It has been a rough week here in the oodle universe. My summer break is rapidly drawing to a close and while I have had a full summer, I am far from feeling ready to start my 18th year of teaching. Yesterday I did what I do most Saturdays—rolled out of bed and met my running tribe. We ran just shy of six miles and I was feeling reenergized and excited to be alive. I got home and asked Tom if he wanted to go out to breakfast— to try a place called SYRUP in St. Charles. Two of the most powerful aspects of the creative mindset are: 1) expose yourself to new environments and 2) have new experiences. I was hoping that a breakfast outing would kickstart a mini creative adventure— I was not wrong!
We arrived at SYRUP smack in the middle of the breakfast rush. Every table was full and there was a long line of hungry diners stretching out into the parking lot. The staff was bustling from table to table. The food smelled and looked delicious! After a short wait we were seated— a gigantic menu placed in front of each of us, but neither of us looked at it.
Our server, Amber, greeted us with an offer of coffee and juice. While waiting for our drinks, Tom asked me if we wanted to do our standard of ordering one sweet and one savory dish and sharing our meals— of course! When Amber returned, we popped two questions that we ask every time we dine out: 1) What is the most frequently ordered item on the menu? 2) What do you think is a hidden gem that is not ordered enough? The first question yielded five or six relatively normal responses (it’s a HUGE menu). The second question is really the money question— where the unique and amazing culinary experiences are hidden. She suggested two items:
Without even knowing it, Amber had suggested a sweet and a savory and two items that we NEVER would have picked out on our own. We love eating, but never would have looked at the items listed as “healthy.” Without even blinking, we ordered one of each item and grinned— excited to see what this adventure brought.
When the food arrived, I told Amber I might just hug her. The Home Sweet Home was exactly what we were looking for— a uniquely flavorful AND savory delight that introduced us to a new breakfast experience. I cannot overstate how delicious this entree was. We both had to stop ourselves from just shoveling it in our mouths. The Lemon Berry crepes were equally as heavenly— the perfect compliment to the savory Home Sweet Home. We both made mental notes about how we could recreate both of these items again at home.
We have been asking these questions for a few years now— ever since Tom read about it in The Four Hour Chef by Tim Ferriss. If you are in a high-end restaurant, you could ask the server to ask the second question to the chef. Those two simple questions have completely changed our dining out experience— so much so that we have pretty much sworn off looking at menus. Sure sometimes we get a server who simply suggests the most expensive item on the menu, but in most cases they are tickled to be asked their actual opinion. Amber was grinning ear to ear as she was telling us about her two favorite items. She even went back and asked her manager the same questions— who was intrigued by the questions! We had an amazing new breakfast experience and we brightened what might have otherwise been a super busy and stressful morning rush at work. We have tried this out in restaurants throughout our travels and we have NEVER been disappointed. We tried Tri Tip in Wyoming (didn’t even know what tri tip was), lamb at an Afghani restaurant in Montreal (Tom NEVER eats lamb) and so many more!
Give it a try! You’ll likely discover something you might not have otherwise had. Who knows where that creative exploration will lead.
Until next time, oodle on!