I grew up in San Francisco and moved to Marin County (a stone’s throw over the Golden Gate Bridge) decades ago when I got married. Surrounded by so much natural beauty for so long, I’ve come to take the trees, the coast and the open spaces for granted. It wasn’t until I started traveling more that I realized how special this place is and how blessed I am to call it home.
Travel offers a deeper understanding of the world and I try as often as I can to make the leap from tourist to Insider. And that requires a commitment to always wanting to know and see more. To always asking questions and pausing long enough to listen to the answers, whether they come or not. It’s just as much about the people attempting to provide the answer as it is about what exactly they have to say. And the folks that might answer honestly tend not to be the ones on the main avenue selling trinkets or day tours.
Panadería La Uníon in Tolhuin, Tierra del Fuego. A magical oasis in the midst of a vast, windswept, sparsely populated landscape. Part tourist center. Part museum. Part bakery. Part zoo. Panadería La Uníon is quirky, to say the least, and the constant stream of hungry travelers who frequent this establishment is a testament not only to its notoriety as the premiere bakery in Patagonia, but also to its prime location between the tourist destinations of El Calafate and Ushuaia, a barren stretch of road with limited options for dining.
Nutella is the mass-produced version of something much more sophisticated: gianduia chocolate hazelnut spread from Piedmont, Italy. Yes, the land of Langhe and Roero vines is also pretty famous for its hazelnuts.
Austin is a place you must see for yourself. Even if it’s just for a mere 24 hours before or after your Texas Hill Country Biking trip, there’s so much to experience… First there are the people. Texans are Friendly (with a capital F). Their Southern drawl and the way they say “Ma’am” had me eating out of their hands. Then the gentle evening breezes warmed my cold Canadian bones and the Southern breakfasts and bountiful Tex-Mex food filled my belly.
Welcome to one of the most fabulous cities on the planet and one with darn good food. San Francisco is a wonderland of exceptional restaurants and artisanal foodie delights. Good thing most of our California trips begin or end around this beloved city–a perfect excuse to stay a few days and explore!
The Spanish love their ham. I just never realized the profoundness of their devotion until I first stepped into a local cervecería (bar). To say I was astounded by what I found would be an understatement. The sheer volume of pig legs hanging from the walls and ceiling… the bar sported more pork parts than pints!
Much like the US, Thailand has dramatically changed the way it grows food with the introduction of modern agricultural practices. And in northern Thailand, there’s a huge movement to go back to small, organic and sustainable farming. There’s a local farmer leading the Thai food revolution–Jon Jandai.
Jenna Barnes is no ordinary Camp Chef at Backroads, but then again, she’s no ordinary individual. She stands apart as someone who believes strongly in the power of food as a means to fuel and heal your body. She inspires people to eat well and inspires people like me to experiment with new dishes when working as a Camp Chef. To Jenna, food is life and she has an incredible gift showcasing absolutely all of its wondrous potential.
Amsterdam is full of canals, exhibitions, museums and nightlife. The Hague is where the King lives and where all the political life of the country takes place, whereas Rotterdam will shock you a little bit if you compare it to any other Dutch city. It got completely destroyed by bombing during WW2, and now it has such a modern and futuristic look because it was rebuilt from scratch.
One warm and lazy afternoon, I found myself meandering about the twisted and narrow pedestrian streets of downtown Seville. As I made my way back toward the main square, I spotted a tiny nun (almost a full head shorter than myself), nearly doubled over with what looked to be an incredibly heavy picnic basket, disappear into a small doorway. Surprised–and more than a little intrigued–I followed in the nun’s laborious path to sneak a peak around the door she had left ajar.
Before heading out to lead Backroads trips in Italy, I had already gathered that Italians have an ongoing love affair with olive oil. However, I was almost completely ignorant of the pepper to this salt: balsamic vinegar. “Italian dressing” in my household was a mix of spices shaken with olive oil and white vinegar–no balsamic included–and I wouldn’t consider putting the bitter stuff on ice cream. Not even in my dreams would I suppose that some balsamic vinegars cost hundreds of dollars for just a few ounces. I had a lot to learn.
Imagine a fruit so creamy it might be considered a part of the custard family. And so key to survival that it might be grouped with the apple. And there you have my favorite fruit, the cherimoya. I’ve loved cherimoya since I first laid taste buds on it in Costa Rica in November of 2005 (yes, I remember the date-this fruit is that impactful). I drank it in batidos (delicious Costa Rican fruit smoothies), I ate it fresh from the market and I made sure that it took part in every picnic I prepared. You might say I was obsessed.