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Best meal I ate all year: Beach House

I hate sandwiches. The only way I'll stomach one is if it's on grilled bread and filled with a plethora of fancy ingredients that make me feel like I'm not eating a sandwich.

I led cross-country tours over the summer and ate a picnic lunch at a rest stop just about every day: Try eating sandwiches on smashed bread with soggy lettuce for about two and a half months. I didn't stay in one place for more than two days the entire time and was perpetually functioning on about five hours of sleep. Dinners were made with camping equipment, sometimes by people who had never cooked before.

When it was over, I spent time with family in Laguna Beach, California, where I finally got to sleep in. Not only that, but I didn't have to drive a van full of passengers 300 miles, there was no time-limit on the meal, and I didn't even have to use my finger to spread mustard.

When my aunt and I sat down at the Beach House, I ate like I'd just escaped the desert.

My cousin works there, so we snagged a corner table on the patio that hangs over the beach, where we could watch the sun set over the ocean. Given the view and the company, I would have been satisfied with something warm that was a step above cafeteria quality.

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But my meal of pepper-crusted yellowfin tuna with mango coulis, whipped potatoes and crispy Brussel sprouts was more than satisfactory. The food itself wasn't revolutionary, but given the quality of my meals over the summer, it was close.

My cousin kept us lubricated with cold beer and good wine as the sun went down. I listened to the crashing waves, enjoyed my aunt's dry wit and savored the fact that I didn't have to explain to anyone that Monument Valley is not the place with the presidents' heads are carved into the mountain.

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