What we learned while putting together this year’s ‘Drinking & Dining Directory’.
Chart a course. Food is often seen as a flippant ingredient in civic life – but it can create jobs, attract tourists and change perceptions. In the Algarve – an area of Portugal loved by tourists on package holidays – there’s a new crop of food folk sowing seeds of change.
Shop around. These are difficult times for bricks-and-mortar shops but food can be central to wresting customers from back-lit screens. High streets are still in a pickle but our taste for better – and more carefully sourced – food has given rise to an army of small and dedicated producers, and revived more than its fair share of markets. Long may it continue.
Lawn order. Not all picnics are quaint gingham-blanket affairs. Many include a suspect sandwich, sunburn and too many glasses of something. But it’s good to escape our laptops and find a patch of grass – and increasingly important to do so in packed cities. Let’s enjoy our shared spaces. Can we offer you a sandwich?
Share plates. The kitchen is one of the few places where it’s OK to pay homage to another culture without anyone piping up and suggesting that you’re stealing or “appropriating” it. Tokyo is no worse off for hosting Toshiji Tomori’s impossibly charming Italian restaurant Cignale Enoteca, for instance. There are enough good ideas – and bad restaurants – for everyone to try something new.
Break the rules. The wine bars in Vienna’s city vineyards look like lawless nephews to the city’s prim coffeehouses but they’re subject to similarly stringent codes. Newer takes on Heurigen, however, are tempting a new generation. It seems a tradition started by royal decree might survive thanks to some wiggle room with the rules.
Start up. More people dream about changing their life to pursue a food-focused venture than take action. Luckily we sought advice from those who’ve succeeded. The consensus? Be realistic, do your homework, seek advice, follow your instincts, start small and do it.
Dig deep. Our trip to the Tuscan hillside retreat of Potentino left us feeling ambivalent. Should we jack in our jobs and head back to the land, or would scrubbing the bark of gnarled cork oaks (for no pay) become less fun in practice than in theory? Sometimes the idea of leaving it all behind is better than the plan but the groundswell of support for better farming and more ethical practices is heartening.
Break bread. Isn’t it strange that instant digital communication, social media and global connections are rarely as satisfying as an in-person meeting? In our profile of five dining tables where deals actually get done – in film, publishing and ad-land – we’re making a broader assertion: doing a deal usually happens in person.
Keep schtum. Social media has made the food world fickle. Some restaurants seem more concerned about how they’ll look on a screen after a meal rather than how they make diners feel at the time. But change is afoot: many are turning away from social-media accounts and towards the human touch. We’re hoping that the dark age – with candles, curtains and privacy – is here to stay.
Signal change. An unlikely place to find a good sausage is your local train station – but try telling Zürich Hauptbahnhof. The idea is simple and ever-so Swiss: fresh ingredients, hearty fare and timely execution. We shouldn’t be settling for bad food on the move. Let’s get on board for change.