RHYS: At the time of writing this I am in the Perigord Noir region of France, famous for its gourmet delights: truffles, pate de foi gras, escargots, duck cooked a zillion ways. I confess that one of our reasons for coming here was to sample the cuisine. Lots of restaurants with Michelin stars, famous markets full of local produce.
I have to thank Martin Walker for making the place sound so enticing that we couldn’t resist. If you’ve read any of Martin Walker’s books about Inspector Bruno, you’ll know what I mean. Today we went to the real town on which his fictional St. Denis is based and met the bookstore owner who is a good friend of Martin’s.
And tonight we stayed home, sitting on our patio with the setting sun shining on us, dining on salad, sliced ham, cooked shrimp and local cheeses, all with a new and crusty baguette and a bottle of local rose wine (which is nothing like the white zinfandel plonk they call rose in America). And I have to confess this seemed more prefect to me than the expensive lunchtime meal.
So it made me think about what is true luxury to me, what kind of meal I long for most. And I think I rather like simple things—a picnic with my favorite ingredients in a lovely setting, plenty of time to eat and relax, the perfect temperature, a good wine. Of course when I say simple things I do include lobster, oysters when possible, but will happily make do with good cheeses, fresh bread, ripe tomatoes, fruit.
So Reds, which type of meal would you choose? Do you like simple meals al fresco like me or do you yearn for that fancy restaurant with the Michelin star?
HALLIE EPHRON: Do I have to pick one? Because in France, a "simple" meal al fresco has all those "simple" ingredients -- country pate, smoked ham, fresh peaches and strawberries, goat cheese, crusty bread -- that can be just okay, or completely fabulous when you get them from the characuterie or open market in France and Italy. And the dinners (and lunches) on the prix fixe menus of even just a passingly good restaurant are spectacular compared to what we have here. Even simple soups can be sublime. Ordinary frites put me over the moon. And the skate (sorry Lucy) and mussels and rougere! Their vin ordinaire is anything but... ordinary. I need to go make dinner...
LUCY BURDETTE: Simple, simple, simple--but please not a bento box:). I love the summer days when the garden is working full steam ahead. Here's a perfect meal I made for myself last year when John wasn't home (he's more interested in meat)--sliced tomatoes, fried okra, and a homemade cottage oat biscuit. With butter, natch. Though I do love fried chicken and mashed potatoes, spaghetti with meat sauce...I'm going to make dinner too!
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: If could choose only one, I'd go with simple. Every once in a while, when the Kiddo and Miss Edna are in bed, the Hubby and I will have picnic night — wine, cheese, crackers, fresh fruit, and this amazing fig spread. Or sliced tomatoes and mozzarella with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Or ratatouielle and fresh bread. Heaven. We usually stick to vegetarian stuff (I'm one and he's not).
If I'm on my own, I like nothing better than toast and jam and tea. Seriously. It's the best.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Well, I could go both ways..and in the middle, too. I'd
thrilled with the above-stated picnics..as long as we don't have to sit on the
ground. when we were in Italy, we had a picnic (on a table) under the cypress
trees--it was prosecco, peaches, pecorino cheese, some kind of lovely crackers,
prosciutto and olives. I ASK you!
And that night, at a restaurant, we had something which I can't remember
what they called, but it was slices of grilled sirloin, with shaved parmesan,
and you ordered it by weight. There were also fabulous fresh tomatoes, and the
house wine, which was as good as anything I have ever had.
I have also eaten in THE MOST expensive restaurants you can imagine, (in
Florence and Paris and New York) and I have to say, I, um, never thought it was
worth it. A fabulous and memorable events, but...unnecessary.
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I love eating in a restaurant helmed by a chef who does magical and creative things with food, but my favorite meals are simple home cooking. Juicy, crusted meatloaf with rough mashed potatoes and salad. Tomato-and-Miracle-Whip sandwiches (heaven!) and of course, I've told you all about my passionate affair with German food before. http://www.jungleredwriters.com/2013/02/trost-essen-fur-sie.html
Another type of dream meal depends on the location. I can think of nothing better than fish and chips outdoors on a July afternoon at one of Maine's many pier-hugging seafood places. Not the fancy kind, the kind where you sit at picnic tables and use paper napkins from the dispenser. The haddock is fresh off the boat, the fries are wet with malt vinegar, and the breeze off the Atlantic makes everything taste a hundred times better than it would be indoors in January. (nd it helps to make up for living through January in Maine...)
DEBORAH CROMBIE: I do enjoy the occasional fancy meal (my daughter and I did lunch at Gordon Ramsay Claridge's in London a few years ago, and boy, was that an experience!) but the key word is "occasional." Given a choice, simple simple simple. I'm with Susan on good toast, jam, and tea (tea must be loose leaf, made in a POT, however!). There is nothing like vine-ripe tomatoes, some fresh mozzarella and basil and a little good olive oil. Or oysters and champagne. Good simple soups in the winter. Fresh fruit, good cheeses, charcuterie, a fresh baguette and a bottle of wine--absolute heaven!
I think we should organize a REDS picnic!
RHYS: We Reds are all for the simple life, obviously! Our tastes are so similar, it's no wonder we get along so well! However, instead of toast and jam, could I please substitute a Cornish cream tea with warm scones, clotted cream and jam?
How about you, dear readers? Gourmet restaurant or simple picnic (well, not so simple picnic if it includes pate and shrimp and wine).