Stereotyping a Dining Scene is Faster,
But What Do You Miss?

The official participant packet for the Association of Food Journalists' annual conference in Santa Fe this week includes a list of restaurant suggestions to supplement the included meals from more than a dozen local eateries. All of them specialize in chiles and blue corn.

That makes sense, since that's what 70-plus food writers from across the country have come here for. I'm guessing the retired food editor from Rhode Island isn't interested in New Mexico's take on clam bellies.

But the list got me thinking about how many phenomenal flavors fall outside the boundaries of food lovers' strictly regional focus. I haven't traveled extensively in Santa Fe, but would guess its population of wealthy, cosmopolitan locavores supports plenty of great restaurants that don't directly reference Southwestern cookery. Yet those Chinese and Italian joints are unlikely to command tourists' attention -- or surface on a recommended restaurant list.

I'm definitely guilty of gravitating toward food associated with a region. Understanding a community's culinary traditions is critical to understanding its culture, so I'll almost always choose a local dish over something I can get at home. I assume other folks feel the same way, so when I recently hosted guests in Dallas, I took them to Tillman's Roadhouse and Lonesome Dove.

Still, I'm wondering if I shouldn't be a mite more flexible after my second or third meal in a new place. My guests, for instance, didn't get the chance to experience a spectacular restaurant like Tei An, because it's not stereotypically "Texan." I hate to think what else I'm missing out on. Any suggestions?

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