A gourmand’s dream

love-opera-victoria-bakerThe famous book French Women Don’t Get Fat was inspired by the fact that French food is so abundantly delicious and yet the French population has, for the most part, a healthy body weight.

The French can spend hours at the dinner table, but that doesn’t mean they are eating non-stop. Dining is a ceremony. The white tablecloths and ambience are just as much part of the meal as the food. Food is meant to be eaten slowly, so as to savor every morsel. They believe that in this way your appetite is soothed without ingesting as much.

Friends and family bring me to Charleston several times a year. It’s not Paris and yet, in many ways, their food ethic closely resembles the French credo. Food is important in Charleston. It’s not just a means of satisfying hunger but rather it’s a rendezvous with pleasure. It’s a slow ceremony and a delicious way to spend the afternoon.

It’s impossible for me to pick my favorite restaurant in Charleston but there is one dish that stands out in my mind, like an epicurean lighthouse guiding me back to that city.

Magnolias is one of the landmark restaurants in the city. I still remember the first time I ate there. I remember the cobblestone streets, the palmetto trees and the black and white Magnolias sign swinging languorously in the Southern breeze. The upscale, low-key atmosphere was very Charlestonian, replete with impeccable white tablecloths and a warm friendly vibe.

I had the most delicious parmesan crusted flounder and my dining partner had the barbecue pulled pork sandwich, which is really more like a burger. He went into raptures about the barbecue sauce, asked for an extra container of the magical barbecue tangy sauce and emphatically declared “This is the best burger I have ever eaten in my life!”

We went on to eat at other fabulous restaurants, he even ordered the quintessentially Southern barbecue pulled pork elsewhere- only to be disappointed that the sublime ratio of tangy versus sweet was not quite as perfect as it had been at Magnolias. Our last day in Charleston we decided to dine at the infamous Magnolias again, we specifically asked if the barbecue pulled Pork sandwich would be on the menu before making a reservation.

This time I ordered the famous burger too. Now, I’m not a barbecue-loving carnivore type of a gourmand but this burger is in a class of its own. It superseded its reputation as the perfect union of smoky versus sweet and securely granted a front row spot for Magnolias in the food-loving section of my heart. They say there are many other unforgettable dishes at Magnolias, but I didn’t have time.

Oh well, as Scarlet O’Hara would say “Tomorrow is another day!”

Victoria Baker, of Greenwich, is an opera singer. Winner of many prestigious competitions, she has performed and worked with distinguished artists all over the world (notably at Lincoln Center). Should you have any questions that deserve answers and may be in print please call 203-531-7499 or e-mail [email protected]

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