Turn your Notes app into a restaurant diary

My habit of making restaurant lists became a near-obsession in 2019 while studying abroad in Europe. I needed to remember the fluffy cinnamon roll I ate at Zeit Für Brot in Berlin, that crispy jianbing I devoured at Ravioleria Sarpi in Milan’s Chinatown, and the perfect brioche with pralines that I demolished at François Pralus in Lyon. When I returned to the States, I realized that this list was the perfect way to record all my cooking adventures.

Now I make one of these lists in my Notes app every year, documenting hundreds of meals. Each entry consists of the best item I had during a meal, the restaurant where I ate it, and the date. I include the latter with every meal in hopes of being able to find the same dish twice, but more importantly, because each date ties the meal to a specific time in my life.

When people ask me or I like to eat and what they should order, I can send them that information. During my second week working at Bon Appétit, we were asked to contribute to a roundup of the best things we had eaten that year. Luckily, I knew where to turn: to my Notes app, of course. Showing my intricately curated lists to brand new colleagues was the kind of party trick that I think would immediately make them see me as weird and obsessive. Instead, they were intrigued.

This endless list is mostly for me. Looking back at lists from past years has a transport power. I see I had a phase in my senior year of college where I made weekly pilgrimages to K’Far in Philadelphia, trying a new pastry each visit, and another in the summer of 2019 where I didn’t I only ate pasta. Thinking back to these lists, I remember a particularly delicious Wednesday when I experienced my very first Mama’s TOO! Bufalina fried chicken sandwich with a colleague after waiting an hour in the snow. There’s the shoulder of lamb I feasted on at Zahav, and the cheese naan at Dishoom that I enjoyed with a friend while visiting London, a snapshot of my life just a day before COVID-19 officially becomes a pandemic.

Sure, a photo is a great reference, but there’s something even more intimate and personal about these lists. These are my bulleted love letters to restaurants that I can’t live without. It’s a way to express my appreciation for the industry I love the most, without worrying about whether my weirdly lit dinner photo will do well on social media. I love a good food photo as much as anyone, but my meal lists enhance and add context to these snapshots. You might be surprised how much fun you find organizing your own lists, building up an archive of treasured moments.

When it comes time to try new restaurants, there’s another list in my Notes app for that (because, of course, there are). At this point, I know my methods may seem a bit over the top. Of course, my approach is a bit intensive. But I’ll do whatever it takes to remember the green curry snails I ate at Uncle Boons on July 7, 2018 at 5 p.m.

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