Personal Top Five Dream Food Pilgrimages

El Bulli kitchen (Image from Wikipedia - Charles Haynes)

Prompted by the recent announcement by Ferran Adria that El Bulli in Roses, Spain will close its doors in the year 2012, I was inspired to write about my personal dream dining destinations around the globe. The restaurants I would like to go to are by no means a definitive list, but my own personal preferences. I am not a hardcore foodie or even have a subscription to magazines like “Food and Wine” or “Restaurant”. But like any hot-blooded human, I am entranced by a perfectly cooked meal. So here is a list starting with a restaurant from Germany. (Note: Heavily biased by food blogs I read and locale)

#5 Die Schwarzwaldstube: Baierbronn, Germany
http://www.traube-tonbach.de

During my praktikum at Bosch, I would sometimes look up great food places around the area. Die Schwarzwaldstube immediately came up in my search for good food. It’s in the black forest in a small town called Baierbronn well outside of Stuttgart. I was intrigued by an entry in the book “1000 Places To See Before You Die” that contained a blurb about it. It is said to serve fresh ingredients and local mushrooms. The only mushrooms in my food in Germany were all canned Crimini mushrooms. Canning them makes their distinctive white color turn gray. Alas, I never tasted any fresh mushrooms while in Germany and I never had a dining partner willing to spend the money to go there. But I still dream about eating in the middle of the black forest in the secluded resort.

#4 L’Arpege: Paris, France
http://www.alain-passard.com

Having been to Paris on three separate occasions, I have always been disappointed by the culinary experiences there. Whether in a restaurant or on a street, it just wasn’t as good as any other dining experience I have had in Europe. Parisians, being the way they are, are not the most inviting people in the world. Although, I might just be looking in the wrong places those three times. In any case, I only found out about L’Arpege after reading about it in one of my food blogs. Alain Passard is the head chef and someone who has twice appeared on the Japanese version of Iron Chef. If anyone could change my mind about dining in Paris, it would probably be him and his restaurant.

#3 The French Laundry: Yountville, California
http://www.frenchlaundry.com

Being an amateur foodie hailing from California, it is hard to go a few weeks without some sort of mention of The French Laundry from chef Thomas Keller. In the heart of the wine country in Northern California, Thomas Keller has created a country side restaurant to eclipse the other famous restaurants in the Napa/Sonoma valley. His cookbook “The French Laundry Cookbook” is on my current gift wishlist. When I heard that my friend ate at his restaurant, I resisted the urge to geek out on her and simply asked what her favorite course was. She said everything. That’s the impression I get from reading about The French Laundry; there are no lowlights or highlights, but one giant spotlight on an amazing gastronomic experience. Keller also has a restaurant in New York City called Per Se that is suppose to be equally amazing.

#2 The Fat Duck: Bray, Berkshire, England
http://www.fatduck.co.uk

I know the least about this restaurant and yet it is so high on my list of restaurants. Why? For starters the 2001 Restaurant magazine award for best restaurant in the world influenced this decision as well as the blog post by the very first food blog I seriously followed, Chez Pim. She described in an eloquent prose about her good experiences there. It inspired me to search out new dining experiences and is now on my dream dining destinations.

#1 El Bulli
http://www.elbulli.com

The number one restaurant in the world as judged by the panel at Restaurant magazine for a record five times including the last four years. Ferran Adria is a modern legend cooking circles around the world. Again, the first time I heard about El Bulli was from Chez Pim but it was Adam Roberts’ playful blog entry that really sealed the deal. El Bulli is a mad scientist’s lair where Ferran Adria touches his fingers together and says excellent like Montgomery Burns. But instead of an army of frakensteins, he dishes out food like crystallized Parmigiano and a giant egg-like dish made out of coconut milk and garlic powder. This is the frontier, the wild west of gastronomy and I would love to be there before it closes.

BONUS! Chez Panisse: Berkeley, California
http://www.chezpanisse.com

Alice Waters, the mother of California cooking, opened her restaurant in Berkeley, California. As a student at Cal, any kind of foodie mention will direct you to her influential restaurant, Chez Panisse. I never made the reservation to go here as a student and it was one of my regrets at my time at Cal. She, along with other cooking stars of the mid to late 20th century, changed what it meant to eat in America. Gone were iceberg lettuce salads with processed ingredients and instead came the local seasonal ingredients with a menu that reflected that. I’m sure I will have the chance to eat there one day. Maybe when I visit my Alma Mater one of these days.

Parting Words

I think this a good starting point to dream about dining destinations around the world. Most of these restaurants are certainly outside the price range of most travelers, but they look like experiences of a lifetime and should be thought of as more than a meal. Of course, there are other dream dining experiences I have such as traveling and dining with Anthony Bourdain or a White House Thanksgiving Dinner, but I’ll start with the ones that are at least somewhat achievable.

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About the Author

John is always trying to find his way back to the road. He has an affinity for Germany due to his three years studying German at Cal, and a year working as an intern in the Stuttgart area. He also likes chocolate cake and good cheese.