Taking a Vacation from Destination Eating

Confession: I’ve still never eaten a salad at Manresa or a bite of brisket at Franklin Barbecue and I’m not sad or sorry.

Winding our way along a coastal road in Seattle last summer, we turned a corner and I realized we were passing Canlis. A few years ago, that knowledge would have caused me to break out in cold sweats over the thought of a critically-acclaimed meal I’d be missing out on because I hadn’t planned well enough.

Tosca restaurant in San Francisco, via www.www.goodfoodstories.com
Photo: Casey Barber

Even when I did pack our vacation calendar with more meals than we could possibly comfortably eat, it didn’t ease my mind. I would have near-panic attacks walking up to the spot I had meticulously researched and chosen, my heart pounding and nerves on edge, beside myself with fear that it would be too full or there would be an hours-long line and we’d have to eat or drink somewhere else.

Then I would worry about how I would manage to digest everything I was currently eating in time to hit the next spot on my overwhelming food itinerary.

Why?!? What would it matter in the end if we did or didn’t get a spot at Pizzeria Bianco‘s first seating? (Back in the day before it served lunch and we had to wait for two hours in the Arizona sun for our spot in line, that is.)

Am I a better person because I can say I’ve been to Lola before Michael Symon became a household name on The Chew? Is your opinion of me higher because you know I’ve eaten the One True Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken? Or would you stop being my friend if I revealed that I really don’t care that I never made the pilgrimage to El Bulli?

sunset at Nepenthe restaurant in Big Sur, via www.www.goodfoodstories.com
Photo: Casey Barber

Priorities have shifted. On our 10th-anniversary trip to the Bay Area last fall, we made a few reservations. We checked in to see what was going on with April Bloomfield’s takeover of Tosca. We spent our actual wedding anniversary dinner at Nepenthe.

But in between, we fulfilled a much more manageable wish list of true Mission burritos, pastries from Big Sur Bakery, and a stop at 21st Amendment after the Giants game.

We didn’t make it to Smitten to try their ice cream and I didn’t feel like a failure. It didn’t seem as if we got short shift because I didn’t finagle a table at the Post Ranch Inn’s Sierra Mar. Vacations are starting to feel more like vacations and less like an extension of a to-do list.

snack board at Easy Tiger in Austin, via www.www.goodfoodstories.com
Photo: Casey Barber

This summer, the trips we’re planning still come with checklists, but the scope of our ambitions have shifted. We may just end up eating supermarket deli sandwiches in a parking lot before hiking the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend, and that’s fine. We may spend most of our evenings at Easy Tiger like we did on our last trip to Austin and we’ll never regret it.

In between, we’ll see some football, make the requisite pilgrimage to Prada Marfa, and chow down on breakfast tacos. We probably won’t make it to Uchi, and I feel quite accepting of that knowledge.

Because when I think back, the best meal on our honeymoon wasn’t even the evening at the French Laundry; it was sitting at the bar at Sardines on our first night of vacation in Monterey, sharing a caesar salad, sliders, and a bottle of Lytton Springs with my husband. That’s what I’ll always remember.

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  1. “Vacations are starting to feel more like vacations and less like an extension of a to-do list.” This.

    There’s a reason I purposely put my head in the sand about who the hot new chefs and restaurants are, and when you or Megan mention one to me, I get a blank look on my face.

    I know I have the potential to go down a rabbit hole, and so I don’t engage. I want to find the hidden spots that are amazing and unknown on vacation, nothing more. If I had more knowledge, I know myself well enough to know I would stop doing that.

    Maybe it comes with age, but I’m so looking forward to the next time we get to hang out in some far flung place together. We’ll go adventuring and find a restaurant no one’s ever heard of, and make the BEST memories.

    1. Yes! There will probably be sandwiches involved. I’m always happy with sandwiches. :)

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