Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Know Before You Go

Eating amazing local food is one of the best reasons to travel. Before I go anywhere, I burn up the guidebooks, food (Saveur is one of my favorites) and travel magazines, and of course, National Geographic .

Taking a cooking class and exploring local markets are a huge part of mastering the local cuisine. Check out the schools and find out where the local markets are before you go. Putting a plan together will simplify your trip and make everything so easy once you hit the ground.

It’s so simple these days to send an e-mail or post a question on your Facebook. I Google everything and read local newspapers and magazines. I also try to connect with local foodies and chefs who can send me in the right direction once I get to town.

Many of my traveling companions have said that I never come to any town a tourist. Since vacation is such a short time anyway, I don’t want to waste what little time I have trying to find these places. Track down most of them before you go and your trip will be a lot more enjoyable. Time will be spent appreciating them rather than trying to find them.

Explore everything on foot once you get there and always “eat like a local.” Follow the crowds and if a place is packed with natives, you know it’s good. Ask locals for recommendations. There is nothing like a resident to give you the real word on where to go. I have come across so many great restaurants just by talking with the locals. I have also made some lifelong friends in the process.

Don’t forget to try the street food. Nothing tells you more about the local culture than street food. I observe for awhile and then follow the crowd. Whatever cart they end up is usually a sure bet for an incredible meal.

If you have an Iphone or Ipod, you can get language phrase apps but I always try to learn some basic phrases including “give the check to my friend, please.”

Slip some of these suggestions into your pre-trip preparation and it can mean the difference between a good meal and a great one.

Bon Appetit!