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Top 20 Culinary Memories - Part 1

As I told you in my last post, this is the month leading up to our 50th wedding anniversary. Naturally, that has brought about a lot of reminiscing. A few nights ago, I asked Steve to recall with me the most memorable meals we've shared in restaurants since we've been married. We were absolutely drooling in no time at all. Three on this list are sadly no longer in existence, and only two were meals we shared with the children. All, however, take us back to a time associated with great food, but even more so with a fabulous experience. They are in no particular order, except that I will begin with the three that have closed. The others I recommend very highly. For us, they conjure up "ahhhhhh," "oh my," and "yummmmmm."

1) Pineapple Hill on the island of Maui. It was our 25th anniversary trip. The place was recommended by a couple we were teaching in Sunday School who had visited on their honeymoon. Imagine a setting with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean inside the historic plantation home of D.T. Fleming, who was a pioneer in cultivating pineapples, mangos and other exotic plants in Hawaii. Steve prearranged that I would have an amazing flower lei placed around my neck as we were seated at our table. It was one of the most romantic things he's ever done. And, yes, the food and service were both over the top. Oh, how I wish you could still go there.

2) Windows on the World at the top of the World Trade Center in New York City. This is where we celebrated my 50th birthday in 2000, a year and a half before the towers fell. It was referred to as "the most spectacular restaurant in the world" and was located on both the 106th and 107th floors. The view of Manhattan was spectacular, and the service was the best we've ever received. Also, it was the most we had ever spent on a single meal -- and keep in mind, that Steve and I don't drink alcohol. I do believe, however, that we had dessert. :) It makes me very sad to think of all the people in that restaurant on the 9/11 morning. Here is a story about it. As a side note, when we lived in Ecuador, I attended a funeral in the tiny town of Biblian. There I saw the gravesite of a young man who died that day. The part of his body that was recovered had been brought back to his hometown for burial.

3) The Fogcutter on University Drive in Huntsville. An article on written in 2015 described it like this: "It wasn't Huntsville's first fine restaurant, but it was Huntsville's first "statement" restaurant. With red leather seats whose tall backs hit the dealmakers at the next table, this was a place to be. What we miss most: The fireplace that separated the bar and restaurant and gave the place a ski lodge meets romance meets two-martini lunch vibe." Steve and I LOVED the steaks and celebrated several anniversaries there. In fact, we remember dining there the night before I unexpectedly went into labor with our son Matt. We were sorry it closed.

The remainder of my list for today and next Monday are still open and thriving today. Yayy!

4. ECHO at King and Prince Resort on St. Simon's Island. Steve and I enjoyed a fantastic breakfast AND a dinner in this restaurant as part of a travel writers' press trip we were both invited to attend. I wrote about the wine-pairing dinner we enjoyed in this story for Fortunately, my photography skills have improved since this was written, but you can get the idea. So, so good. The setting is gorgeous. I really hope we'll be able to return soon. From what I can tell, Executive Chef James Flack is still there. He's a wizard.

5. Filippi's Pizza Grotto in San Diego's Littly Italy. Filippi's is in the back of an Italian market. Steve and I had finished a week-long group tour of the California coast and were enjoying a few more days of exploring on our own. This was a highlight. Incredible smells. Huge portions. Steve believes he was served the best spaghetti and meatballs he'd ever tasted, and that's saying a lot because he LOVES meatballs. Find it when you visit San Diego.

6. Carriage House Restaurant on the grounds of Houmas House Plantation in Darrow, Louisiana. We were there during a trip to Plantation Country between New Orleans and Baton Rouge and had dinner and breakfast at Carriage House. Both were incredible. I also wrote about this place for, and again, I wish the photos were better. May I add that The Inn on the grounds is wonderful? Think crown molding in the shower to get the idea of the great attention given to details. Here's a link describing The Inn.

7. Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, AL. In 2018, the James Beard Foundation proclaimed Highlands as the best restaurant in the entire country AND went on to declare pastry chef Dolester Miles the country's best. Steve and I have celebrated two special occasions there, and both times the food and service have been outstanding. This is one of Frank Stitt's premier restaurants in Birmingham. Sadly, this one is still temporarily closed because of the pandemic, but two of his others -- Chez Fonfon and Bottega -- are back in business. I suggest you try one of them while we wait for Highlands to reopen.

8. Fisher's in Orange Beach, AL. Steve and I LOVE seafood. That might, in fact, be our main reason for going to the beach. Well, that and warm temperatures . . . and hypnotizing waves . . . and pelicans . . . and flowers. But, still, we always eat seafood when there's an ocean nearby. No steaks or burgers allowed for those days. Fisher's has both an upstairs and a downstairs setting. Downstairs is more casual, while upstairs is fancier. We've only eaten downstairs . . . so far, but we can attest that the food was wonderful. I wrote about Fisher's here if you want to know more.

9. Commerce Kitchen and Cotton Row on the courthouse square in downtown Huntsville, AL. Both of these outstanding restaurants are owned by Chef James Boyce. We've had brunch, lunch, and a Christmas Eve dinner at Commerce Kitchen and lunch and dinner at Cotton Row. I've also attended several of Chef Boyce's cooking classes that include a great dinner he personally prepared. We have yet to be disappointed. Always delicious. We particularly remember a fabulous brunch not too long ago.

10. La Tagliata, a family-operated trattoria on a hillside in Positano, Italy overlooking the Mediterranean Ocean. I'll close today's culinary memories with this one. A flood of feelings and senses comes back when I think about it. We were there with some great friends. The ambiance was lively, friendly, and happy. Platter after platter of great food appeared at our table. There was no menu. You just paid one price and ate what Mama had prepared. She even came out at the end of the meal to take a bow from her adoring fans. I wrote about it here. Positano is so romantic. What's not to love about Italy??? This pandemic needs to end. There are places to go, people to meet, and great food to devour.

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