The savvy travel food blogger knows that pics are for more than just food porn and scenery. Whether on the DSL or smartphone, a quick pic can be a more reliable record-keeper of dish or restaurant details than pages of notes or megabytes of audio recordings. Photos of things like menu details, for example, can mean the difference between “a bed of smoked cauliflower peppered with harissa and mace,” vs. “this crazy white mash that was mad spicy.”
But it can of course be hard to remember important camera uses beyond the glory shot when you’re in the moment, likely a couple mai tais in. That’s why we at Rum & Biscuits would like to help.
Presenting: The Nine Photos Every Travel Food Blogger Needs (That Aren’t Food You Enjoy).
1. The drink menu
I can tell you not having this gave me the most headaches after returning home to write. Especially with overseas establishments, drink menus are the least likely to be available on restaurant websites, with cocktail lists still rarer than wines. They’re just as scarce on otherwise life-saving Zomato, and TripAdvisor contributors don’t be that lush. Don’t be like me, scrolling through Instagram on Desktop for hours, Skype-calling the restaurant two weeks after the fact for drink names. Snap the drink menu, and sleep easy.
2. Your drink
If it’s a cocktail, get the glass. Wine? Get the bottle: label front and back. Sangria? Get the pitcher: first, second, or third. And don’t phone it in, either – put the same effort in as you would for the seafood tower and make sure that shot is super sexy. Most user photos you will find online are basically just establishing shots of the fact they drink that night. Caption: Also, alcohol!
3. The storefront, business card, or business card info
The name and address are particularly important for places you know won’t have websites – butcher shops, bakeries, boutique carts, stalls and pop-ups. If anything goes wrong with your food pics from the place and the store’s name escapes you, good luck finding the place on Google Maps with satellite photos from five years ago. Let alone back-up pics on Yelp.
4. The name and description of everything you order
Dish names can convey a lot about a chef’s intent, as with items like one I recently encountered, Ferrero Rocher Not What It Seems, which was part of an animal. More basically, you need to be able to tell readers wtf to order, fam. And with that, even with the flavors and textures that jumped out at you from the meal, it will be helpful to give your more context about what ingredients and preparations contributed to the experience. In my experience, the better the dish is, the harder those contributing factors. You’ll be a bit punch-drunk by the sensual awesomeness.
5. The non-English menu
Sometimes the most accurate translation of a dish won’t be as revealing (or entertaining) as the direct translation, and it’s a shame to miss out on this added context. Sometimes your goal will simply be to more fully recreate the original experience for your reader, or to pay respect to the chef or native culture. Even if you don’t plan on taking any of these routes – I certainly didn’t – just snap that pic, even on a flip phone, to cover your bases.
6. Items you order that you’re not crazy about
Don’t write it off just because it didn’t blow you away. Dishes that first register as meh may in fact be the most unique dish, most culturally significant, or otherwise most interesting to your reader after the fact. In some cases it may even establish a culinary trend (i.e., sea urchin cooked in a sock is, like, huge in this country). In this scenario, the sock urchin is your story; not the pad thai.
7. What your companions order
Companions are about the biggest boon you can get as a travel writer even after the fact that everything is better with loved ones because we’re humans. You’ve got maximum menu coverage when your peeps are with you. Don’t all get the same thing unless your confident it’s the thing to get. Whatever they order – try it, no matter how full you are. Write down or record a description of your own, then make them describe it, too. Hell, make them try your food and describe it. Reach consensus. But at the very least, fam, get between two and nine sexy, succulent close-ups of their plates. TripAdvisor snags is for last resorts only.
8. The wine tasting menu
This is a sneaky one, right?? If your wits are about you, though, it’s critical. If you’re tasting wine with any shred of likelihood of making it into your posts, a comprehensive photo account (phone pics accepted in this case) will have not just critical name, grape, vintage and price info included, but typically tasting notes as well – sooooo key to jog the memory when you’re revisiting in writing. There’s also a good chance that one or more of the wines you tasted are not widely available for sale even on the vineyard’s site, and the only place you’ll get info on what you enjoyed is on that little tri-fold you so carelessly left behind. Don’t be that guy. Take the pic. Take it.
When all else fails, with this one small slip of paper, you can recount the name of the restaurant, the address, the day and time you went, and what you ordered. THIS IS YOUR CHEAT SHEET, BRO! Keep the receipt in any case, but I know you know from submitting work expenses that’s typically easier said than done. A still of the bill is your ultimate parachute.
Hopefully the above helps keep you on the ready with creative ways to use your camera with as much of your post’s prep as with its population. Is there anything we’ve missed? Any key pics your experience has taught you are a must-take for documentation, even if they’ll make it to the public? Let us know, and happy food travels!