While great in theory, the problem with so many New Years Resolutions is that they can end up feeling like a chore. It’s all too easy to abandon your goals if you aren’t engaged with them. But resolutions don’t have to be about abstaining from things you like. So to celebrate the new year, do things a little different for 2016 with these ten fun foodie challenges to expand your culinary horizon!
1. Start strong
Nothing gets the new year off to a good start like doing the same for your meal. Instead of skipping right to the salad and entrée, why not try one of the more daring on the appetizer side of the menu? Starters aren’t just your typical mozzarella sticks and guacamole these days (although who can resist either of those?). From small plates to entirely new trends in proteins and international flavors, there’s sure to be something on the menu to tickle your taste buds.
2. Get to the meat of the matter
Meat lovers probably need no prodding to get out and find that next great steak sandwich or prime rib special. Want to up the ante? Go Brazilian. Restaurants like Fogo de Chão have that special experience you’ve been looking for. A seemingly unending progression of fire-roasted steaks, lamb, chicken and pork delivered right to and carved at your table by trained Gaucho chefs. You’ll leave full, but will be counting the days until you get to come back.
3. Or give vegan a try
Vegetarian and vegan dishes can get a bad wrap and it’s not particularly fair. After all, it’s not so much the kind of ingredients that make a great dish, but what the chef can do with them. Even Thanksgiving can be an amazing experience when prepared meat-free. Really! When giving vegetarian or vegan foods shot, we suggest finding restaurants that specialize. You’ll get to see the full breadth of what’s possible and expand your horizons to boot!
4. Take a cooking class
A traditional New Years resolution is to learn a new skill you’ve always wanted to take up. If you’re a foodie who struggles with knife skills, why not take a cooking class? It makes a good date night or girls’ night out activity and many restaurant chefs offer private classes. This is your opportunity to learn the restaurant’s specialty; for instance, Farbrison’s French Creperie Café in San Diego offers both a crepe-making class and a fondue class.
5. Visit a farmer’s market
These pop-up retail spaces allow you to check out local businesses focusing on locally cultivated produce and locally made artisan goods like cheese and honey. On top of that, you may bump into the chefs from local restaurants picking up fresh ingredients for that night’s dinner service, so make sure to jot down notes so you have new places to try out for lunch or dinner!
6. Get the gang together
It’s easy to put off meeting up with family and friends in the new year. After all, everyone gets so busy! Make it a priority to invite your favorite people out for a really good meal. Why not choose something that you can all share? Whether that’s a family-style meal or tapas and carafes of sangria, order a variety of dishes and try new things with friends.
7. Go fancy with a prix-fixe menu
It’s never too early for to plan your Valentine’s Day dinner, but plenty of restaurants have prix-fixe menus throughout the year, too. For these menus, the chef plans out each course to compliment each other, which elevates your dining experience no matter the occasion. Acadia in Chicago, for instance, provides the option for a five-course or a 10-course menu. These menus allow you to choose your culinary adventure based on how many courses (and how much time) you have, but both versions of the menu highlight the distinct flavors of Maine from which the restaurant draws inspiration.
8. Make a sustainable effort
More and more restaurants (especially ones with seafood-heavy menus) are hearing what diners — especially those millennial customers — want. In order to honor the places they take from to provide your delectable meal, many restaurants are looking to provide sustainable seafood options to their guests. Sushi Samari in Seattle is actually partnered with the Seafood Watch in the Monterey Bay Aquarium and has pledged to only serve sustainable seafood. Michael & Ping’s, Brooklyn’s first and only certified green restaurant, also offers sustainable seafood along with other environmentally-friendly menu options.
9. Expand your borders
The American restaurant industry is truly a melting pot with various cuisines brought to us from all around the world. Sure, maybe you’ve tried Mexican, Italian, French, and Japanese dishes, but have you tried Peruvian, Polish, Cuban, Filipino, or Indonesian food? The Peruvian yellow pepper stew Aji de Gallina might strike your fancy, or maybe Pecel lele, Indonesian deep-fried catfish served whole. Live a little and let yourself experience flavors from across the globe.
10. Always finish on a high note
You want to end a really good meal with a bit of sophistication, no? So, why not wine and dessert? Many restaurants offer wine pairings for their dessert dishes, like Carmella’s Gourmet Dessert Bar in Charleston, SC. There are also various restaurants putting new twists on classic desserts. Let this last course be a decadent final note, a dish you might not usually pick because it seemed so rich. Seize the day – and your dessert fork.
Want to eat, drink, and be merry throughout the New Year? Discover your new favorite cocktail — even if you’re gluten-free, cutting back calories, or finicky about flavors: