Dennis Fiori, director, Maryland Historical Society
“About five years ago when the historical society had a ‘Best of Baltimore Album Quilts’ exhibit, it traveled to Japan and my wife, Peggy, and I went for the exhibition. The individual in charge of the show took six of us to dinner at a restaurant in Ginza. We were led to a private room with our own chef and assistant. Cooking the meal was quite an event because much of the seafood we ate was cooked while it was still wiggling. They would take a scallop and hold it down on the grill while it continued to move. Black and red caviar was served on top of a live fish. One of the guests would keep dropping a little bit of sake in the fish’s mouth that made him wiggle all the more.” 

Marty Bass, co-anchor, “WJZ Eyewitness News Morning Edition”
“Stroud’s in Kansas City, Mo., has the best pan-fried chicken gizzards and the most unbelievable fried chicken livers. I think about it all the time. It’s a little shack, a nice clean place but nothing like what [David Cordish builds. First they bring cinnamon buns that will blow your socks off. Let’s say you order fried chicken; it comes with hash browns, cottage fries or mashed potatoes and green beans. You can get about 14 different choices— you can’t humanly eat all of it. The chicken breasts are the size of baseball mitts. They have two locations, but Stroud’s South is the best. Going to Kansas and not going to Stroud’s is like coming to Maryland and not having a crab cake. James Beard called it one of the greatest restaurants in America.”

Avi Decter, director, Jewish Museum of Maryland
“My wife, Naomi, and I took a trip to Quebec about 35 years ago and had dinner at a French Canadian restaurant on Isle d’Orleans that specialized in traditional country cooking. We had delicious food starting with fresh-baked bread and homemade butter and ending with maple-sugar pie, but the highlight was when my wife asked for a glass of water. A waitress, dressed in traditional costume, picked up a wooden yoke, dipped water from a cistern into a bucket, shouldered the yoke and bucket, and brought the whole thing to our table where she ladled out a glass of water. Everyone in the restaurant stopped eating and talking to stare at the spectacle. And when my wife finally got her water (this took several minutes), every table in the restaurant asked for water!”

Mary Beth Marsden, TV anchor, WMAR-TV
“My most memorable meal is one I never ate. It was when my husband, Mark McGrath, proposed to me a little more than 10 years ago. We were in York, England, at a Sardinian restaurant called Del Rio’s. I still have the menu. It was one of those typical dark Italian restaurants, you know, a candle-stuck-in-an-empty-wine-bottle sort of thing. Mark ordered some sort of pizza and I ordered a pasta. He proposed before the meal came, which was a mistake, because I couldn’t eat. Mark’s version is that before I said ‘yes’ I went to the bathroom to see the ring in a better light. I said yes right off the bat, but I did go look at the ring in the bathroom. The meal came almost immediately and I couldn’t eat a thing. Mark ate both meals.”

Al Spoler, radio personality, WYPR
“On New Year’s Eve 2001 we had a fabulous seven-course dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in Paris, Les Bouchons de Francois Clerc. One course was oysters with a sea urchin sauce, another was a really delicious fish called John Dory. Then there was a fantastic roast lamb with a Bordeaux sauce. The meal ended with a huge cheese tray. Everything about it was superb; it took five hours to eat. We had lots of fabulous wines and at midnight, champagne. The dinner cost about $ 140 a person. It was worth every penny.”

Pamela Wilson, executive director, Maryland Federation of Art
“We went to the Kent Manor Inn on the Eastern Shore for the weekend on a snowy winter night one January to celebrate our anniversary. Because of the weather, the inn wasn’t full so it was very quiet and we felt like we had gone very far away. We had a Beef Wellington and vegetables to die for— a wonderful blend of lightly steamed fresh vegetables with puff potatoes; everything was perfect. It was an amazing meal, so well prepared and the staff was very attentive. We sat on an enclosed porch and watched the snow fall. It was especially memorable because before dinner my husband ordered a bottle of champagne and he dropped a beautiful gold bracelet into my glass.”

Jed Dietz, director, Maryland Film Festival 
“My wife, Dr. Julia McMillan, and some business associates and I had dinner at Gaddi’s, a beautiful restaurant in the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong about 20 years ago. Oysters flown in from Massachusetts, caviar from Iran, smoked salmon from Scotland, it was amazing. We had two waiters, one would consult with us to discuss what we wanted, and the other one wrote everything down. There were lots of things on the wine list you just don’t see in restaurants like old Burgundy and vintage Bordeaux. I’ve never been in a place quite like it.”

Mary Ellen Iwata, vice president of program development, HGTV
“I was working on a documentary about music and we wanted to feature George Martin, probably the world’s most famous music producer. He produced all those incredible Beatles albums. It was arranged for us to meet and talk over lunch in Soho in London. I got there early and stared at everyone coming in the door. This tall sophisticated, handsome older man walks in and I thought, ‘My God, there he is.’ I don’t remember what I ate. He had mussels and he fed me one. I thought I would throw up I was so nervous.”

