Growing up, my small town had a total of three.... count 'em.... THREE restaurants. There was the Chinese restaurant (a classic standby for "multicultural" flavor), the pizza shop (your typical mom and pop shop) and the diner (late night waffles are nothing to be overlooked). Yup, small town living at its absolute finest! Needless to say, eating out was done out of necessity, not necessarily out of the joy of the culinary art form. Does this sound familiar to where you are? There was a time in my life where I could have sworn to be able to pick out these restaurants flavor out of any line up, just based on so often I found myself eating their very familiar recipes. And, I'll be honest, eating out in my area got to be pretty boring.
Here's the good news... the absolute boredom that can ensue with familiarity, especially when it comes to our standby local restaurants, actually is an opportunity to celebrate and test our own culinary taste! Ready to rediscover your ordinary flavors?
DO A BLIND SHOOTOUT!
That's right. A good, old fashioned blind taste test of your overplayed menu items.
This local adventure idea came straight from one of my favorite podcasts, Totally Beverages And Sometimes Hot Sauce, podcast that profiles liquids and features a weekly blind shoot outs of anything (and I mean anything) beverage related. After taking a note from these rad dudes' podcast format, I can honestly say this local adventure idea allowed me to see another side to those very familiar flavors and, even more importantly, was just down right fun to do (especially as a group) and I can't wait to do more sooner rather than later!
So, here we go. The logistics...
1. CHOOSE YOUR CONTENDERS
Choose a few restaurants (I'd say five max!) with the same menu item you're dying to compare to each other. There are TONS of options to choose from. Pizza slices, drip coffee, ice cream, house salads, chocolate chip cookies! I could keep going. The trick here to choose something you think you're so familiar with, it'll be a no brainer. And then do your research on other places that serve that same item.
For example, there was a time I could have sworn I was the Hershey's Moose Tracks ice cream queen (a local ice creamery... kind of)! With this in mind, I could go to my local grocery store and pick up two other ice creams with similar ingredients.
What snacks or treats do you always resort to? Is there a local beer you live for? Do you always find yourself going for wings at the local drinking hole? These menu items are a great starting point. You might shock yourself after you do your do your final reveal!
2. MAKE YOUR ORDER TRULY "BLIND"
Okay, once you've determined exactly what you'll be tasting... there a couple ways to organize your shoot out so that it is really and truly a blind one (meaning, those who are taking part will not be able to recognize the order/color/amount poured/etc.). This can be a dicey thing, especially if you're taking this thing seriously like I do!
The easiest one? Have someone not joining in on the fun, or someone willing to be the "secret keeper" rig the order in which your treats are served. The second easiest one? Get a blindfold and have everyone participating go in line order together as you taste.
The least easiest one but keeps everyone involved? Have all glasses, bowls or plates in a non-viewable area and place different colored paper at the ready. Have one person go in individually to place these papers under the eating vessel and notating which color goes with which brand, restaurant or whatever you're tasting goes with which color. For example, blue is Hershey's Moose Tracks, yellow is Talenti, etc. This person should stow away this guide until the final reveal. Next, have another person go in and change the colors. They also will notate their changes. So for example, blue is now green, yellow is now red, etc. After all is done, the two people who wrote down the info use the second person's choices to map back to the first person's guide. Confusing, I know... but thorough!
3. TASTE & TALK
The best part. After reviewing the options of what is in front of you... EAT and chat it up! Most importantly, talk about what are your guesses are. Are there any discrepancies? Which one do you like the best? Anything you absolutely hate? Are there any confusing flavors that just throw you off?
4. THE FINAL REVEAL
Let the truth fly free and relish in the fact that you not only got to taste something delicious, but also learn to appreciate those classic (and sometimes boring) standby menu items! Or you can shock yourself with new favorites to try!
5. AND TA-DA! RENEWED LOCAL LOVE
Need I say more?