Tickling the Taste Buds

Posted: February 28, 2011 in Joe's Life, What Makes You Happy
Tags: , , ,

It’s the end of Restaurant Week in Chicago and I can’t think of a more appropriate time to write about food. During the last 6 months I’ve been lucky enough to travel around the US and visit some amazing cities. From braised rabbit in the Big Easy and homemade Italian in the Empire State to expensive steaks in Sin City and vegan food back home in the City of Broad Shoulders, I’ve made an effort to go out of my way and try new foods.

With Chiara and her family.

One of my favorite experiences was a cooking demonstration by Chiara Lima, the daughter of legendary Italian chef Mamma Agata, during her cookbook tour. While Chiara captivated the small group with stories about Pierce Brosnan, Jacqueline Kennedy and Humphrey Bogart, she showed us that it doesn’t take a Top Chef-esque kitchen to produce flavorful food. (Fun Fact from Chiara: Parmesan cheese does not belong on every pasta dish… I’m looking at you Olive Garden. On the wrong dish it can mask the chef’s flavors instead of enhancing them.)

Many of my favorite trips and dining experiences have been with male co-workers and college buddies. And while I love sharing a meal in the company of women, I appreciate the bond established with my guy friends over food and drinks. Those experiences becomes less about the conversation and more about the people there and the food we ate. When I think about these trips, I can remember where we’ve eaten, what we had, and who was there more than I can remember the topics we discussed.

Trying a new cuisine is exciting but it took almost a year for me to build up my nerves and try vegan food. The thought of tofu and seitan, appropriately pronounced Satan, masquerading as chicken, beef, and pork frustrated and scared me. Why would I give up real delicious ribs for fake ribs? Thankfully, an expiring Groupon and cute lady friend pushed me out the door and into a well-known vegan restaurant, Karyn’s Cooked. The meal wasn’t great but it opened my mind to idea of vegan food.

At N9NE Steakhouse in Las Vegas after consuming an unhealthy amount of red meat, wine, and whiskey.

Beyond the French menu tasting I went to before Restaurant Week started, I didn’t have time to take advantage of the week’s offerings. However, the idea behind Restaurant Week is for diners to try new menus and go to places they wouldn’t normally visit. This spirit of adventure shouldn’t be limited to just one week of the year and only certain cities. If you live in a city that doesn’t have a Restaurant Week or if you’re schedule didn’t permit you to participate, I hope you find an evening sometime in the next few weeks to try something new or go outside your comfortable level.

Cent Anni!

-Joe

(Cent Anni is an Italian toast Chiara taught my cooking group and it means, “May we have 100 years of life, love, health, and happiness.”)

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