they salt it and they put it in a just a little piece of like – it's like a paper plate basically. And go and sit down, have a glass of, you know, the house rose at some little bar and, oh, my God, that is so wonderful and it is so simple and it is such a respite from a lot of the really heavy, rich foods that you can eat in some of the finer restaurants there.

CAVANAUGH: Right.

GOLDEN: Street food can be just a marvelous thing.

CAVANAUGH: Because when you are traveling, Maureen, sometimes your stomach can just get overloaded and you can't appreciate things anymore. Do you have anything memorable, maybe something that's simple from your travels?

CLANCY: Well, as a matter of fact, sitting here listening to Caron with all the fried food down in Rosarito, I just – I realize that your listeners are going to be running for the Lipitor because one of my favorites – one of my most memorable meals was also a fried extravaganza. It was in the Alps. Helga got me thinking about this – the Tyrol and we – some friends of ours took us she-touring, ski-touring, which involves walking up a hill. You take a chairlift for part of the way and then you hike for an hour or two, three hours, to the very top of a mountain carrying your skis, and then you ski down in totally virgin snow. And we did this with some friends of ours and at the very bottom, after this exhilarating, you know, it only takes about 20 minutes to get down, it's a lot faster, we had the most extraordinary wienerschnitzel. I'm a big wienerschnitzel fan. You know, they're pounded very thin, usually pork or veal, pounded very, very thin, breaded and then deep fried. And this was just – could have floated away it was so light and airy. It was like the size of a piece of paper and then had this very, very light crusty coating on it, very golden brown, still bubbling, and with a pile of fried French fries right next door…

GOLDEN: Right.

CLANCY: …also very thin, golden, poufy inside but nice and crusty outside. And it was just the most spectacular meal after this exhilarating day on the mountain. And when you say you can be overwhelmed by it, I find that as long as you do something really fun and active between meals, then you can just pig out on all the meals.

GOLDEN: Yeah.

CAVANAUGH: We're taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727 about your most memorable meals. And Jack is calling from north county. Good morning, Jack. Welcome to These Days.

JACK (Caller, Northern San Diego County): Good morning. This is such a fun program.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you.

JACK: Whenever – When I was young, I lived on an island in the Azores and one of the trips we took from the Azores was to one of the sister islands, it's the island of San Miguel that we flew to. And we went up into a volcanic crater to a place, the Tiranachat Hotel. The Tiranachat Hotel was a spa and it had this wonderful hot water flowing out of the side of the mountain and it was very – kind of upper crustian but friendly. It had a real kind of laidback, easy quality to it. And I remember the breakfast in the mornings were seven course breakfasts.

CAVANAUGH: Seven courses.

JACK: And they were done in a kind of relaxed, Mediterranean kind of style where it was unpretentious other than the food presentation. The food was just elegantly prepared. There were fruits and cheeses and eggs and – and I don't know, I'm – my older memory does not remember very many of those seven courses but I do remember that there were actually seven rounds of the waiters coming out to the table and presenting a different food dish in front of us. But it was the ambience as much as the food that made it the total experience.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you for sharing that, Jack. That was a wonderful memory. Seven course breakfast, they're not fooling around with breakfast…

GOLDEN: No, how do you…

CAVANAUGH: …being the most important meal. Let's take another call. Anne is calling from Golden Hill. Good morning, Anne. Welcome to These Days.

ANNE (Caller, Golden Hill): Oh, thank you so much. I'm really enjoying your program and getting hungry just listening to all these wonderful stories.

CAVANAUGH: So am I.

ANNE: Yeah, I just wanted to say I've been really fortunate enough to travel to many different countries and have wonderful food in different places. I've had great things in the Souk of Cairo. I had some wonderful fish in Istanbul. I had lamb brains in Morocco. In India, I had this wonderful shrimp biryani at this really neat restaurant that was outdoors. And I had the best croissant of my life in Madrid, Spain that had – it was so delicious, I had to get another one. But my absolute favorite, I actually lived in Damascus, Syria for four years and there's a restaurant there which is called Elissar and it's an old Arabic house which has been converted into a restaurant. And so you sit outside in the courtyard where there's a beautiful orange tree and a fountain and they just serve the most wonderful dish which is called kibbeh nayeh, which is almost kind of like a French steak tartare. It's a raw meat. It's a really fine cut of meat, absolutely delicious, onto which delicious olive oil is sprinkled and it's mixed with a little bit of bulgar and it's just wonderful. And that was alongside a tabouleh, hummus, babaganoush, olives, something called Cousa Mashi, which is stuffed vegetables but in this case like stuffed zucchini, stuffed with rice, meat, etcetera. But those are my favorite memories, definitely.