Tracy Gosson, director, LIVE Baltimore
“I lived in Rockport, Maine, for a few summers working at the International Film & TV Workshops. In Maine, you eat lobster three or four times a week because it’s everywhere. There was a lobster joint in Owls Head on South Shore Drive. I don’t remember the name and I’m not sure it even had one. It was basically a family of lobstermen that turned their house and huge lobster pound on a sound off Penobscot Bay into a business and invited you over. A group of good friends and I went down this hilly, twisty road along the coast before we found it. There was not another house to be seen. We picked out our lobsters (1.5 pounds is way too small as any local will tell you). They were served with corn, baked potatoes and homemade blueberry pie. We brought lots of wine and sat at a picnic table, eating and drinking and watching the sunset. It was the best meal of my life, and all for about $15.”

Rhea Feiken, Maryland Public Television personality
“My most memorable meal took place in Imola, a strange little town in Tuscany about 20 miles outside of Bologna. My late husband and I were told about it when we were driving through Italy. The only reason one would ever go to this town is because of this restaurant, San Domenico. The house in which the restaurant resides was once a family villa and had lots of small rooms that were elegant but not forbidding. The owner seated us in a small room with four or five tables and only two were occupied. I suspected that the man and woman at the other table were lovers, not married. They ordered bottle after bottle of wine and kept sending over glasses of wine for us to try. We spent hours eating and drinking and the owner kept bringing us additional things to eat, including an unbelievable spread of delicious cookies. It was the most luxurious meal I have ever had. I still remember every detail even though it was almost 20 years ago.”

Ron Peterson, president, Johns Hopkins Hospital
“My wife, Rooney, and I were celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary more than 16 years ago. We were in Grand Case, St. Martin, at the Fish Pot restaurant and decided to have a late dinner on the intimate waterside veranda. A fresh whole red snapper was served and de-boned tableside by a very talented waiter. The food and wine were excellent and the ambience was idyllic with the moon reflecting on the water. We both remember the details of that meal to this day because it was a perfect dining experience.” 

James Glicker, president, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
“In 1992 four of us were in Kyoto, Japan, in a ryokan, a Japanese inn. A Geisha served us a Kaiseki, a meal that consists of 40 courses, little portions of amazing things. One would be a sushi, one was a soup with flecks of real gold, another was fish eye soup. I didn’t know what many of the things were. There was a tank with large shrimp-like things swimming in it. They took them out of the tank, chopped off the heads and quickly took off the shells in front of us. They placed the raw shrimp on top of some rice while they were still wiggling. The idea is to eat them while they are wiggling&emdash; and we did. I even ate the fish eye soup. Everyone in Japan is so polite we had to at least try it.”

Lisa Simeone, host, National Public Radio’s “World of Opera”
“In 1978 I went to L’Antico (which means “old, ancient”) just outside Pittsburgh. Up a hillside off the main road in a working-class section north of the city, L’Antico was in an old stone building filled with fireplaces, dark wood mantels, and antiques placed in chopped-up spaces and separate rooms. After drinks in a cocktail lounge with low marble tables and baronial chairs, our party of seven was taken into our own room and seated at a long table. Then the food just came and came and came. The seven- or eight-course affair lasted about four hours. We chose our entree and wine, but otherwise, the owner of the restaurant decided for us [reputedly he was once a chef at the White House. I had just turned 21 and it was the first time I had ever experienced sorbet as a palate cleanser between courses. I remember that I wore a red dress, but I don’t remember what I ate.”

Edward Miller, dean, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
“My wife, Lynne, and I headed up a group that spent 10 days in China helping set up Intensive Care Units just prior to the Tiananmen Square confrontation. One of the women in our group had a special birthday and my wife suggested that we celebrate it in Hong Kong. We arrived at our hotel, The Mandarin, and Lynne went to the Perot Room at the top and made reservations for the following evening. She wanted to arrange for a birthday cake, a not unusual request. What followed was anything but usual. When we arrived for dinner, the seven of us were led into a small private dining room with a spectacular view of Hong Kong harbor and the USS Vincent at anchorage. We didn’t have to order, everything was brought out and served by five waiters. I can’t remember exactly what we ate, but every course received rave reviews. The birthday girl cried when some small gifts were given. My wife outdid herself on this one.”

Dolores Deluxe, style maven
“Maxim’s in Paris at least 10 years ago, it was amazing. I’m a visualist, so half of the package for me is the space. It’s an incredible art nouvelle world. All the tables have these lovely little lamps with pink shades on them; the pink glow makes everyone look beautiful. There is one seating, nobody rushes you out. Midway through the meal a little combo comes out and people actually dance. It’s all very old world. My husband, Vincent, had the duck, I don’t remember what I ate. We don’t pretend to know all about food and wine, but we know about the feeling of a space and this space was fabulous.”

