What it’s like to return to a place you once disdained, and discover that you quite like it after all.

Or, How I Finally Fell in Love with Indianapolis (and where to eat there so you will too.)

 

Two years ago, heck, even two months ago…if you had told me I’d be landing on the tarmac for a work trip to Indianapolis, I’d have laughed in your face and told you you were insane.

It’s nothing against Indiana. Some of the loveliest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting have their roots in the Midwestern state. It’s just that the job I used to have, the one before all this blogging business, took me there on a semi-regular basis. And when I left said corporate career, just over four years ago, I had zero desire to ever return to the place I most associated with that part of my life. Just like so much of turning away from that path, I was certain I was leaving it in the past.

So as I stared down at the plane ticket bound for IND, I could hardly believe life had taken me back there. Travel writing might just be the most opposite pursuit from pharmaceutical sales. How did pursuing a completely different career take me to the same exact place?


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A Guide to London’s Diverse Food Scene

You heard it here first…despite any preconceived notions about British food, London is one of the world’s best cities for food. Part of this is a revival of traditions and local flavors, and part is its embrace of authentic global cuisine.

On my most recent visit, I planned the larger part of my day around where I’d be eating. I sought out exemplary gastropubs, expanded my curry repertoire, and even sat down for my first formal English afternoon tea. What follows are my recommendations for where to eat whilst in London, tried, tasted, and true and sourced everywhere from food blogs and chefs to local Londoners.

As a general rule, you’ll want to make reservations (sometimes as little as a day in advance.) The formality of the reservations system is a bit more alive and well in the U.K. than elsewhere. It can’t hurt!

So without futher adieu…


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Or, Why You Should Go to Helsinki Just to Eat

As I pulled my chair in and inched my face closer to the microphone, I thought about what the Finns across from me, who happened to be the lovely people of Radio Helsinki, might ask me about why I was in Finland.

Sure enough, moments later we were live on air (my first live radio interview!) and as the hosts transitioned into English, they prompted the question I knew what coming: “What do you think of Helsinki?”

Helsinki's floating restaurant

I had only just arrived that morning. When asked if I was jet-lagged, I took a giant swig from my cup of Finnish coffee for dramatic effect. It was something like 3 am in California. I squinted as I sat there inaudibly, before answering the question.

“I’ve only just arrived, but it’s my first time in the country so I’m looking forward to experiencing this place,” I reply, feeling a surge of caffeine kick in.

“What expectations did you have for the city before you came?”

Without thinking, I answer abruptly: “Not really any, to tell you the truth.”

I get the impression it isn’t the first time they’ve heard this statement. So, I continue, “But I plan to get to know Helsinki through its food. I find it to be the best way to access a new culture and get a true sense of a place.”

What I don’t mention is that I also have no clue about what Finnish food is.


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Testaccio.

Not the word that comes to mind when you think of Rome?

It wasn’t for me, either. That is, I believe, one of the reasons it took five visits to the Eternal City for me, as I told friends, to “get” Rome.

On this last visit, I had a mere day and a half to squeeze in visits to some of my existing favorite spots (mostly to eat, or drink espresso.) I didn’t have the slightest desire to trek to major sights — heck, I almost didn’t plan on seeing the Colosseum (until I realized that it’s not a visit to Rome without it making an appearance.) I’d been to Rome on my own, with friends, with family, and with my ex-boyfriend — all of whom had their first visit. So I’ve done the museums, monuments, and musts (and their lines) more times than I’d care to admit.

I still wanted to experience a new side of the city. I thirsted for a deeper experience. And, I knew I’d be hungry.

After consulting with friends and fellow travelers/expats, I honed in on the illustrious Testaccio neighborhood. A bit rough around the edges, but with the right ratio of Romans to tourists and a reputation for some of the city’s best food, I was ready to dig in.


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Most people move to San Francisco for a job, for a friend, for the natural beauty.  Others (*ahem*) move to the city in pursuit of one of the U.S.’s most vibrant food scenes.

Just when you think you’re getting somewhere with your SF restaurant list (and don’t even get me started on all the additional food pilgrimages that need to take place in the surrounding Bay Area,) fifteen of your new favorite restaurants decide to open up (twelve to be exact.)
And then you’re left with the age old dilemma of: do I go back to my favorite spot (or, if you’re feeling particularly lazy, the favorite spot within a few blocks walk from your couch) OR do I venture out?  Will the trek to this or that neighborhood, or outside of my food comfort zone, pay off in the form of delighted taste buds?

To add to this ever-present challenge, here are a few more to add to your ever-growing list of SF eats.  All of them opened in the last six months, and a few in the last few weeks.

 

Brenda’s Meat and Three

Cuisine: New Orleans inspired/Southern
Neighborhood: NoPa (Alamo Square)
Story: Get Southern style meat and three sides (hence the name) from the genius folks behind Brenda’s French Soul Food. And, they served brunch here too. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Difficulty level: Low to medium. During busy restaurant hours you’ll likely wait (just like Brenda’s for brunch) but you’ll get in eventually!  (I’m going to try going for lunch first.)
What To Try: It’s hard to go wrong with po’ boys. And I’m pretty excited about the Little Gem and Fried Oysters Salad. Also, biscuits. Also, fried chicken.


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