If you want to know how bad my obsession has become, let me illuminate. Darian now refers to Mondays as Tony Bourdain night (I know his show is on Travel Channel, but No Reservations is still about some amazing food), Tuesdays are Chopped nights and Wednesdays are Restaurant Impossible nights. We also frequently watch Iron Chef America. It's a sickness people. I'll admit it.
One of the Food Network's shows is called The Best Thing I Ever Ate. In this show they highlight a specific category (spicy food, French food, desserts...you get the idea) and then have celebrities and celebrity chef's provide their own personal examples of what they consider the best in that category. The clips then show them describing the magnificence of the particular dish along with some footage of the actual restaurant and the fantastic plate. It's enthralling. They have the best adjectives for food that I have ever heard. I've seriously contemplated looking these places up and forming a road trip checklist of some of these places - they're that good.
So after watching the show last week, I started trying to think of places that I would put in specific categories. It's not an easy thing to do. With one exception...I've figured out the weirdest thing I've ever ate. Now I use this term rather loosely since it's not one thing but a twelve course meal. But it was AMAZING. This meal was served at the reception for one of my best friend's traditional Chinese wedding. And FYI...best reception ever!
We walked in to the large banquet hall not really knowing what to expect. Honestly, I hadn't even thought about the food. We were seated with a few couples of people who I knew from dental school. It turned out to be the best table in the whole place. We had a great time and made an epic beeramid...more on that later.
We sit down at the table and find this :
My first thought? Holy crap that's a lot of food. I'm going to be stuffed when we leave here. Then I started reading down the list. Deluxe combination...I have no idea what this might be. Moving on. Deep Fried Stuffed Crab Claw. Fantastic. I love crab and deep frying makes everything better. Shark's Fin Soup. Okay...this is getting a little weird. Sauteed Two Lobsters. Perfect. Back to normal. Then I hit number five. Three Happy Squab? At this point I was both anxious and intrigued.
But I didn't have to wait for long. We all got situated and started cracking open the drinks. This was just pure genius. They had placed a bottle of Remy on each table along with a six pack of Budweiser. Well naturally we tried the Remy...it's fancy...we're fancy, fancy people right? Nope. Yuck. Totally not my style. Apparently though the Chinese community loves it because there were some serious drinkers hanging out that night (more on that later - I'm telling you, the fantastic stories just keep coming). Our table unanimously decided that we were going to stick with beer (minus one of the girls at the table who happened to be pregnant). The bride's brother-in-law (bless his heart) quickly noticed this along with the fact that none of the Chinese guests were drinking the beer. He promptly gathered up the beer from the other tables and set us up. Awesome.
Now it was time to eat. They started bringing out the courses and sitting them around the table. It was set up family style so everyone just added what they wanted to their own plate. The deluxe combination turned out to be various meats and cheeses. Perfectly normal...with one tiny exception. Well...I guess you wouldn't call it an exception other than the fact that it was in a form I wasn't used to.
|Tada! Baby octopus!|
Now I consider myself fairly adventurous when it comes to food. I'll try anything once. Heck, I've even tried guacamole a few times to appease the doubters - nope...still don't like it. But this threw me slightly off. I eat octopus with my sashimi. I find it quite good. However...eating something with the head still attached is slightly disturbing. All I can think about when something comes still "in tact" is the scene with the duck at the end of A Christmas Story "It's smiling at me."
I persevered. It turned out to be pretty good. As did the meats, cheeses and the squid. The crab claw dish was fantastic as was the shark's fin soup (think fancied up miso). Lobster? Super. Thank you very much. And then came the one that frightened me...Three Happy Squab.
|He doesn't look very happy.|
Tada! A Christmas Story. I told you. This entertained us for a good half hour. In fact, I took about 10 photos until I got this presentable (stupid flash in a dark room - food doesn't photograph well that way). I knew this was going to be something I'd want to document. The meat itself was prepared perfectly by the way. Crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside. I just tried to avoid eye contact with my food while I ate.
The meal continued on and we continued to pile our plates. The rest of the meal went pretty smoothly and pretty deliciously. Until we hit the dessert. At this point, I must admit that we'd all had more than our fair share of the Budweiser that the bride's brother-in-law had so kindly provided us so things might have seemed funnier to us than for those who were not there. In fact, the table had become so crowded that we resorted to alternative organization techniques. I think our inebriated architecture went quite well. We got plenty of compliments from the surrounding Asian community.
|The beeramid. It actually ended up a little larger than us by the time the evening ended.|
We were having a fantastic time. In fact, I don't think I've ever had this much fun at a reception...though the second runner up was pretty fantastic too (I'll write about that one some other time). Now...you may be asking...what is that plate of orange on the table? I'm SO glad you asked. Why that is part of the dessert. And it is magnificent. Want to see?
|Epic. What else is there to say?|
Now who doesn't like their mango pudding in the shape of a fish? First of all...mango+pudding, not a combination that I would've readily came up with. Second...this was not really pudding, the texture gave it more of a flan type quality. It was a little strange in the mouth.
After this we returned to the normal wedding reception schedule. Toasting the bride & groom, cake, dancing...and then it happened. Quite possibly the most entertaining event I've ever seen. Chinese karaoke. Now when I say Chinese karaoke I'm not just saying karaoke sang by a Chinese person - though this is also true. No. This karaoke was IN CHINESE. And the person singing? An older Chinese gentleman (I would say mid-70's) just belting away with a drink in his hand. He was obviously quite smashed and singing at the top of his lungs. At one point he got one of the younger girls to come duet with him while he swerved around the stage. It was marvelous. Totally made the night.
I had been to weddings before and I've been to weddings since. Brides, I love you and you all had beautiful weddings, but you unfortunately lose for best wedding ever. This one gets the title and I'm sure will keep it for years to come. Collin and I have told this story more times than I can count. The happy squab photo was displayed repeatedly when we got home (probably to the chagrin of our friends after about the first week).
So I guess what it all boils down to is this. The meal I had at this friend's wedding was the best food I ever ate (weird & entertaining category). Furthermore...if you ever have a chance to go to a traditional Chinese wedding, don't pass it up. It might just be one of the best nights of your life.