A few weeks ago Terry and I had some friends over for a wine and cheese night. It was supposed to be an easy affair- nothing super fancy- but, of course, Terry started getting inspired and it ended up being a bit more involved. Nonetheless, it was a lot of fun! The conversation flowed as freely as the wine.
We had the opportunity to introduce some new types of cheeses and foods to one of our friends in particular and at some point in the evening, he asked us how we knew so many different wines and cheeses.
Mind you, Terry and I are not experts on wine or cheese. We’ve never taken a wine tasting class (although, I think it would be fun to do so.) I think there is a sense of mystique around wine tasting that intimidates a lot of people from just going out and trying it. Don’t get me wrong, I know there is an exact science and methodology to wine tasting, and I don’t mean to undermine the value in that.
However, I think for the average person, it should be more about exploring, being adventurous and trying new things. You don’t have to be an expert. Just go out and taste something and see whether you like it or not.
So, I told our friend -let’s call him K- that when Terry and I were living in Seattle, we used to be on a shoestring budget. Even though we were living in this amazing city, we were really poor at the time. (This was back when we had a weekly grocery budget of $50/ week.) I used to wake up at 5am every morning and pack Terry’s lunches. He ate a LOT of sliced meat and cheese sandwiches that year.
Every two weeks we would treat ourselves out to “date night.” We had to find new and creative ways to have adventures that didn’t cost a lot and were easily accessible. So, one of the things we came up with was trying new foods. Most grocery stores have one “exotic” or foreign fruit or vegetable they keep in their produce aisle. We used to choose something that we hadn’t ever cooked with before or find the craziest/ oddest thing and take it home with us.
That’s how Terry first cooked with rainbow chard and leeks. It’s also how I was inspired to use star fruit as a garnish. That’s also how Terry and I discovered how absolutely AWFUL tasting the horned melon is. (Seriously, have you ever tried a horned melon? That thing looks positively crazy!)
Eventually, as our finances grew, so did our ability to try new things. Now, instead of being relegated to the relatively cheap produce section, we could start adding cheeses to our repertoire. That’s how Terry discovered Humboldt Fog (not my favorite) and we both learned that we like Cotswold. While Terry prefers blue and veined cheeses, I go more for the dry, sharp, well-aged varieties. We both agree to share the triple creams.
It seems like there are a lot of people out there who are stuck in gouda/ harvati-ville when it comes to their exploration of cheeses. But, I’ve found that most good cheese shops will take the time and let you sample a number of different types of cheeses.
In fact, you don’t even have to know the names of what you like. Sometimes, the best way to discover new types is to describe what interests you. For example, I can tell someone that I like hard, sharp cheeses with those little crystals in them…and they usually know what I’m talking about and what might please my palate.
Nowadays, our eating adventures have us driving all over the state and surrounding region trying out new restaurants. Terry usually gets inspired by The Phantom Gourmet shows on the weekends, or one of the Food Network shows highlighting New England. We’ve driven all around Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire because of some article spotlighting the best new thing.
It can be hit and miss, but that’s part of the fun. We discovered this great little restaurant in Salem, MA called Scratch via Phantom Gourmet last summer. When we were there, there was a group of musicians hanging out, so not only was the food good, but the whole atmosphere was sunny and festive. You can watch the video here:
Just last week, my sister, brother-in-law, Terry and I tried an Italian restaurant. Unfortunately, even though the atmosphere itself was nice, the food was only average and the wait time was incredibly long. However, in the end, it was fun to just try a new place and see what happened.
Everyday adventures don’t have to be about food. Although, I realized as I was writing this blog post, a lot of mine seem to gravitate towards consuming calories. I want to try and change that a bit. I was thinking about other ways I’ve tried to have adventures and I realized that my photo jaunts could be counted as one. If you remember, last autumn Terry and I did a huge long day trip in the hopes of finding some beautiful autumn foliage.
Even though we didn’t meet with a lot of success, we did end up checking out a lot of new places along the Maine coast. It’s such a beautiful area up there!
Well, after that day trip, my leaf peeping urges were still unsatisfied. So, one morning, I woke up extra early (even though it was a weekday and I had to work later) and drove around the immediate area. I ended up finding all these little back roads that I’d never even realized were there.
That’s going to be my next personal project. I’m going to try and start having more active (less eating!) type of everyday adventures. Maybe explore a few new hiking trails and beaches this upcoming summer. Or even take a free class or two.
I’d love to hear some suggestions from my readers on what they like to do when they’re feeling adventurous!