During the late summer of 2000, I traveled through France and Italy with my Aunt Mimi and cousin Mark. I had just completed a year of living in Japan. Imagine going directly from Asian cuisine to European. The cheeses and butters and breads just won me over. Gastronomically, it was the best year of my life, and the best meal of my life was during that trip.
Mimi had a little stone house in Caen, which is in Normandy. We traveled by tiny Peugeot from there down to Grenoble and into Italy. Between Caen and Grenoble we stopped in Nohant-Vic near the Loire Valley. George Sand's chateau is there, where she grew up and wrote most of her work.. The Eighteenth Century building still retains its romantic charm and it is outfitted with the same furnishings and decor as when she was living.
The hotel is called Auberge de la Petite Fadette. It is an eight room hotel that I would call more of an inn. It's lovely. The dining room is well-lit and has a large, grey, stone fireplace. The three of us sat at a wooden table covered with a crisp white tablecloth. I didn't know that my life was about to change. The courses kept coming; one after the other and each one more and more delicious.
Terrine of foie gras with chutney and mesclun. Roasted Sea Bass with Artichokes Barigoule.
(These are not sentences, I know, but they are worthy of a period just for being in existence.)
Saddle of perfectly cooked lamb with rosemary. This dinner is where I discovered Cote du Rhone wine, sheep cheeses, and where one course is whisked away during conversation and another appears as if by magic. Perfectly presented on simple, beautiful white dishes.
(Insert another bottle of wine here.)
The meal ended four hours later with Melba peach pudding topped with crushed raspberries. Chocolate mousse with Bailey's. A cheese plate to end all cheese plates followed by even more wine and finally a cappuccino and an espresso and two well-deserved Gitanes.
If I could go back in time, I would go to this dinner and yes, I would photograph my food.
Everyone has that one meal, the one that is their favorite. Perhaps it sticks in mind because of the time in your life that it marked, or because of the location, or the people who accompanied you. For me it was all of those things, all at once, and that is why it was the best.