Monday, August 22, 2011

Meal planning

I love themes, I love sports, and I love making everyday events feel a little bit special.  

These hobbies mash together perfectly when matching food to places and events.  For each major sporting event on the calendar, I dream about hosting a party coordinating a menu appropriate for each team's home city.  (I guess it should be added here that I also love corny and hokey ideas.)  When I brainstorm with Josh, the conversation usually involves one really easy set of answers and one awkward silence.  Take baseball's 2010 World Series, for example, which pitted the San Francisco Giants against the Texas Rangers.  

San Francisco: sourdough bread, Ghiradelli chocolate, etc.
Texas: ...barbecue?

But every Southern city claims the best barbecue, right?

I tried to do the same thing with Arizona for the 2011 All-Star Game and totally struck out.  (Ha!  Good one!)  Same thing with this year's Super Bowl: Green Bay would've been pretty easy: beer, brats, cheese, etc.  But Pittsburgh?

So you get the idea that my great dreams haven't always panned out, okay?  But I still keep an eye toward matching a city or team to its iconic food traditions, especially whenever I travel: in New England it has to be clam chowder.  If I ever get to New Mexico for the balloon festival, I'll be eating chilis all day long--and in Philadelphia, I'll have to eat a cheesesteak.

Here I am in a region of Colorado known as the Melon Capital of the World:

Secretly, Josh loves it, too.  See?  He's in Maine and his heart is all aflutter over a lobster roll.

There's an opportunity coming up soon to build on this exploration.  I'm spending a weekend in Chicago in October for the Chicago Marathon, and part of my trip-planning includes food-planning.  I've been dying to visit one of Rick Bayless's restaurants for years, so that's inked into the itinerary.  The rest of what I knew about Chicago food traditions is pizza, pizza, pizza, and I'm staying an extra night in the city post-race specifically so I can leisurely enjoy a deep-dish pie.  Yum.

But my horizons were broadened over the weekend thanks to Jeff Mauro, otherwise known as the Next Food Network Star.  He won the competition last week, and his show debuted on Sunday.  In the episode, Jeff featured a recipe for Chicago's famous Italian beef sandwiches--a phenomenon completely new to me.  He toured the kitchens of these little restaurants and delis to showcase this legendary sandwich, and I was hooked.  Another meal to add to my itinerary--probably another post-race one. 

It reminded me of all of the other regional specialties out there that I don't even know about.  Reader, help me add to my idea bank.  What foods is your city known for?  What about your favorite city's traditions?  If you live in Minnesota, what is ours?  Is it walleye-anything, or something completely different? 


  1. I had one of the best meals in Chicago - at this place called the Bongo Room. The most decadent Nestle Crunch Chocolate Chip Pancakes!!! I can't believe you are running another marathon again by the way. I am still recovering from the Spring one! You truly are my inspiration.

  2. Those pancakes sound HEAVENLY! I can't tell whether I'm more excited about the Chicago food or the race itself!

    Molly and I were just talking about race recovery yesterday! This is the first year when I actually felt ready to go for a fall training cycle after a spring race - in the past, it has taken me much longer, so deeeefinitely take all the time you need. :)