My column listing twelve ways to eat better in 2012 ran in last night’s Tribune. Many things were left out (Lonnie Ray’s, Patric Chocolate, etc.) but hey, you can only do so much with 600 words. Note: For some reason my “Best bets” for drinking better coffee got dropped. It should have recommended Lakota’s espresso beans and Kaldi’s Coffee.
Many of us will enter the new year ready to throw off some baggage from the previous 365 days, but we’ll also be adding it right back in the form of resolutions. These guilt-inducing self-promises take many forms — exercise more, read more books, learn French — but few will focus on eating better. And by eating better, I mean in the sense of eating for pleasure, for taking greater enjoyment from something most of us do at least three times a day. Here are 12 things — restaurants, products, concepts — that will make your year of eating a better one.
Become a lunch regular: You don’t need a money tree in the yard to become a familiar face at a favorite restaurant in town. Show up at lunch, when prices are frequently half that of the dinner menu. Tip well, repeat. Best bets: Sycamore Restaurant, Addison’s, Broadway Brewery.
Buy stuff from the Columbia Area Career Center’s Culinary Arts Program: Under the watchful eye of professional chefs, the student cooks at the CACC turn out stocks, soups, cured meats and other goodies — all available for sale. More information, including a map, is available at http://www.career-center.org. Best bets: Stocks, soups, other prepared foods.
Drink better coffee: Unless you are seriously tight on cash, there is no sensible reason to drink coffee from mass-produced, pre-ground beans. Buy a French press, learn how to use it and get some good beans. It will blow your mind.
Eat more Asian food: Columbia is blessed with excellent Korean, Thai and Vietnamese options. Go try something new. Best bets: The No. 17 at Chinese Wok Express, the B1 at Saigon Bistro, any curry dish at Chim’s Thai Kitchen and kimchi stew at Kojaba.
Reacquaint yourself with Chris McD’s: One of Columbia’s more venerable restaurants is now (once again?) putting out some of the best food in town. Best bets: Duck, fish, the specials.
Drink more Missouri Chardonel: Chardonel — this grape, a cross between Chardonnay and Seyval, shares the weighty, complex mouth-feel of the former and the hardiness of the latter. Best bets: Les Bourgeois, Chaumette’s 2010.
Drink better beer: American beer is better than it ever has been before. Time to get with the program. Best bets: Visit Arena Liquor, or join the Columbia Beer Enthusiasts at columbiabeerenthusiasts.com and on Facebook.
Buy local: By now you’ve probably received the memo about locally produced foods being healthier and better for the environment. The real reason to go local is because it tastes better. Best bets: Fresh produce at farmers markets, community-supported agriculture programs.
Buy Blue Diamond flavored almonds: Best bets: The wasabi and soy sauce variety. They will change your life.
Shop at World Harvest Foods: Columbia’s best shop for food lovers is easy to overlook, tucked away as it is behind the Gerbes at Providence and Nifong. Spend more time there in 2012 — I guarantee you will eat better. Best bets: Aceita Reale 8-Year Balsamic Vinegar, Prima Donna cheese.
Beat the unbeaten path: People get set in their ways. But 2012 only offers about a thousand meals, so make them count. Best bets: The Wine Cellar and Bistro, Abigail’s in Rocheport, Emmet’s in Fayette.
Win the endgame: Cooking at home takes forethought, attention and timing. Don’t screw it up at the end. Best bets: Most dishes will benefit from a squeeze of lemon, a grind of pepper, a sprinkle of parsley — or all three. It can be the difference between a good meal and a great one.