By Jenifer Antonelli
Experiencing a city’s food is one of the best ways to understand its spirit and culture. Whenever I travel, I try to live by the adage, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” I want to experience the life and tastes of the locals to expand my food horizons. Whether you are globetrotting or stay-cationing this spring break, here are some tips for your taste buds.
1. Know Before You Go. After you decide on your destination, check out food/travel shows about the city you will be visiting. (Sometimes my family decides on a location because of watching these shows first.) I love the late Anthony Bourdain’s shows—Parts Unknown and No Reservations—to learn about the city’s food culture and which restaurants we should check out while we are there. Food Network shows like Diners, Drive-ins and Dives are also fun to watch to see what’s popular domestically. If you want the best BBQ in Austin, TX, it’s good to know they are closed on Mondays and you need to be in line by 8am to have a chance at lunch. Do a little online research and make a few reservations in advance of your trip.
2. Find Hidden Gems. I love asking locals where they like to eat. There is a great chance you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what they say. When catching that taxi or Uber from the airport to your hotel, why not ask the driver what he or she thinks is the best local spot?
3. Shop Like a Local. After you’ve had some time to settle in and see what local food products are selling at the souvenir shops (salts, spices, sauces, candies, etc.), find a local grocery store and stock up. If the product is truly local and essential to daily life, it will be at the local grocery store for a fraction of the price. I also find it fascinating to see how different the grocery stores are and what types of products they carry in different parts of the world. (Disclaimer: I am a food nerd and usually leave a foreign country with a suitcase full of specialty salts.)
Traveling Tip! Find a grocery store (where the locals shop) to purchase gourmet goods to take home. You'll find they will cost just a fraction of what they do at home or at the tourist shops along the main shopping streets!
4. Recreate Your Favorite Food Memories at Home. I love bringing home a cookbook from each place that I visit. It reminds me of our adventure and lets me recreate some of our favorite food memories at home. Seek out a local bookstore to find unique regional cookbooks. If traveling abroad, most bookstores have an English section with a much better selection of books than the tourist shops. You may also get lucky and find a signed copy of a local restaurant’s cookbook like I did in New Orleans.
5. Complimentary Breakfast? In the United States, a free hotel breakfast is usually not that appealing. Maybe it’s some overcooked eggs or an assortment of boxed cereals to curb your hunger until you can make it to a real restaurant. Not so overseas! I have been blown away by the complimentary breakfast buffets I have seen in Portugal, Iceland, Hungary, and other European countries. If your hotel stay includes breakfast, do yourself a favor and check it out. This is a great way to fuel up before a long day of exploring.
6. Make the Most of Your Stay-Cation. After exploring Europe over winter break, my family
will be staying local for spring break. Luckily for us, we live near an amazing food city with so many different neighborhoods and cuisines to explore. So if you’re not traveling this spring break either, why not plan a local culinary adventure like Korean BBQ in Koreatown, Mexican food on Olvera Street, German sausages at Alpine Village in Torrance, or dim sum in Chinatown?
Jenifer Antonelli is the Owner of Vino and Viand Personal Chef Services.
This story appears in the April 2019 issue of The El Segundo Scene.
All photos were provided by the author.