Friday, April 30, 2010

The travel season begins

Here's a conundrum. Eating is one of the most-anticipated joys of travel for me (yes, I suppose you might say I look forward to it with relish.) So why is it that the best vacations begin with long journeys that afford the most unsatisfying eating?

On long flights, I worry that there won't be enough to eat, so I stash some snacks in the carryon bag. We worry that the first meal won't happen soon enough, so we eat something unsatisfying yet fattening in the airport (we'd arrived with an hour to spare, of course.) On each leg of travel, we both eat everything the airline provides: the spongy roll, the banquet meal, overcooked and underheated, the dessert that we'd pass up if it were available under any other circumstance. We're stuffed, yet unfulfilled.

An hour later, we're bored and a little peckish. We eat some of the stashed chocolate. Later, we eat more of it. Now we're guilt-ridden, and not in the good brimming-with-cheesecake way. The time changes as we arrive in Europe. The airline feeds me breakfast at my body's midnight. We eat a second, equally unhealthy and empty-calorie-laden breakfast on the connecting flight to our destination. Had there been an airport layover, we'd no doubt have stopped for coffee and who knows what else, for a total of three breakfasts. So two breakfasts isn't even a record. We arrive in Gothenburg, Sweden just in time for lunch.

From now until October, I'll be reporting on food and travel experiences from Sweden, to Norway, to the United Kingdom. It'll be up from here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Marching Orders: Really Simple Reconnaissance

Let's say that you're planning a trip somewhere., You buy your guidebooks and read the two pages that describe the eating culture at your destination. You leaf through the restaurant recommendations. Sometimes there's a list of annual festivals, and one of them might happen at the place you are during the time you're there.

But nobody knows what's going on better than the local newspaper, and you can often subscribe to an RSS feed for the foodie news. I discovered an event in Fort Lauderdale (admittedly, the place that I actually live) by watching the feed for the Sun-Sentinel, my local paper. The event popped up in my BlackBerry when I was leaving town, but I signed up and downloaded my tickets using borrowed wi-fi in FLL airport. By the time I reached my destination, the event was sold out.

Sponsored by local downtown restaurant Himmarshee Bar & Grille and the newspaper, drinks were two-for-one and free hors d'oeuvres paraded out like we'd crashed a great wedding. Executive chef Chris Miracolo sent out Island Spiced Shrimp & Yucca Bobos (the staff kept saying "Want some more bobos?" just because it was so much fun), Wild Mushroom Risotto Cakes, Petite Lump Crab Cakes, Bloody Mary Braised Short Rib Tostadas, and Duck and Sweet Potato Empanadas.

These foods were pass-around, but somehow they managed to get a condiment or sauce on every one of them. The "bobos" (like a hush puppy, really) were served with "drunken" mango relish, the risotto cakes with cambozola fondue, the crab cakes with pickled habanera tartar and quite a kick, the tostada with lemon-scented micro salad and horseradish aioli (all that on a tortilla chip!) and the empanadas with port-apple compote. Some of these bites were presented on a fat stick. A bobo Tootsie-Roll pop. Quite the yummy interlude.
There were some door prizes, which somehow got away from us, but we met a terrific neighbor (and fellow foodie) that we hope to see again, and Sun-Sentinel writer John Tanasychuk wandered through the crowd and made us all feel like we'd met a celebrity.

So I'll be spending some time today finding the local newspapers and feeds for each of the places I'll be visiting soon.