twenty-eight food memories

28In honor of my 28th birthday [which was on Wednesday but I didn’t exactly have this post ready until now…], I’ve come up with a list of my top 28 food memories to date!

In order as random as my memory:

  1. “Bone meat” with my Mama.  OK, so I don’t remember the moment captured in this photo, but it is one of my most treasured images – my mom & me chowing down on BBQ baby-back ribs at Tony Roma’s.
  2. Little Italy Farmers’ Market.  We try to stroll through this iconic Saturday event anytime we’re in San Diego, as the sights, sounds and flavors never disappoint.  Simply a must-do when you’re there, and worth it for the local finds.
  3. My brothers’ fettuccine alfredo.  It’s not your normal American cheesey white sauce dumped on pasta.  It’s out-of-this-league white sauce with the earthy flavor of mushrooms, the sweet and possibly oakiness of wine and the gild-the-lily touch of cream and grilled chicken that puts you over-the-edge.  Eat this and you will never order the sub-par thick version at the Olive Garden again.  You will never look at Alfredo sauce the same way.
  4. When my husband ate my brother’s sauce.  Finally, Sean was able to taste it in Hawaii this past January, and his world is forever changed.  He knows now.
  5. Graduation breakfast date.  Our first [of many] breakfast dates was in honor of my college graduation.  Sean took me to the original Broken Yolk restaurant in Pacific Beach where we indulged in endless amounts of coffee and an entire bottle of champagne and a touch of orange juice.  I think I ordered quiche, and commented about how my sister-in-law makes the best quiche.  This is the meal where Sean looked at me across the full table and said, “yeah, you really are into food, aren’t you.”  I nodded.  He got me.
  6. Our Valentine’s date in 2011 at Searsucker in the Gaslamp.  I got the Butt, Sean got the Loin, we shared duck fat fries, and toasted with prosecco and beer respectively.  Then we got dessert and a Weezer song played as Sean closed his eyes to take it all in for a moment.  That was good.
  7. Even better – our spontaneous “let’s check out their lunch menu on our way out of town” date at Searsucker in Del Mar in 2014.  We shared the mussels appetizer and it made our entire trip seem like the preview and the meal was the grand finale.  We devoured every bit of buttery, briney goodness and finished off with fish sandwiches.  They sent us home with cookies.  That was so good.
  8. RPM Italian in Chicago with friends.  We were already having one of the best vacations, ever.  It was October in Chicago, and beautiful and lovely as the city is all the time.  We had lunch reservations at Giuliana and Bill’s resto, and it was probably the most indulgent meal of the weekend.  Us girls sipped bellinis and cocktails, the men had local beer, and each of our entrees were amazing.  Sean and I had the budino for dessert and O.M.G.  That’s it.
  9. Running into Magnolia Bakery in Chicago on our way to take photos in front of the bean.  It was like 9:30 a.m. and I didn’t even know they had a location there.  I saw the shoppe out of the corner of my eye, literally stopped in my tracks and blurted “is that Magnolia, like in New York?  Can we just look?” And turned everyone around to check it out.  Of course, one cannot look at the iconic morsels of perfection without also partaking, so we each ordered one.  It was, of course, the best vanilla cupcake in the world.  I still dream about it.
  10.  Our third wedding anniversary date night at Giada.  It was truly epic.  I think we were there for three hours and had an incredible experience.  From the house focaccia bread served in mini cast-iron pots with creamy mascarpone to the most amazing meat and cheese platter (the honeycomb!) and our delicious pasta courses… and dessert.  Oh, my gosh.  The best lemon meringue and espresso desserts.  Ended with a whirl in the free photo booth and you have the best anniversary date by far.
  11. The first Thanksgiving I hosted.  This includes the first turkey I cooked – brined, buttered and roasted.  We hosted and cooked with friends and it was the best damn holiday meal away from family.  When I think about that day, and the weeks of preparation that came before it, I feel proud and happy.  We have each come a long way since then in kitchen, but it secured a part of me that I get from my parents – for gathering friends who are more like family and preparing and enjoying a meal together.  As the first holiday that Sean and I hosted together, and prepared for together, it’s one for the books!
  12. Extraordinary Desserts in Little Italy, San Diego.  Every time I go to this place becomes a food memory.  A typical order of mine includes the Shangri-La Cake and strawberry hot chocolate.  Their coffee will also pair well with any dessert.  And there’s a parmesan-something dip that is an excellent savory starter.
  13. Tuna sandwiches with potato chips on the beach.  No specifics, just a warm, childhood memory.  I don’t even like tuna fish sandwiches (mayo, ick), but the thought of them takes me to soft wheat bread and crunchy chips, and lots of seaside play.
  14. That old tapas place I went to all the time in college.  I couldn’t wait to turn 21 so that I could order a pitcher of sangria with my friends, and we did just that on my much-anticipated birthday.  I have a memory with my parents there.  I also have loads of late-night after-hours can’t-totally-remember memories there.  Lots of bacon-wrapped dates, toast with that butter, ahi tuna skewers and passion fruit cheesecake.
