After returning from an amazing, long summer weekend of food and drink in Montreal, I sit semi-bored at work pondering about how I might satisfy my palate while not on vacation: what I am going to make myself for dinner and where I am going to eat this weekend? Summertime (for me) is really all about trying new types of food without the pressure of school work, the fear of having to wait to outside in the cold for a table, and the seasonal farmers markets that seem to pop up in nearby parks selling local cheeses, berries and fresh bread. How to take advantage of the summer and channel your inner foodie while cooped up in an office? It’s really quite simple.
Research. Hunt for new restaurants by reading local newspaper reviews, google food blogs from your city and keep an eye out for fun new places while driving or walking around. I’m in Toronto this summer and the neighborhood newspaper, The Village Post, ranks one specific food type each month. I get stupidly excited to read these articles. This month, they featured pulled pork sandwiches (honestly, not exactly my prime food choice), but in the past they have ranked the city’s best gelato, chicken souvlaki, cupcakes–you name it.
Local spots. Two of my closest friends, and true foodies, who I stayed with in Montreal, are expert restaurant detectives. Their studying led us to some great places. The first was a bar called Le Distillery, which was almost dungeon-like inside but had great and unusual drinks all served in mason jars. They suggested ordering the strawberry mojito, the Mad Man (bourbon based) and the Basilic Romantique (whose ingredients I have yet to discern, other than the unusual hint of basil). We then headed over to a new little restaurant called IceHouse, which was packed full, but otherwise was quite the hole in the wall. IceHouse serves TexMex food on wooden picnic tables covered in brown paper. Despite the down-to-earth, country appearance, the fried chicken, popcorn shrimp, biscuits, lobster burritos and crab-stuffed jalapenos are all incredibly good! I am not usually a fan of fried food, but I could’ve eaten a whole bucket of that chicken single-handedly. In retrospect, it’s probably a good thing I’m not living in Montreal because I am unsure how well large buckets of fried chicken and bathing suit bods go together. But wherever this summer finds you, yelp around (or ask your new coworkers) for bars in the area with fun happy hours. That’ll give you something to look forward to all day.
Plan a party. You don’t have to go out to enjoy the season–summertime is also the time to host casual dinner parties with friends featuring well-planned menus. And really what better time is there to plan your dinner party menu than when bored at work? Menu planning is actually much more involved than it may first appear. A menu most be both appropriate for the crowd and reflect your own cooking capabilities while also, if you so choose, being unusual and unique. Things to consider are whether or not you can barbeque, the number of guests, whether you want to serve exotic foods or keep it more simple and low-budget. Some great things to serve at summer parties include different types of barbequed kabobs like shrimp and scallop, chicken, peppers and onions, etc., as well as flatbreads, quinoa salads, and fresh breads. Be creative and research menus at your favorite restaurants as inspiration (or imitation). The possibilities are endless.
So next time you are bored at work, don’t procrastinate by scrolling through facebook albums, gazing longingly at friends traveling around the world. Instead, be proactive and plan your meals, come up with creative menus, research recipes and find new restaurants to try!
Zoe is a junior at Brown University where she studies Biology and Literary Arts. She’s an avid runner, cupcake consumer, Grey’s Anatomy viewer and lab geek.