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March 2, 2010

Top Ten memorable meals

Tersiguel's restaurantI put out a call for Top Ten Tuesday ideas, and Dining@Large readers came through so well that I seriously considered doing a Top Ten list of Top Ten list suggestions.

Which did I choose? None of them.

It was urged from on high -- an editor here at The Sun was channeling EL -- that I write about some of my most memorable meals. Or non-meal, in one case.

I'm afraid what I've worked up is more essay than list. I'll write shorter next time. I'll also get to some of your great Top Ten ideas in the coming weeks.

The meals, in no particular order:

1. Tersiguel's

My husband and I used to live in Oella, walking distance from historic Ellicott City, and this French country spot was always our special-occasion, white-tablecloth restaurant. On Christmas Day 2002, I was a month away from giving birth to our first child. It was snowing lightly as we headed out for a family dinner at my sister-in-law's in Philadelphia. My husband drove with hyper-pre-natal caution. Before we even got to the Beltway, a car barreled by. We were so rattled that we turned back, content to give up the holiday dinner to keep our baby safe.

But still, we kinda wanted dinner.

We had two things to eat in the house, both meant for the family potluck: The caramelized onion tart my husband had made as an appetizer and the chocolate torte I’d baked for dessert. Then it occurred to us: Tersiguel’s might be open. I knew from a neighbor that the restaurant had served dinner on Thanksgiving. Why not Christmas?

I called. No answer. Maybe they’d open later in the morning for brunch. I called again. No answer. I called in the afternoon. No Answer. We gave up on brunch. But we held out hope for dinner. I started calling again late that afternoon. No answer.

Come early evening, maybe 5 or 6 o’clock, I gave it one last shot.

No answer.

But instead of hanging up, I spoke into the ringing phone: “Oh! You’re open?!! Can you take two for dinner? We'll be right there!”

My poor husband fell for it – until I doubled over, cracking up. We both had a great laugh, if not a great Christmas dinner.

2. Martick's Restaurant Francais

The first time we visited this place, we had wonderful mussels, perfectly cooked lamb chops – and a waitress who volunteered with a laugh and a snort that she’d never waited tables before.

3. Kumari

We introduced our kids to Nepalese food here before they were old enough to know better. My daughter learned to like chickpeas and daal, though my son still pretty much sticks to Tikka Masala, naan and Mango Lassi. The restaurant’s kids-eat-free buffet and free chai have kept us coming back over the years.
 
4. Charleston

This was a major splurge for us on my 40th birthday. My husband ordered the grilled cheese as one of his courses because a reviewer had swooned over it. It was a good grilled cheese, but it was grilled cheese. I still kid him about that.

5. Great Sage, Clarksville

I’d had trouble dragging my husband to a vegetarian restaurant, so my first time here was lunch with my daughter, after a preschool hayride out that way. We’d never had a mother-daughter restaurant lunch before. I had a terrific salad. She had ice cream. Great Sage has since become a family favorite, particularly as we have become more interested in organic and green cuisine. Downside: The kids discovered Horizon organic strawberry milk here, saddling us with a $14-a-gallon habit.

6. Sarah and Desmond's, Ellicott City

This cafe, which closed last year, won us over years ago with its play area. There were toys off to one side, and my kids would play contentedly for an hour or more while I read the Sunday New York Times or had actual, sustained, grown-up conversation with my husband. The service was always slow, but who cares when the kids are letting you do things you can't get away with at home? The pastries were decadent and made with natural ingredients. And it was always a kick to hear my little girl order the Lemon Lust Cake.

7. L'Antica Pizzeria Da Michele, Naples, Italy

Best. Pizza. Ever. I had it 11 years ago. Sigh.

8. Star Canyon, Dallas, Texas

Chef Stephan Pyles’ late, great restaurant was our big night out place when we lived in Fort Worth more than a decade ago. All big hunks of Texas protein gussied up with complex sauces. I bought his cookbook, The New Texas Cuisine, and have slaved away many times – grinding chiles, making my own ketchup – trying to approximate his cowboy cuisine. It’s more fun when Chef Pyles is doing the work.


9. Chez Pierre, Stafford Springs, Conn.

My husband took me here more than 20 years ago for my birthday when we were first dating. It was the first real fine-dining experience either one of us had ever had. I can’t remember what we had, except that we finished the meal with some sort of alcohol-laced coffee drinks that we later discovered cost $8 apiece. That pushed the tab over $100, a shocking sum to us then.

10. Chez Rose Vozzella, Kingston, Mass.

My grandmother made a tomato sauce with lobster, but I’d only heard about it. It was never served at the big family gatherings where we usually saw her. When I was out of college, I asked for a lesson. My dad came along, driving up with me from Connecticut to her place outside of Boston. We brought along a bunch of live lobsters.

My grandmother started by sauteing chopped garlic in a bit of olive oil. She added canned, ground tomatoes. Then, using big knives and their bare hands, she and my grandfather – both in their 90s – proceeded to tear the lobsters apart. My father and I recoiled.

“It’s a lobster,” my grandfather replied.

