I love to eat out. I love to eat at restaurants - good ones, not-so-good ones and ones in between. I love the adventure of "checking out" restaurants!
I love to travel. When traveling I might eat out two or three (or four or five) times a day. Eating out during travel is part of the adventure of travel and sometimes eating out is the adventure! I have been brave enough and fortunate enough to have traveled throughout the world. I have traveled on a shoestring, hitchhiking through Ireland for hours before anything but a cow passed. I have traveled first class, taking the luxurious Orient Express, the Hiram Bingham, to the top of Micchua Picchua in Peru. No matter where I journey, I rate eating in a foreign country as top most on my list of perfect experiences.
While traveling, I don't necessarily enjoy the taste of the food, but I always enjoy the "adventure." So, that's what I want to talk about - enjoying the adventure of food.
Before you begin, it's important to keep track of the places where you eat. Note the name of the restaurant, both in English and the native language if applicable. Write a note of the food tasted or eaten. Be sure to add your personal comments - the waiter was cute, the murals were hand painted. I don't do anything very time consuming. My husband writes a journal with copious notes about our travels. And no one reads it. I just write a few notes and we always refer to it. I write key words or draw a small sketch. If you take a picture, reference it in some way. I have oodles of pictures of food from all over the world and I haven't a clue what thery are.
I try to keep something from each restaurant matches, napkins or a postcard. I like to get a copy of the menu, but this can be dangerous. It has been my experience that foreign restaurants frown on Americans who "borrow" menus as souvenirs. Fortunately with computers, paper menus are available and online references are easily found. Collecting menus is a great way to remember a dining experience. It also is helpful when attempting to reproduce an authentic cuisine in one's own kitchen.
Share your eating encounters with other friends traveling to the same location. Sharing extends the experience for both of you. Was the same chef there? Was the wash on the line? Was there pate on the salad?
Through my recommendation, some of my friends have visited the Cornucopia Restaurant in the Trastevere section of Rome, Italy. We found it while walking and looking for a different restaurant that was recommended in a tour book. Very tired, we settled on the Cornucopia because it was there and had chairs. No one spoke English. It was right in the middle of a neighborhood block, no tourists here. The place is not fancy, but they serve fresh fish wrapped in a salt-dough crust unique and delicious.
My stepdaughter spent one of her college years in France. On a budget, she sent us a letter using a free postcard from the restaurant where she was eating. On my next visit to Paris, I spent an enjoyable afternoon finding the restaurant in Montmartre. The food was homey and inexpensive, as I knew it would be. It was especially cool to sit and think of her enjoying the same ambiance a year before.
When returning to Italy to drive the Tuscany hillsides, I was able to find the town of Ceri, pronounced cherry, where I had spent a week with friends. I was excited to revisit its only caf and experience its fabulous lemon pasta. This was homemade pasta covered with a sauce of fresh olive oil and the juice squeezed from the lemons that grew in the caf yard. Without my Italian friends, I was only able to communicate the word "lemon." After two glasses of limoncello, I finally received their lemon signature dish.
It is important not to recommend, but to just mention restaurants. Neighborhood restaurants can be inconsistent and your friends might not share your love for items like ceviche.
Thinking of ceviche, which I do love, reminds me of my mom's saying about the world that "Everything is the same and everything is different." This is certainly true of food.
In Quito, Ecuador, my friends and I happened upon a ceviche restaurant. Ceviche is a savory soup in which the acid of orange, lemon and tomato juice actually cooks the raw fish, usually shrimp. Resting on the table in the restaurant were small bowls of popped corn. Delighted, we dug right in only to find that a lot of the kernels were not popped. We finished off what was there and asked for more while waiting for the soup. When the soup arrived we again needed more popcorn when the waitress spoke. Translated, she informed us that the "corn nuts" were there to be sprinkled into the soup. The popcorn was the same but certainly prepared and used differently!
When traveling, enjoy the adventure and appreciate the differences of others.
Restaurant Watch: Note when traveling what is the same as you are used to and what is different?