For as long as I can remember, I have never been a picky eater. My mom has always been a fantastic cook, cooking all sorts of cuisines and being a total beast at cooking Filipino dishes. Growing up, I went to many restaurants of usual and eclectic cuisines (e.g. Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Moroccan, just to name a few). I'd like to think my palate is cultured, thanks to my awesome parents for giving me an adventurous appetite. It wasn't until I reached college that I started my solo journey and learned how to be a foodie.
My true love for food budded my sophomore year. One particular night, I impulsively went out at midnight to get a few cookies from Insomnia while picking up a few friends who went clubbing. As much as I loved washing down three chocolate chip cookies with a bottle of cold milk, I realized I was getting tired of the New Haven's food scene. I found myself eating in New Haven very often, eating a lot of the same thing: Insomnia, Shake Shack, Yorkside Pizza, Frank Pepe's...just to name a few.
I made a New Year's resolution to travel somewhere at least once every month. My criteria was anywhere outside New Haven. That small challenge was enough to send me on adventures in the entire year of 2016.
A little change goes a long way.
The challenge to go somewhere outside of where I'm familiar every month was something that made a significant impact on my year. I found myself eating in the rustic and hipster Engine Room in Mystic, chomping down on some barbecue chicken tacquitos at East Coast Taco in Niantic, sipping on some warm lobster bisque on a chilly rainy night at Ford's Lobsters in Noank, and eating ice cream at Berry's in New London.
It's better to travel and eat with a friend.
When I made this goal for myself, I tried to bring a friend along. There are many bonuses--you don't have to get a table for one, you can maximize variety with your appetizer choices, you get to spend quality time with a friend, and most importantly, you get to try a new place that maybe your friend knows that you don't.
I have a handful of friends that contributed to my challenge this way, and it would not have been as successful if it weren't for them. I wouldn't have found myself outside of Washington, D.C. having a burger with peanut butter and bacon at Ted's Bulletin or chugging a Cara-Mocha latte at Las Vetas Lounge if it weren't for the wonderful people who took me there.
Yelp can be your best friend.
One of the best ways to learn more about the city or town you're visiting is through its food. When you go somewhere that's known for good pizza, good seafood, or good produce, always take the opportunity to see if the area lives up to that name.
I learned quickly on my family vacation to Bar Harbor that Maine is known not only for their fresh lobster, but also their blueberries! I wanted to make sure I hit the best spots for lobster and blueberry dishes, so I confided in some Spoon articles, and Yelp. Sometimes you have to go a little out of your way to find a place like Jordan Pond House that are away from the main drag, but when you find yourself eating some popovers and blueberry pie like a local, it's worth it.
On the other hand, you can help some friends out. I have become a go-to for some friends who need help on where to go for a good brunch, and done some research for some friends visiting areas that I haven't even visited. Articles, Yelp, and a little bit of digging on my end helped some friends have a great time on their travels, and it's a proud moment when people look to you as the foodie.
Make a restaurant bucket list.
When I first started my "foodie journey," I made a list of restaurants I wanted to visit around school or at home, and marked the dates when I finally made my way to a restaurant in my list. It can help you keep track of places you think of, and also give you some ideas of where to eat when you're a little indecisive. I got such a rewarding feeling to cross off a place that I've been meaning to visit, and I made myself proud for accomplishing a goal like visiting a restaurant.
When I started getting serious about expanding my horizons for food, I decided to invest $15 in a Zagat book for New York City restaurants. I thought of it as my step up from being a novice foodie. I started getting messy with it; I color-coded using numerous highlighters where I've been and where I want to go next. It became my resource for whether or not where I wanted to go was actually any good, and my guide for where I'll spend my 21st birthday.
Don't neglect to try eateries in your area!
If you can't venture far out of the area you're in, try something new. Challenge yourself to try that deli that's been around for as long as you can remember, opt some homemade ice cream at an ice cream parlor instead of DQ, or at least try something new on the menu at your regular lunch spot. Don't stop until you've tried everything there is to try until you're able to break away from that town you're in!
Bottom Line: Food can give you wanderlust.
I never had imagined that my love for food could give me an urge to travel, even if it was on a smaller scale geographically and financially. If there is anything that I want you to know about being a foodie is that food can make you fall in love more with the world around you. With the experiences I have under my belt from exploring much of my surrounding area and then some, I can't even imagine how much my love for food will grow when I get to explore on a global scale. It's a big world out there, go eat through it!