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Frame: To Do Lists

April 1, 2011

I’ve been around the block a few times. I’ve eaten at famous restaurants,  tried unusual and challenging foods, cooked a million batches of flat cupcakes – but I still have plenty of culinary milestones left to reach. And if there’s one thing I love as much as food, it’s lists- to do lists, in particular. I love making them, I love crossing items off one by one, I love starting a new lineup.  I was inspired recently to think about the things I want to accomplish before I turn 40, and while a comprehensive life list would be too much to post on this blog, I do have the makings of 40 Food-Related Goals. But just one list? That’s no fun. I’m doing four, and trust me – limiting each to just 10 will be no easy feat.

10 International Restaurants to Visit
10 Regional U.S. Foods to Eat
10  Dishes to Cook
10 New/Exotic Foods to Try
= 40 Foods By 40

I’ll start with 10 Restaurants, a list which also feeds my travel wanderlust. Some of these have been in my sights for years, others are recent additions.

10 International Restaurants
1) The French Laundry, California: Thomas Keller’s iconic home, I’ve wanted to indulge in its tasting menu for years, ever since I read Anthony Bourdain’s description of his meal in A Cook’s Tour.
2) El Bulli, Spain: Chef Ferran Adria has made the controversial decision to close his #1 in the World rated restaurant, but it is slated to reopen as a culinary academy before I turn 40. I bet I can get a meal out that academy somehow.
3) Noma, Denmark: Denmark has come out of nowhere as a culinary powerhouse, and I’d like to taste for myself.
4) Alinea, Chicago: I’ve always wanted to visit Chicago, and after reading about Grant Achatz’s battle with tongue cancer (what worse trial for a chef than to lose his sense of taste?), I put Alinea on my list.  An interview with Achatz also taught me that one’s palate becomes deadened to the same taste after 5 bites, which has led me to favor small plate dining. And to begrudgingly give up on greasy/tasty bar food after 5 bites.
5) Le Chateaubriand, France: This Paris restaurant is lauded for eschewing typical French fuss and tourist level prices, and focusing on the “bistronomy” movement:  reanimating bistro classics with a well-trained and respectful young hand.
6) D.O.M, Brazil: Chef Alex Atala used to be a DJ, so I bet the music is as good as the food.
7) Il Canto, Italy: Really, I’d just use any excuse to go back to Italy, and I won’t care where I’m eating once I get there- every whole in the wall trattoria is fantastic. But if I’m going, I might as well try the world-famous Il Canto.
8 ) Hibiscus, UK: London has gotten a bad rap for their food scene in the past, but when I visited a few years ago I found plenty of great options. In particular, the top -rated Hibiscus appeals to me with its vegetable-focused menu.
9) wd-50, New York: I’m still not quite sure how I feel about molecular gastronomy- it’s great to look at, but is it really want you want to eat? Somehow I think Wylie Dufresne’s Eggs Benedict could help me make up my mind.
10)Le Quartier Francais, South Africa: It’s always rare to find good hotel food, but this is a world-famous restaurant in a world-famous hotel.

My new passport just arrived in the mail, now all I need are reservations.

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