It was like watching a National Geographic special on the eating habits of some primitive tribe, only the tribe was Grandma and Grandpa. When they were done, the pot of “gravy” was filled with lobster parts that continued to twitch for half an hour. The upside: It was fantastic over spaghetti. 

 

The lovely Tersiguel's fare we didn't get to eat that Christmas 2002. Baltimore Sun photo by Doug Kapustin.

 

 

 

Posted by Laura Vozzella at 5:37 AM | | Comments (22)
Categories: Top Ten Tuesdays
        

Comments

The lobster Cardinale at Marconi's was heavenly but they did so many things well at that old Baltimore institution!

Good list, LV. It's still sad how many of us will never get to go to Martick's.

Swerve - what's up with the font on the this blog? The comments on the right are in this tiny almost unreadable tiny font when I'm on the blog homepage. I'm on the 3rd computer in 2 days, so it's the site, not my computer...

Good list, LV. It's still sad how many of us will never get to go to Martick's.

Swerve - what's up with the font on the this blog? The comments on the right are in this tiny almost unreadable tiny font when I'm on the blog homepage. I'm on the 3rd computer in 2 days, so it's the site, not my computer...

Very well done, LV. I can just hear that "waitress" snort!

Captcha: bunker much? This winter, yes.

$14-a-gallon milk....you might be better off buying a cow....heehee

I was talking about those little, individual portions of strawberry milk. I figured out the per gallon cost once. Yikes! LV

Great list Laura! Thanks for sharing your food memories.

I miss Sarah and Desmond's... here's hoping that they are relocating to Catonsville in the old Catonsville Village Bakery/Coffee Junction building. The for lease sign on that building came down around the time they closed... and maybe Chuck will bake some donuts for them on the weekends

Memorable meals? One that springs to mind was dinner at the Tower of London shortly after I moved to England. The dinner was hosted by a group of newspaper men and women who called themselves the Fleet Street Dining Society, a subterfuge for the Gunpowder Club which met just once a year, on Guy Fawkes Night. That's when the British traditionally set off fireworks the way we do on July 4th. The meal was superb from the duck confit to the rack of lamb to the profiterolles. But the high spot of the evening came with the port and Stilton when newcomers to the "Society" (such as myself) were challenged to read a bit of doggerel, "When I Return to Fleet Street," while dodging firecrackers hurled at them by their dining companions. I was halfway through the poem when I glanced around and saw that the drapes behind me had caught fire. During the frantic moments that followed, pitchers of water and iced tea, coupled with a handy fire extinguisher, brought the blaze under control -- but not before one idiot made matters worse by trying to douse it with Remy Martin. Happily, we avoided the stigma of burning down one of London's treaured landmarks and though our Dining Society dues were raised to cover the damages, we were back at it again the next Guy Fawkes night, this time in a private dining room at the House of Commons.

MAGnificent.

MAG, I'm curious -- since they moved from the Tower of London, how much damage has the Dining Society done to the Palace of Westminster? (Of course, any damage would be entirely in keeping with Guy Fawkes Day.)

Hmpstd -- I'm not sure the Fleet Street Dining Society ever "played the Palace." I attended two more dinners, one at the House of Commons and another aboard a riverboat plying the Thames -- where we not only lit up the sky but scored a direct hit on the famed Prospect of Whitby pub. By the following year, I'd returned to the relative sanity of the States.

MAG, the House of Commons is located in the Palace of Westminster (that's the actual name of the building which houses the British Parliament).

Thank you, hmpstd. I lived there four years and never knew that.

One way of ensuring a "memorable" meal might be to show up at TD's Baltimore Prime, identifying oneself as a D@L loyalist. I'm afraid, by the way, to sign off with the conventional signal for "evil grin," for fear of how HTML might interpret that. But...the grin's there, nonetheless.

Your grandmother's lobster gravy sounds fabulous. My grandmother(in South Philadelphia) made crab gravy. My mother tries to copy her recipe without the same success. It is hard to describe eating crab gravy to Baltimoreans.

This is the first time since I lived in the Boston area 25 years ago that I have heard the term "gravy" applied to pasta sauce. I am a Baltimore native and my Italian grandmother made delicious sauce with crab (or anything else that swam or crawled in the sea). Her recipes were in her head, but I watched her enough as a kid (my dad and I actually did the crabbing chores) that I can do a pretty good rendition myself. The crab flavors the sauce and then you get to pick them when you've finished the pasta!

Not just crabsauce, softcrab sauce with papardelle pasta. Now that's Baltimore.

Sandcastle, I can't wait until crabs are in season! MMMMM!

I misread, sorry Sandcandle!

Komi in D.C. I so couldn't afford it, and yet, never a moment of regret or diner's remorse. I floated through the next work week as though I had just returned from an international vacation.

pgp, try "out of season" crabs at one of the better crab houses. I suspect they are actually the same crabs we have in season anyway, and what a nice break from winter! Plus they're cheaper. (go figure)

Joyce W., Thanks for the suggestion, but I'll wait for the real deal from the Wye River once the season opens.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.
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