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  • 08/25/15--11:00: In Seoul, Coffee Trumps Tea
  • Seoul’s got a serious obsession with coffee. A recent visit left me astounded at the sheer number and variety of cafés packed into every block. From postage-stamp-size storefronts peddling fresh roasted Yirgacheffe to 24-hour, tri-level mega-shops, the city is both a dream for a coffee lover and a nightmare filled with temptation, for an addict trying to quit.

    To me help navigate the dense web of options, I asked Coffee Libre owner and roaster Pil Hoon Seu to identify his favorite artisan roasters. As Korea’s first Q Grader (a certified specialist in grading bean quality), Seu helped spearhead the country’s specialty coffee movement. During our meeting at his workspace in the lively Hongdae district, he rattled off statistics confirming what I had observed. “Korea now has the highest number of Q graders in the world—nearly 2000—and as many micro-roasters, and Starbucks opened 120 new shops last year. That’s one every three days.”

    Despite its location wedged between Japan and China, South Korea’s tea culture was less culturally ingrained, enabling coffee to gain a foothold as the nation’s caffeine of choice. Unlike Americans, however, Koreans don’t consume it unfailingly to jumpstart the workday. In fact, most cafés don’t open until late morning; coffee consumption here is more about socializing, reveling in the experience, and enjoying the nuance of the brew. Four places to do it:

    Coffee Libre
    Lucha Libre posters decorate the walls of Pil Hoon Seu's tiny Hongdae cafés, known for sourcing the highest quality single-origins and Cup of Excellence winners (CoE is a prestigious award given to fine quality coffees). His first and primary location (he now has four) attracts hardcore enthusiasts.
    227-15 Yeonnam, Mapo-gu.
    Hours: Tuesdays-Sundays, 1 – 9 p.m., Closed Mondays.

    A former musician converted a defunct shoe factory in the Hongdae district into an avant-garde art gallery-cum-coffee roastery and café space. They roast on-site, boasting several machines including a 1910 museum-worthy Probat. Order drinks on the ground level and relax on vintage furniture in the loft space above. (If visiting Jeju Island, don’t miss their spectacular new location, also in a converted factory.)
    357-6 Hapjeong Dong, Mapo-gu.
    Hours: Daily from 11 a.m. - 12 p.m.

    Anthracite Upstairs – Seoul, South Korea

    Lauren Mowery

    Anthracite Upstairs – Seoul, South Korea

    Lead roaster and green coffee buyer Junsun Bae has earned the admiration of her peers by focusing on seasonality and exploring blends of different beans, as much as single origins. Whole beans are sold and served in a traditional Korean building near Gyeongbokgung Palace. An inner courtyard leads to serene, wood-paneled rooms evocative of Hanok design.
    71 Naesu-dong, Jongno-gu.
    Hours: Daily from 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.

    El Café
    Owner Jinho Yang switched careers a decade ago after his opinion of coffee was transformed by one indelible, fruity cup. His sole establishment serves as a roastery and café for selling global coffees, including CoE selections brewed using Aeropress, French press, hand pour, and espresso machine.
    481-2 Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu.
    Hours: Monday-Friday 8 a.m. - 10 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

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  • 09/03/15--11:00: Out of the Office: Tulum
  • Even though it’s become a chic beach haunt in recent years, Tulum’s lack of tourist traps and fussiness makes the town still feel remarkably unadulterated—especially when it comes to the food. Next door to Tulum’s famous Mayan ruins there’s no shortage of breezy outdoor dining where you can experience a fresh kind of Mexican cooking that doesn’t always stick to classic Mexican recipes or tropes. At places like Burrito Amor and Hartwood, chefs play with regional ingredients like Mayan spinach, Xcatic peppers and tropical fruits like papaya to showcase flavors native to the Yucatán peninsula. If that's not enough, there's also plenty of tequila cocktails. The food is so intriguing, it’s enough to distract you from the balmy beaches for a while. Here’s proof in 14 photographs from my recent trip to Tulum town.

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    There's no question that SAVEUR readers know good taste. With that in mind, we went to you looking for the best in culinary travel. From fine airport dining to the best breakfast city in the world, here are the Readers' Choice winners for the Good Taste Awards 2015.

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    When we walked into Papillon Bleu, a Chinese banquet hall restaurant around the corner from Basilique Notre Dame in Montreal’s Old Port, the sole waiter on duty looked surprised to see us. At 7:45 on a Saturday night, at the height of tourist season, just one young white family sat in the palatial dining room over a plate of General Tao chicken. We walked past them to a table in the back, Chopin drifting quietly from the speakers into the certain shade of dim light that only Chinese restaurants seem to have. At our seats, bright yellow napkins, impeccably folded into fans, rested on a blue tablecloth next to cutlery. Sometime in the last 18 years of operation, Papillon Bleu stopped bothering with chopsticks.

    “How did you find out about us?,” our waiter inquired. I told him that my family used to own a Chinese restaurant that served peanut butter dumplings and I wanted to taste them again. Papillon Bleu has come up when I googled “Best Peanut Butter Dumplings in Montreal.” He shook his head and told us that while it might have been the case a few years ago, they had switched peanut butter brands to cut costs. “We use Kraft now, not Skippy.”

