Last night I had my favorite meal in New York.
The idea of a 'favorite' after almost three decades of culinary exploration in the city is rarely a new dish. New things can be delicious, memorable, even 'the best you've ever had,' but not the same as a favorite. To be considered in that category, a dish must be something that helps you return to a feeling again and again. This feeling can most easily be described as joy. As such, a favorite should never be shared over first dates, business dinners, or group celebrations where a check is expected to be split six ways on four cards (tip in cash). Where taste is tied to scent and scent to memory, do not risk a bad experience attaching itself to your 'favorite.'
If you are curious at this point what mine is, I hope you will not be disappointed when I tell you it's simple and maybe, to some, a bit pedestrian. My favorite is the spaghetti with garlic, chilies and parmesan at L'Artusi, a hidden but lively Italian restaurant in the West Village. Now I could try and sell you on why this dish is so special to me. I could talk about the silky unfolding piles of fresh pasta or the translucent slices of buttered garlic that camouflage so well in between them. I could try and convince you the heat of red chilies is mitigated perfectly by the creaminess of parmesan brodo, or that the generous topping of toasted breadcrumbs adds a savory depth to every bite. I could do all those things, but it would never fully explain how a small dish of spaghetti becomes something more than the sum of its parts - how it turns into a feeling that can most easily be described as joy and qualifies as my 'favorite.'
But if you have your own 'favorite,' and I'm sure you do, then it doesn't really matter what it means to me. I know you understand how delicious it can be.