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vineyard grapes chorizo olives manchego cheese mediterranean mealLast week I shared the worst meal I’ve ever had while traveling: a cast-iron skillet filled with a seething potato mass and rapier-sharp fish skeleton, accompanied by a noxious yuck-berry soda administered only to keep from choking. Here’s the best meal I’ve ever had:

It was 1999, and we were on the dusty road from Cordoba to Granada, heading for the Alhambra, a 14th-century Moorish stronghold that’s an endless showcase of pools and patterns (mesmerizing arabesques). My father, brother (who was studying at the University of Cordoba) and I were in a rented Peugeot five-speed, flying past olive and grape vineyards, when the rumble of three stomachs jolted the little auto. As is the norm when driving through the southern part of Spain, we pulled over at the first cafe we saw.

It wasn’t a complicated place — red and white checkered tablecloths — and it was nearly empty. “Que quieren?” the waiter asked.

Puedo tener una plata con queso y otras cosas,” I said, blushing, in mangled Spanish. What we got was an antipasto plate filled with Manchego cheese (kudos to the La Mancha goat, who lives a couple hundred miles north of where we were), olives from the nearby vineyards, roasted red peppers and little slices of piquant chorizo. In between swallows, we drank wine made from the vineyard connected to the cafe. The combination of Spanish cheese, wine and sausage can often prove too much to take for excitable Americans, and sure enough, someone tipped over the wine carafe. The waiter mopped up the red and brought us another. What a waste. I would have slurped it up off the floor.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had on the road?

— written by Dan Askin

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12 Responses to “The Best Meal I’ve Ever Had While Traveling”

  1. soliteyah says:

    I’ve had some pretty fantastic meals, but the one that sticks out in my mind was the omelet I had at Squat and Gobble in San Francisco. I ordered the “Upper Haight,” which had cheese, zucchini, peppers, sprouts and mushrooms, topped with low-fat plain yogurt. You wouldn’t have thought the yogurt would work with the rest of it, but it was AMAZING.

  2. Kathy says:

    My husband and I had dinner for our 30th wedding anniversary at L’Tour Argent in Paris. (I hope I didn’t mangle the spelling.) We had their specialty “pressed duck” which came with a numbered certificate. The restaurant is one of the oldest in Paris with pictures of the kings, queens and dignitaries on the walls that have eaten there over the years. And, it’s wine cellar is to die for. In fact, the Parisians almost did during WW II. They walled up the existing wine cellar so the Nazis wouldn’t get it and it worked. We had a wonderful bordeaux with the duck. The most amazing view of Notre Dame, lit up in the middle of the Seine right across from the restaurant, was a spectacular topper to this wonderful meal.

  3. TravelBird says:

    Despite plenty of great restaurant meals, it’s the local street food which gets my vote. I can’t forget the joy of trying my first cheese papusa in Belize or stopping at the local taco stand in Ignacio for breakfast.

  4. fred says:

    The best (two) meals we ever had were on the island of Moorea, just off Tahiti. The restaurant was called Alfredo’s (an Italian name on an island!). I had a seafood dish baked in a sea salt and dough wrapping and my better half had a chicken dish. The chef picked us at our hotel, wearing his dress, and took us back after we finished. The meal was so good we went back a second time. We would have gone back for more, but we were only there for one week. Next trip there will be on a one way ticket!

  5. My wife and I were in a large tour group in Provence and the Med in France. One night, we were in Beaulieu-Sur-Mer staying at the Hotel Frisia and didn’t have to go to a large dinner with the rest of the group. We walked up the street and grabbed a pizza from a little restaurant, took it back to our hotel balconey and ate it while watching a storm come in over the Mediterranean. 4 of my favorite travel meals were from that trip. Including, Vesuvius in Arles, a special dinner at the palace in Monaco, and in the basement at Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

  6. Ann Waananen says:

    Our best meal onboard a ship was on Oceania in their specialty restaurant. Both the Italian and the Steak house are the best on any ships!!!

  7. Susan Farrell says:

    Warm melting Chocolate Cake on the Carnival Dream!!!

  8. SeaMarmot says:

    Can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but I had the best tuna tartar ever at a beach-side restaurant on St. Martin’s Orient Bay. The four different sauces to dip the fish in — balsamic something, wasabi, spicy red, something else — really made things really pop.

  9. jmjuner says:

    We stayed in Disney World and ate at various places, including Fultons in Downtown Disney (don’t bother, over priced,cold food and over an hour to get our meal.) On the last night we missed our reservations at the Grand Floridian, so we ended up at “The Wave” in The Contemporary Resort. Nothing fancy but it was the best filet and potatoes au gratin that I ever had out

  10. travelingfool says:

    SeaMarmot–that tartar sounds fabulous. Wish I was there. Well one of the best appetizers turned entree (because we ate so many) were simple fried sardines at Santorini Mou restaurant in Santorini, Greece. The next time we went to that restaurant, Mihalis, the owner, had given the sardines to the cat that morning!! We were crushed. I also fondly remember a tuna sandwich in a beach side restaurant in San Diego. The tuna portion was huge and it prepared perfectly with a rare middle. It was served with wasabi mayo—a trick I use on every sandwich in our house to this day.

  11. Simplicity says:

    We’ve traveled to several countries but the best meal we ever enjoyed is at Club Pocaras in a small town called Parita, Costa Rica on the road to Manuel Antonio National Park from Jaco beach. Their fried chicken must be battered in something magical as you just can’t stop eating it! Local residents from the palm tree farms go there in the evenings for beer and fried chicken and fries. This is an ordinary looking large cafe with no frills but well worth every penny spent! You get a good sized portion so no need to order too much. We’ve been there twice so far and it has been great both times.

  12. margaret says:

    Off the subject….Dan, I read your story about it. I worked as a waiter on SS Independence around Hawaiian islands. Five years on the ship: waiter/room steward. Wish I could reconnect with my crew, of Americans. Quite a fascinating group…A grueling existence asea.

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