Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Best E...V...E...R !!!!

A comment from The Dawg sparked this one. I got to thinking about...what is my favorite restaurant E...V...E...R. I mean...i really am having to dig for this one. So many factors go into choosing just one. Quality of food, atmosphere, service, location, memories, wine/beer list (hey, its important too!), consistency of all those factors...the list goes on.

I scan the memory and come up with a few that are off the charts with what i categorize as MAJOR contributive factors in BEST EVER restaurants to this point in my life...

My first ever REAL culinary experience came when my parents and i visited some friends of theirs in Vancouver, British Columbia back in 1985. They took us to Chinatown. That particular Chinatown, at the time (and possibly still may be) the largest Chinatown in the Hemisphere other than San Fran's. I saw things in that market...well let's just say it was major culture shock from a culinary/grocery perspective. Fresh EVERYTHING...under the sun and under the sea. Then i had to conciously keep my mouth closed for fear of something flying in. Now, my jaw would still be agape just hoping something would... buying everything in sight and writing down every recipe i could decipher from the giver. They led us to this screen doorway, it opened to a long, narrow, ascending corridor of steps, i was thinking..."What the...we are going to die." As we ascended, the warm sultry aroma of garlic, ginger and Five Spice increased with each step. The stairs opened into a large, large room full of white cloth covered tables where seemingly hundreds of people were dining...and we were the only English speaking Caucasians i could see. We were seated and brought ice water. A large bowl of rice was placed in the center of the table. The food began to appear on carts rolled around the entire room. The cartmaster would open the steaming woven bamboo pots to reveal the delicacies inside. I didn't really wanna know, i just wanted to taste. And taste i did. I saw things i could not believe the human body ingested, of course, some of those things i ingested myself out of sheer curiosity...and IT WAS ALL GOOOOOOD. I think at that point my culinary journey began, and for that that restaurant makes the list even though have no idea of the name of the place, and could probably never find it again...i just look back on that particular event and say...that's where it started.

Next, would be PapaDeaux in San Antonio. My cousin and her husband lived there. He came from a very wealthy family in Mexico who supply some of the best bulls for the best bullfights south of the border. Foodies themselves, they knew where to find the good stuff...and Pappadeaux is GOOD. I'm not a Mexican, Texican, or Mexicali fan...period. This was just incredible food.

Leo's in OKC...ahhhhh that's really all you gotta say. When you get ribs and the BBQ sauce is more like just the frosting on the cake i.e. you really don't NEED it...you KNOW you got a RIB. That is the essence of Leo's. When we first started going there it was a gas station converted into a smokehouse. Dark stained concrete and wood floors, the table had a red checkered vinyl cover, forks in a mason jar, the sauce was in two bottles..."red is hot...brown is not". Occasionally, you would tear up and almost choke from the hickory/pecan woodsmoke billowing from the smoker if the wind was just right, but you just didn't care because of the Howlin' Wolf blues floating from the old smoke and grease stained radio off in the corner made you feel like you should. The walls were dark from years of that. The lights were dim because of that same smoke...its a beautiful thing. "Little Bit" or "Cookie" the waitress would greet you with a big black southern "How'reyall?" You get sweet tea...you order the rib dinner with baked beans and potato salad, that's what you order, you don't deviate from perfection. You sit back, sip your tea, enjoy more John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, and T-Bone Walker while you watch the cooks with aprons stained black with deep southern goodness, then you hear it..."ORDER UP!" Your trickling mouth begins gushing. It arrives. You then proceed to work your way through the styrofoam filled plate of soul sublimation only coming up for an occasional breath and to squirt some sauce into the already slathered gaping maw and a sip of sweet tea. Then "Cookie" comes around with...The Cake. Lord God help me... Its THE consummate culmination of sweetness behind salty...bananas and icing sandwiched between two layers of yellow lemon cake topped with a couple halves of fresh strawberries and slathered with just enough icing to make you think...oh i can do this, i CAN do this. You take ONE bite, and you KNOW...this cake has a place somewhere in eternity. There's a reason they call it 'soul food'.

OK sorry to leave you hanging, but this is gonna have to be continued...i've got the top three yet to cover and i've run short on time...and i've written myself into cooking some dinner. See you tomorrow.

Bon Appetit!

14 comments:

inpassing said...