    Perhaps more discerning palates might have been able to tell the difference between peanut butter dumplings made with Kraft and those made with Skippy, but the significance for me wasn’t which brand they used, it was that they served peanut butter dumplings at all. Commonly known as Hunan dumplings, this specialty exists neither in China, nor anywhere else in North America. Instead, Hunan dumplings are a uniquely Quebecois tradition, and a slowly dying one, found in basementy second-generation Chinese family restaurants and take-out places that service hungover or still-drunk college students.

    papillon bleu montreal canada

    Adam Kuplowsky

    Papillon Bleu, in Montreal's Old Port neighborhood, still serves many of the Szechuan-style dishes popular in Montreal in the '90s.

    Peanut butter dumplings taste exactly how they sound, but also unlike anything else. The premise is simple: pork wontons, swimming in a rich sauce made from full-fat Kraft-or-something-like-it peanut butter, sesame oil, soy sauce, and Szechuan peppercorns. The result is a dumpling that coats your mouth with a distinct store-brand quality, a little too sweet, a little too doughy, but buttery, and luxuriously warm, perfectly suited to combat the bone-chilling effects of a Montreal winter.

    The dumplings are a reincarnation of a dish found in Szechuan, in southwest China, a region known for its fiery, fragrant cooking style. The original dumplings contained a pork mixture topped with a ground mix of chopped, roasted peanuts, chili oil, and Szechuan peppercorns. But like most plates from this region in southwest China, it was considered too spicy to serve when it made its way to Canada. Peanut butter dumplings, as Montreal knows them, debuted in the ‘80s at le Piment Rouge, a restaurant in the opulent Windsor building, when Szechuan-style cuisine, no matter how adjusted it was to Western tastes, was considered exotic and decadent to Canadians who still identified Chinese with take-out chop suey.

    Lesley Chesterman, the highly esteemed and longtime fine dining critic for the Montreal Gazette wrote this of the now shuttered Piment Rouge: “Tuxedoed waiters dished up plates of glistening food, and displayed proudly at the entranceway were various awards: Wine Spectator, DiRona, a CAA Four-Diamond, Mobil Four-Star. It all looked so promising.”

    As a child I made frequent trips to Montreal in the golden years of this Szechuan-style cuisine. In the ‘90s, my parents joined in with some relatives and friends to take over two Chinese restaurants, one called the Crystal Palace. The Crystal was a two-story banquet hall in the suburbs, with sumptuous purple decor and tablecloths. Every month or two, my family would load up in the car, drive six hours from Toronto to Montreal and arrive just in time for dinner. They would seat us in the table at the back and plop a heaping plate of peanut butter dumplings in front of my face, followed by a Shirley Temple and a glass full of maraschino cherries. I never had these dumplings anywhere else, so I assumed they were my uncle and aunt’s secret recipe. It was even published in the Gazette in 1994, photocopied and disseminated among my family members. At five years old, even I knew that Kraft wasn’t part of Chinese cooking, but they perfectly suited my Western-Chinese sensibilities. The adults would chatter on about the restaurant business while my cousin taught me how to fold napkins into fans.

    Growing up, we made fewer visits to see my relatives and the taste of peanut butter dumplings faded into memory. The Crystal Palace closed down in the early 2000s, following the decline of the rest of the Szechuan-style family restaurants. There were too many owners; not enough customers. So it goes in the restaurant world. Restaurants changed, too: more authentic Chinese ingredients became available, and rudimentary North-Americanized Chinese dishes evolved into more complex, diverse, and authentic offerings.

    Our waiter has worked at the Papillon Bleu since day one, eighteen years ago. Before that, he was at Papillon de Szechuan. He remembers the Crystal Palace, le Piment Rouge, and the others. We chatted about the old recipes, traded half-remembered details of my family’s restaurant, and about new, more authentic mainland Chinese places that have sprouted up downtown, run by people who would not know what to make of wontons slathered in Kraft (or Skippy, for that matter).

    After he left us with two fortune cookies, we exited the Papillon Bleu into the cool night with our bellies warmed, and I could not help but think, like Lesley Chesterman, that it must have all seemed so promising. Thanks to the efforts of today's Chinese restaurateurs, I can now enjoy Xiaolongbao from Shanghai, Xinjian lamb skewers, and Langzhou soup noodles in Montreal. But, to me, Kraft peanut butter still tastes like home.

    Make Crystal Palace's Hunan Dumplings with Peanut Sauce »

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    The Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino, Canda

    Courtesy of The Wickaninnish Inn

    The Wickaninnish Inn overlooks the Pacific Ocean in this small town on the edge of Canada.

    After a week in Tofino I've pretty much adopted the diet of a sea otter.

    Crustaceans and bivalves, naturally: gnarly gooseneck barnacles at Wolf in The Fog; decapods in the form of Dungeness crabs, sweet and simply boiled, devoured right on the beach beside The Wickaninnish Inn; and palm-sized beach oysters broiled beneath a toasty shell of miso mayonnaise and salmon bacon at Sobo. I'm getting my greens mainly from marine algae: slippery pickled bull kelp at Picnic washed down with Tofino Brewing Company's Kelp Stout. It's all remarkably good, and my fur has never looked better.

