While I truly do enjoy cooking, I also enjoy eating out. If I can get rewarded for it or save money that’s even better but it is not the only reason to eat at a restaurant.
The best reason is to try new foods and have a culinary experience that you haven’t had before. Going with friends or family can only add to the enjoyment of the adventure as well.
There are also dishes that you should try that have been prepared by someone with experience before you attempt to make them at home so you know that your version tastes similar to how it really should taste.
Another reason for eating out is to give one ideas on how to take their own cooking up a notch. I have a friend who had only eaten your basic cheeseburger over time. Well – we went to Red Robin and she was astonished at the variety of ways that one could actually make a burger. (This was with their older menu that listed way more burgers than they do today. While they certainly have decent burgers I am not endorsing them. I have had much better burgers in the past as well.) Inspired she now makes burgers probably too often but in so many different ways.
Fortunately we were four people that day and three of us had been there previously so we let her select 4 different burgers which we then cut in four and shared. That’s another fun part of eating out – the sharing - although we did it so she could experience the different burger tastes.
Sometimes there will be a taste in an item you try when you are in a restaurant that you just cannot identify but that adds tremendously to the taste of the dish. You know it is something you would never figure out and, in many places, the chef/cook will gladly let you know what it is. A great example would be a slight pinch of nutmeg in clam chowder. One doesn’t think of that but there is a place near us that does that. It adds a whole new dimension to the flavor and my Mom loves it.
Eating out also can expose you to dishes that you might not have the opportunity to try at home. Now I’m no Andrew Zimmern but I’m willing to try a lot of things that are not considered to be “normal” by the average American. The first time I ever tried Frogs Legs was at a restaurant. The same holds true for collard greens (now a staple in my home for part of each year), bigos, Vindaloo, kimchi (another staple in my fridge), taro root, kangaroo, emu, crocodile, wombat as well as many other ethnic foods.
Of course being a first generation American I do have some foods I grew up with that many of my friends won’t look at let alone touch. These include calf’s brain, steak tartare, liver, tongue, head cheese and other German/European delicacies.
While we may not all be cut out to give fried dung beetles a go, certainly giving other more mainstream foods from other cultures is a worthwhile experience. But you have to remember – many ethnic restaurants will tend to “tone down” their foods for non-natives so, while you may be getting a taste, you may not be getting that taste the way it is truly prepared unless you visit that specific country at one point.
One of my godchildren is doing a trip around the world. She is currently in China and as she notes in her blog “The food here is amazing, I think ordering Chinese food overseas will be horrific in comparison now that I have had the real thing. The ingredients are fresh every day, and the flavours they use just explode in your mouth, really incredible…” (You can read about her adventures here: The Art Of Sedona Grace click on the link to the Blog in the upper right hand corner. Be sure to check out her art work as well by clicking the Gallery link.)
But one doesn’t have to look overseas for “ethnic foods.” We have in this country a large Native American population and they have their own culture and cuisine. Sadly a lot of it has been lost but some still exists and various members of the different nations are trying to preserve that information. A site I recently found that has some Native American recipes that I hope to try either later this summer or over the winter is OCBTracker.
Another area of the world where I am a bit deficient in knowing the food is Africa. Fortunately the University of Pennsylvania has posted an African cookbook online here: The African Cookbook
So I’ve been lucky in that I have expanded my taste buds. Yes I’ve had some foods I may not visit again but I have also discovered some foods that I might never have been exposed to that I love!
So be adventurous. Expand your tastes. What foods have you tried that went beyond your comfort zone? Did you like them? Hate them? Why? Let us know below. Also – are there any foods that you haven’t had the opportunity to try yet that you would like to? Again – share with us!