Piper, your taste buds would never make it at my house. We prepare things that are family recipes...we eat them because that's how Mom or Dad fixed them. With four of us kids in my family and six in Mr. Napkins' family, if you didn't grow it, you didn't eat it. And...that meant the chickens, the hogs, the beef, and the big vegetable garden.

Of course, after we were adults and having never developed sophisticated taste buds...we find we can eat just about anywhere. We do have preferences. Mr. Napkins doesn't like seafood, but a trip to Red Lobster is a giant treat for me. (I know, I know...it's not really seafood...but it's the seafood that I know.) Taco Bell is fine for a quick fix, but for Mexican food that is just exceptional...I can't say where I'd want to go. But...it wouldn't be La Fiesta!

We really aren't big on fast food. We like Chinese, but don't really want to experiment with other Eastern/Mediterranean (sp?) types of food. Believe it or not, I'm not even much of a steak person.

A nice, big pot of homemade vegetable soup or beans and cornbread are just pretty amazing in our books. And on an off night when life gets a little too hectic...a bowl of cereal (yes...pre-packaged and refined) with milk is mighty tasty!

Your parents introduced you to a world of culinary tastes that The Napkins don't even realize exist.

Doc said...

That's it. I'm not reading here after 7:00 p.m. anymore. Too close to bed. I get mental reflux.

Anonymous said...

My favorite would probably be Texas Red's when I was young. The steaks were great, but the atmosphere was perfect. It may have to do with all the family meals there and the fact that I knew everyone that worked there. Sadly, the old building burned to the ground. It's just not the same without that old building and the old picture of the boy holding the sign for a TZ Wright concert.

For New Mexican food, Sadie's in Albuquerque. I remember eating there back when it was still in the bowling alley. HMMMM!!! Papitas!

Anonymous said...

LEOS!!!! Do you still have the cake recipe??? I need to get that! - Keli

Bag Blog said...

Bo hit two of my favorites. Texas Red's has to be the best steak I have ever put in my mouth and the service and atmosphere were perfect. Sadies is knock your socks off good, but hot. When I was growing up, I was able to eat at the famous La Cocina on the plaza in Taos - good Mexican food, lots of local color, a few movie stars thrown in, and margaritas that would send you reeling.

best friend said...

Hello!
Piper( can I use that to call you..the friendly... is too long...heheheh)

Thanks for the welcome you gave me last night.

You were the first one who made a comment there, I was really glad when I found it out from the notification mail...sooo HAPPY!


Your post,
it should be continued...yeah, left us hanging what that is.

I love to eat also, just about anything we can prepare on the table.
I didn't come from a very sophisticated type of family, we just used to eat , what we call, normal Filipino dishes, anything that is possible to have from a regular Filipino budgeting.
Well, I never realized that until now.hehehe
I think, we could say, as long as we can have some cake and ice cream...after a dinner.
We already feel that we're close to heaven.( isn't I stupid to say that..ummm)

But ain't bad at all. It's so useful for us that we used to live that way, made us realize that we have goals to pursue.

But of course, as I got older, had my first job(salary wise)me and my family could eat some different foods now, just once in a while.

Resto...
I think so far, it's "World Chicken" for me.
It's more like fast food actually, they have different pastas, which up to now, ummmm... still don't know their names, and lots of world sauces..YUMMY!
Add to them the potato salads...soooo GREAT!

Right now, after learning that The Napkins has their vegetable garden, it made me want to eat vegetable salad...
Until then, I have to prepare some for my self.

Blesshu!

BTW.
I don't know the "friendly confines of The Kingdom", but I'm glad to know some who knows him as well.

Inquiries said...

You made me hungry! I love Mexican food. I could eat if for every meal. Growing up in NM you are used to GOOD Mexican not Okie-Mex. I like most ethnic foods as long as the food I am consuming is not a organ. I don't do organs.

Buck said...

I couldn't begin to list my favorites, as most of 'em tend to run together at my (relatively) advanced age. That and the fact I was blessed with an incredible variety of restaurants... and home cooking influenced by various cuisines... from Day One of my existence. Most of that is because my father was career AF (the family was stationed in Paris between my eighth and 11th years on the planet...talk about eating "experiences!"), I was career AF, and my post-AF biz life took me all over the world as well. Both my mother and father were what I would call "adventurous" eaters, and Mom's cooking reflected that.

