Despite a hatred for airplanes (because of the fact they might fall out of the sky AND because they give me zombie-like skin), I travel a lot. And I love it.
Home is where part of my heart is and the rest can be easily located across the cities I've grown to know and love.
One of my favourite aspects of any voyage is the planning ahead of time. And by this I mean restaurant selecting and menu researching. There's something about going to restaurants in various metropolises that makes you feel like you're a part of it all, unless the restaurant in question is, say, Planet Hollywood (do those still exist?).
Do you like food you put in your mouth that makes your tastebuds zip around with joy and creates nostalgic food memories? ME TOO. You are gonna LOVE this blog post.
New York, USA
Obvious, but true. The first time I made my way to the Grand Pomme (that is FRENCH FOR BIG APPLE. That makes me fancy.) I was seventeen-years-old and on a high school trip. I remember nothing of what I ate because probably none of it was any good and if it was good, I didn't appreciate it. I did see Cats though. And I continue to maintain it WAS Aerosmith-video-era Liv Tyler walking down the street. When I finally returned, it was on part one of my two-part honeymoon for my second marriage (sounds more complicated than it was). Obsessed with the notion of old school New York and having recently seen some sort of documentary about Le Cirque, we made reservations. It was a thrilling dining experience. I remember little about the tastes and textures, but a lot about the fact Liz Smith was sitting beside us and that thrilled the gossip in me.
Since then, we've returned to New York once or twice a year. Our dining preferences, however, have moved from fancy-pants old school to tucked-away, tasty and often located in the Lower East Side. Our current favourite? Birds and Bubbles. The restaurant specializes in fried chicken and champagne. Win. Win. You'll also find Bacaro on our list of food we lust after. Bustling and romantic, this spot makes super yummy polpette (spicy fried meatballs) that I wish I was eating right now. Right this second. Even though I'm not even hungry. Meanwhile, over in Brooklyn, we spent a hot, craft brew-filled afternoon nibbling tasty goodies at Torst. Now there's a new Torst. Adding it to the list for future tasting.
Oh! Before I forget, if you're in the East Village and craving a taco (who isn't craving a taco no matter their location?), hit up Taqueria St Marks Place.
Merida is the capital and largest city in the state of Yucatan. It's a gorgeous spot dotted with colourful, colonial houses and reams of restaurants. Many found in the most touristy of areas are, well, touristy, but they were still delightful. And Merida, you charmer you, became near and dear to my heart because a whole host of local bars and restaurants just keep bringing you free snacks when you order drinks. Order a beer and soon tortilla chips and salsa, taquitos, refried beans, and so on and so forth, will get slammed down on your table. The stops we can't bring ourselves to forget include Eladio's in Centro and La Negrita Cantina.
But if you know me, you know tacos are my favourite food, so I'll never get over, for as long as I live, the joy my mouth and my soul experienced when I sat down on a little stool in the massive local market and ate fresh pork tacos simply dressed with lime, cilantro and pickled onions, accompanied by a series of mouth-on-fire, mouth-exploding, mouth-evaporating hot sauces. Three cheers to our Adventures in Mexico tour guide, Suri, who took the small group of four of us through the market to dine on these sweet, sweet tacos and cheesy empanadas. Oh food of Merida, long may you reign. We also bought a lot of tacos from little shops set up in outdoor strip mall-like spots. They averaged .84 cents Canadian a piece. They were worth millions as far as my tastebuds are concerned.
The home of a crazy taco that I keep trying - and failing - to recreate. Purchased from a food truck, it had no right to be as good as it was. It was on a FLOUR tortilla and everyone knows corn tortillas are best, but still ... the taco. There was barbecued pulled pork and some sort of avocado cream and spice and just ... oh God it was good.
Austin is also home of BBQ that will not haunt your dreams, but it will inspire your reveries. For me, food is often a delivery vehicle for sauces - Spicy, smokey, vinegar-y ... I LIKE them. And while I did love the classic Stubb's Barbecue experience (yes! That Stubb's ... from the SAUCE), with its metal cafeteria tray laden with barbecued meat and beans and fried things and fat Texas toast, I truly fell for Lamberts. All their sauces came in cute little personal-sized jars. I had brisket. It was so good. I'm sure many people will scoff at me for preferring the more fancy-pants world of Lamberts, but I DO NOT CARE. I like it.
I'll always have a soft spot for Toronto. It was my home for the bulk of my twenties, the place I started my career. It was where I met my friends at dive bars many-a-night and took the ferry to the weird, little island and just generally enjoyed myself.
There are so many places to dine in Toronto and so many cuisines to sample. Usually when I get there I'm kind of in a panic about trying to make it count. Here are three of the ones I trust the most:
1. Luckee by Susar Lee, less busy than another of his spots, Lee, but still full of amazing dishes. You go there, you get the Luckee Duck. Just do it.
2. The Universal Grill is the location for some of my very fondest memories involving dining with friends, plus it has a great vibe and satisfying fare.
3. 7 Numbers on the Danforth has meatballs that could turn the most vegan of vegans into meatball lovers.
The best part of Toronto eating, though, are the little spots - the Vietnamese, Thai, the Indian - the flavour-packed punches you can't get a hold of and down your gullet in smaller cities like mine. Sigh. Give me all your curry.
Until next time, may you dine in joy.