Food wandering without reservation

On a recent airport shuttle to DIA, I met a woman from Miami who spoke enthusiastically about her next vacation. It was going to be in her backyard. No, she did not live on the beach. No, she did not recently locate to the Florida vacation destination. In fact, she was born in Miami, she said.

Here’s what made it a vacation: she was going to indulge herself in five good books and five favorite restaurants, including those she might never experience because they were the splurge “only tourists could afford.” Some of these were ethnic “treats” similar to what she might visit were she in South America or Asia.

I asked her why she had made this decision, half anticipating that she’d blame the economy for a forced staycation.

“I think we’re blind to the beauty in our own backyards and selectively deaf when we hear about good local food,” she said. She went on to explain that her bucket list included making a deliberate effort to enjoy things, “especially food” served “within two hours” of home.

I thought about her statement and began making silent excuses for not visiting Mesa Verde more often. It takes a house guest to get me there.

I ride the train about once a year, but that’s because all trains fascinate me, even commuter trains in busy, industrial corridors. I’ll create any excuse to ride the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge.

However, there are too many local restaurants I have not tried because I will not take the time to plan a special night out. Of course, as a food writer, I have my favorite places. But if the truth were to be told, most of my meals away from home are on the fly. I’m either running between appointments or I want to collapse with an uninterrupted conversation with my husband. When either situation occurs, we put on a pair of old, worn slippers – like cows wandering back to the comfort and familiarity of the barn.

We’ve already selected what we want, I rationalize. But what of the exciting, young chef eager to introduce foods of another shade or stripe?

I hear it said by recent transplants to Durango: “There are so many good restaurants here.”

Yet I’m probably one of the majority who look for consistency and no disappointments when I sit down to a restaurant meal in Durango.

I have a cousin who is just as much of a foodie as I am. She is a caregiver who is mostly home-bound, so uses these hours to make food preparation a form of entertainment. She studies food and occasionally splurges on great meals, so she can duplicate what she enjoys. She posts her successes on Facebook. Indeed, 75 percent of our online chatter goes back to food.

I’ve decided she’s a greater chance-taker than I am.

I credit my book club for forcing me to open drawers I might never open. I’m the first to bitch when I’ve purchased a poorly-written book. Yet, on balance, there are just as many authors I might never have discovered, had I not been “required” to read a book that was not my first choice.

Too bad there are not restaurant “libraries.”

In the meantime, I’m going to try to be less critical if the Hollandaise lacks enough lemon. In fact, I’m going to pass on the Hollandaise and see if there’s a better sauce for asparagus, artichokes and spinach.

Before the snow flies, I’m going to order something from a menu that goes counter to what I “know” about food.