That said: I used to head over to Windsor for Dim-Sum once a month while living in Detroit. Some of the best on the planet, but I've eaten in Vancouver Dim Sum places such as you described, Jay, as well. And in SFO, which just might be America's second best restaurant town, after New Yawk. ;-)

Rave said...

Leo's?? I live in the area and I have never heard of it! Where is it?

And my favorite restaurant? Oh- this little bar/tavern in Mannheim, Germany. They served the absolute BEST Chicken Cordon Bleu. It was amazing....I had no idea German's could do French.
It was FAN-gottalovethatgermanbeer-tastic!

The Friendly Neighborhood Piper said...

Its too late, and i'm too tired mentally to make the big post, but i will answer the comments:

Mrs. Napkins: coupla things-
1) my parents admittedly didn't really start me on this culinary journey intentionally, they are meat and potatoes folks too. They aren't real sure about some of the stuff we eat here in The Kingdom.
2) I really have a hard time when people say...oh if your cooking for jay you have to cook gourmet. Its simply not true. I still like a simple meal of mashed potatoes and corn with a side of pan fried pork chops or a bowl of good chicken and dumplins ANY DAY. Oh and sweet tea.

Doc: Just wait til the top 4 post, you may wanna read it just after lunch.

Bo: you know, i think its the memories of a particular restaurant that can give it a spot in the chronicles of the heart. Good food + good company= a beautiful kind of chemical nostalgia.

Hobbette: I am sooooo close to getting that Leo's cake down...there's just something lacking...but i'm getting closer every time. You can certainly have what i got so far.

MamaLou: You all should know...i'm etching these places down on the memory tablets so when and if i ever get to these destinations, that's where we dine.

Friend: YOU ARE FILIPINO?!!! oh we need to talk! My pancit needs some help. Its good but i think i may need more garlic next time, and some FRESH shrimp. Anyway, its good to be the first commenter! Again, welcome to the blogosphere, its an awful lot of fun and you'll meet some very fine folks here. oh yeah, if your at The Table, your in the friendly confines, at least in the electronic sense.

I2: Just keep eating GOOD FOOD! You've been to mi casa, you've seen my mags, if ya ever need a recipe (trailmap) just hit the celly. No organs? Which i would assume you have never given thought to haggis?

Uncle Buck: PARIS! i AM envious! you assuredly have the planetary palette that i aspire to.

Rave: NE 36th & Kelly SW corner...just follow the smell of woodsmoke. There's also one downtown on the eastside around the 6th area just east of the viaduct...i recommend the original though.

bestfriend said...

Hi!

While we are having dinner outside with some folks, while thinking what is the nice food to have, The Friendly Neighborhood Piper's post's replies zapped into my mind, and there I chose Pancit...and it was so NICE! and YUMMY with some fried tofu as an appetizer.
I cook sometimes but never tried cooking Pancit, I'm just enjoying the eating portion.

If you already put enough shrimp and garlic and still taste the same, I think it's in the sauté part or could be in the broth, soy sauce and "Kalamansi"(calamondin orange)that should be added on it.
Of course, the veggies will play a big part too.Those are my favs.

inpassing said...

I have mauled it over and over in my mind since you made this post...just where is my favorite Mexican food place?!?! I've come to the conclusion that it's not actually a food establishment at all...it's at Boo-Boo's and Crew Craw's! Now that's some mighty fine Mexican food!!

Kris, in New England said...

Fave eatery: Bin 228 in Hartford, CT. The Hubby and I go there about every 4-6 weeks - we have a "regular" table and yes, they know our names.

It's a wine bar and panini grill - which is a vast understatement about what they really are. Tuscan influenced uber-gourmet food. Their wine list is 2 times longer than the menu. Fantastic salads, gourmet cheese platters, 6 different kinds of bruchetta. About 10 different panini's with the very best in Italian meats. They have a signature rissotto that makes me cry. Desserts list is short but heavenly - molten chocolate cake and nutella panino are faves.

Wine fave here: Le Volte. It's a Super Tuscan that is very hard to get, but so amazing.

OK...I'm hungry now!

Catiche said...

Man sakes alive. There is a BBQ joint around Atlanta, GA that has amazing banana pudding. I think they put cream cheese in the mix... and then little chocolate chips.

I just looove food.