What was Your Ultimate Food Experience?
by Mimi Dinh
I’ve tasted the most delectable pizza in Rome, the best gyro in Santorini, the most exquisite escargot in Paris and the most sinful tiramisu in Venice. But my ultimate food experience was in Barcelona last summer. We were six foodies (my husband and I along with two more couples) on a journey of culinary decadence. Our mission turned out to be beyond all expectation. Each four-star restaurant we visited was more incredible than the last. On our final evening there, we encountered our most sublime dining experience yet at a posh but unpretentious French and Catalan eatery called Roig Robi. First, let’s start with their impeccable service. The maitre d’ and wait staff didn’t hover over us or interrupt us with annoying routine check-ups, yet if we so much as thought about wanting something, they magically appeared as if they could read our minds. The café’s ambience struck a balance between minimalism and opulence. If the tastefully decorated walls could talk, they’d speak of a gastronomic wonderland that delighted us with Montserrat tomato with squid cooked in garlic, warm foie gras on legumes drizzled with walnut oil vinagrette, tasty cod puffs with a dense confit of onion, authentic paella with ultrafresh seafood and succulent lobster with truffle glaze. Each dish was as artfully presented as a Gaudi architectural creation, and we just sat there and admired the food for a while before savoring each morsel with a fine Rioja wine. We ended our ensemble with mouthwatering, luscious desserts. To me, an unforgettable food experience has to work as a whole package – culinary, presentation, ambience and service. This one had it all. Top that with the company of great friends, and “it just doesn’t get any better than this,” to quote a well-known beer commercial. We all found ourselves so emotional about our memorable meal that we did not say a word to each other for a while afterwards. We were lost in the moment. In celebrating Inside Houston magazine’s “Best Chefs” issue, we asked some of the city’s serious food lovers to describe their ultimate food experience.
My ultimate food experience was a couple of years ago when my wife, Julia, and I were traveling in the south of France. We stopped for the night in St. Jean de Luz, a fishing port just north of the Spanish border. At dusk we walked around the town and found a small local restaurant serving the catch of the day. The place was simple and unpretentious, really a perfect setting, and we were probably the only tourists in the place. On this evening, the daily special was stuffed squid in ink sauce – wonderfully prepared, tender and a taste that I had not experienced before or since.
When I was 9 years old, I went to Paris with my mom. We got dressed up and ate lunch at a fancy restaurant where I tried French onion soup for the first time. It was so delicious that I can still remember the cheese baked to a golden brown and the French bread soaked with the sweet onion broth. To this day, I am still trying to find the “perfect” French onion soup in Texas.
As a native Texan, steak is one of my favorites. I remember a few years ago during a conference at the Yacht Club in Disneyworld, I had the best filet mignon at their steakhouse I ever had. I have yet to have a better steak anywhere in this state or any other.
At a small cafe visited frequently by Ernest Hemingway in Havana, I ate ropa vieja and sipped Havana Club rum. I was with my girlfriend of the time, and the romance of the city and the intimacy of the cafe were very memorable.
– Stephen Alexander Byrd, bartender/wedding consultant