I just discovered this challenge a couple days ago, and I'm just going to use it however I want to in order to inspire my writing for the rest of the month...
"Restaurant moment: Share the best restaurant experience you had this year. Who was there? What made it amazing? What taste stands out in your mind?"
It was such a culinary and social year, I have more than one...
1) The air is warm and slightly breezy. The evening is waning but the sun is only slowly making its way down to the water, dodging the sail masts that cover the horizon. Stephen and I each had a beer, and it tasted like lifewater at that moment. Our dishes were incredible, fish with some gourmet mashed potatoes... we laughed as we realized that in New Zealand "entree" meant "appetizer", so we ended up ordering a few more starters to fill up, some sweet potato fries and shrimp cocktail. There wasn't too much to say, we just reveled in our first dinner in Auckland and the soothing jazzy live music accompanying our meal. We'd soon find out that live music at dinner seems to be the law in that country, and we would delight in it the weeks to come. The singer, with his long dreds and lilting voice, sang Sting's "Fields of Gold" and I thought about how I'd made my dream come true by being there.
2) There are old and new friends around me and some that I've just met. The smell of meat and tomatoes and fish is heavy in the air. Candles are lit and sitting everywhere. To us Americans many of the dishes looked odd and questionable, to our Swedish friends they looked like Midsummer dinner, Christmas dinner, Mom's table at home. They had been preparing for hours to give us and themselves a taste of home. Their special brands of schnaps sat on the table. We dove into the meal... I loved every bite. The herring in the mustard. The meatballs. The little sausages. Then we picked up the folded lyrics by our plates, poured ourselves shots of schnaps, and sang Swedish toasting songs together. In Swedish. We attempted them in a rough English translation. We all laughed and laughed and laughed. I marvelled and drank in this culture that loves to create a meal together, insists on wearing their nice clothes to sit down and enjoy it, sings silly songs afterwards while they enjoy wine, and believes that the night is just beginning at 11:30 pm when all that was done and it was time to go dance.
3) It was the Fourth of July and I sat across from the beach at the Fishhouse with my mom and stepdad. Our table was next to the bonfire on the patio. My salmon was amazing, as salmon always is. The wine was light and crisp. People were flooding the beach, the pier, the streets, the grass... I was overwhelmed at all the people out in my beautiful town for this holiday. As it got dark and the first firecracker lit up the sky, everyone hushed up, and we turned away from our table to watch the gold, red, white and blue explosions in the sky, framed by silhouetted palm trees. I had never before been so achingly in love with my city. And it was that weekend in realizing how great my love was, but confronting the fact that I was still faced with this growing, undefinable desire to experience something new and far away, that I made plans for 2010 that will likely take me away from this beach city I'm in such a deep relationship with.
4) We sat around a table, drinking sangria, in the city that never sleeps... the city of lights... Las Vegas. I had turned 27 that very day. Friends surrounded me, ones that I've known for years and a couple that were brand new but already had fastened themselves to my heart. The tapas were the best we'd ever had. The paella met every expectation. When the servers brought out the tiniest little slice of chocolate torte, with a lit candle stuck in it, and everyone began singing happy birthday, I was smiling so very very hard, harder than I could remember smiling in a long time, I couldn't wipe it off, it was so hard I thought I'd be sore... I was so very happy, the moment was perfect, I loved my friends so much, and I was so grateful for the year that was 26 and thrilled for the year that would be 27.