I love to eat! It's really no secret, especially if you follow me on Twitter. Good food is something I am never able to restrain myself from. I love cooking, I love eating. I love socializing over good food (which is why I love dinner dates so much). I love hosting people at my home and cooking for them. I have hundreds of recipes on my Pinterest board to try. And I do not mind at all that I have to make up for all the food I eat by being in the gym constantly.
Growing up, my family wasn't really well off so there were a lot of times where my mother struggled to put food on the table. At one point, she had to send my siblings and I to live with my paternal grandmother so that she could job hunt and establish some stability. Because I know what it's like to go for days at a time being hungry, I've always resolved to eat really, really well whenever the opportunity arises. And I'm very particular about how I like my food and what makes the ideal dining experience.
Here are some of my (funny, but real) pet peeves when it comes to dining:
- When people put condiments directly on their food. Condiments are for dipping, that way you can control distribution. An example: putting ketchup directly on fries- there's always one fry with way too much ketchup. And it makes them soggy. And if it's cold ketchup, it makes the fries cold!
- On a related note: I do not mind my food touching, unless it's a particularly liquid food item in contact with dry food. This is why collard greens need their own plate, or a small bowl. I do not like when collard green "juice" makes my cornbread soggy. If some part of the dish has a consistency that is closer to water, it should be plated separately.
- Melted cheese. I cannot eat melted cheese. The texture makes me gag. This means nachos are often out of the question. Most food with melted cheese I have to eat when slightly cool or gotten back to being semisolid. That includes pizza, macaroni & cheese, and spinach dip.
- I firmly believe grits with sugar to be completely wrong. Grits are meant to be savory, not sweet. All they need is butter and salt. If you want to be fancy, add sharp cheddar or chives. But under no circumstances should they be made with sugar.
- Certain holiday "staples" that people go crazy for. Pumpkin anything, I absolutely despise. Candy Corn and peeps. Also, mint and chocolate as a combination gets really popular around the holidays - I think mint & chocolate are one of the worst food combinations to exist, second only to anything with coconut.
- I like dirty dishes moved out of the way, preferably removed from the table immediately.
- People who say they are hungry, but then want to eat my food. Also, people who order food and then decide they will help themselves to some of mine without us discussing it first. (I admit, I am guilty of both of these things... especially if they order something I usually don't like, but it looks good)
- Being made uncomfortable because of dietary preferences. It's one thing to be curious or genuinely interested, shocked even. But people who try to push their dietary agenda on you are the worst.
- I'm not really a fan of digestive noises, and I am particularly self conscious of people hearing me swallow!
- Not having enough utensils! I do not like to use the same spoon or fork for things, especially when multiple courses are involved.
- Medium steak. I also love complements like bearnaise, but I do not think a good steak should be disgraced by steak sauce. Blue cheese crust at Mastro's is to die for!
- The little mini jars of condiments that you get when you order room service.
- Extravagant food presentations. Places like Cut by Wolfgang Puck in Las Vegas, where they bring out raw cuts of steak to discuss with you. Baked Alaska being set on fire when they present it at The Oceanaire. Beautiful drinks and experimental food at places like Minibar. And definitely anything at Barton G!
- Pairing and tasting menus. Places like Pineapple and Pearls, Rasika, Marcel's, Métier, and Barmini in D.C. have these perfected.
- Places that give you take-out in oven or microwave friendly containers. Bucca di Beppo, for instance, packages its take-out/delivery in aluminum pans so you can just pop them in the oven!
- Potatoes in any form. Baked, mashed, fries, scalloped. Potatoes are always good. (Note: I am referring to traditional potatoes. I do not eat sweet potatoes unless prepared with copious amounts of brown sugar, butter, and marshmallows. Sweet potato fries are a disgrace to fries.)
- The culinary trend right now around "fusion" cuisines is great! I love trying new things, but can be hesitant to do so when going out. Having foods I've never tried paired with favorites of mine makes it easier.
- Brunch, with booze (is it really brunch if alcohol isn't involved? I think not!)
- Amazing restaurants in exotic locations or places with killer views, decor, or distinct ambiance. The view is what makes rooftops like The Graham Rooftop or POV at the W hotel in Washington, D.C. so great. Also, pool bars and legitimately great restaurants in exotic destinations - like Metis in Bali, Indonesia and Cielo Sky Lounge in Dubai, UAE. And I love when DJ's are at restaurants for brunch or dinner to make it more "party" in places like STK, P.S. 450, and Tao in New York City, NY.
- I love fantastic dinner companions who have experience and familiarity with foods that I don't. I am open minded with food but when I'm dining out, I tend not to be adventurous. Having someone who can prime me for new food is always great. Much like an experienced tour guide, a great dinner companion helps you to explore.