CLANCY: Wow, that sounds great. I want to go.

GOLDEN: Wow, great.

CAVANAUGH: Very exotic. Thank you, Anne. Well now, Caron, what exotic treasures in your memory?

GOLDEN: Well, actually I – this was bringing up something that is a little bit different.

CAVANAUGH: Sure.

GOLDEN: It's not that exotic. I've had some very wonderful exotic things but sometimes you end up going and trying something that you thought you knew but it's different in another country or another city. And for me, growing up Jewish with lots of corned beef and bagels and all of that, I thought what I had experienced in life is the way it is done. And then I went to Montreal. Instead of corned beef, they make smoked meat. And you can go to this place, the best place there, apparently is Schwartz's, which I went to. And you get a smoked meat sandwich on rye and it's a similar kind of experience because it's brisket again but instead of just a brisket that's pickled in brine and then boiled, smoked meat is – has got molasses, it's got different kinds of spices in it, and then it's hung to cure and smoked. And so you think you're biting into something that you know and then it turns out to be a very different thing. Same with the bagels. The bagels there are a little bit smaller but they also have a sweetness to them because they add honey to the dough.

CAVANAUGH: Oh.

GOLDEN: And they also bake them in these stone hearths and it can be very dramatic depending on the bakery you go to where they – they have one of these long instead of just a regular pizza peel, it's like ten feet long and they just pull all of them out and fling them into – behind them into these, you know, bins for you to pick from. And I loved the bagels there. I think I brought three dozen home with me, and I wish I could get more. It's a very different kind of thing. And that's so much fun when you – sort of having a variation on something that you thought you already knew.

CAVANAUGH: And exceptionally memorable.

GOLDEN: Yeah, yeah.

CLANCY: Well, I have a really memorable exotic one and I'm always amazed that I'm still here to tell. My husband says I really should've died. We were in Bangkok 25 years ago and the Damnoen Saduak Market in Bangkok is in the middle of the river. In other words, every merchant, every – all the produce people, all the little mini-restaurants, they each have their own little boat. They're like canoe-like boats and one lady's in there with bamboo shoots and one's in there with the different spices, one's with the herbs, and then some of them are like little restaurants. I mean, it's the proverbial taco cart but it's in the middle of this huge, dirty river in the middle of Bangkok. And we went out with the – my husband and I went out with a guide and one of the women was making soup and we pulled up alongside her boat and she had a little fire on this boat and it was rocking away and she – and I ordered the soup. And they took the bowl that the person in another boat had just handed back to them because it's – they're real – they're plastic dishes. And she swished it in the river to clean it.

GOLDEN: Ohh…

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

CLANCY: And then she started piling all the goodies in for me, the little pieces of vegetables and the beautiful leafy herbs and some – a little bit of meat. And then she filled it with steaming broth and handed it to me and it was one of the most delicious soups I've ever eaten.

GOLDEN: And did you get sick?

CLANCY: No, of course not. It was just fine and it was wonderful and I still dream about that soup.

CAVANAUGH: You took the risk and it paid off. Let's take another call. Patrick is calling from San Diego. Good morning, Patrick. Welcome to These Days.

PATRICK (Caller, San Diego): Morning. I'm actually nervous because I was in Bangkok and had soup like that and it seemed like almost the exact same thing only I didn't watch how they washed the bowl.

CAVANAUGH: You were better off.

