Wednesday, October 9, 2013

on becoming a food hobbyist

So I might have a problem. You might have noticed that I take food very seriously.

I wasn't always this way. I grew up in a house where going out to eat was a luxury rarely realized and Chick-fil-a was too expensive. To this day, I don't really care for Whataburger (a SIN in Texas!) because I didn't grow up eating it. It didn't have a 99 cent menu. My mom worked for most of my life, so I ate what she cooked- baked chicken, spaghetti, canned veggies - and I was very picky.

As I had my own income, I was able to decide what and where I wanted to eat a little more. I developed a Starbucks habit and was thrilled to have Chick-fil-a at my school and close to my work. And then I met Andrew. A seafood lover since birth who rarely ate salads. We influenced one another's tastes quite a lot and very fast. Something happened and we started watching Food Network. Bobby Flay was our shared favorite, with Emeril a close second. We were able to travel to Las Vegas, eat at both of their restaurants, and a love of food grew from there.

Andrew attended culinary school and had the opportunity to travel to San Francisco for a week with his classmates. I think that is what made him realize the amazing things that local, trained chefs had to offer. Since significant others weren't invited on the trip, he did his best to share his love with me once he got home.

I don't remember the moment that we started saying no to Chili's, that Denny's stopped being on the radar, and that a trip to the drive-thru only happened when necessary. But that's the way it's been for quite some time. We eat at local-chain restaurants whenever possible because I feel that food at the bigger chains are only step above what I could purchase at Costco and fry up at home myself for much less money. We seek out restaurants with awards and accolades anytime we travel (and in our own city, too). It doesn't have to be expensive; I've sought out donuts in Chicago and had Korean BBQ from a small restaurant adjacent to a convenience store in Atlanta. Eating at a restaurant of a known or celebrity chef has become a feather in the proverbial cap and when I can say that I've eaten at Kevin Gillespie's and Mike Isabella's and Jose Andres' restaurants and someone knows who that is? That's the equivalent of reading the smartest book or having the hardest to get bag in my mind. Or whatever else makes people happy. I've become someone who goes to new restaurants and reads about food for fun.

At e by Jose Andres in Las Vegas - the plate is a cast of the chef's hand and that's a raspberry tart flower | "Jewel box" with dehydrated beet jewelry. This was a 23 course meal. Yes, 23. I made a photobook for Andrew out of all the pics.

There is always a new place to try or a dish to get. Need help finding somewhere good? Look at Eater.com. It covers most major cities and has a new list of the Eater 38 every few months (I've only been to 16/38 on the newest Houston list but they have a new editor and I have some beef with some choices on this list!). Yelp is also a great resource to see what's new in the area. Well-trained chefs start kitchens all over the country all the time and they are dying to get their businesses off the ground. For about the same price as going to a chain, you can check out one of these places and help a chef achieve their dream, as cheesy as it sounds. I encourage you to do so next time you have a chance.

14 comments:

  1. I love this, I would love to open a bakery one day and i am currently taking a cake decorating class. Helping a foodie achieve their dream is pretty special and much better then a box chain restaurant.

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  2. We use Yelp all the time! I'm going to have to check out this Eater.com website!

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  3. I am the same way. There are so many places just in Houston that I've never tried. So going to Friday's seems like a huge waste! Sadly though im always torn between wanting to eat healthy and wanting to try everything. It really sets me back on my foodie dreams! :(

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  4. I usually only eat at a chain if it's the thing that's convenient at the time. So many great local restaurants! I love trying new places.

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  5. I love that y'all are so passionate about food. I also say to no to Chili's and even Subway unless I'm about to eat my arm. Bleh.

    Durham has such an amazing food scene and we could try a new restaurant every week and still not try them all. #goodproblemtohave

    Can't wait to visit some new ones in Houston hopefully sooner rather than later! :)

    Your posts especially keep me salivating! AND in the loop on new places!

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  6. I think food hobbyist is the perfect term. I grew up with parents who were foodies & they taught me to be kind of a food snob, but I still appreciate "bad food" too sometimes. Chick Fil A is one of my fave fast food places. But like you, I plan vacations around restaurants to try and since I moved here I have been looking to try new places every weekend - not super successfully but not for lack of trying! Glad I have found a friend who understands this obsession!

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  7. I wanted to point out something about Yelp: They have been called out several times for hiding negative reviews, or even positive ones, so their rating of a place may not be entirely accurate.

    I agree about the food at larger chain restaurants; it really isn't much better quality than what you could cook at home (but sometimes there is nothing like McDonald's fries). Most of our favorite places here are local.

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  8. I love that you're a food hobbiest, not a food snob. It makes your recommendations more reliable :) We're like you and Andrew, we don't go to chain restaurants and always seek out local places. And when we eat out, we try to only eat things that we can't or don't eat at home. Lastly, that hand plate is kind of cool and kind of creepy at the same time!

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  9. ever since moving to portland and started getting into its fantastic food scene i just can't do chain restaurants any more. i am a snob now and i am not even sorry for it.

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  10. I LOVE to try new food, but I have a super picky Hubs. I found a foodie page for my neck of the woods on Facebook. Very interesting to see new places, hear experiences. I love it!

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  11. My husband and I are starting to get more selective when it comes to restaurants too. We normally avoid Denny's and were not impressed with Cracker Barrel.

    Although we are still obsessed with Taco Bell... when we want a nice sit down restaurant we seem to lean towards local rather than a chain.

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  12. I also don't like Whataburger - so glad I'm not the only Texan who feels this way. Can't wait to try more restaurants with you!

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  13. This is one of my favorite things about you girl: we have an affinity for the really good stuff (and by good stuff I mean delicious foodies).

    A 23 course meal?! That is something I have never experienced but I would love to someday. Very interesting presentation with that meal too!

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  14. Yay for food! I am definitely not on your level with the food knowledge, but I am in the mindset of wanting to support local businesses/chefs and always try something different rather than your boring chain restaurant. I'm lucky that George likes to eat the same way, so we are always trying new places! Yelp is definitely our best friend - it has led me to so many new places I might never had tried. And don't get me started on our trip to New Orleans earlier this year...I think we ate something from a different place about every 3 hours...that place is food heaven.

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I like comments and read them all but I'm not great about responding to them, so please don't be offended. I would much rather visit your blog instead!