Hello. This is my first post. I’m afraid it might fall under the category of “chatty” described in the etiquette guide. I will try and be as specific as possible, but I’m not entirely sure how to describe what I am looking for. My fear is that this is one of those common topics that the community would look down on because of its generality. Please excuse the length.
Let me preface by saying that I understand that taste is a matter of opinion, yet that does not mean that a consensus cannot exist. This community seems to use the discussion format to flesh out what “the best” is, while still providing the details that give evidence to the subjectivity of the experience. I also understand that no matter how good a dish is, if that were the only dish I could eat, I would probably end up disliking it very quickly.
I love to eat out. I am a very picky eater, yet very adventurous. I’ll try anything a few times, but if I don’t absolutely love a dish, I will almost never order it a third time. The more great restaurants and dishes I find out in the world, the more I find myself telling my friends, “You have to try this. It is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.” Unfortunately, I am still very inexperienced, and moving into a period in my life where I can no longer spend $200 at a great tapas restaurant in order to try everything the chef recommends. I watch shows like No Reservations, and I am beginning to feel overwhelmed by the number of dishes that I would like to try but just can’t afford to travel to, if that makes sense.
In line with the above, I would rather eat something that I was sure would be fantastic, no matter what the price, than a lot of so-so food. By this I mean: I’m not looking to be filled up. I’d generally rather try the best thing on the menu, even if the price could buy me the ten worst things. There is always a limit to this. I’ve never bought a $100 4oz steak, but you understand.
I’m learning to cook. I’m not good at all yet, but I know this may one day be my only chance to be able to eat the way I do now, even if only occasionally, and still fit into a budget. I’m not sure if this strategy is sensible, but in many cases it seems like it is significantly cheaper to duplicate a great dish at home, assuming I am capable. I primarily eat meat and green vegetables, as well as some good cheeses. I am relatively low carb simply because of my lust for delicate food rather than filling meals. I don’t eat a lot of desert. All the above explains what I’d like to learn to cook.
Now that I’ve taken so much time to explain my motivation, let me ask the question that I’m not sure can be answered. I’d like to come up with a top five or top ten list of foods as a starting point. As I learn to cook, I’d like to keep this list in the rotation. I’m a dreamer, so I’d like to ignore cost and availability, within reason. If it is something that I could never order by mail, then it’s out, but if it is simply hard to find, that’s ok. I’d also like to mostly ignore the difficulty of cooking it. At this point, I believe I could learn to cook almost anything. Finally, I’d like to be able to cook these for anyone and everyone, so I would tend slightly towards “generally accepted greats” vs. “usually an acquired taste”.
I’m looking for a short list of more agreed upon best foods / dishes, from a gourmets perspective, assuming that term doesn’t turn you off. I don’t mind generality, e.g. “duck”, nor do I mind specifics, such as “duck cooked like so, on a bed of this.” For me, it has been mostly meats so far, generally foie gras, otoro, duck, crab, caviar, etc. The generality of that list is evidence of my lack of experience. For example, I’ve had good and bad duck, but the best meals I’ve had would definitely include a few duck dishes. In fact, I’m embarrassed to say that half of the best meals I’ve had have been from a single Japanese restaurant nearby. There was also a small Thai-Korean place that served something called “Hell Beef” that I adored as well as some great fried squid that was unlike any I’ve had since. I can think of a shrimp dish in the Bahamas which I still can’t pin down, mussels in a Spanish tapas restaurant. I’m deliberately not describing any of these dishes because I didn’t have the vocabulary at the time to know what was in them.
Is this possible to answer? I occasionally hear experienced chefs name their favorite dish. I’ve heard of pork roasted on a spit, urchin (have not liked it yet), any seafood pulled right from the ocean, lardo, Kobe (from Kobe), truffles, and more. As I said, I’m looking for a few things that you like, that you also think would be the best according to consensus, rather than favorites that you feel are very unique to you. If I had to cook five dishes that would impress a room full of food lovers, as well as great chefs, what might those be?
Thank you for reading and thank you in advance for any advice you can give me. If you’d rather point me towards another resource for finding this type of information, that would be great too.