Would You Travel Around the World for Food?

[Photo by: skampy/Flickr]

Would you fly halfway around the world just for a meal? I suppose if you would, no ordinary experience would do. No, this meal would have to be overwhelming, exploding with flavor and seductive in every bite; to put it simply: it would have to be orgasmic.

I often speak with travelers who admit to fantasizing over a specific gastronomic experience in a foreign land, and if given the opportunity, say they would hop the next flight just for a taste of the perfectly delivered dish.

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Maria Russo’s Travel Predictions for 2011 (as seen on The Expeditioner.com)

My buddies over at The Expeditioner asked me to reflect on my travels during the past year, and to also make a few predictions about the upcoming year — being that 2011 is at our doorstep — and knocking. So here they are, a bit sappy, overly hopeful and uncharacteristically optimistic ( I think… I can’t even tell if the critic in my head is disguising itself as an optimist — sneaky bastard!). Anyway, I hope you enjoy the post.

Where’d you head this past year?

Costa Rica, Thailand, Washington DC, and the Catskills, NY. Oh, and I flew into Narita, Japan to and from Thailand for a short layover — does this count? (Editor’s Note: Nope, unless you’re Sarah Palin.)

What possible travels do you see on the 2011 calendar?

Hopefully Guatemala to volunteer at Luke’s nonprofit organization (GodChild.org) and to visit Lake Atitlán. I’m also thinking India and Bali over the summer, which, I swear, was my travel projection long before I saw Eat, Pray, Love.

To read more about my sappy hopes for travel in the new year click here.

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The Spirit of Havana: From Rations to Restaurants

[Photo by nikkiprice/Flickr]

It’s the time of year when New York City, with its formidable brilliance, becomes softer, intimate; enchanting if you will, and I’ve never felt more grateful to have it at my doorstep. The city seems gentler in December — lights strewn from one avenue to the next exude the warm glow of holiday cheer, savory scents flow from restaurants babbling with vibrant company, stores boast whimsical displays in illuminated technicolor, and the sound of cozy laughter coats the air like a thick, plush blanket.

In December, my favorite pastime is to go on a month-long tour of all the restaurants I have been meaning to eat at throughout the year. These jaunts are the perfect way to celebrate the season as the simple pleasure of sitting around a hearty meal with loved ones can’t be topped. It’s a luxury I take for granted. Friends, family, elegant cuisine, and the advantage of being able to enjoy it all whenever it feels right. Yet the joy and glamor that will reign in the city during the next two months makes all the sadness in the world stick out like a bruised lip.

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Have You Eaten Yet?

[Photo by: Flickr/avlxyz]

Any society where people greet one another by asking “Have you eaten yet?” is my kind of place. It’s a simple question that says quite a bit about a culture and its savory way of life. Food is just one of those magical things that bind people in the plainest and most complex of ways—an unspoken connection of sensory overload that speaks volumes in an otherwise non-connected situation.

Travel and food have always been the links to many of the people I have met and befriended—whether it was feasting on casado with strangers at a local soda (small restaurant) in Costa Rica, or snacking on biltong under the dim light of a boma in South Africa, food kindled conversation and sparked the beginnings of transcontinental friendships.

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A “How To” On Surviving Long Flights

The problem with flying is that nothing about it seems, well, logical. The prospect of stuffing oneself into a combustible, steel contraption that launches into a groundless abyss can be quite daunting and almost absurd. But yet we do it, some of us once a year, others, every six months or so, and then there are those who can tell you what’s on the menu — or more appropriately the “snack list” if you’re flying a U.S. airline — because “16F” has become their second residence.

If you are reading this fascinating post you are most likely a traveler, or at the very least someone who aspires to travel. Unfortunately, in many cases, there is no escaping a rendezvous with the big, bad flying machine if the urge to explore far beyond the confines of the neighborhood park exists, so we might as well just embrace the turbulence, crappy food, floating snot molecules,  busted TV screens and “reclining” seats, and try to make the flight as pleasant as possible.

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Five Fabulous Things To Do In And Around Grand Cayman

[Photo by: pmarkham/Flickr]

An island of guilty pleasures ( mainly directed at a those with deep pockets), Grand Cayman is one of my favorite spots in the Caribbean. Even traveling on a budget, I managed to see and do many of the fanciful things that make Grand Cayman a seductive place to visit. As a food lover, this island lured me with its decadent choices of international fare and seafood dishes. Safe and friendly, the popular “seven-mile” stretch of shoreline is flanked with a mix of ritzy and budget hotels, fabulous restaurants, and a fun nightlife scene.

I stayed at the Marriott on Seven-Mile beach, and let’s just say that between the constant construction, scrappy beach, tired accommodations, and expensive buffet breakfast that exuded the feeling of dining at a HoJo, I was slightly disappointed. The lovely part was that just a short walk down the beach I could hang at the newly-built, glorious Ritz Carlton where the food really doesn’t get much better.

And, so, here are five recommendations I can impart from my five-night stay to anyone interested in exploring this fabulous island.

1. Dining at Post: One of the best (and most reasonably priced) dining experience I encountered on Grand Cayman was at a tiny restaurant called Post. Among the many lavish places to dine, this Italian restaurant, owned by a family from Torino, stood out.  The gnocchi were utterly tender, melt-in-your-mouth good, and the calamari and caprese salad superb. This little eatery is sort of in the middle of nowhere (when speaking in Seven-Mile terms) but is definitely worth the trip.

2. Taking in the Night Scene: In the evenings, after the sun withdrew its streaming rays from the pearly shores, I would hit the lively streets and head to Deckers. This open-air bar played the most rhythmic mix of salsa, reggae, and french creole music I had ever heard. The blood orange mojitos were divine and the bartenders, friendly and informative. The most attractive part of this sultry bar is that it is in stumbling distance of most hotels.

3. Curing Rainy Day Blues: If you happen to have the misfortune of a rainy day, don’t fret for a minute as the Ritz Carlton’s sushi bar boasts spectacular views, and booze that cure rainy day blues. The hotel is a monstrosity of posh shopping (window shopping for the budget conscious), dining and mingling, and is a surprisingly fun place to meet very cool people from around the world.

4. Petting the Stingrays: Although it is cliche to do this, I recommend the experience because it is sublime. Petting eight-foot stingrays, while standing in crystal clear water at the edge of a natural sandbar in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, is one of those moments when you say “hell yeah, life IS good.” As one of Cayman’s biggest attractions, Stingray City tours can be easily arranged at almost any hotel on the island.

5. Have a Picnic on Owen Island: Easily one of the most stunning beaches in the Caribbean, Owen Island is the perfect place to have a picnic. Its soft, white sand and blue lagoon whisks away any agitation that may have built up from staying on the crowded Seven-Mile stretch.  If you plan a day trip to Little Cayman (which I strongly recommend) you can go by rowboat (Owen Island is approx. 590 ft. off the shores of Little Cayman) and have your lunch at a secluded spot under swaying fringed palms.

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Sardinia’s Vineyards

[Photo by: Bala/Flickr]

As a wine enthusiast I wait anxiously for autumn to arrive. The crisp, pleasant weather slowly transforms the landscape into a magnificent palette of auburn, jade, and gold, and ripens the vines to picking perfection. Fortunately, I can spend most weekends during the season admiring these vistas while getting merry at tastings offered at local wineries.

And as the grape harvests carry on in many places in the Northern Hemisphere, Sardinia, is no exception. Flaunting its picturesque beaches, uncrowded villages (it’s their shoulder season), and fresh wines, this tiny island has quite a bit to offer over the next few months…

For more on my article on Sardinia’s Vineyards visit: The Expeditioner

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