Mel’s Greatest Meals of All Time

I’ve had quite a few memorable meals in my life time. Jeanne often disparages my inability to pick “favorites.” When it comes to picking favorite movies, books, colors, memories, favorite ANYTHING–I typically am dumbfounded and at best can only come up with a “favorite realm.”

I do however, have very clear favorite meals.

Some of the top meals of my life include:

-Barbecue Pork sandwich at Ridgewood BBQ in East Tennessee. Not only was the sweet tea unbelievable, this place introduced me to the glory of putting coleslaw on a pulled pork sandwich, slathered right in there with all the sweet barbecue sauce. This was also my first taste of fried pickles. I’ve only had fried pickles maybe 3 or 4 times since then and they do not even come close.

-I’m not sure how much of this was actually because of how phenomenal the food intrinsically was in and of itself, or perhaps it was more of a relief and release after driving up winding Tennessee mountain roads and feeling sick, only to be greeted by fresh mountain air and a quaint Mom and Pop place at the top of the mountain: Shirley’s. This was just a regular country cooking place served family style. I was with the Chambers family and there was just something spectacular about eating the piles of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, biscuits and a half a dozen other side dishes on top of that mountain. The sweet tea there was also phenomenal. Tennessee’s been mighty good to me.

-One of the best meals of my life was at a fantastic place called Sweetwater Tavern near Washington D.C. My aunt and uncle treated Jeanne and me to filet mignon. I’ve had a lot of filet mignon in my life–even finally getting to taste filet at Texas de Brazil and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, two well-known, highly acclaimed steakhouses. But those steaks do not even compare to the glory of this filet mignon from Sweetwater Tavern. It was cooked Pittsburgh style (this was also the first evening I learned of this steak cooking technique) and it was perfectly accompanied by garlic mashed potatoes and a Caesar salad. I seriously never wanted that steak to end. The meal concluded with a Chocolate Waffle. Do I really need to say anymore about that? Jeanne and I concur that this was definitely one of the best meals of our lives.

I had another one of my favorite meals this weekend.

Our gracious and lovely host Susie sent each of us off on errands in San Francisco prior to our journey to Muir National Woods and Sonoma valley. Jeanne’s task was to procure a large non-fat latte. Mine was to enter the gourmet Marina Market and hunt down the following items: bread, three kinds of cheese, fruit and salad as part of our picnic lunch in Sonoma.

I roped Walter and Tiffany into my grocery expedition. I initially felt slightly intimidated from the get-go, as Susie seemed to be a bit of a cheese connoisseur. And she seemed fairly specific about the bread. Undaunted, we blasted through the front doors of the market, and I sent Walter off on a mission to get some bread, Tiffany for some grapes, and I sought to conquer the deli.

I looked at row after row of gourmet cheese, racking my brain for something that everyone would like but would still be gourmet enough for our connoisseur Susie. I had watched enough Food Network to know what I was doing though.

I hear a voice with a thick Russian accent come up behind me. “Will zis suffice?” the voice drawled in heavy, accented syllables. I spin around. It’s Walt, with a huge grin in his face, and a fistful of Russian Rye bread. Rye bread? No way. Guess I should’ve been more specific.

“No, maybe something a bit plainer…” I was distracted, trying to focus on what soft cheese I should get. The yellow sharp cheddar looked promising, but I still need two more kinds of cheese. “Try and see if you can find something else.”

I bend over the rows of cheese, trying to look for something a bit milder, and I found a white organic cheese that looked pretty good. I added that to the stash. Still looking for a soft cheese, Walt comes up behind me again, this time holding a simple French bread. “What about this?”

“Oh, sorry.. I should’ve told you. Susie suggested something with maybe herbs or something. Maybe pick out something else?”

Walt walks away in a huff, justifiably annoyed at my pickiness. Or perhaps his ineptness. Either way, the bread simply wasn’t quite right yet.

I settle on a soft, spreadable cheese with garlic and herbs mixed in, and decide to help a brother out. I stroll over to the bread aisle, and find Tiff and Walt standing and staring before the rows of bread.

I spy a rack of freshly baked bread with different herbs, finally settling on olive bread. I get some chicken caesar bowtie salad and then head back to the car, mission complete.

Our picnic lunch in Sonoma Valley at the Benziger Winery was perfect: bottles of Pinot Grigio and Zinfandel, an olive tapenade spread, three kinds of cheese, olive read, white French bread, green grapes, strawberries, chicken caesar bowtie salad, apples and finally…dark chocolate for dessert.

Heaven on a plate.

This definitely ranks as the fourth best meal of all-time.

And I’m still looking for number five…


4 thoughts on “Mel’s Greatest Meals of All Time

  1. Cheese and wine nights are becoming a huge deal in my life these days. Heaven, indeed. Cheers to you and your quest for #5, my friend!

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