    Tofino is a tiny and remote place—the first road was built in 1959—on the extreme west coast of Vancouver Island. Sail west from here into the Pacific and there's nothing but ocean until you hit Japan. The year-round population is around 1800, but that number swells by several times in the summer when tourists flock here for the picturesque marine beauty and wildlife, the surfing, and, more frequently, for the food.

    The Pass at Wolf in the Fog; Tofino, Vancouver Island

    Christopher Pouget Photography

    The Pass at Wolf in the Fog

    Culinary tourism in Tofino is relatively recent; the story begins in 1996, when the Wickaninnish Inn opened the Pointe Restaurant and built their menu almost entirely around local ingredients—unusual for this time and place.

    That local-first practice is still in place today, and a meal in the Pointe's great octagonal dining room, preferably at a window table overlooking the sweep of Chesterman beach or nestled up beside the copper fireplace, doubles as a lesson in local flavor. Chef Warren Barr pairs plump, briny clams and soft Humboldt squid with horseradish yogurt and melons from the nearby Okanagan Valley. Potatoes are cooked in beeswax, imparting a mellow sweetness, while wild salal berries (a sweet little black berry that's been a part of the local diet around here for 5000 years) do the same for a nutty brown butter cake.

    While the Pointe is the most formal way to experience the best local ingredients it’s not the only. At Sobo, chef Lisa Ahier, a Texas import who moved here with her husband Artie a dozen years ago, cooks an idiosyncratic and delicious menu that makes use of local suppliers in dishes that lean from Spanish (halibut and scallop ceviche) to Asian (braised duck ramen) to West Coast (cedar-planked salmon) in spirit.

    The most sought-after reservation in town right now, though, is the restaurant of former Pointe chef Nicholas Nutting. Wolf in the Fog opened in 2014 to almost immediate national acclaim for its playful but refined cooking. There, you can order an entire duck served with lasagna and blood oranges, while you watch couples sip punch from crystal bowls and sing along to old-school reggae.

    Tina Windsor of Picnic Charcuterie; Tofino, Vancouver Island

    Jeremy Koreski

    Tina Windsor of Picnic Charcuterie

    So intense is the appetite for Tofino’s food right now that the town can barely contain it. Even a rather unlovely industrial park on the outskirts of town now houses Red Can Gourmet, the local fancy pizza joint, plus Picnic, a terrific little charcuterie and preserve shop, and the chilled-out tasting room at Tofino Brewing Company. The so-called “hippie mall” on the highway, home to Wildside Grill, an excellent fish and chip hut featuring fresh local salmon, ling cod, and halibut, and Tacofino, a colorful taco truck with a permanent lineup and Chocolate Tofino (purveyor of the chocolate starfish), is bursting at the seams.

    There might not be a better small town to eat in anywhere right now for people or for otters.

    Chris Johns is an award winning food and travel writer. After crossing Canada from British Columbia to Newfoundland with friend Derek Dammann, owner of Montreal's renowned Maison Publique, to meet with farmers, fishermen, winemakers and chefs (basically the people who make Canada so delicious) for a book project, he’s returning to his favorite places from that trip for SAVEUR—plus visiting a few he never got to—for a second helping of Canadiana.

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    La Platea, Madrid

    Courtesy of Virginia García Pando

    From theater to tapas food hall.

    “Something is happening here.”

    This sign appeared three years ago at the entrance to Carlos III, an abandoned movie theater in Madrid’s posh barrio Salamanca. Closed for almost 10 years, Carlos III was the neighborhood’s cinema de toda la vida (of our entire lives), as one doorman put it. Since its inauguration in 1952 with the showing of Casbah, it had attracted both Madrileños and visitors with its spacious seating, a shopping gallery, and the famous Cleofás disco in the basement. When it shut its doors less than half-a-century after it opened, it left quite a vacuum in the community’s cultural life.

    But not for long.

    Today—a 60 million euro investment and several years of renovations later—Carlos III is once again welcoming both locals and tourists. This time, though, it’s doing it as Platea, a multi-level food market where vermouth is on-tap and the pintxo menus are endless.

    Walk through the sliding glass doors into the area that would have housed the orchestra seating in the old theater and you’ll be immersed in a spectacle of Coliseum proportions. Hostesses mill around in uniforms reminiscent of The Grand Budapest Hotel; food-court style tapa counters catch and reflect light creating a mirror-hall effect; and wooden beams soar all the way to the cupola and back. Although it’s only 8:45 p.m. when I visit, an early meal time for Madrid, most of the tables are occupied. I find myself a seat at the bar, where I order a glass of vermouth—on-tap.

    La Platea Food

    Courtesy of Virginia García Pando

    At La Platea, it's all about the tiny bites.

    Effusive in its offerings, Platea beams indulgence. Its orchestra level, called the patio, features at least half a dozen different counters, each stocked with specialties such as pintxos, the Basque cousin of the Spanish tapas; banderias, assortments of bite-size nibbles on toothpicks; fish sliders; cheese and ham platters; a counter dedicated entirely to oysters, caviar, and octopus; and a fried food haven where deep-fried artichokes compete with even more deep-fried boquerones. To start, I buy a pintxo of tomato tartare with anchovies from a selection of over 15 at Pintxoteca Orkestra. The crunchy baguette, the sweet tomato, the salty fish—together, it’s a dream. Next, I move over to Castizo, where they make my absolute favorite, berenjena con miel. Fried perfectly, the eggplant's natural tanginess highlighted by the honey, it pairs well with Rueda de Verdejo, the Spanish white wine.

