It’s tough not to get a little dark these days, even in the relatively cheery zone of food and drink. With plenty of doom and gloom in the air, we can’t help thinking about delicious meals and remarkable wines that take us to a bygone place that’s a wee bit warmer and more familiar.
If the apocalypse really is unfolding, we need to start thinking about our last meals. As the Four Horsemen gallop into view, we have every right to crack the best bottle of bubbles we have in our cellars and treat it to caviar. Turns out, you can go down in flames in style, with a belly full of some of our most beloved eats and sips we can imagine.
We asked a few sharp minds within the food and beverage industry what their last meal might look like. It’s imaginary and a little hyperbolic, sure, but it’s also a telling glimpse of some dishes and pairings we might want to consider to lift our spirits and celebrate existence in general.
Bonnie Morales is the chef and co-owner of Kachka in Portland. Since its opening in 2014, the Russian restaurant has been celebrated for its familial atmosphere and delicious, vodka-friendly fare ranging from dumplings and cabbage rolls to piroshki. The Herring Under a Fur Coat remains one of the prettiest looking dishes in all of food.
Morales opts for the summer-fresh route with her imagined final dish. “My last meal would be a still-warm-from-the-sunshine August tomato with freshly made tvorog. It would have to be drizzled with a generous glug of virgin-pressed sunflower oil that the little old ladies sell at market in Russian cities,” she says. “Oh, and some griddled, just-baked rye bread to dunk and sop up the tomatoey, sunflower-y whey that collects on the plate.”
(Tvorog is a fresh farmer’s cheese, something that Bonnie makes from scratch at her restaurant.)
Chef Mike DeCamp is a native Minnesotan who’s been working in kitchens since he was a teenager. Today, he’s a main culinary mind at Jester Concepts in Minneapolis, having opened and designed menus for restaurants like Italian-inspired Monello, Constantine, P.S. Steak, and more. Still known with reverence as “young chef,” DeCamp says his last meal would be decidedly simple.
“I know I should say something extravagant like foie gras and caviar but the reality of it is I would rather have a simple meal with my friends,” he admits. “I want my last meal to be full of joy and stories and laughter over a roast chicken, pizza, or a simple Italian meal that, while delicious, isn’t the star of the show. We eat, we drink, we laugh. That’s how I want to go out — with friends.”
Joel Kiff leads J.L Kiff Vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton district of Oregon. He says nostalgia rules his pick for last meal. As a kid, he would occasionally dine at House of Prime Rib in San Francisco, savoring every celebratory moment. “I’m remember savoring every moment, from the salad to the main course, on up to that aching feeling of a too-full tummy,” Kiff says. “In honor of these fond memories, my last meal wish would be in that restaurant, surrounded by family.”
Kiff’s meal includes creamed spinach, a foil-wrapped baked potato with ample butter, sour cream, and a sprinkling of chives, and then some thick prime rib with horseradish. “To wash it all down, a bottle of inky black Petite Syrah made by my old high school buddy Glen Proctor in Healdsburg.”
It begs the question: Why Petite Syrah? “It’s damn good,” he says. “Plus, the first vineyard I ever ran was an old-vine Petite Syrah plot in Alexander Valley, around 1980.”
South in California, Tracey Shepos Cemani of La Crema Winery has an entire menu in mind. “For my last meal, I would start with crips, briny oysters paired with a glass or two of sparkling wine,” she says. The second course would involve a garlic Caesar salad and some Chardonnay.
“The main course would be a ribeye steak seared perfectly in a cast iron pan and basted with butter until cooked to a perfect medium-rare,” she says. The plate would be shared by crispy fried potatoes and aioli along with a favorite Italian red wine. “Finally, for dessert, I would want perfectly ripe apricots with Andante Dairy Piccolo cheese, and another glass of bubbles.”
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