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Food - "Life Altering" Experience?

On another post, someone mentioned that eating a dish of Gelato wouldn't be a life altering experience. Someone else mentioned that there were certain dishes that weren't worth driving very far to eat.

Maybe "life altering" is a little dramatic, but what dishes would you drive 1 hr + to eat? How about travel to another state/country to eat?

We drive to Little Saigon every couple of weeks to eat Pho or Bun Tom Thit Nuong. We drive to Alhambra to eat Dim Sum almost every weekend. I've used a trip to Santa Barbara as an excuse to eat at La Super Rica. These are dishes that are good enough to justify the time and gas spent. They are also excuses to go to neighborhoods (SGV, Little Saigon) and make a day of it.

Just curious on what other people think. I also realize that I might be a little crazy.

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  1. Well since I brought up the "life altering" category ..., let me see if I can chime in.

    I don't know about driving an 1 hour +, but there are definitely certain foods I would go out of my way for. So, living in the SGV, here are some.

    Donut Man: buttermilk and strawberry donuts

    Saddle Peak Lodge: elk tenderloin

    Sushi Ike: grilled octopus (and just about anything Ike serves)

    Sasabune: ice toro

    La Cachette: foie gras

    1 Reply
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Donut Man. I've heard this place mentioned before. Where is it again?

      Found it:

      Donut Man
      (626) 335-9111
      915 E Route 66
      Glendora, CA

    2. You're not crazy...

      Today, BF and I walked almost five miles to and five miles back from Delicieuse (Redondo Beach) for the first time after reading about their specialty ice creams made with goat's milk. With only 15 minutes left until closing, we literally ran half a mile for ice cream! When we got there, we were totally out of breath and sopping wet with sweat and sooo happy. I wish I had a picture of the sweet little old man sitting at the doorway when we entered! After welcoming us in and without having to ask for a sample, he started to give us spoon after spoon of each flavor to taste. After trying all the unique flavors such as lemon-basil sorbet, caramel w/salt, and peach-rosemary to name a few, we settled with chocolate millionare (deep dark chocolate) and chocolate hazelnut. Although it was past their closing hour, the owner allowed us to sit in their cute little dining room to enjoy their ice cream and bask in our little moment of glory and victory over time, not to mention, being guilt-free of the calories we were about to consume...
      For us, its like an adventure...Reading, searching, hunting, trekking, traveling experiencing, and remembering...
      Our lives are centered around food and I wouldn't have it any other way. Yes, we've had our share of disappointments and we could have easily been greeted with a CLOSED sign after walking five miles, but honestly, the sweet isn't as sweet without the sour.

      I too drive to Little Saigon to get my favorite cup of Vietnamese coffee, Pasadena for the best Chilean Sea Bass, Thai Town for mango and coconut sticky rice, and J-Town for ramen. I can go on and on..
      How far will I go?
      Tomorrow, we're dropping off a friend at the ANA Academy in San Diego and the first thing I did was log onto Chowhound. Per a fellow hounder's rec, we will be visiting Bubby's Gelato for their peanut buttter gelato.
      On Tuesday, we are flying to Seattle and Vancouver to "visit a family member", but you and I know very well that the real reason is to make it in time for the spotted prawn season, dig our own clams,search for the best coffee, and fish for the freshest and fattiest wild salmon the Pacific Northwest has to offer.
      Later in the Summer, we will be flying across the world to tour Italy to have a cup of espresso and and the mother of all gelatos.
      Life altering experience? I would definitely say so..
      I try to pay attention to whats happening before and after the meal, take a moment and look at the city I'm in, the people and culture surrounding me.
      Coming from a very sheltered childhood and protective parents, as an adult, I've learned to expand my horizons with every meal I eat.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Me so hungry

        Well we recently drove 450 miles to dine at French Laundry. In August we'll probably drive four hours or so to Las Vegas for Robuchon. And then there's a possibility of a food trip to NY in the winter (though we won't be driving, we're not *that* crazy).

        1. re: kevin h

          I drove 4 hours for Robuchon in Vegas, worth every gridlocked minute!

          I was in Atlanta for a conference and was supposed to fly directly to NYC from there. Instead, I flew all the way home to LA to attend the 5 x 5 chef's collaborative at Providence and flew all the way back the following morning.

            1. re: Me so hungry

              It was absolutely worth it to me, but I must admit that it was one of my more unreasonable moments...I'm normally in stronger possession of my senses!

              Aaaah, who am I kidding? I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

      2. Though we love many things about these cities, we fly across the country to go to New York and San Francisco to EAT!!!!!!

        1. I recently traveled from Colombia to Laos and back supposedly for a workshop, but really for the food.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            It's funny you mention Laos. Laos is a very underrated country regarding food. I had some fantastic food in Vientienne and Luang Prabang. Really amazing coffee and baked goods for breakfast, Larb and spicy sausages for lunch. We also had some great noodles on the side of the road on the trip north. Laos also has the best beer in SE Asia (in my opinion).

            Luang Prabang was an amazing city. I was shopping on one of the main drags and saw a picture of the owner with Mick Jagger behind the counter! Turns out he had just been there recently and she really didn't know who he was, just that he was famous.

          2. I thought your thread would be along the lines of "what first taste of something changed your life." I guess I could start that one, because my first espresso, my first real gelato, my first sushi (even though it was a crappy california roll), my first foie gras... these were all experiences that took me farther and farther away from my strip-mall hamburger-helper tasters-choice-coffee working class upbringing and towards a life in which these sorts of comestibles weren't frowned on as "snob food." I live in a foodie world now and yes, eating a dish of gelato among other dishes was absolutely a "life changing experience" for me.

            As to your actual original post, yes, of course, I plan trips around food. I'm off to Portland on Friday and have plotted my third wave coffeehouse tour, which takes priority over everything else. When I visit Vancouver, it has to be within walking distance of Mondo Gelato; that sort of thing.

            1 Reply
            1. re: John Manzo

              When you are in Vancouver, be sure to have some Chinese food for me...Best Chinese food that I have ever had was in Vancouver..Wish I could remember the place that we ate downtown...when we tasted our sweet and sour soup, we stopped, put our spoons down, and just looked at each other in amazement...Everything else was just incredible as well...

            2. not crazy at all. mr Goddess and I will drive aimlessly for hours JUST to see what foods we can find.

              We think nothing of driving 100kms down to the Mornington Peninsula for mussels gremolata (sadly the resto has now closed), or a tasting platter.. another 100kms in the opposite direction for our fave veggie resto inWarburton, or spending a whole weekend driving from melbourne along the Great Ocean Road, simply to see what new delights we can find.

              And in the days before petrol hit 1.40 per litre, I used to drive 200kms for a burger (Buxton) or 200kms for bacon and egg breakfasts followed by Hummingbird cake (Daylesford)

              1. We had "100 mile" donuts this weekend. We had already driven about 20 miles to get ice cream from Fosselman's, and figured that while we were in the neighborhood, so to speak, we might as well go the other 30 to get donuts from Donut Man.

                Trips to San Francisco are carefully planned to maximize the number of meals and utilization of meals while there.

                I've schlepped a dozen cupcakes on the plane back from NY. (of course, I've also schlepped inordinate amounts of homemade cookies on flights elsewhere, as well)

                Where's the fun if you don't go off on a culinary adventure every so often?