    By 9:30 p.m., the patio gets crowded and I move to the lower level, the former discotheque. Connected with the orchestra level via a large mirror-lined aperture, the downstairs has the same food-court feel but the offerings go international—Peruvian, Mexican, Japanese, or Italian. At Sinergias, I order huevos rotos con gulas al ajillo, fried eggs with imitation baby eels cooked in garlic. When the eggs arrive, I stick my fork directly into the yolk. Huevos rotos are meant to be ‘broken’ over whatever they happen to be served with so the yolk spreads through the gulas and the freshly fried potatoes; It seems like the most normal—and delicious—thing to do.

    But Platea doesn’t forget its dramatic past. On the weekends, it houses performances; tonight, it’s aerial acrobatics. At 10, running half-an-hour late as is usual in Spain, an iron hook descends from the ceiling, and a young man in a bellboy-like uniform fits it with a red silk ribbon; a young woman, all in black, climbs onto a table right next to me. She wraps the silk around her hands and soars up through the aperture. We all crane our necks to watch her climb, contort, and drop, and Platea’s three levels buzz with more life than they probably did during its cinematic past.

    Three floors up, at Cocteleria, the former top amphitheater and current cocktail bar, the price of cocktails is almost twice the cost of them downstairs but I can watch the next aerial number without a cramp in my neck.

    Calle de Goya, 5-7, 28001 Madrid, Spain
    +34 915 77 00 25

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    Doves Luncheonette Counter

    Brian Willette

    The counter at Dove's Luncheonette.

    Don’t let the nickname fool you; the Second City is second-to-none when it comes to eating and drinking. Beneath the deep dish surface you’ll find a wealth of affordable regional specialties and life-changing restaurants. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find bars that distill their own spirits right before your eyes; markets that live and die by the farm-to-table mantra (yes, even in the Midwest); and hotels both boutique and colossal. And it gets better and better every month; be it a new fine dining destination, subterranean cocktail haunt, or specialty coffeeshop, Chicago’s showing no sign of slowing down.

    There’s so much out there in this sprawling city that deciding where to eat can be intimidating for visitors. So we’ve compiled a guide of can’t-miss Chicago restaurants, bars, hotels, and culinary destinations to ensure your time in the Second City is first-rate.

    Where to Eat:

    Xoco Caldo

    Courtesy Frontera Grill

    There are tortas and then there are Tortas. Rick Bayless’s immensely popular sandwich shop makes Capital-T-Tortas that truly are worth waiting in a (fast-moving) line for. With higher quality, more deeply flavorful meat options than most of the city’s Mexican sandwich shops, and a more cheffy attention to detail than average, Xoco easily rises above the competition as a sandwich destination, even in a city of destination-worthy sandwiches. From piquant chorizo to tender braised goat to whole sandwiches drowned in tomato broth, there’s a sandwich for everyone here.

    449 N Clark St. (Enter on Illinois), Chicago, IL 60654

    Xoco Bistro (Wicker Park)
    1471 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

    Few foods are more divisive than Chicago deep dish, so if you’re going to take the plunge, go ahead and do it right. While names like Giordano’s and Lou Malnatti’s get bandied about all over, our go-to deep dish is the dark horse Bacino’s, specifically for their stuffed crust pizza, a taller, mightier version of deep dish that includes an extra layer of pizza dough above the cheese and beneath the tomato sauce (remember, you’re going for broke here). Why Bacino’s specifically? Because every element of their pizza tastes a little more fresh and flavorful: bright and tangy tomato sauce; spinach that isn’t cooked to depth; mozzarella with just a touch of twang; and a crust that has some burnished flavor to go along with its heft. You won’t be lacking for gobs of cheese and sauce with this stuffed crust, but the lighter, more flavorful touches from the kitchen mean you won’t feel like you got hit by a bus after eating, either.

    Multiple locations across Chicagoland.

    Birrieria Zaragoza
    Chicago is home to some excellent Mexican food, a fact often overlooked by visitors. But there’s no avoiding it at this family-run Mexican restaurant on the Southwest Side, because the menu has one simple star: birria, braised goat stew, and it’s spectacular. Birreria Zaragoza is a hike from downtown, all the way over on Pulaski Road near Midway Airport, but once you get a taste of meltingly soft, gently spiced goat meat in lipsmacking tomato consomme, you’ll start planning your next visit while still at your table, and that’s before you get a bite of the thick, toasty tortillas made by hand to order. The dining room is no-frills—bright lights and spare tables—so your eyes naturally fall on the gentleman behind the counter, chopping up hunks of goat meat with a fat cleaver on a well-worn butcher block.

    Birrieria Zaragoza
    4852 S Pulaski Rd, Chicago, IL 60632
    (773) 523-3700

    Floriole Cafe and Bakery
    For classic French pastry, simple but excellent sandwiches, and even pizza (not the Chicago kind if that’s not your thing), Floriole is the bakery to know. The star here is the pastry case, hard to miss as you’re hit by a wall of butter as soon as you walk inside. Flaky croissants and creamy scones are a given, but don’t miss the bakery’s superlative caneles, which sell out early thanks to a perfect balance of burnished, crisp exteriors and fragrant, custardy centers. The bright, sun-lit interior makes for the perfect cafe to while away an afternoon while drunk on pastry.

