As I held the fork up to my mouth, it hovered there for a moment. The aroma hitting me, ever so softly, tempting me as I hesitated to take the next step. First, I tasted the savory yet sweet caramelized onions. Next came the robust flavor of the pepper jam and finally the soft taste of duck liver mousse. Immediately, years of instant regret washed over me as I reflected I could have been eating this my entire life. I devoured the rest on my plate and my friend and I could only smile at one another as we dug into the remaining bites. This was one of many new dishes she has ‘encouraged’ me to try. It started with an eight course dinner prepared by her at her home, to make me try meat for the first time in my life. I was nervous but in the end, I didn’t hate it. I didn’t hate any of it, though I won’t be ordering filet or prosciutto again, I at least know where I truly stand on the subject. The smoky flavor of pulled pork is enhanced by the acidity of lemon juice and toned down by pickled onions, made me see stars. The rich flavor of flank steak only made better by the creamy and spicy horseradish crema still has me craving it all these months later.
As a person who loves food, great dining experiences, cooking and follows chefs like kids follow their baseball hero’s, I knew that going to a Michelin star restaurant wasn’t in the cards for me. How could I turn my nose at a dish prepared by an incredible chef just because I was too scared to try it. The person I wanted to be did not match the person I was in reality. Opening myself up to an ever expanding experience has changed that for me. Perhaps if I had tried duck liver mousse ten years ago, I wouldn’t have appreciated it and maybe still wouldn’t like it. Like many things in life, timing is key. I encourage you to try things you wouldn’t normally try and see where it takes you. I wanted to expand my palette and I am so grateful I tossed my ‘identity’ aside to do so because I have opened the door to many future experiences for myself. A few weeks ago, the same friend, invited me to Niche, a modern American restaurant in St.Louis. The James Beard Award Winning Chef had decided to close the doors of Niche to create something simpler, less fine-dining and more neighborhood-bistro. We discovered the news the night before when it was announced and somehow managed to get a reservation at 9:45 the next night. When the reservation was made she looked at me and said, “You will have to eat meat but you will love it. If you aren’t going to try it, we can’t go.” There it was, the experience I had been wanting. We went and we ate. We started with a hollowed out egg filled with sorrel, custard and homemade trout roe, phenomenal. Short rib with buckwheat and rice grits-I didn’t hate it. Great wine, great company and I felt so alive and happy to share this experience with my friend. Sometimes you just have to take the first bite. After that, it’s not so hard. True of food, true of any experience you are unsure of in life. This isn’t a new revelation or new advice by any means but sometimes, you just need a reminder.
The thrill of the hunt of finding new dishes to try is intoxicating. As a self-proclaimed foodie already, it is dangerous waters to now crave foie gras, escargot and tuna tartar on the daily. To curb that enthusiasm a little for my bank account’s sake, I’m reaching outward, away from the plate and towards other new experiences to quench my thirst. Last night we spent time with new friends and although we didn’t go to any new places with them, the thrill of getting to know good people and sharing a fun night out with them had the same effect. At the weekend, my husband and I spend time looking for a new activity to experience or a new city to visit. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older but continuing to have enriching and new experiences is becoming even more important to me. Tag your new experiences #wanderfullifestyle and share the love!