The aim of my catering endeavour is to provide people with an opportunity to experience fine dining in the comfort of their home. However, there is something to be said for dining out. No preparation, no mess, no mountain of laundry spilling into consciousness. A night off. And it doesn’t have to be solely fine dining. There is nothing like stumbling upon one of those hidden little gems tucked in, unassumingly, behind the shadow of the city. Its often these magical places that leave a stamp on our memory..as well as our palate. I visited the city with my friend not long ago and in a whirlwind moment returning to the island we stopped for a quick bite. Now we had eaten in many fine dining establishments in our time but this one still leaves a stamp. In our scurry, we scanned all the menus of the trendy neighboring cafes and bistros, but for some reason we decided on this seemingly typical Asian diner. We didn’t even look at the menu. I’m not sure what it was that drew us in but without question there were many reasons that kept us there. It was something about the authenticity and unpretentiousness etched in the facial lines of the cheerful elderly waitress. Then there was the endless menu of items written in a language neither of us could understand. The blind order. My favorite. In minutes we were surrounded by dishes we could not identify. We savoured every bite, all the while discussing the peculiarity and interesting combination of foreign ingredients. We left full, satisfied and giddy as though we were just sprinkled with gold dust.
So what is it that makes the dining experience memorable? Of course it is a largely subjective experience but there must be some common denominators. For me, it is a reflection of the senses. I’m not sure what should be enticed first. I used to think sight, the presentation of the food, but really it happens before the food arrives. To illustrate, it was with this same friend, that I dined at highly regarded restaurant out of town. Sadly it happened so quickly that in the first five minutes my friend was put off. I think it started with the greeting, or lack thereof, that almost did it in for him. We almost left at that point. Then we were escorted to our table situated in a lovely corner alongside rich velvet curtains. It was unfortunate really..that the curtains were left open on one side only to unveil a decrepit courtyard that was home to the garbage bins. But it didn’t stop there. There was a smell. I tried to ignore it but my friend could not. To this day we couldn’t pin point what exactly it was. Then it was about the table. Our chairs were so low to the table, I felt like the incredible shrinking woman. It was one disaster after another. I almost succumbed to my friend’s dismay and left right then and there. Fortunately we didn’t. Because the food..oh my the food. Saved by the Foie Gras snow. In the end the food trumps everything I suppose.
Fortunately for me I do not have to venture far from home to experience great food. Our valley is filled with many great establishments of various cuisines. From my perspective, places that meet the mark on all levels. A little shout out to Hudson’s on First and the Old Firehouse Wine Bar for doing just that.