    Floriole Cafe and Bakery
    1220 W Webster Ave, Chicago, IL 60614
    (773) 883-1313

    Al’s Italian Beef
    Yes, be sure to eat some hot dogs while you’re here, but also be sure to partake in the less-talked-about Chicago specialty: the Italian beef sandwich, Chicago’s chief contribution to America’s great sandwiches. Effectively a roast beef sandwich topped with pickled vegetables and drowned in jus (a Midwestern dip, if you will), the Italian beef balances meaty heft with sweet-and-sour twang, and all that gravy means you’ll need a sleeve of napkins to get through it--a sure sign of a good sandwich. At Al’s, the beef is that much more flavorful and spiced, then sliced whisper thin so it falls apart in your mouth. The giardiniera (here principally pickled celery and peppers with a dose of chile heat) is a refreshing rejoinder to the meat, and the soft, pliant hero bread, once soaked with jus, holds its shape just long enough for you to down one with gusto.

    Al’s Italian Beef
    Multiple locations across Chicagoland.

    Longman & Eagle
    Taking inspiration from the city of broad pork shoulders, Longman & Eagle offers a cozy, cabin-like experience with a meat-packed menu. From duck egg hash and foie gras french toast at brunch to horseradish bone-marrow purée topped strip loin at dinner, everything’s sure to stick to your ribs, and stay there. The same goes for fresh produce, like pickled green garlic to accompany pillowy ricotta gnudi. Though Longman is known for its whisky selection, feel free to crack open a PBR (especially during winter brunch) for a true Sweet Home Chicagoan experience.

    Longman & Eagle
    2657 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
    (773) 276-7110 (no reservations)

    If Chicago had a homecoming king, it’d be chef Paul Kahan, whose family of restaurants has been at the top of the list for Chicagoans since he opened up his first place almost two decades ago. But if we were to guess which one might be his favorite, our money is on Publican, which, like Kahan himself, is a testament to Midwestern hospitality at its most laid-back and charming. The menu, centered around beer and pork, is a parade of crowd-pleasers (country-style ribs, anyone?), ideal for a big, open dining room that encourages kicking back and making a night of it.

    837 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607
    (312) 733-9555

    It’s no surprise that Chicago is a steakhouse town. What is pleasantly surprising is that a city saturated with steakhouses can still innovate the meaty template. See Boeufhaus, one of the most surprising restaurants to take shape in Ukrainian Village. A far cry from the hifalutin steakhouses that dot downtown, this dark, diminutive place gives the steakhouse formula a European accent, infusing it with German and French panache. Short rib beignets and tarte flambée are a nice way to kickstart a meal, followed by filet mignon au poivre, steak frites, or an aged ribeye swimming in bordelaise. Swing by at lunch for a more casual meal, which features some of the best, most succulent pastrami you’ll ever eat.

    1012 North Western Avenue, Chicago, IL 60622
    (773) 661-2116

    Doves Lunchonette table setting

    Derek Richmond

    Dove's Luncheonette is a winner for casual, delicious Mexican.

    Dove’s Luncheonette
    Take a seat on a stool and witness how Donnie Madia, 2015’s James Beard Restaurateur of the Year, transforms casual dining. Though your options are limited (like the seating), every dish on the Southern-inspired Mexican menu (like chorizo verde gravy topped buttermilk fried chicken and pork shoulder pozole) is an easy winner. Top off your experience with a fully stocked tequila and mezcal bar and soul music spinning on vinyl, you know this ain’t your grandpa’s lunch counter.

    Dove’s Luncheonette 1545 N. Damen Ave, Chicago, Illinois 60622
    (773) 645-4060

    Lula Cafe
    Logan Square doesn’t lack for coffee shops, bars, and brunch spots, but before it became the hip neighborhood that it is today, it had Lula Cafe. Open since 1999, the bustling spot is known for brunches of bloody mary’s, not-so-classic omelettes (think duck confit, blood sausage, and trout), and takes of Mexican dishes, it’s open all day (and even has an online shop for those who want to live the Lula lifestyle 24/7). Plan to wait for brunch, but it’s worth it. Just don’t go Tuesdays—that’s the one day they’re closed.

    Lula Cafe
    2537 North Kedzie Blvd, Chicago, IL 60647
    (773) 489-9554

    Where to Drink:

    The Violet Hour bar

    Michael Robinson

    The bar at the Violet Hour.

    The Violet Hour
    When you take a seat at The Violet Hour’s sleek bar, you occupy the birthplace of many of this generation’s greatest bartenders—and it’s no coincidence that so many have gone on to open their own celebrated watering holes; every drink at The Violet Hour, no matter the time of day, is perfectly-executed and unfailing tasty. The food isn’t to be missed, either, whether it’s the tangy chicken wing tartine or—to close out the evening—the chocolate chip ice cream, spiked with Fernet Branca (naturally).

