If you’ve read Sean Phipps‘ great play-by-play of the Scenic City Supper Club‘s inaugural event and are hungry for more, I don’t blame you. The evening was a triumph for the organizers, and it seemed to go off without a hitch. The setting was beautiful, and the chefs were all quite relaxed and mingled with guests throughout the evening. It was a great opportunity for attendees to chat not only with fellow epicures, but also with the talent that would bring the fare to the table. Here are some takeaways from the occasion.

Chattanooga has a thriving food scene and a pent-up desire for even more.
When word got out about this event, it sold out in less than half an hour and then quickly overflowed to fill another. Even after a hundred people had signed on, potential patrons were still trying to figure out how to score tickets; some settled for volunteering at the event just so they could take part. Clearly, Chattanooga has both the talent and enthusiasm needed to become a top-notch destination city for dining.

When you eat out, choose a restaurant that has a resident chef-not a chain or franchise that takes its orders from a distant headquarters.
That way, you’ll get a menu that was created in Chattanooga, with consideration given to our seasons, local foods and regional ethos. Sometimes, you might even have an opportunity to chat with the chef-but even if you don’t, if you pay close attention to the details of both the menu and the food, you’ll find innovations that will inspire your own cooking.

Reach outside your comfort zone whenever you can.
If you usually have wine or beer with your meal, try a cocktail instead. Mingle with strangers. Eat something unfamiliar. These are all things that will awaken your senses and make all your experiences richer. I arrived at the event alone, but instead of seeking out people I knew, I sat down in one of The Urban Lawn‘s lovely grassy conversation pits and chatted with people I hadn’t met before while we all enjoyed Alex Jump‘s unique aperitif cocktails and Ethan Sindler’s beef tartare hors d’oeuvres. It was all a fantastic wind up to what would be a fabulous meal.

Think about flourishes.
Often, a simple flourish, like sprinkling some fresh spring peas and strawberries on a lamb shoulder, can nicely marry the natural sweetness of them all while letting the flora lend some lightness to the meat. This is the sort of detail that can transform a plain dish without making it complicated-a lesson that bears repeating. So often when we’re cooking at home, just getting a meal on the table is a victory; following an intricate recipe takes more time than most of us usually have. Clever chefs can tip us off to artful touches like these that can make our home cooking extra-special.

Quality trumps quantity.
One of the great things about cooking at home is that it is so much cheaper than eating out. And if you do it regularly, you’ll even save enough money to skip the usual cheap fast-food or cookie-cutter restaurants in favor of having a real dining experience-one that will, in turn, make your home cooking even better. It’s a perfect circle of deliciousness!

Alice O’Dea has lived in Chattanooga for over 20 years, but was raised among the mucks and dairy farms in rural western New York. She didn’t really learn to cook until midlife. When she’s not puttering around in the kitchen, she enjoys running, cycling, traveling, photography and trying to get food to grow in the backyard of her Highland Park home. You can email her with questions, suggestions or comments at [email protected]. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.