I usually post about the James Beard Awards when the nominations are announced and again after the awards ceremony takes place. The 2014 restaurant and chef semifinalists were announced last week, and I eagerly read the list, looking to see which restaurants I’ve eaten at and especially noting how many Philadelphia region chefs and restaurants got a nod.

During the same week, a couple of restaurant lists came out. The Daily Meal named its 101 Best Restaurants in the America and GQ released a 25 Best New Restaurants in America list.

I spent a portion of my week making lists and checking off restaurants where I’ve eaten. I actually got a little bummed because there are so many great restaurants and so little time (and disposable income). Then I started justifying. It went something like this.

I didn’t eat at Bouchon Bistro when I was in Yountville, Calif., last spring, but I did grab coffee and baked goods at Bouchon Bakery next to it. That counts. I haven’t had the $155-per-person tasting menu from Vetri in Philadelphia yet (which I hear from my regional friends is completely worth it if you can afford it), but I have eaten at Mark Vetri’s Osteria in Philadelphia and it was good. And, I plan on taking the family to Pizzeria Vetri sometime soon, and since Vetri is a James Beard semifinalist for outstanding chef, I think any of his restaurants where I eat should count.  

Count? Count for what? When did I become this person who has to check off restaurants to feel as if my life is good, and when I can’t check off enough of them, I have to find ways to make myself feel better? It was a bit of reality check when I realized I had spent a couple of hours on this. I needed to chill and remind myself that what’s important when I go out to eat is who I am eating with, not the status of the restaurant where we're eating.

So I’m going to calm down a bit, and put my lists of nominees and best restaurants back into perspective. If I have an opportunity to eat at a restaurant on these lists, I'll happily take it. But, I don’t allow other people’s opinions to be that much of an influence in other areas of my life; there’s no reason to let someone else's opinions about restaurants control how I feel about where I’ve eaten or where I’ll eat next.

Do you have a healthy relationship with best restaurant lists and awards when you’re deciding where to eat, or do you allow them to control your choices?

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