    The Violet Hour
    1520 N Damen, Chicago, IL 60622
    (773) 252-1500

    Lost Lake
    Lost Lake wasn’t Chicago’s first tiki bar, but it’s the one that everyone’s talking about. Opened on the border of Logan Square and Avendale in early 2015 by bartender Paul McGee, the owner of Chicago’s other popular tiki bar Three Dots and a Dash, the bar prices all cocktails at $12, and if you get hungry, order food from Thank You, a American-Chinese takeout counter around the corner. They’ll deliver food straight to your table (or barstool), so you don’t have to worry about abandoning your rum-spiked drink with the banana dolphin hanging over the edge.

    Lost Lake 3154 W Diversey Ave, Chicago, IL 60618
    (773) 293-6048

    Revolution Brewing
    Revolution Brewing isn’t just the biggest craft brewery in Chicago—it’s the biggest in Illinois. Situated in Logan Square, the warehouse-cum-brewery and taproom offers a variety of types of beers with names like Workingman Mild (a session), Double Fist (a double pale ale), and hoppy “Hero” brews, a series of season India Pale Ales. Make sure to order a basket of freshly baked bread or tray of charcuterie to help sustain your drinking.

    Revolution Brewing
    2323 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
    (773) 227-2739

    Where to Stay:

    Lost Lake interior

    Clayton Hauck

    Inside Lost Lake.

    Chicago Athletic Association
    Originally conceptualized in 1890, the Chicago Athletic Association is once again open to the public, and this time it’s bigger, better, and more delicious than ever. The 13-story Michigan Avenue stunner sports the vintage opulence of the Titanic, but with more craft cocktails and less icebergs. The former athletic club frequented by the olympic elite now boasts a myriad of public spaces, dining areas, and reimagined sporting rooms within its Venetian Gothic walls. The rooms contain soaring ceilings and stunning views of Millennium Park, along with a billiards-packed game room, a full-service restaurant with table side cocktail service called Cherry Circle Room, a Shake Shack, and a rooftop restaurant and terrace called Cindy’s.

    Chicago Athletic Association
    12 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60603
    (312) 940-3552

    The Guesthouse Hotel
    The Guesthouse Hotel in Andersonville on Chicago’s far north side is as close as you’ll get to feeling like a Chicago resident for a few days. Nestled in one of the city’s most charming neighborhoods, miles from the hustle and bustle of downtown high rises, the Guesthouse lives up to its name with its homey environs that feel more like chic apartments than hotel accommodations. Considering the building’s previous incarnation as condos, it’s no surprise. The property contains a spa, a club room, and suites in a variety of sizes, all just a stone’s throw from the central corridor of Andersonville, home to hip boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops, the Swedish museum, and more.

    The Guesthouse Hotel
    4872 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60640
    (773) 564-9568

    Public Chicago
    With it’s sleek white-washed design and hot ticket restaurant, The Pump Room (from power chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten), you could mistake the Public in Chicago for a chi-chi Miami hotel. But this isn’t Miami, it’s Chicago, so you can enjoy all the style with a hearty helping of Midwestern kindness.

    Public Chicago 1301 N State Parkway, Chicago, IL 60610
    (312) 787-3700

    What to Do:

    Floriole Spread

    John Towner

    The sweet and savory spread at Floriole.

    Read It and Eat
    Cookbook-lovers, take heed. Read It and Eat is a bookstore with an appetite for the culinary. It’s a food-exclusive bookstore in the heart of Lincoln Park, home to a wide catalogue of cookbooks, essays, biographies, travel writing, and everything in between. In case that wasn’t enough, the store also hosts recurring demonstrations and tasting events in its on-site kitchen event space, certainly something you won’t find at the average bookstore. Diehard locals would be wise to enroll in Read It and Eat’s cookbook club, which meets monthly to discuss books and dine together.

    Read It and Eat
    2142 North Halsted Street, Chicago, IL 60614
    (773) 661-6158

    Joong Boo Market
    Ask most any chef where they shop for Asian ingredients in Chicago and more often than not the answer will be Joong Boo Market. This sprawling grocery store and dining spot in Avondale houses an impressive arsenal of dry goods, meats, produce, seasonings, breads, kitchen wares, pastries, and specialty items, all with Asian accents ranging from Korean to Vietnamese. For the avid home cook looking to delve further into various Asian cuisines, this is the spot to stock up. Or if you’re just here to eat, you can do that too at Joong Boo’s on-site quick service eatery, home to killer ramen, bibimbap, mandoo, and more.

    Joong Boo Market
    3333 North Kimball Avenue, Chicago, IL 60618
    (773) 478-5566

    Maxwell Street Market
    For nearly a hundred years, the Maxwell Street Market has been the premier flea market of Chicago. These days it’s principally about Latin American food and wares, and every Sunday, vendors trot out all manner of tacos, tamales, churros, and other Mexican specialties like quesadillas loaded with huitlacoche, the funky, inky-black fungus that grows over corn kernels. In between bites of street food you can catch cultural performances that run during the warm weather months.

    Maxwell Street Market 800 S Desplaines St., Chicago, IL 60607
    (312) 745-4676

    Dose Market
    If you’re lucky enough to be in town and score tickets, this eclectic and upscale market is worth a whole Sunday of perusing. The hottest new restaurant and food ventures share the floor with up-and-coming designers and boutiques in once-a-month pop-up booths. Prepare to stock up your pantry, closet and stomach with distinct finds.

