Eat Local, Wherever You Are

The following is a guest post from Andi B. who blogs at MealPlanRescue about eating seasonally and happily with the people you love.

Clam Chowder De Luxe - CookingI remember walking down the back streets in the tiny California Coastal town, my tiny hand in my Dad’s. We seemed to be walking the wrong way from everyone else. They were headed to main street, where the shopping center was, while we were headed down some back streets. Eventually we emerged in front of a small oyster bar. We walked inside and everyone was smiling, laughing at the unexpected site of tourists in their local restaurant. My Dad boosted me up into a high seat at the oyster bar and ordered some of the best clam chowder I’ve ever had in my life. It wasn’t hard to figure out what he knew.

Many people go and visit a town, but don’t actually go to experience their destination. They eat at the same chain restaurants that they visit when they’re at home. They eat the same dishes, made from the ingredients they’re familiar with and they miss out on incredible experiences. Even if they go to the “must visit” restaurant of the area, chances are they are paying too much. My Dad found our great chowder stop by asking one of the local shop owners, “Where do you go to eat seafood…the best clam chowder?”

I took my Dad’s lesson to heart, and I always asked the local people where I visited, what they recommended, where did they eat. On a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, I stayed at a local-run hotel, and ate at the small restaurant next door that the hotel staff said they enjoyed most. The husband and wife who owned the restaurant adopted me, made sure I was safe since I was travelling alone. The husband/chef noticed I ate the same dessert each night, and on my last night he came out of the kitchen and spoke with me. He told me that he and his wife appreciated that I kept coming to see them, and how much I liked their food. He said they thought of me when they were at the farmer’s market and picked up a starfruit, something I’d never had before. He wanted to add something special to make my last dessert a completely local dish. I couldn’t imagine my trip without that experience.

What happens when you don’t eat where locals do? I’m not saying you won’t have a good meal, but you may overpay for underwhelm. For example, several friends came to visit my husband and me in Vegas. It was like pulling teeth to get them to eat at Firefly, a local-adored, barely off-strip location. A few of them believed to get a good meal they had to go to the highly reviewed restaurants in the hotels; nothing else was going to be decent. To this day, when they talk about the hotel restaurants they reflect on how it was a tasty, but extremely expensive experience. The place they want to go back to, was our local tapas bar.

Because I’ve stretched myself to eat the food at the places I’ve visited, I’ve tried a variety of amazing foods and dishes, and never paid tourist inflation. What culinary adventure is waiting for you?

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