PATRICK: It makes me wonder. But I was calling in to talk about India and the mangoes there, which they make many different kinds of dishes with but my favorite thing was just eating them plain and I guess the thing that strikes in my mind is just how much different they are there compared to here or anywhere else in the world that I've eaten them. I guess they have like different types and the best kind they call them Alfonso mangoes and they're incredible. I mean, they like melt in your mouth. I even remember buying some and like putting them in my hotel room and I came back that night and the whole room just smelled of them. And it's just incredible and I've tried, you know, buying mangoes here. I think most of them in our grocery store are from Mexico and, I mean, they just don't taste anything like it so I – It was – it's just interesting to me because in this day and age when you can go into the grocery store you kind of think, okay, I can get pretty much anything I want, you know, anywhere in the world but there still are certain things like that which are, you know, it's just different. You can't get the same quality or the same taste because if you're actually in the place…

CAVANAUGH: Thank you for that. Thank you for calling, Patrick.

GOLDEN: It's true.

CLANCY: Sure.

GOLDEN: You know, you talked about the sexiest cheese being burrata. I think mango is the sexiest fruit.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

GOLDEN: It just kind of drizzles down your chin and it's so wildly fragrant and you can do anything with it. One of the best things actually right here you can get great sticky rice with mango at Su-Mei Yu's Saffron.

CLANCY: Yeah.

CAVANAUGH: We're going to have to take a short break. When we return, we will continue to be making San Diego extremely hungry by talking about the most memorable meals you have ever had. And we'll return in just a few moments on These Days.

[break]

CAVANAUGH: Welcome back. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. We are talking about memorable meals. It's our monthly food hour, and my guests are Caron Golden and Maureen Clancy. We're taking your phone calls about memorable meals at 1-888-895-5727. I want to start talking about home-cooked meals but first I want to take a couple more phone calls because there are a lot of people who want to join the conversation this morning. Robin is calling from San Diego. And good morning, Robin. Welcome to These Days.

ROBIN (Caller, San Diego): Good morning. Thank you. What I wanted to say is that one of my most memorable meals was having a steak at Ruth's Chris for the very first time. I remember thinking, oh, my God, this is what food is all about.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, really?

ROBIN: And if, you know, since I've gone there since maybe it wasn't quite – you know, quite as memorable, but that very first time. And I was being taken there for my 50th birthday by my two young adult children, one of whom had already been there. But that aside, the food itself, biting into that steak at Ruth's Chris. And then the other thing that, to me, is more memorable actually than the one meal I had at Addison's was almost every meal I have at Urban Solace. And part of the reason for that is the cost to enjoyment ratio.

CAVANAUGH: That's good.

ROBIN: Addison's…

CAVANAUGH: I like that, putting it that way.

ROBIN: Because Addison's, I don't even – I was there a year ago, I don't even remember what we ate. I remember it was elegant and we had a lot of service but it was about $150.00 a person. I could have about ten meals at Urban Solace for that and enjoy them just as much.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you so much for calling in, Robin. I really appreciate it. Let's take another call and hear from Brad in Hillcrest. Good morning, Brad, and welcome to These Days.

BRAD (Caller, Hillcrest): Hi. Thanks for taking my call.

CAVANAUGH: You're welcome.

BRAD: I want to – I want to make a comment on the Banh Mi. There's another place you can get that, is at K's Sandwiches, the letter K's Sandwiches. And it's on the corner of Linda Vista Road and Mesa College Drive and they have a bigger menu than the one in Mira Mesa but I usually like the one in Mira Mesa better. And they have different stuffing for different – so you have to look at a menu and they have like barbeque pork or beef or cold cut meat, all different kind of stuffing. So you have to know what you want.

GOLDEN: Yeah, they have about 30 different types of sandwich options there. It can be kind of overwhelming but it's very good.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you, Brad, for that phone call. Let's move on to home cooked meals. And I – Does anything stand out? What are those meals that are – have been very memorable for you for the food? I know a lot of home, you know, gatherings and birthday parties and weddings and anniversaries but for the food, what did mama used to make that you really, really liked?

GOLDEN: Well, Mom is a great cook but this isn't – my memorable meal is not by Mom…

CAVANAUGH: Right.

GOLDEN: …actually. When I graduated from college, I moved to New York and I had a wonderful boss. And in the summers, they – her family rented a house in Jersey and I went with them periodically. And the first weekend I went, they had a leg of lamb that had been butterflied and she sat down that morning—I'd never seen this done—and the day before and she poked holes in the lamb and put little cloves of garlic and put all – put it in a big bowl with olive oil and all sorts of seasonings and mustard and marinated it overnight and then I was the chosen person, since I was from California and I obviously knew how to grill, they put me at the grill with this big leg of lamb.

