There are many cheesy, self-helpy things to say about going outside of your comfort zone and eating unfamiliar foods from unfamiliar cuisines as often as possible. Lately, though, I’ve come to realize that adventuring on the scale of Jonathan Gold and Robert Sietsema or, for that matter, Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern has to be in your blood; as much as you might push yourself, if you’re not drawn to experience new and exotic taste sensations, there’s not much that’s going to change that. Me? I’m somewhere in the middle. I like to break out of my routine, for those cheesy, self-helpy reasons, but would I prefer to eat a good roast chicken instead of drinking cobra blood in Indonesia? Why yes, yes I would.
I’m terrible at geography (please don’t ask me to find Iowa on a map) but I’m wonderful at food geography, especially when I know a city really well. In New York, friends would call me on a regular basis with queries like: “I’m going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and need a place for an afternoon snack before going to a 5 PM chamber music concert at The Frick.” (Answer: Cafe Sabarsky.) Here in L.A., though, I’m on shaky ground (earthquakes notwithstanding). I’m new here and when a food geography issue arises, I’m not as quick on my feet. But I’m getting better.