We all do it. In the shower, at the brunch table with friends, while running on the treadmill. We escape from our day-to-day grind to ponder where we want to travel next. Away from reality and, now more than ever, where we’d like to explore the culture of food. We dream of the taco stands in Mexico City and the pizzerias of Naples. The barbecue pits in rural South Carolina and of sipping strong drinks near Ipanema. This week we’ll break from the usual programming a bit to bring you some stories about fantasy travel, with food being at the center of all of it. To kick it off we asked writers and friends of Food Republic to give us the one destination they would like to go if time and money was not a factor.
Nils Bernstein | Freelance Travel Writer, Publicity Director at Matador Records
Rural Finland in the late summer/early fall, to pick berries and mushrooms. They have something called “everyman’s right” where anyone can pick wild produce no matter who owns the land. Finland is stunning anyway, with great food and people, and spending their long summer days roaming the countryside collecting sea buckthorn berries at their source is my fantasy respite from endless summer in NYC.
Chris Chamberlain | Writer and author of The Southern Foodie
I’ve been lucky to enjoy quite a bit of culinary travel over the past few years researching my book and for Food Republic’s Year of Barbecue series, but the majority of my ventures have been domestic. Spain has been on my culinary radar for years, since I love their traditions of small plates, the emphasis on fresh seafood and the bold flavors that migrated from neighbors to the south. My current dream is a trip to Restaurante d’Berto in the town of O Grove in the region of Galicia. Not only am I dreaming of their preparations of indigenous fish, prawns and crabs, but I’m also a big fan of the nearby wines of the Rias Baixas.
Edith Zimmerman | Editor of The Hairpin
Fish Market in Reykjavik for whatever salmon entree they’re offering. Roadside strawberries bought while driving through Wexford, Ireland. Or, at least they’re called Wexford strawberries, but I think you can buy them in many locations? I want to eat sushi from the ridiculous Japanese restaurant featured in the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, even though it’s like hundreds of dollars for a silent, 20-minute meal? Whatever, I’d do it. Or just go 30 minutes uptown to Sushi Yasuda (in NYC) again. Ice cream on waffles in Copenhagen. Salt oysters, Cape May, NJ. Lobster and steamers brought home from [anywhere, but let’s say Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound] in Bar Harbor, ME. I’d probably travel anywhere Air France wanted to take me, if they kept it up with the free champagne and white wine they serve on flights. Does that count? Oh and the “Garden Fire” green juice with cayenne, bee pollen, sea salt, lemon, celery, and apple cider vinegar at Judahlicious in San Francisco.
David Farley | Writer and author of An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church’s Strangest Relic in Italy’s Oddest Town
I’m actually about to go to a place I’ve always wanted to: Varanasi. I’m not necessarily going for the food, though (I’m going to write a non-food story for a magazine). But marijuana is legal in this northern Indian holy city and — while I’m not much of a stoner — I’m really curious to try the infamous bhang lassi, a curd-based shake infused with Mary Jane, that you can get from street vendors. Varanasi is also famous for its open cremation of dead bodies. I’m not entirely convinced that pot and death go well together, but I’ll find out soon enough. I’m just hoping it’s not all combined with the “Delhi belly.” The last time I was in Vietnam I sat down at a makeshift alleyway eatery in Saigon, pointed to a large cauldron. I didn’t know what was in it, but I wanted to try it. It turned out to be bone marrow soup and I’ve been thinking about it ever since that day in January a couple years go. I want to go back to Vietnam just to have that experience again.
Jason Kessler | Writer
Here are five reasons my fantasy travel pick of 2013 is Japan: 1. Sushi. I want to dream with Jiro. I want to know the joy of true Japanese nigiri. I want to attempt to order a 911 Fire Volcano Vegas Crunch Roll* and see what happens. (*this does not exist). 2. Ramen. I’m late to the ramen game, but damn am I glad I’m here. I love me some ramen and I think Tokyo is exactly where I need to go to get the real deal. 3. Japanese craft beer. Have you ever had a Hitachino Nest? It’s so good. Japan and Italy are the leaders of the international craft beer scene and I want a full education in the Malty Arts. 4. Yakitori. Grill or be grilled. 5. The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift. Have you SEEN that movie? I love it. It’s easily the best of the franchise. I want to pretend I’m the kid from American Gothic who grows up to be a bad boy drag racer. I want to fall in love with a Japanese-Australian girl. I want to drift, baby.
Eli Sussman | Ad Snacking columnist
I’d like to be sitting on the beach at Koh Phangan in Thailand, spending all day relaxing, eating fresh coconut under a tree. I’d nap and swim until nighttime and then take a boat to the Full Moon Party on Haad Rin and dance until the sun comes up.
Chris Stang | Co-Editor of Immaculate Infatuation
My goal for 2013 is to go back to Paris as soon as possible, to eat at the places I couldn’t during my recent trip in December (many of the restaurants close for the period between Christmas and New Years). I also got really good at drinking wine and looking cool while I was there, so I think I need to go back so I don’t get rusty. At the very top of that restaurant list is Vivant Table, a small restaurant in the 10th from Pierre Jancou, who is known for his successful Paris restaurants that came before Vivant, and for his passion for natural wines and sourcing the best ingredients on the planet. Next to the restaurant is Vivant’s tiny wine bar from which I did some of that wine drinking. We walked in on the night after Christmas to have a drink (thank god it was open), and it just so happened that the only person in the place was Pierre himself, behind the bar. After a few bottles and a few hours of chatting with him, I might make the trip over a weekend just to eat in the restaurant itself. The guy is more passionate about quality food and wine than anyone I’ve ever met. He’s also a total badass. Other Paris restaurants I couldn’t get to that keep me up at night: Le Dauphin, Roseval and Septime. The food in that city does not suck.