CAVANAUGH: That's great.

GOLDEN: And in the meantime, while this was cooking, her husband went out to the little farm stand and bought corn and tomatoes and watermelon. And I managed to not goof up the lamb and everything else was literally picked that day, and it was one of the most transformative meals. I never saw lamb again without thinking about how she did that marinade. And, of course, now that's – so many people do that, it's not a big deal but this was 25 years ago and I just had never seen this and it was so good.

CAVANAUGH: That's great. And Maureen?

CLANCY: Leg of lamb, that's back to the lamb chops.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, wow.

GOLDEN: Wow.

CLANCY: Well, some – I remember – strictly food, you said.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

CLANCY: Some of the best meals, I agree, were back east and they involved corn on the cob and tomatoes and they were all in New Jersey because, really…

GOLDEN: That's, you know, you can slam New Jersey but, man…

CLANCY: All you want but they have the very best. But, honestly, the best meal, I guess you'd call it home cooked, it was cooked at home, in my home last year, but it was cooked by Carl Schroeder…

GOLDEN: Oh, I've heard about this meal. It's fantastic.

CLANCY: …the chef at Market in Del Mar who I just think is fabulous. And it was a very big birthday for me, a birthday that you just really don't want to have so you've got to do something to make it palatable. So we invited friends for dinner and Carl Schroeder cooked the most extraordinary dinner with fresh beets, beet salad with cheese, and the main course was his cabernet braised short ribs and that's something I'd never tackle myself because it really needs a master's touch. And they were slow cooked and they fell – the meat was falling apart and they had this luscious, luscious red wine sauce, and it was one of the most spectacular home cooked meals, it was cooked by a chef but it was home cooked. And then the birthday cake was about 100 fabulous cupcakes from Michelle Cooley.

CAVANAUGH: Ah, that's lovely. That's lovely.

GOLDEN: That's all cheating.

CLANCY: It was at home, cooked at home.

CAVANAUGH: Let's take some calls. There are so many people want to talk to us. John is calling from Bankers Hill. Good morning, John, and welcome to These Days.

JOHN (Caller, Bankers Hill): Hi. Good morning. And you guys are driving me crazy, thank God.

GOLDEN: You know what, if it's any consolation we're going a little nuts ourselves.

JOHN: I mean, I was waiting and waiting in line for a call to come in and then eventually you started talking about home cooked meals and I thought finally you guys are coming home…

CAVANAUGH: Yes, indeed. Indeed.

JOHN: …in all sorts of places. But besides the fact that I come from a family that are all incredible cooks that can just kind of go anywhere, decipher a meal and bring it home and cook it and make it better than any restaurant.

CAVANAUGH: Wow.

JOHN: We're so blessed with that. My mom was a very good cook, my Aunt Beverly, my cousin Jeff, and we had a fabulous picnic in Coronado at the Concert in the Park, if nobody's been over there, it's just wonderful…

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

JOHN: …for family and friends. But one of my favorites and there's so many but I'll pick one. My nanny, when I was growing up Ireland, after mass on Sunday my mom used to pass us over to my nanny and she'd take us out to her little cottage. She had a stone hearth and she had all the irons and everything there and she would make homemade brown bread, boxty – are you familiar with boxty? Or wrap – What do you call that?

GOLDEN: Yeah.

CLANCY: No.

JOHN: It's a kind of a raw potato pancake thing.

GOLDEN: Umm-hmm.

CLANCY: Yum.

JOHN: They make it with sour milk, skim milk, soured milk and lots of homemade butter. And she'd do her eggs and she'd do her rashers. Are you familiar with rashers?

GOLDEN: Yes.

CLANCY: Bacon's so good.

JOHN: Yes, thank you very much. And black pudding and white pudding.

CLANCY: Wow.

JOHN: And I'd – Then when she was finished with the whole thing, she'd fry up a lovely piece of that brown bread in that bacon fat.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, my.

JOHN: And serve it up to you in a plate and you'd be sitting there with the peat fire burning and everything was smelling like the country and it was just one of the most wonderful childhood experiences that I ever had – I mean, that I had, one of them, just one of them. That was one and it was just something, that brown bread. If you've eaten brown bread anywhere, go to Ireland and have brown bread.