    Dose Market
    Venue One 1034 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607
    (312) 972-8400

    With additional reporting from Matt Kirouac

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    Eat Mexico tortas

    Teddy Wolff

    In Mexico City, the Distrito Federal (or simply “DF”) of Mexico, food thrives everywhere. You can’t walk down the street without inhaling the smell of hand-patted tortillas toasting over wood fires or spying dribbles of salsas around the corner. With over 20 million residents sprawling over enough territory to make Los Angeles look like a small town, Mexico City is frenetic, dizzying, inexhaustible. You could spend a lifetime exploring and not cover half of the city’s delights. But here is a guide to get you started from must-visit avant garde cuisine and, of course, the tacos.

    One thing to keep in mind in Mexico City is that comida, “food,” also refers to lunch, the largest meal of the day, served between 1 and 4 p.m. It’s a serious, lengthy event, often lubricated with cerveza and tequila. Those who generally treat dinner as their core meal would do well to restructure their circadian rhythms. Dinner, or cena, is often lighter—mezcal, a tamale or two—and it doesn’t happen until 10 p.m. Additionally, it’s a good idea to look up hours before venturing out; there is no disappointment like traveling to a far corner of the city only to find out your destination closed at 5 p.m.

    Where to Eat

    Fideos at Pujol

    Fideos with puslane at Pujol.

    Cantina El Sella
    Though everything is good at this cantina, it's the chamorro, a bone-in pork shank braised in its own fat, that you'll find on every table. Meltingly tender meat is flanked by piquant habeñero salsa, minced onion and cilantro, and hot corn tortillas to make your own tacos. Add an order of guacamole, fried parsley, and a barely-set eggy tortilla espanola and while away the hours. Don’t miss the flaming ate con queso, either: postage stamp sized pieces of cheese and quince paste doused in Amaretto and set on fire, tableside.

    Eje 2A Sur 210 (at Dr. Balmis), Colonia Doctores
    (55) 5761 2727

    Nicos lies outside of the common tourist circuit, and it’s where Mexican families dine together on Sundays and where chefs go on their days off. Service is warm, not stuffy, in a comfortable dining room with a fully stocked mezcal bar. Their nimble kitchen, under the charge of Gerardo Vázquez Lugo, serves traditional but always interesting Mexican food more upscale than street far but more casual than the fancy spots. The menu changes with the seasons, which means mole in December, escamoles (ant eggs sauteed in butter) during specific months, and chiles en nogada at peak walnut season. Don’t miss the pan de elote con rompope, a rich corn custard with eggnog sauce.

    Avenida Cuitláhuac 3102, Colonia Clavería
    (55) 5396 7090

    El Hidalgense
    Only open Friday through Sunday, El Hidalgense serves some of the city’s finest barbacoa, trucked in all the way from the neighboring state of Hidalgo where barbacoa reigns. The meat is wrapped in fragrant maguey leaves and steam-roasted over wood fire packed into underground pits. The meat is rendered rich and supple, served with blue corn tortillas, limes, radish, onions, herbs, avocado and three salsas, for DIY tacos. Beyond the braised meat there are lots of classic treats to try—pulque, insect dishes, and the house brand of mezcal.

    El Hidalgense
    Campeche 155, Colonia Roma
    (55) 5564 0538

    El Vilsito
    By day, El Vilsito is an auto repair shop where mechanics change oil and tinker with loose brakes. By night, it’s a bumping taqueria with waiters buzzing around and crowds angling for their attention. It’s a pleasure to watch the taqueros handle the huge spits of tacos al pastor, shaving off meat and slivers of pineapple. Besides the al pastor, there’s grilled steak, bistocino (steak with bacon and onions), and gringas, flour tortillas clobbered with cheese and pork al pastor, anointed with green salsa from molcajetes big enough to bathe in. Service is faster than a chop shop.

    El Vilsito
    Petén 248 (at Av. Universidad), Colonia Navarte
    (55) 5682 7213

    Super Tacos Chupacabra
    What started as a popular nighttime taco street cart serving bistec, longaniza, al pastor, and campechano (that’s a mix of all three) has now moved to a more permanent brick and mortar location under a highway overpass. In addition to the pitch-perfect tacos, there is a long bar of free condiments to customize your order: pinto beans, grilled onions, sliced nopales (cactus), crumbled potato, slivered onions marinated with habeñero, and more than a few salsas. Pro move: Bring your own spoon to scoop up any meat that threatens to spill out of your taco.

    Super Tacos Chupacabra
    Av. Mexico-Coyoacan Sn Local 1, Colonia Coyoacan

    Enrique Olvera's Pujol continues to live up to the mounting hype as, bar none, the most creative, clever, and well-executed take on contemporary high-cuisine Mexican cuisine. If you're going to visit one high-end restaurant in Mexico City, this is it. From the brooding one-year-aged mole madre to mini corn cobs with coffee mayo, peppered with ground chicatana ants to masterful desserts to the tortillas that smell like buttered popcorn, each dish will leave you giddy. At 1,375 pesos (about $80 US), it’s still the most affordable fine-dining experience in the Western hemisphere.

    Francisco Petrarca 254, Colonia Polanco
    (55) 5545 4111

    Where to Drink

    El Patio interior

    Courtesy of El Patio

    Inside El Patio.

