A Taster's Journey is a newsletter on food, wine and travel. After 15 years of studying, tasting, teaching, and selling wine, I created this newsletter to not only share my passion about wine, but of food and travel as well. Each month I hope to share wines that I am drinking, food that is in season, restaurants that I have enjoyed, and places I have traveled. Enjoy!"

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A Food Memory – Head Off the Beaten Path

February 25th, 2004

When living in New York City, you can get spoiled by so many excellent restaurants choices. But sometimes I find that the restaurant reviewers raise my expectations sky high. And for highly anticipated openings, the “in crowd” makes the experience more about the scene than the food. And how ridiculous is it that we need to make reservations weeks or sometimes months in advance?

I love to go to a restaurant and be wowed by good food. The experience is even that much better when it comes as a complete surprise. I am not talking about seeking out the next 4 star chef. I’m just recommending that we experience something unique by looking in out of the way places.

I remember having lunch in a tiny hill town Pico, located in northeastern Tuscany. It was a small restaurant at the top of a hill, with little round tables set up outside, protected from the sun by a canopy of trees. They offered no menu; and we had no expectations. The first course was antipasti with perfectly ripe melon, slices of procuitto, and a couple local cheeses. Next was the pasta, 4 types all made that morning which you could have with you favorite sauce: tomato with basil, a meaty ragu or fungi (mushrooms). The freshness made the pastas outstanding. Next was the secondi, plates of chicken, rabbit or beef. I chose bistecca, a traditional grilled steak. With wine, lunch for 2 was $28.

The good news is that you do not need to go to the remote ends of the planet…just head off the beaten path and try something new. Restaurants in the most upscale sections of town will generally be good, but also expensive, crowded, and over-hyped. Head to the less fashionable neighborhoods where new chefs are trying to establish names for themselves. Check out the menu, the ambiance, and the crowd; if it looks interesting, try it. Pico is a true memory, and I will continue to look for places that exceed my expectations …and I will share them with you.

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