CAVANAUGH: John, thank you so much. That was so delicious sounding.

CLANCY: It's fascinating how breakfast has popped…

GOLDEN: Yeah.

CLANCY: …keeps popping up.

CAVANAUGH: Yes, right.

CLANCY: What were some of your favorite breakfasts?

GOLDEN: Well, all I know is that I think among my nieces and nephews they will all think about my dad making them eggy on toast, which John just reminded me of. And it's basically egg in a hole with – but, you know, you fry up the bread. You make a little hole for the egg and you fry the bread and then you put the egg in and let it cook, and you've got this wonderful fry—again, the frying—but, you know, it's just – it's delicious. And I don't know too many dads who are big cooks. But I know on Twitter in the last few weeks, people have been talking about dads and eggs and there's something about…

CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh.

GOLDEN: …dads and eggs and everyone was talking about their dad making their, you know, breakfast for them. And the eggs seem to be the key ingredient with this.

CAVANAUGH: Well, this is just going to sound terrible but I think my most memorable breakfast was the first time I had a Bloody Mary.

CLANCY: I like that.

CAVANAUGH: It was just so delicious and I had, for years, never bothered to taste it because I didn't like the name, you know. It put me off. But it was so fabulous that I – I don't know what that says about me though.

CLANCY: She does – You notice, she doesn't remember the food that she ate.

CAVANAUGH: No.

GOLDEN: Yeah, did you eat with it?

CAVANAUGH: I have no recollection. Let's go to the phones and take a call from Delores in Rancho Santa Fe. Hi, Delores.

DELORES (Caller, Rancho Santa Fe): Hi. This is about what I've eaten personally but last time we were up – Oh, a couple years ago, we were up visiting a friend in Santa Barbara who is – her parents were from Switzerland. And so she cooks Swiss and so forth. One evening she went to one of the musical conferences or music programs that they had…

CAVANAUGH: I'm sorry, Delores, we're – you're just – the phone connection is just not any good. We just can't hear you. But I did see a little line there and she actually had a cooked meal from Julia Child. Julia Child came to the home.

CLANCY: Well, that would be memorable.

CAVANAUGH: Yes, yes.

GOLDEN: Wow.

CAVANAUGH: Quite so. Let's talk to Sabrina in Sorrento Valley. Good morning, Sabrina. Welcome to These Days.

SABRINA (Caller, Sorrento Valley): Oh, hi. Can you hear me?

CAVANAUGH: Yes, we can.

SABRINA: Oh, yeah, we just got back from a trip to Italy. We were there for about two and a half weeks and, you know, it just – I mean, anywhere you go in Italy it seems like you can't get a bad meal. But one thing that was amazing to me is just along the autostrada because we drove and just there are these little places to eat along the autostrada that are just, you know, little basic places and they have like the most amazing food. I mean, they have fresh mozzarella and prosciutto and all different kinds of meats and, you know, it's just, to me, amazing to be along a major freeway and just be able to sit down and have these gourmet meals at places you wouldn't expect. So that was – I mean, everything was great but that, in particular, was, to me, fascinating when you come here and you don't see that along the freeways typically.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you for that, Sabrina. I wonder what kind of impact the slow food movement, because I think of that coming from Italy, has had on our appreciation of good food. What do you think, Caron?

GOLDEN: I think, unfortunately, it's still rather limited to people who are already inclined to eating in that way, you know, more – less fast food and more enjoying the prepared meals. I love the fact that they're out there and that we're seeing more emphasis. It's having an impact on restaurants because you're seeing a lot more of the chefs really focusing on getting good local seasonal food and when you compare that to some restaurants where everything is sourced on the menu, you know, the eggs are from this ranch and from this farm and whatnot, and you go to a chain and they source it with Heinz or whatever. That's a different thing.

CAVANAUGH: You know, I want to just – We're running out of time but I just want to take this one last call but there is – because there's an area of food that we've almost forgotten. Skip is calling from Carlsbad. Good morning, Skip, and welcome to These Days.

SKIP (Caller, Carlsbad): Good morning. I wanted to talk about the ultimate family recipe which was chocolate meringue pie.

GOLDEN: Umm, dessert.

CLANCY: Dessert.

