Chef Jill Rose has many great meals to choose from for her “Best Meal Ever.”
When I think about the best meal I have ever eaten, my mind wanders to so many wonderful experiences, like my amazing meal at Alain Ducasse’s Louis XV in Monte Carlo, when I completed my stagiaire. It was by far the most luxurious dining room I’d ever been in. And trips to Paris, where I had the chance to experience places like Poujauran, Fauchon, and Berthillon, keep me enamored with pastry. The best bread I’ve ever eaten was from boulangerie Le Moulin de la Vierge. A meal at Joël Robuchon’s Jamin was mind-blowing, with a langoustine ravioli being the best single dish I’d encountered thus far—it was also the most expensive. I had an incredible meal in Southern India at Dakshin that I can’t get out of my head with its explosion of flavors and textures. I will never forget the cuisine of Crete and the incredible meals of horta (cooked wild greens), grilled lamb, and fresh goat cheese made from milk still warm from the afternoon’s milking. I dream about the grilled octopus I had in the seaside town of Elounda.
While on a whirlwind tour of Europe, I encountered so much amazing food—from spit-roasted chicken from a street vendor in Paris to an intensely pungent fondue in the Swiss Alps. It’s hard to narrow it down to one best meal, but an experience in Liguria comes to mind. It’s a meal that I could visit over and over again.
It was in the city of San Remo, which is very close to Ventimiglia and the French border, by the Autostrada dei Fiori (“Highway of Flowers”). My best friend and I embarked on an excursion starting out in Nice, and, lured by the panoramic views of the coastal roadway, we meandered through tiny villages along the way.
Arriving in San Remo, we viewed an outdoor market where we ogled cheeses, sausages, and fresh vegetables. Famished, we asked one of the vendors where we could find a local spot for lunch. He gestured to this tiny restaurant not far off the square called La Semplicitá. The exterior was of aged stone; inside, cream-colored walls, black-shuttered open windows, a wooden floor, and about eight white-clothed tables. The feel was light and airy, and the menu was very simple.
We started out with a tender squid salad, dressed with light, sweet olive oil and sea salt. Then, we devoured trenette pasta bathed in fish broth. We had delicate, dimpled bread with pesto, focaccia genovese, so bursting with flavor, it put to shame any resemblance to pesto I’d ever had before. Then, a whole-roasted sea bream with tomatoes, filleted tableside, was drizzled with pan juices and a richer, deeper olive oil. Ligurians prepare their fish without intricate sauces, preferring to taste the wonderful freshness of their catch. We washed it all down with local Vermentino, savoring the clean flavors and simplicity of our meal.
You could taste the honesty of the Ligurian cuisine and its landscape. It was reminiscent of ocean breezes, sun-drenched olive trees, and fields of basil. It was simple, and simply the best meal I ever had.