Write on: Balancing act

225 editor Jennifer Tormo. Photo by Collin Richie.

Have you thought about who and what you’ll vote for in this year’s Best of 225 Awards?

Not so fast. Have you done your homework first?

Over the past few years, there have been so many additions to Baton Rouge’s dining scene, in particular, that competition should be more fierce than ever. In 2018 alone, 225 Dine published nearly 40 “First Looks” and features on new restaurants and bars. Forty new spots! Each one with cool decor and unique menu options.

Can you believe our lunch options could possibly change that much in a single year?

So before you vote, spend some time checking out all Baton Rouge has to offer these days. Print out the ballot, and treat it like a bucket list of places to visit. Check off the ones you’ve been to, and use the rest as a resource to discover hidden gems and explore new places.

I can’t vote—we take our rule about 225 staff not having any say in the nominees or winners pretty seriously around here. But every year, I like to look through the ballot and make mental notes about who I would vote for if I could. Just for fun.

At the moment, my gratitude for my personal favorites is especially pronounced. I just finished a month-long cleanse for the new year. I’ve been eating Paleo-ish for the past month, cutting out processed foods and alcohol.

At the start of each new year, I try to rewire my approach to food. I work on learning new recipes and getting in the habit of cooking at home. I push myself to spend less money on takeout lunches and instead save up for those special dinners at my favorite places or eateries I’ve been dying to try.

As I write this, there are Valentine’s Day candies and king cakes all over the 225 office. My awareness of all the foods I haven’t been able to eat is so heightened right now, I can literally smell the icing through the king cake boxes when I walk past them.

Normally, I’d just help myself to the cake. I’d snack on a handful of the Hershey’s candy at my desk—mostly because the food is there.

But here’s the thing: Over the past few weeks, I’ve learned that I don’t need to eat the Hershey’s. I don’t even need to eat the king cakes, one of which has been sitting out a couple days, slowly getting stale.

Now, I’ll save myself for the desserts I really want: fresh slices of Ambrosia Bakery’s chocolate and coconut Zulu king cake or Rosch Bakehaus’ blood orange and tahini dark chocolate version.

I’ll hold off and instead indulge in all of the brunch dishes around town that I want to try after working on this month’s 225 cover story. It’s all about balance.

This means my cleanse worked: My appreciation of food—especially good food—has been renewed.

The first night off my diet, I went to town. I stopped first at Soji and tore into some dumplings and rice. It was my first time eating rice in over a month, and I savored the way each grain clung to the spicy-sweet-garlicky szechuan sauce. For dessert, I went to Elsie’s and ordered the chocolate cream pie. I’ve had this pie many times before, but this time, I felt like I could detect every single flavor, from the butter in the crumbly crust to the dark chocolate in the mousse filling.

I share all of this because some of my favorite food experiences have been right here in Baton Rouge—but also because I sometimes take all the restaurant choices we have around here for granted.

Just like I frequently need to remind myself to rebalance my healthy and more indulgent dietary choices, I think we could all find a balance between going with what we already know we like—and taking the risk to try something unexpected.

There are classic Baton Rouge restaurants that often take the Best of 225 crown, and deservedly so.

But hey, it couldn’t hurt to give a shot to those restaurants that usually place farther down the list. You never know—you might just find your own new personal “best.”

To vote in this year’s Best of 225 Awards, visit 225batonrouge.com/bestof225. Voting is open now through March 27.

This article was originally published in the March 2019 issue of 225 Magazine.