SKIP: And this goes – I mean, I'm in my mid-sixties and this was my dad's favorite that my grandmother used to make. And it was better the next day after it sat in the refrigerator overnight, and the interesting part of this was that when I was a kid, my mom would make two chocolate meringue pies, one for the rest of the family, which was my brother and my dad and my mom, and one for me or one of the other guys, whoever was the birthday person.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

SKIP: And we – the birthday boy could eat his own chocolate meringue pie at any pace he wanted to…

GOLDEN: Okay.

SKIP: …always with a cold glass of milk.

GOLDEN: Ohh…

CAVANAUGH: Oh, Skip, no wonder you remember that. Thank you so much for that. Any favorite desserts?

CLANCY: Lemon meringue pie, believe it or not. When I was little, that was my birthday cake. My mother made the really classic kind with the condensed milk and that was my birthday cake. I never had a birthday cake, it was always a lemon meringue pie. But right now, in San Diego, if I go out for my favorite it's got to be the banana cake at La Taverna and Sorella in La Jolla and chef Mary – Mary Ann Vitale makes a cake, banana cake, that's probably seven or eight inches high, six layers, buttercream frosting, tons of bananas and it's just to die for.

CAVANAUGH: And, Caron, I have to ask you…

GOLDEN: Oh…

CAVANAUGH: …quickly.

GOLDEN: The red velvet cake at Urban Solace. Matt Gordon makes it with beets and it is just the densest, most delicious – You don't see those kind of chocolate cakes anymore, the real high ones with the cream cheese frosting, and it just is fabulous and rich.

CAVANAUGH: I have to thank both of you so much. We have to go and eat something now. Caron Golden is freelance writer, food columnist for SDNN.com and author of the blog "San Diego Foodstuff." Caron, thanks so much.

GOLDEN: Oh, thanks for having me. It was fun.

CAVANAUGH: This really was a memorable show. Maureen Clancy is former food editor and restaurant critic for the San Diego Union-Tribune and her website, maureenclancy.com is called "Matters of Taste." Thank you so much, Maureen.

CLANCY: Thank you. It was great fun.

CAVANAUGH: I want to thank all our listeners. Sorry if we didn't get to you but you can post your comment online at KPBS.org/TheseDays. And thank you so much. You've been listening to These Days on KPBS.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Bibi'

Bibi | August 10, 2009 at 10:44 a.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

Best remembered dinner was over 30 years ago. Lubach's on the waterfront. Our first anniversary! I had duck which was very good, but the baked potato was incredible. The waiter mixed the sour cream etc. tableside! It was really a great show! Not only was the food fabulous for those days but the service was outstanding! The waiter knew we were newleyweds & really took care of us! I haven't had that great service since that time. Were oh were are the great waiters & waitresses? Really most places that consider themselves fantastic restaurants have horrible service! How can this be remedied? I really want to know! The owners & managers need to have classes in the right ways to serve a table. At times it is really embarrassing esp when the dinner is so costly!

Thanks,
Bibi
San Diego

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Avatar for user 'TomFromPoway'

TomFromPoway | August 10, 2009 at 4:27 p.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

Greatest meals:
Fresh king crab purchased off the boat and smothered in butter in Juneau Alaska.
Fresh Alaska halibut (I caught the halibut) with homemade hollandaise
Black Cod appetizer at The Other Place in Seattle (c 1980)
Creme Brulee at Mille Fleurs (c 1991)
Multi-course meal with wines at Masas in San Francisco (c 1988)
Multi-course meal with wines and cheese tray (huge) at Oustau de Baumaniere, Les Baux, Provence, France 2001
Sesame Crusted Seared Ahi at Rendezvous China Bistro in Del Mar
Wor Won Ton Soup, City Dragon Chinese Food, Poway
Appetizers at Ropongi, La Jolla
Beef Negima at Akai Hana in Rancho Bernardo

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Avatar for user 'nozizwe'

nozizwe | August 11, 2009 at 5:09 a.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

Le Sud in Lyon, France
It was the food--a delicious concoction that emerged from a tagine.
The ambiance--unpretentious outdoor seating at sunset.
The company--smart, funny, handsome.

Al Diwan in Paris, France
The best Middle Eastern fast food in the world on the Avenue George V--that sits in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe

Zen Palate in the NYC
Simply the best veggie food. Fabulous presentation.

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