Places to Love: International Food Special
With all the experiences we can have with food, enjoying a meal with others is truly one of the best– no fancy linens or fine china needed. When traveling, the opportunity to have locals share their food with us is something special. When you travel, food is used both to seek comfort, as well as to get us out of our comfort zones. Here are some of my favorites from around the globe.
PLACES AND STORIES TO LOVE
“Christmas” in Santa Fe
Did you know New Mexico has its own cuisine? It’s not “New”, nor is it “Mexican”… it’s New Mexican. A few characteristics that make this cuisine unique. First, dishes here get smothered. And with what you may wonder? A sauce made with red or green chiles.
One of the best places to experience New Mexican food is at Tomasita’s. This local institution has been run by the same family for 45 years, and on my visit, second generation owner George Gundrey taught me how to make their legendary enchiladas. These aren’t served rolled. Instead, they’re laid flat and smothered with cheese, red or green sauce (or both—they call it Christmas), onions, more cheese, and placed in an oven to melt. If you want to go full-on local, ask for yours topped with a fried egg. Doesn’t matter the time of day—this always flies in Santa Fe.
IF YOU GO
Think of the red and green chile sauce like this: Green is the grape, red is the raisin. For the green sauce, the chiles are used fresh. For the red, they’re sun-dried on the vine, then made into the beloved sauce.
Tomasita’s Santa Fe
500 S Guadalupe Street
Santa Fe, NM
French-meets-German Fusion Cuisine
Located on the Rhine River, Strasbourg, France is a beautiful city that has a lion’s share of high-end restaurants every traveler wants to try. That said, I found a place that was more casual and local. A little-known gem in travelers’ circles, Porcus charcuterie shop and restaurant offers a taste of Alsace cuisine without too much fanfare. Sample meaty delicacies, from the fanciest bologna you’ve ever had to blood sausage with pork fat. Since you’re just across the river from Germany, it’s no surprise that their sauerkraut is top notch.
GOOD TO KNOW
What is Alsatian food? Good question! Though Alsace is a region in north-eastern France, it borders Switzerland and Germany. Alsatian cuisine is not quite French, and not quite German—more of a melding of the two, featuring great beer, wine, sauerkraut and lots of pork.
6 Place du Temple Neuf
67000 Strasbourg, France
03 88 23 19 38
Spring Roll Wrapper’s Delight
On my trip to Orange County, California, I visited the Little Saigon neighborhood, home to Thanh My Restaurant. Open for 40 years, this family run spot makes some of the best springs rolls in I’ve ever had. I tried my hand at making them, quickly learning that asking too many questions may be my downfall. Turns out, time is of the essence if you don’t want your rice paper to get too wet. I quickly filled my rice paper with lettuce, mint, vermicelli noodles and started wrapping. The shrimp go in last, with their colorful exterior on display, making for a spring roll that’s as lovely to see as it is to eat.
Joining the Swiss Cool Kids’ Club
Ask someone to name a famous food from Switzerland and they’ll probably say cheese or chocolate. In the beautiful Alpine village of Interlaken, there’s a place where you can literally get your hands dirty making chocolate. Behold: the Funky Chocolate Club.
My hosts Tatiana Sharpe and Vladimir Pesch taught me how to properly taste chocolate, as well as the rules of chocolate making, my favorite being to never waste the chocolate. I’m not sure where most of the chocolate ended up—in my bars or in my mouth, but either way, this experience was such a fun way to learn a little more about the sweet treat Switzerland is known for.
In Charleston, the past is the present
Food plays a huge part of a destination’s identity. In the fields of South Carolina, I learned it goes much deeper. Jimmy Hagood of Lavington Farms brought me to his rice field, essentially carved out of the wilderness by enslaved Africans in the late 1700s. He continues to maintain the farm not just because of the rice, but to honor those who worked here centuries ago. Carolina Gold Rice is regarded as some of the most flavorful rice on earth , and was almost completely obliterated by the 1950s. That is, until the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation was put in place to save it.
I had the pleasure of tasting this local grain at Revival. Chef Forrest Parker is one of the local chefs who’s getting locals and tourists alike excited about the foods that helped found this city. He’s considered a food archeologist, and his exquisite menu and dishes at Revival play a role in the telling of South Carolina history. Usually I think of rice as a vehicle on which to eat another dish. Here, it’s treated as a main event, and featured throughout the menu.
Spätzle & Schnitzel, Deep in the Heart of Texas
Founded in 1846 by German immigrants, the charming town of Fredericksburg, Texas pays homage to its roots while embracing its future. A great example is Otto’s German Bistro. This casual but elegant restaurant showcases German culinary traditions, made with local ingredients. I helped chef Judd Wood make their famed duck schnitzel. There’s something truly satisfying about pounding out a duck breast! At Otto’s, the duck gets hand-breaded, and served with homemade spätzle (something I’d never made before, and was so satisfying to create!), apple mustard lyonnaise sauce, and duck cracklins. Yum!
IF YOU GO
Hit up Otto’s for Sunday brunch! Lemon ricotta pancakes or steak and eggs, paired with a maple old fashioned (made with candied bacon).
Otto’s German Bistro
316 East Austin Street
Fredericksburg, TX 78624
Eat dessert first
When you dine out there’s the first course, the second course and then my favorite: The of course. In Santa Cruz, California, the Penny Ice Creamery does not make deciding the most important meal of the day easy. Kendra Baker and Zachary Davis create amazing ice creams with local, seasonal ingredients. Try the chocolate sorbet, a recipe that Kendra spent seven years perfecting, or go for the vanilla made from Thomas Jefferson’s original recipe.
A traditional feast, prepared with love
Many cultures have a pastime that involves cooking in the ground. Hawaiians have luaus, New England has clam bakes. On the island of New Zealand, the Māori people have hāngī.
Carolyn Fitzpatrick showed me how one prepares this traditional feast, and the best part? I got to help! She layered a wire basket with whole chickens, pork, and other meats, then topped with root vegetables and stuffing. The baskets are placed on hot stones at the bottom of the hole. The food is covered, and cooks with heat from the stones. After a few hours, you’re rewarded with tender, smoky meat and vegetables. But the best part may be enjoying a home cooked meal with family and friends, and the feeling of belonging even when you’re halfway around the world.
IF YOU GO
This Hāngī meal took place at Mataatua Wharenui, a fully carved Māori ancestral house that travelled the world for over a century, before returning home to its people – the Ngāti Awa Māori tribe of the Eastern Bay of Plenty. Sign up for a tour that explores the Māori’s cultural roots. Details here.
Mataatua: The House That Came Home
105 Muriwai Dr
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