I had some disappointing meals and drinks on a recent visit to one of my favorite parts of the US. And they were fantastic. What’s that Jack, drinking heavily already? Nope, bear with me here…
This is travel and dining philosophy, not my usual “some bar I went to” kind of post. A few things have been nagging at me about travel, dining, drinking, the internet, television, and just about all of modern life. Let’s just focus on those relevant to this little blog, though.
First: have you been disappointed by a new place, a meal, a drink, or travel experience lately? If so, that’s great. If not, you need to try harder. Food, drink, travel- even life itself should be an adventure. Most of us prefer safe little adventures, but adventures nonetheless. That means trying new stuff, and that means finding things that you don’t like as well as finding the gems. I’m not an adventurous diner, but sometimes you have to try things because it’s the right thing to do. I recall dining at Commander’s Palace many years ago- most of the folks in our party ordered steak. I’m sure they had fantastic steaks, but to be at a restaurant like that and ignore the chef’s recommendations is frankly stupid (allergies, religious reasons, etc. excepted). And you don’t have to be at world renowned venues to benefit from the chef’s (or bartender’s , or waitstaff’s) wisdom. Try it occasionally. Go ahead and be disappointed occasionally, as long as it is not in your lack of adventure.
Second: the whole intercoursing internet. Yelp this, TripAdvisor that, why is it called OpenTable if there isn’t one, etc. News flash, those sites have some great insights, but like the entire rest of the internet they are full of idiots and assholes. Worse yet, idiots and assholes without a sense of adventure, or context. People lie and rate their own restaurants high and competitors low. If you use these sites, apply your own filters- the woman complaining that a restaurant is overpriced and the staff was inattentive… in the high season in the Florida Keys… lacks the judgment required to trust her dining recommendations. The guy whining that a place is a dump may be right, but if it is a dump with great food and drinks he needs to shut up and enjoy himself.
Finally for this philosophical rant: Television. I’m mentioned before that I like “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives” but can’t stand the host. Do you really believe all of those hundreds of places are winners? Yeah, me neither. But as obnoxious as Guy is, he’s not going to chains, and he is encouraging some adventure. I do not get the people following his recommendations around the country- grab a few and use them as backups or starting points for your own adventures, but put some effort into finding your own way. Ask those chefs (better yet, ask the cooks and bartenders) where to go. And speaking of assholes, Anthony Bourdain is one- but the kind of asshole worth learning from. Willing to try things, unapologetic in expressing what he likes and doesn’t like, and opinionated. Some things in his shows do not appeal to me, some make me want to hop on an airplane immediately, but the spirit of dining-centric adventure is really what I like. Most of everything else in the realm of travel and dining on TV seems to be crap, with obvious lack of curiosity, or even more obvious contrived situations, and of course some non-subtle financial arrangements to get places covered. You deserve better, make it happen.
Go forth and be somewhat disappointed occasionally.