favorite foods - for life

I realize that several of my favorite foods, meals I cook over and over, were things I first ate in a restaurant or market. They were so good that I went home and experimented until I made something close enough - or better. All of these have become household favorites, and make repeat appearances on Viand menus. Several that come to mind are:

I realize that I should devote myself to reproducing all of my other most remembered foods prepared by others, so herewith is the to-do list, in chronological order:

• really stupendous sauteed wild mushrooms (I had these as a child at a restaurant in NYC, and I believe it was my first experience of nouvelle cuisine. I ordered a second serving.)

• in Palm Springs: a salad: avocado, grapefruit, red onions.

• filo-encrusted candied apple from a restaurant in Boston which I loved so much that I had my 21st birthday dinner there. I know this restaurant closed, and sadly I don't remember the name. The caramel soaked through the filo dough, making it chewy in places while crisp in others

•sundried tomato, black pepper, parmesan scones from the San Francisco Farmers Market when it was still in a parking lot. I've tried to make these several times and it's not as easy as it sounds. I suppose the first challenge is a really light but buttery scone recipe. Then the right parmesan. Wet or dry sundried tomatoes?

•blackberry turnovers (probably i'll enjoy other fruits as well). these were also sold at the San Francisco Farmers Market before the Ferry Plaza Building. I think the bakery was in Sonoma somewhere, but the important thing was that transition from chewy where the fruit has wet the crust to flaky to a crunchy sugary crust.

fruit breads from Noe Valley Bakery. This is bread, not cake. My favorites are: Apricot & Ginger, Chocolate & Cherry. I used to buy 8 loaves when I'd visit San Francisco, then slice and freeze them back in Santa Barbara. One of my favorite treats. What is really interesting about these breads is that the fruit isn't that sweet. The bread is. How to make the bread sweet like this, with a wet sourdough texture? And the chocolate in the chocolate cherry bread is very dry and crumbly, I don't know what kind of chocolate it is.

•salad of 39 things from La Vineria de Gualterio Bolivar in Buenos Aires. Every bite is a different combination of flavors, nuts, berries, roots, shoots, some cooked, some cold, some warm. I think there was a bit of mayonaise in the dressing. I finally attempted it (without the mayonaise) at Viand 29: Berlin 2: High Low.

•cube of spaghetti with curry and small shrimps from Freud & Fahler in Buenos Aires.

•seafood citrus salad from Yellow in Sydney. I'm crushed to find this restaurant is closed. I don't remember anything about the salad beyond what I said. I think there might have been macadamia nuts in it?

•chocolate brownie from John&Peter Canteen, Sydney (closed)

•Grandma I-ya's german chocolate cake. It's always your family's food that is the biggest challenge to replicate. Because your version of grandma's cake will always be missing one ingredient - her love.