Last week my husband and I went out for a very rare dinner without a single child - a rare feat because
- The youngest is usually home without her brother and sister so she tags along with us and
- On that rare occasion when the older ones happen to be home, they NEVER miss an opportunity for a free meal.
We enjoy dining out with our children but the occasion to spending an evening together alone was blissful. We went to a restaurant that is no longer new but that I have been wanting to go to since it was new. The Mystic Oyster Club is a Farm & Sea to Table establishment and everything they serve is locally sourced. I perused the menu struggling to make a decision. I was like a kid in a candy store and then I saw it. Ribollita. A peasant soup made with vegetables and bread that is a typical Tuscan dish. My thoughts immediately turned back to time spent in Florence, sitting in a cozy restaurant with thick stone walls and long wooden tables. I could still remember the flavor of the ribollita paired perfectly with a glass of Chianti. Heaven.
Remember the scene in Ratatouille when the food critic takes a bite of the signature dish and is immediately transported to his childhood home and the wonderful home cooking of his mother? When we eat dishes that we remember from a certain time in our lives, we are often trying to recreate that feelings of a time. unfortunately, this attempt almost always disappoints. Why? Because cuisine is more than just the food. Dining is (or should be) a feast for the senses. I ordered the ribollita and it was delicious. But I was not in Florence and it was not the same. There were no exquisite works of art around every corner. There was no interaction with a waiter who knew more about wine than any sommelier I have ever met. There was no after dinner walk along the Arno River, the music of street performers in the distance, the promise of gelato just down the street. I was at home and home is different than being elsewhere. Have you ever noticed that your most memorable meals are while you are on vacation? Is that a coincidence? Not really. Are you remembering the meal precisely? As delicious as it may be, it is also bundled with that warm, relaxed feeling of vacation, the excitement of something new, the conversation that is much more engaging when you have break out of your routine. Finding replicas or making your own replicas of meals enjoyed on vacation is wonderful and nostalgic. But if you want a meal that is sublime and creates memories, there is nothing better than the real thing. The meal that also comes with beautiful art, landscapes, history and culture. Get yourself to Florence and try ribollita where ribollita is meant to be eaten. Never has a bowl of peasant soup tasted so good.
If you would like to make ribollita (which by the way, I still highly recommend) I suggest Lidia Bastianich's recipe. Hers is the most authentic and delicious recipe that I have found.
Have you had an incredible, memorable meal while traveling? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.