The first thing Jo Stougaard, also known as food blogger My Last Bite, ever ate at Hollywood Thai restaurant Jitlada was the southern-Thai-style oxtail soup in April 2009.
Back then she was slightly nervous about all the stories she'd heard about how tongue-searingly spicy chef Suthiporn "Tui" Sungkamee's food was, even though she ate jalapenos as if they were cucumbers and added whole habaneros to her eggs for breakfast. But she went for lunch anyway, and she was hooked.
Really hooked. On March 8, 2010, she decided to start a mission to eat her way through the entire menu at the Thaitown favorite run by Sungkamee and his sister Sarintip "Jazz" Singsanong, 300 dishes in all.
And on Saturday, a little more than three years later, Stougaard sat in the back dining room of Jitlada -- what had become her "remote office" because she'd eaten there so often, sometimes bringing her computer with her -- and ate the final half-dozen dishes on the menu.
Her usual corner table by the window had been taken by the actor Elijah Wood, but she held court on the other side of the room with her family, there to help her celebrate the occasion (also an early birthday party for her). That included her brother and his girlfriend, who had recently ousted Stougaard as Foursquare mayor of Jitlada. "I can't believe it!" Stougaard said.
She ordered her usual Singha beer, and Singsanong herself started to bring out the final dishes: pad see ew; Thai pumpkin and fresh crab meat stir-fried with spicy mint leaf; spicy seafood with ginger; spicy shrimp in lime dressing; spicy tiger prawn noodle soup; tiger prawns with glass noodles in spicy broth; and pla tod nam pla, whole fried sea bass flavored with fish sauce.
Stougaard took photos to upload to the Flickr account where she has tracked every single Jitlada dish she has eaten. "I thought for sure I'd tried the pad see ew," she said, "but I couldn't find a photo."
The Jitlada menu odyssey was always a leisurely journey for Stougaard, and there have been plenty of repeats. "If I came with friends who'd never tried Jitlada before, I'd order favorites that I thought they should have." Like the green curry mussels, crispy morning glory salad and crab fried rice.
Also on her top 25 favorites are the crispy catfish salad, dry beef curry and the secret "Jazz" burger.
What started as weekly visits had slowed down to more sporadic meals in recent months. "I kind of didn't want it to end," Stougaard said.
After dinner Saturday, Singsanong and Sungkamee presented Stougaard with a congratulatory birthday fruit tart that they had ordered for her from a neighborhood bakery, topped with a square of white chocolate inscribed "Happy birthday, Joe! My Last Bike" [sic]. Stougaard removed the white chocolate greeting and vowed to save it.
"We love her so much," Singsanong said. "She's like family."
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