Emily Saladino | Writer
Getting myself to Beirut, one of the coolest cities on the planet, is a fantasy and a priority. The place has rock star nightlife, a great wine scene and one of the world’s most incredible culinary traditions. Here’s the thing: Lebanon is to the Middle East what Italy is to much of Europe. It’s the ethnic cuisine served in the most popular restaurants, and Lebanese standards like tabbouleh and loubieh are regional crowd-pleasers, just like pan-fried scamorza or bucatini all’Amatriciana. Beirut’s best cooking is said to take place in homes, where many family matriarchs perfected their skills during years of unrest outdoors. In the absence of a Lebanese nonna to call my own, I’d hit Tawlet, the restaurant offshoot of Beirut’s first farmers’ market, Souk el Tayeb. Every day, a local farmer or cheesemaker from Beirut or the nearby villages creates Tawlet’s dinner menu using the market’s best produce. It’s a killer concept, and an amazing way to sample some of the best mana’eesh in the Middle East.
Joshua Lurie | Writer and editor of Food GPS
As much as I’d like to travel to Spain and feast on Mediterranean seafood in Barcelona and jamón ibérico in Jabugo, I’m going with a Southern swing through four states. My idea for a couple years is to start in Little Rock, eat at spots like Doe’s Eat Place for Porterhouse and hot tamales, detour to McClard’s in Hot Springs and spend a couple days in Memphis. I’ve always wanted to eat barbecue at Payne’s, Cozy Corner and Leonard’s. Gus’s has always been a high priority, and has taken on added importance now that I’m co-producing the Fried Chicken Fest. That counts as R&D, right? From there, hitting Oxford for some food from John Currence would be great. The end game is of course New Orleans, which seems to finally be rebounding after the devastation Hurricane Katrina caused. Particular points of interest include Willie Mae’s Scotch House, Cochon and Bellocq. With every stop, soaking up Southern history is also a draw.
Laura Neilson | Writer
It’s been a while since I’ve been somewhere and felt like a total foreigner. I’d love to go to Hong Kong. A good friend moved there recently, and I hear it’s the eating capital of the world. Food, glorious food! Everything from street food to dim sum to a new wave of fine dining spots opening in some of the finer hotels. Also, the fashion lover in me loves menswear-inspired suits, and I hear the custom tailor shops over there are amazing.
Jess Kapadia | Associate Editor
I’d put Alsace high on the list of places I’d like to travel this year. Having wandered around France pretty extensively, I never made it up to the teeny province between France, Switzerland and Germany, three of my favorite food countries in the world. From what I understand, the portions are very un-Parisian. I think fusion is most successful when it’s between two or three cuisines with fundamentals in common — in this case, cooking with lots of butter, cheese, white wine, cabbage and pork. I got super-into the intricacies of housemade sauerkraut on last year’s trip to Germany, and nothing would make me happier than to dig into a huge platter of choucroute garni with a half-dozen cuts of pig, sausage, potatoes and a cold bottle of Gewürztraminer, mountains in the background. Maybe The Sound Of Music soundtrack happening in my headphones.
Matt Rodbard | Contributing Editor
South Korea. I just finished writing a guidebook that explores the top Korean restaurants in NYC. Sixty restaurant visits, 74 pounds of barbecue short rib and 173 orders of pajeon later I have finally hit my stride. Damn straight I crave a bowl of steaming soondubu soup almost daily. But for any non-Korean lover of Korean food, the real adventure is a trip to Seoul (or Busan, which I hear has boss seafood restaurants). But in Seoul there are pojangmacha tents selling all sorts of wonderful street food like grilled dukboki (rice cakes) on a stick and soondae — blood sausage made with rice and/or thin vermicelli noodles. There’s grilled meat for days. There are streets lined with “over 1,000 bars” as my Korean friend assures me. She added that the Koreans are also considered the Irishman of Asia. Soju and makkoli flows and flows and flows until the early morning. Then it’s time for a bowl of seolleongtang. It all sounds like a lot of fun to this guy.
Richard Martin | Editorial Director
My fantasy is a guided food tour of Thailand. I’ve been bitching about the lack of good Thai food in NYC after moving back from Portland for so many years that Andy Ricker had to come open Pok Pok Ny here just to shut me up. He’s great at bringing Thailand to me, but I could see going on my own trip and getting lost in a psychedelic fantasia of khao phat and mi-krop and the chilies and the nham prik and… Ahhhhh! I’ve got to stop torturing myself. I’ll get there someday. Oh, and it’s less fantastical and more personal, but I spent a few years traveling to Barcelona and the Costa Brava before I was totally clued in to the food scene there — this was back in the early to mid-aughts — so I’d ideally return with a diary filled with Michelin-starred reservations, a vintage Mercedes to drive around in and a refresher course in Rioja and other Spanish wines so I could master the pairings throughout what for me would be the ultimate food road trip.