I always love to read those "man-on-the-street" columns in my local newspaper. It seems that frivolous questions rather than weighty ones inspire far livelier and intriguing responses. In the same spirit, I collar friends, relatives, and total strangers to ask them inconsequential questions on culinary matters.

Q:What was the most memorable meal you had in 1997? 

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Nikki: Gary and I went to a little French restaurant in San Franciso. He ordered tripe sausage. I ordered a sauteed prawn dish. Gary took two bites of the tripe sausage. He didn't say anything. And I couldn't tell what he thought from the expression on his face. I asked him if he liked it and he said, "I'm not sure." I asked if I could try a little. I took one bite. It was the most horrible, most wretching thing I've eaten in my life! I think my face must have scrunched up in a horrible mass! It really tasted like the guts of an animal. Even gulping wine couldn't get rid of the taste. Gary said, "Thank you! I thought it was just me! I hated it too! But I thought I should be brave." I was amazed.  "You are brave. Or you'd be a great spy. I don't know how you could possibly keep a straight face while you were eating something that wretched." I really was impressed by his bravery. When the waiter cleared the table, he noticed the tripe had been barely touched. The waiter asked, "You didn't like it?" Gary said "No". The waiter told us, "It is an acquired taste." Gary and I thought: why bother acquiring a taste like that?

Julie: That's easy. It was on September 17. (That's my birthday.) My girlfriend treated me to dinner at the downstairs restaurant at Chez Panisse. (Chez Panisse's upstairs restaurant is casual and not too pricey; downstairs is exquisite and expensive.) I'd never been downstairs before. The service was the best. They treated like royalty! The food was incredible: sea bass on greens, foie gras, champagne jelly which is like champagne in jell-o form. So much care is taken with the food; it's like every morsel has been massaged and caressed. I'd definitely go back....when I get another $200 I can splurge with. Wow, $200 is almost a full day's work for me.