How Has Chowhound Affected the Way You Travel
I'm chairing a panel at the Popular Culture Association about Chowhound and Travel, with some local San Francisco Hounds supplying the brain power.
But I thought I'd throw this out the question to all Chowhounds. Whether you were born a Chowhound or were converted by the site, how does your passion for food affect the way you travel? And how much of a role does this site play?
Once upon a time I was completely trying to impress my fiancé with an incredible and unique dining experience. My first step was to check Chowhound to find a restaurant that could offer as unique of a dining experience as one worthy of a true chowhound palate. I honestly did not have to look far as on one of the first few pages I searched was a post that caught my eye, "beef and cauliflower at Aziza". You had me at beef and the cauliflower is a throwback to my childhood, ( long story, trust me not enough time. ) The palindrome definitely appeals to my analytical nature and the whole food approach of the restaurant I was certain would appeal to my fiancé.
Here is where it gets a little tricky. Aziza is in San Francisco ( I know you knew that... ) and we live in Las Vegas. Soooo, this meant a weekend road trip was necessary. We chose to fly Virgin America from Las Vegas to San Francisco, “Amazing”, period. We then rode the Bart to downtown and hopped on the #37 bus to take us over the hill and down Geary Blvd. The service was amazing and the food was incredible. The next morning we were back on Virgin America flying back to Las Vegas.
The moral of the story is that without Chowhound I would have never found such a unique and wonderful restaurant and without the reputation that Chowhound has built for itself over the years could I have been able to attempt such a trip. In our case an entire cross country trip was planned and executed with culinary brilliance based on the input from the Chowhound community.
Typically, I take one of four types of trips:
1. Scuba-related: these often involve a week to ten days on a small liveaboard dive boat in the middle of nowhere, or at least far from restaurants, so food and the boards aren't a big part of choosing the itinerary or of the trip (since I am eating whatever is provided on board, which tends to be hearty, basic, good food). Sometimes I get lucky, as on my Alaska/BC trips, when the trip starts or ends in a City with good food (such as Vancouver). Then the role of the board is to help me plan my one dinner in port, and that's important!
There are also a few diving locations (Big Island of Hawaii for one, Florida now and then) we go to fairly regularly but are land-based....the boards are particularly helpful in finding sources for food to cook in our condo or vacation rental: partly because Hawaii in particular I've found to have better ingredients than restaurants, and partly because after a day in the water we find staying in to be more relaxing than eating out...
2. Camping and outdoor trips: again, the board may help me find something to eat on the way up or back, but isn't a major influence.
3. Other leisure travel: so much of my travel budget goes to scuba that I don't do nearly as much of this as I'd like, but now and then I feel the need to go somewhere away from the ocean. In that case, I am likely to pick the location with local food in mind, and will spend weeks obsessing about where to eat...and yes, the day will sometimes if not often be planned around the location of restaurants and food experiences I know I want to try. Sadly however, I only take this type of trip now and again, mostly because all my spare $ go to number one (a more expensive hobby than eating!)
4. work: this is where I actually use the boards the most: Money tends not to be such an issue (as long as I stay in or near my perdiem :-)) and the downsides of work travel just seem to disappear when I have the chance to check out the local restaurant scene. It really makes work travel sooooo much more fun! Typically, when I do travel for work, it is either in California, or to fairly large cities elsewhere in the US, with the occasional international trip just to add to my eating adventures, and thus there are generally lots of good eating options: what Chowhound does is make it easier to seek them out and also less likely that I will have to eat hotel food. It does take a bit of a toll on productivity: I can often be found sneeking out of meetings to check out new little lunch spots.. :-) However, that is often offset by the goodwill I build up with my colleagues by always knowing the good, local places to eat...
but then, I am fortunate to live in one of the world's great regions for eating...so one aspect of the site I enjoy the most is the travel opportunities it affords without ever leaving home.
Bottom line, with the exception of the occaisonal big trip (such as the one Janet and I took to Paris to find the perfect restaurant to celebrate our 50th birthday :-))Chowhound doesn't have a major impact on where I travel. But how I travel, definitely yes. What the site has doen for me is help me find entirely new, unique and delicious eating adventures, whether half way around the world or in my own back yard.
I will agree with Susan. I'm not a dive addict like she is, but my leisure travel tends to be either outdoor-oriented or sometimes to visit members of my husband's large family (in which case, its all about the food: the food that we get at their houses. See my profile).
However, I do travel frequently on business....and that is when I really use chowhound. The first thing I do when I go to a new city is hit the boards. Actually, my luck at finding places through chowhound has given me a good reputation with my peers as a restaurant finder: so now I am often asked to pick the place for dinner!! I tend to be with groups on this business travel, and part of the process is dining out together. Fortunately or unfortunately, we are often in select cities (Charlotte, Atlanta)...but we are getting to know the food scene in those places well. And we are enjoying new places we learn about through chowhound. I also often end up with a Sunday afternoon off when I travel (air schedules are such that flights east to west are often in the late afternoon/evening, and we have weekend meetings). So I will use it to explore the food offerings in whatever city I'm in. I've traveled enough so that I've seen the city sights...but there is always new food to discover!
Of course, like Susan I live in a city with plenty of good dining options. And since I just moved here, I get to "play tourist" and explore them all. It might take years!
I plan my trips around market days. This is how most of the rest of the world does its food shopping and maintains a sense of community. I learn about local foodways, culture, community, and values. Growers care deeply about their crops, their animals, their land, their communities. They are part and parcel of the community, not just a nameless, faceless commodity provider. And markets are where I get recommendations on what local eateries to visit.
re: Erika L
Good point. If I know there is a good farmer's market in the city I'm going to (or if its a foreign city where outdoor markets are common) I ALWAYS go there. You always find good tips on eateries and discover new things....
btw, I discovered Chowhound BECAUSE of my travel. I googled "restaurants in Washington DC" before a trip and found an interesting post from Chowhound. So I got on the boards, started looking around, and stayed. It was funny the first time I read a post written in a familiar-sounding style: I went back and checked the profile of the poster and realized it was familiar for a reason: it was my own twin sister who had written it! So, no, we didn't tell each other about Chowhound, but rather discovered each other were already there......
Hi Dave ~
There's a similar post going right now: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/498067, "As a tourist, do you plan your trips around food?"
Chowhound hasn't affected the way I travel, but it has affected the way I 'research' where we're going to eat when we get where ever we're going. Instead of searching through my pile of magazine articles (haven't used this in ages now), or spending a lot of time trying to find information online - I check Chowhound and go from there. Mr CF would tell you I spend too much time on Chowhound, but when we have a spectacular meal in, say Sarasota, he knows who to thank... me and Chowhound.
It's been a great resource.
I used to travel mainly for work but used chowhound to find good restaurants.
Now I travel mainly for marathons.
Oddly enough, since my husband is a restauranteur (consulting, four restaurants, and a cheesecake company about to go national) we really aren't foodies but really just like a good meal.