If I'm going to go out, I'm going to go out with an epic meal," says Damien Cavicchi, the executive chef of the Biltmore Estate.
Course 1: Kumamoto oysters, raw, ice cold, with Tabasco sauce and saltine crackers. That is a complete sensation like no other. Just the texture, the taste — it's a purely unique experience that you can't get anywhere else. An oyster is an entity unto itself. It's perfection that you can just eat. There's nothing else out there that I can think of that you just eat like God made it. You can eat vegetables like that. But I don't want to eat vegetables … [except] for tomatoes.
Course 2: Torchon of foie gras.
Course 3: Sliced tomatoes with sea salt and extra virgin olive oil. Just like that, on a plate.
Course 4: The perfect fried chicken made by someone's grandmother in Mississippi.
Course 5: I would have a cup of — no wait, I'm going to die — a bowl of crab gumbo, blue crab, from New Orleans. And not from the freaking French Quarter, where it's all trendy and fake. I want it from some gas station that's got a deli in it with somebody's uncle who knows how to make really good gumbo, who's been making it for generations. He's also going to make me an oyster po' boy. Then I'll have a side of that French bread with some room temperature butter. That good, New Orleans French bread that you can't get anywhere else and just drag it through the butter. And no dessert.
What's the most nostalgically pleasing thing on this menu? It's gotta be the gumbo and the po' boy. Growing up in New Orleans, we were around that a lot. It reminds me of the good times and being a kid. Those flavors. The smell. I remember going to restaurants [in] some commercial, ugly metal building with seven parking spots … it would have folding metal chairs and cheap tables with newspaper and counter service. Down there, it's not a big deal if you can cook well if you're a native of New Orleans, it's the expectation. They seek pleasure at every meal — it's not just eating to get full. That always stuck out to me. I have goose bumps thinking about when you bite into that hot oyster that's been fried, Duke's mayonnaise, iceberg lettuce and hot sauce. My grandmother made seafood gumbo as well — I remember sitting around her table learning how to peel crabs and how to slurp spaghetti properly — that's the warm fuzzy stuff for me.
Where would you eat it? At the family dinner table with my wife and kids, wherever that might be.