Southerners believe in talking to strangers on buses, which means many of my cross-town trips in Asheville, N.C. were spent learning about bitter custody battles, sick grandmothers and lousy bosses. I also recall the griping of a man who'd just moved to town and was extremely disappointed. "They told me there were mountains out here," he said. "Where's the mountains? I don't see no mountains."
A fellow rider finally explained, "You don't see the mountain because you're on the mountain."
It isn't always easy to appreciate natural beauty when you're smack in the middle of it. And while Seattleites are spectacularly good at enjoying the outdoors, the region's majesty can sometimes feel very far away on cloudy winter days spent sitting in cars and staring at computer screens.
What's so terrific about a tray of raw oysters at Taylor Shellfish's retail store is the way it reconnects eaters with the watery splendor around them. Customers typically have their pick of Virginicas, the sweet East Coast interloper; Olympias, coppery and small as subway tokens, and briny Pacifics with fluted shells. No matter which varietal they choose, they'll end up with a platter of fresh, clean bivalves that are impeccably shucked.
Unlike the other dishes on the favorite dish list, Taylor's oysters aren't distinguished by any particular preparation. Here, the art is in the raising, not the recipe. It's a fine reminder that all of the entries on this list are as much a credit to the farmers and fishermen who supplied their ingredients as the chefs who concocted them.