As I was driving my son Quinn up to LAX yesterday to catch his 11-hour flight to London that will eventually land him in Bangor, Wales, to attend University for the next three years, I asked him to give me his top 10 restaurants in the area.
Besides the fact the fact that his list almost mirrored mine, I thought to myself, “Nice, I’ve steered my son toward a lifetime of food appreciation.”
Of course there were the expected Juanita’s and Raul’s Shack — our two Mexican mainstays. Then the Encinitas Café, where we both enjoy the old school vibe and diner classics along with Third Corner for his favorite steak frites, mussels and cheese plate.
Brett’s BBQ, which became a regular part of our Sunday night highbrow/lowbrow combo of “60 Minutes” and “The Simpsons.” Pannikin basically because we are directly downwind of their intoxicating baking aromas that lead us like zombies westward across the tracks on a regular basis. Captain Keno’s made his list primarily because of a St. Patrick’s day feast we had there that was a hell of a value and it’s just such a tripped out place.
Mozy Café made the list for satisfying his healthy jones. Leucadia Pizzeria where he worked for two years was on there along with Firefly Grill & Wine Bar, which played a big part in educating him on the importance of good service and knowledge from the wait staff. And, though it is not really a restaurant, his absolute favorite was our Sunday morning Cuban Sandwich at Annel & Drew’s Kitchen at the Leucadia Farmers market.
Looking back, Quinn has always been exposed to good food around the house be it my homemade soups, quiche, or my signature risotto stuffed grilled artichokes. My annual cassoulet party could have had an influence, or anything that came out of the industrial size smoker in the backyard.
It all came together a couple of years ago when we were on a surf trip in Cornwall, England, when we had a memorable dinner at Jamie Oliver’s 15 Cornwall. It was a tasting menu and one of the most spectacular food experiences I’ve ever encountered. It was the first time I’ve seen food have an effect on Quinn besides satisfying his hunger. I do believe I witnessed the tell-tale sign of his eyes rolling back into his head as he bit into a starter of white Italian peach, wild rocket, proscuitto di san daniele Buttervilla’s heritage tomoatoes and volpaia di fiori & basil pesto. Sure, he had no clue what most of this meant, but he knew that the flavor combinations, textures, presentation and service were like nothing he had ever encountered.
We had a different server for each course, each romancing the dish like it was a living thing, worthy of adulation. I remember him commenting that he had never experienced service like that before and it’s how lately he has become much more aware of bad service, which unfortunately tends to be the rule around here. The meal was in my top five of all time, and it better had been with the weak dollar resulting in the most expensive dinner for two I’ve ever experienced. We walked out and Quinn said something to the effect of him finally realizing why I was so passionate about quality food and a quality dining experience.
Since that meal, our food connection has grown stronger and I can sense Quinn caring more about where we eat, and the experience once we get there. We made a special trip across the Mackinaw bridge in Michigan a couple years back to eat pastries in the Upper Peninsula for more authenticity. We rarely make it out of the new airport in Detroit without a National Coney Island. And, as disgusting as it sometimes is, we always make it a point to dive into a bag of White Castles while in Michigan as well. He fully understands the concept of eating what the locals eat and staying away from chains whenever possible. Our Irish stew with a pint of Guinness and our late night curry in Dublin was a prime example of that.
It brings a smile to my face when I catch him engrossed in my Saveur magazine or the Wednesday food section from the New York Times. He has hatched plans to bring authentic barbecue, Mexican or Cuban sandwiches to the UK and given his creativity and drive, he may just pull it off.
I’ve connected on a lot of levels with my son over the years, from surfing, music and a healthy lifestyle, to our mutual appreciation for a good ale and real people. We both gravitate toward authentic experiences and our mutual passion for food will continue to provide memories that will last a lifetime. I’m going to miss licking the plate with Quinn on a regular basis but I already have my trip planned to Wales in August and I’m sure we will find something local and killer.
So to all you parents out there, make an effort to show your kids as wide a variety of culinary experiences as possible. The payoff can be very rewarding.
Filed Under: Lick the Plate