  15. Thanksgiving 2007.  My parents threw me a pre-Thanksgiving party a couple of weeks prior because I had a probable schedule conflict on the actual holiday.  As it happened, I was able to surprise them for about 24 hours.  Thank God.  They had fresh seafood flown in from Alaska (crab legs, shrimp) steamed next to the deep fried turkey.  I remember setting up the dessert area for my mom, and can hear her reminding me that presentation is everything.  We used bowls and platters at varying heights, and linens to make it special and tie it altogether.  Those moments and memories shape the woman I am today.
  16. Spring rolls at Jill’s.  I’ve never ordered spring rolls at a restaurant and admittedly do not crave them, ever.  But I crave spring rolls at Jill’s because it means getting together with a few girlfriends, sipping chilled moscato, and laughing our loudest as we fill and roll our own wraps of freshly prepared goodness.
  17. Breakfast for dinner.  A comforting meal that I turn to often in the middle of a busy week when all we have in the refrigerator are eggs, veggies and cheese.  Or ingredients for pancakes and frozen berries for a quick compote in lieu of syrup.  And then there’s that Christmas after we lost my mom when we had pancakes and waffles with Baileys whipped cream, two kinds of quiche, and so much more.  A couple of years ago, Christmas dinner was at our house, and I cooked a tomato basil frittata, crushed rosemary potatoes, and French toast. Comforting, satisfying, and the tradition lives on in both every day life and special events.
  18. Late night carne asada fries and margaritas.  A few weeks ago, after seeing Tristan Prettyman and John Legend in concert at the Copley Symphony Hall in San Diego (yes it was the most epic thing ever), we walked (many blocks) to La Puerta.  We sat at the very crowded bar, had a couple rounds of specialty margaritas and inhaled a hot plate of carne asada fries.  Few things are better.
  19. Solo sushi in college.  A couple of times, before I transferred out-of-state, I would walk across the street from campus to this sushi joint, get a table by myself and eat shrimp tempura and spicy tuna rolls.  Sometimes I would study, or just read, and every time, I’d text my cousin just to let someone know that I was in fact dining by myself and totally OK with it.
  20. Family barbecues.  Throughout my childhood, high school and early college years, I witnessed my parents completely throw down in the kitchen.  Hospitality seemed to come naturally to them.  I remember late evening discussions about food and prep timelines and lists.  I remember mega grocery runs, waking up early to savory smells oozing out of the kitchen, and that one time there was a whole pig on rotisserie in the driveway.  These scenes and memories and the flavors from those parties taught me a lot about being a generous and inviting hostess, and I hope to provide the same warm welcoming for everyone joins us at our table.
  21. That Sustainable Seafood cooking class I attended when I was coordinating parties and classes at an all-organic bakery and culinary school.  One of the top chefs in the area along with a well-known and loved fish monger taught and provided an incredible experience that included live spot prawns and sea urchins.  And that salt-crusted fish.  I felt lucky to be there and my perspective on seafood changed greatly. Yum.
  22. Bottomless mimosas and chilaquiles at DW Bistro.  The constant cork popping is what makes this experience, not to be outdone by the incredible spicy flavors of every dish.
  23. Bread & Wine.  Reading this book by Shauna Niequist and discovering her as a writer and table person has been everything for me.
  24. The first time I made lasagna, it was Valentine’s Day.  I used my homemade sauce and went about it by feeling and flavor rather than by recipes or someone else’s directions.  It turned out perfectly, and to this day it is one of my best weapons.  And Sean thinks it’s like the best thing in the world, which makes me feel fantastic.
  25. Mama’s blueberry scones.  I’m sure she used one of Martha’s recipes for these lemon-glazed biscuits, but for me they’ll always be Mama’s.  I would have a tough time making these, and she would come in, just when I thought I was going to crush all the blueberries and ruin everything, to mold the dough perfectly into a rectangle.  Then, she’d let me takeover and finish it up.
  26. Coffee & dessert.  Once when I was a teenager, I somehow tagged along with my parents to Kona Grill.  I went to the restroom, and when I came back, my mom had a vanilla cappuccino.  I asked her what it was just as the waiter came to take my order, and I asked for “one of those.”  Then we ordered the passion fruit creme brûlée.  They both smiled knowingly as I took my first bite (they’d both had it before).  I closed my eyes and let out a “Mmm.”  It was the best creme brûlée to date, and one of those sweet memories that has taught me to go on dessert dates, have an espresso drink and enjoy it.
  27. The first time I was inspired to cook something special.  One year, for Mother’s Day, my siblings and I woke up a little early to cook breakfast menu I had seen on Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals.  It took us way longer than that, blame my first go at a berry compote that didn’t thicken, but it was one of the first times I saw something on TV that I knew I could do, too.
  28. Our wedding.  We had a BBQ buffet and a dessert table with cake, two gourmet cupcake flavors, fruit tarts and raspberry meringue cookies. Sean and I were adamant about eating, so we went through the buffet line first and sat at a sweetheart table away from everyone while Hawaiian music played and everyone took turns making their plates. It was absolute bliss!

XO, MH

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