Anyone who glances at my personal travel photos cannot help but notice that I always take pictures of my food. And I have done this way before Facebook and iPhones were invented. Sometimes, I even take pictures of my empty plates, with nothing but bones or shrimp tails on them, too! (I know a couple of gals who will chuckle right now!).
And I have gotten this question a lot: “why food?”. Food can’t tell them where I am. They can’t taste it. And, honestly, I even think that most times all I have handy to snap the picture is my phone and the pictures are not of that great a quality either! So, why food?
I guess, subconsciously, I am my father’s daughter! To him, everything revolves around food. He thinks of it, obsesses over the next meal, shops for ingredients, reads cookbooks like they are thrillers and worries that one day he’ll die of starvation – this is a serious worry! While I don’t obsess so much about that last one, I always think of food too.
To me, food is an intrinsic part of the trip! It’s what gives it taste (quite literally), what makes it fun, and sometimes the only good memory I have of a trip are the foods or the beverages I consumed. When people I run into are annoying, and the prices of hotels and museums make me go bust for a couple of months, a simple hotdog wrapped in a pretzel at the corner of the street, paired with a local brew can make the whole thing worth while!
As someone who enjoys cooking, there is also a personal growth aspect of food finds. Dad would agree that traveling through food opens up your mind and your imagination. I always find surprising ways people use ingredients I knew of, but never thought to mix myself (garlic ice-cream, anyone?!).
It’s a learning adventure just as much as visiting an art or history museum or a natural park. It speaks not only to your very mundane physical (and physiological) satisfaction, but to your cultural enrichment and your senses (smell, taste, specifically), as well.
I used to travel places and never make plans for where I’m going to eat while there. The running into good food was part of the adventure itself. But ever since going to Morimoto’s Napa Valley restaurant and to Seattle, I have changed that pattern! I still love food surprises, but, now, I also try to find out what’s close to our hotel, or close to where our sightseeing will take us, that has had good (or interesting) reviews, and I try those places out. It’s a way to learn the area and to the traveler, it defines that community to its core sometimes. What would an Indian reservation be without the fry bread?! Or Turkey without its fresh breads and olives? Watch any episode of Anthony Bourdain’s travel shows and you’ll know I am right!
Even when we travel close to home, my husband and I sometimes travel for food. We drive up to Park City for Whole Foods or World Market. We drive up to Salt Lake City for the Farmers’ Market in the summer or Trader Joe’s, or, as we found this year, we travel there for our favorite goat farm and dairy: Drake Farms.
This is a concept I never knew still existed in a fairly crowded and populated area of the state (and of the world): you drive up to their farm store (which is almost in the midst of a city), and it’s a self serve booth. You walk in, slip the cash in an envelope, slip the envelope in a metal box, and help yourself to the milk and cheeses in the fridge. Walk out, and the cute, soft and incredibly friendly goats say “hello”. And no, they are not stinky nor loud. The cheeses are so fresh and fragrant (the garlic and onion one is our favorite). When our friends ask us what it’s like to live in the mountains, we can now tell them – you can walk up to the farms and help yourselves to fresh goat cheese. Any day. Unbothered by pushy salesmen or intimidated by huge price tags, or worried about what plastic crap you’re going to eat with your milk! I could live off of goat cheese and fresh tomatoes all summer long up here! And I am so grateful the farmers are so trusting and giving!
I don’t have pictures for all the food finds of this year (and honestly, you won’t have the patience for them, either), but here are some memorable ones.
All I can say is: YUM!
Fry bread three ways at The View Restaurant in Monument Valley: chili verde and fry bread, Navajo taco and ham and swiss sandwich in fry bread.
Drake Farms - Utah - the self-serve store and the friendly goats.
Bringing it home: the garlic and onion goat cheese right next to my own fresh tomatoes
I have introduced mom to Indian food this year. She loved the naan and the lamb coconut korma dish. Lamb is her favorite meat, so, you know if she says it's the best lamb she has ever had, they know how to make it - at Bombay House in Provo, UT.
Sedona Pizza Company - in Sedona, AZ - this pasta dish is out of this world! Garlicy, meaty, peppery (as in bell peppers), very thick on tomatoes - just the best Italian dish I have had this year. Hands down!
Street food yummies at Snowbird's Oktoberfest: brat, kraut and pickle with German potato salad and Black Lager
Without a doubt the most surprising culinary find of the year: Park City's High West Distillery's bacon, bourbon, cashew, caramel (American Prairie) popped corn.
They call it a "starter" there. I can see how it can ... umm...start something, for sure!
Best won-ton soup I have had: the Zine Restaurant, in The Palazo - Las Vegas: so much more than just won-ton: rice noodles, too, lots of garlic, and chives, and these green veggies that no one could define: like a cross between a broccolini and kale.
I didn't have to travel for this one; this one traveled to me: when mom stayed with us this year, she made green tomato pickles - which I have not had since I was maybe 7!
And what a year would it be without sushi?! This is just local sushi (well, Orem, UT), at Shoga - I snapped it because for once I didn't order "complicated" rolls - just regular fish-rice-and-nori goodness. It still looks pretty and it was still delicious and fresh. Sushi is without question the one food I will always travel for and never cook in my own kitchen!
It is a tricky business to watch what I eat, though. In a weird twist of fate, God decided to “bless” me with a metabolism disease that doesn’t quite allow me to gorge on everything I love (and what don’t I love?! – that list is pretty short). So, I try to eat everything in moderation, but not deny myself some of the experience. After all, life is short, isn’t it?! And if I die while eating that popcorn, let me tell you what: it’ll be a food worth dying for!