Stuart Amos, investor and entrepreneur
“When my wife, Suzanne, and I ordered Cristal Champagne with dinner at the Bearfoot Bistro, an extraordinary restaurant around the corner from the Chateau Whistler in Whistler, Canada, they gave me an interesting option: ‘Would you like us to open the bottle for you or would you like to saber it?’ I have spent most of my life traveling the world and have experienced most things in restaurants, but this was a first. The sommelier proceeded to describe the process of opening the bottle with a sword. Of course I had to try it so we followed him down to the wine cellar. After a brief demonstration, I pointed the bottle away from us, found the seam in the glass and stroked the sword up and down a half-dozen times. Then I gave the lip of the bottle a big whack. If you do it with enough passion, it blows off the top of the bottle. The little champagne that you lose— about a quarter of a glass— blows out anything you wouldn’t want to drink. If you decide to do this you must have conviction that it is going to work; it’s not for the faint of heart.”

Ken Karlic, graphic designer 
“About six years ago, we traveled all around Turkey for three weeks. During that time we stayed at the Kervansaray Hotel, a refurbished 300-year-old inn. It was once a way station for camel caravans in Kusadasi, a popular seaside resort town. One night we ate at a little place next to the hotel that had about a half-dozen tables. They opened a little freezer so we could pick out our fresh fish to be grilled in front of us. I had octopus and squid made with just a little olive oil, it didn’t need anything else. The meal was topped off with a little Raki, the Turkish equivalent of Greek ouzo and lots of exotic Turkish music. The bill was about $12 for the two of us and we ate and drank as much as we could.”

Patrick Sutton, architect/designer
“The most memorable meal was lunch in the garden of La Riboto in Les Baux-de-Provence about 11 years ago. Cooper, my 3-month-old son, and my wife at the time, Lark, and a friend had wanted to go to this restaurant for dinner but couldn’t get a reservation so we went for lunch. It was a beautiful early May afternoon and we were seated in the garden for the most relaxing, elegant lunch I can remember; it was three hours long. It consisted of multiple courses of regional cuisine including lamb baked in a pastry that had been lined in an olive tapenade. All of this was going on while our son slept under the shade of a tree. We ordered a 1985 Pignan Chateauneuf-du-Pape, a very nice wine. At one point the sommelier asked me if I would like him to place the bottle of wine in the stream running next to our table to keep it cool. Mid-meal they asked us if they would like us to make a tarte tintin, a French apple pastry that would be made for us and take some time to cook. It was phenomenal.”

Mike Miller, Maryland state senator
“A while back I had dinner with the speaker of the House from Mississippi at Tony’s River House on the Patuxent River. It’s on the other side of the Benedict Bridge in Benedict, a historic seaport town. Tony, the owner, said, ‘Don’t order, we’re going to fix you all Maryland dishes.’ He combined oysters and crab and fried a little bit of everything from the bay. He made rockfish stuffed with crabmeat, some wonderful appetizers, and a great salad, a house specialty. My guest was so pleased and I was so excited to show someone from Mississippi our eating habits and life on the bay. The ambience at Tony’s is great because the restaurant extends over the water so you can see the boats and lots of Maryland wildlife. It’s where the British landed in 1812 when they marched up the river and burned Washington.” 

Michael Ross, managing director, Center Stage
“Last spring at Pazza Luna in Tide Point, Center Stage feted the cast of our production of ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’.’ Remembering it now, I can’t help but break out in a huge smile. We rarely get the chance to take a cast out— since they perform six nights a week and usually audition back in New York City on the seventh. But we had a night off during the run so we seized the opportunity. Pazza Luna gave us our own room on their second floor; a good thing, too, after hearing us talk, scream, sing, and laugh as if we were drunken sailors. I bet many of the patrons that evening wished they’d given us the entire restaurant. We spent four hours sharing theater war stories, tales of backstage back-stabbing, and gossip about this famous person and that wannabe famous person. The Vegas stories alone were worthy of an E! special. I’ll never forget the fabulous E. Faye Butler— recently seen at The Hippodrome in the traveling company of ‘Mamma Mia!’&emdash; bursting out her Ethel Merman impressions: Ethel doing ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’,’ Ethel singing ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want.’ Our faces hurt so much from laughter that we could barely chew.”

Chuck Nabit, president and CEO, The Westport Group
My wife Mary Kay and I were guests of Michael Marks, owner of Blue Agave in Federal Hill, for a sevencourse dinner of authentic Guadalajara cuisine. Each dish had a different traditional sauce or mole with different spices that complemented it. One or two tequilas were paired with each course, ranging from silver or “green,” which means not aged, to those that were anywhere from two to six years old. Michael was our master of ceremonies, educator and host.  Just eight people were present; it was fantastic.

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