    La Mascota
    Servers assume that you will be having at least three drinks at La Mascota, which is why they set you with a paper placemat and cutlery when you sit down. Three’s the minimum to be plied with botanas—free snacks of the day which often amount to a real meal, maybe chicken consomme followed by beef braised in guajillo sauce or snails in squid ink. Sip tequila chased with sangrita, a shot of spicy sweet tomato juice and watch the staff shift around the heavy wooden tables to accommodate large groups. The jukebox goes all the way to 11.

    La Mascota
    Mesones 20, Colonia Centro Historico
    (55) 5709 7852

    On a slim street in Centro, behind a velvet curtain, hides one of the best mezcalerias in town. Great music, a colorful crowd, in a raw, minimalist space with an energy that keep things interesting. Though Oaxaca is known as the spiritual heart of the mezcal movement, there are dozens of other mezcals, from San Luis Potosi, Guerrero, Jalisco, and Puebla to sample. The staff is knowledge and patient and can help steer you towards something you’ll like. They are about to open another location next door that will be more focused on food; but of course, there will always mezcal.

    Luis Moya 31, Colonia Centro Historico
    (55) 5512 1991

    Maison Artemisia
    The second floor of Maison Artemisia transports you a corner of late 19th century Paris, all dark and cozy with plump chaise lounges, framed photos in golden, leafy frames, and traditional absinthe preparations. The amiable bartenders mix intriguing cocktails from their collection of spirits, rare liqueurs, tinctures, housemade vermouths, and other botanicals. No rum and cokes here.

    Maison Artemisia
    Tonalá 23, Colonia Roma Norte (55) 6303 2471

    Tio Pepe
    The stained glass window behind the bar spell out Hennessey in this gracefully aging neighborhood cantina on a corner in Centro’s truncated Chinatown. There are no stools at the bar, just a long wooden counter to lean on and chat with shrewd bartenders and regulars. Look for a wooden booth for more privacy. Ice-cold beer plus roving snack men selling toasted, chile-spiced chickpeas make for the perfect casual place to relax and recharge.

    Tio Pepe
    Independencia 26, Colonia Centro Historico
    (55) 5521 9136

    A dimly lit cocktail bar on a desolate corner of Condesa recently renovated to accommodate more customers. Climb inside of the bungalow and perch on a long, low banquette that runs along the wall paired with clusters of petite chairs. The intimate bar serves perfect renditions of classic cocktails and inventive new ones using a wide array of herbs, fruits, and spirits by a rotating cast of bartenders.

    Celle Ometusco 87, Colonia Condesa (55) 5277 1917

    Pulqueria Las Duelistas
    You can smell the tang of fermented agave juice, pulque, out in front of this Centro pulqueria. Push past the swinging double doors into a delightful frenzy of young pulque fans, punks, and locals sipping mugs of the viscous, opaque liquid. You can drink it straight or as a curado, pulque blended with fruit or vegetables in flavors like guava, mango, oat, or celery. If you don't care for pulque on first sip, don't worry, it's an acquired taste—tart, slightly effervescent, and vaguely probiotic, almost like a Mexican kombucha. It's essential liquid history of the DF—the tipple of choice before the beer-brewing industry arrived.

    Pulqueria Las Duelistas
    Aranda 28, Colonia Centro Historico
    55 1394 0958

    Where to Stay

    The Red Tree House

    Kenny Viese

    The lobby of Red Tree House.

    The Red Tree House
    The Red Tree House lies on a quiet residential street, insulated from the buzzier avenues of Condesa, yet a mere two blocks from the lush Parque Mexico, where fashionistas walk their well-groomed pooches. It's not aiming for five stars or hipster boutique status, just genuine warmth and hospitality with serene rooms, including some with attached gardens. The hotel can be a bit hard to find, so look for the red lights dangling from the trees to guide you home.

    The Red Tree House
    Culiacan 6, Colonia Condesa
    52 (55) 5584-3829

    This is the hottest, hippest hotel in town. Newly opened in Colonia Cuauhtémoc, Carlota is all poured concrete, dynamic Mexican design, industrial chic with neon touches. On the bottom floor there is a lifestyle boutique, a restaurant, a bar, and a skinny, rectangular swimming pool. The roster of 36 rooms includes four suites (two with terraces), and the hotel is pet-friendly.

    Río Amazonas 73, Colonia Cuauhtémoc
    52 (55) 5511 63

    El Patio 77 An incredible 19th century mansion on a corner of San Rafael, a tranquil, neighborhood north of the trendy Condesa/Roma axis, renovated in 2009. Each of the eight rooms of this B & B is decorated differently and offers eco-friendly touches, such as solar power panels on the roof and a plant-shaded courtyard. It’s an excellent option if you’ve stayed in Condesa/Roma before and want to see other, equally beautiful neighborhoods.

    El Patio 77
    Joaquin Garcia Icazbalceta 77, Colonia San Rafael
    52 (55) 4631 9942

    Las Alcobas
    Plush settings in upscale Polanco. Las Alcobas is a boutique hotel off the main strip. A cucumber mint agua fresca is ushered with your baggage to your room, where handmade soaps and a deep whirlpool bath awaits. There’s a small gym on the premises, morning coffee service, and two good restaurants on the ground floor: Anatol and Dulce Patria.

    Las Alcobas
    Masaryk 390, Colonia Polanco
    52 (55) 3300 3900

    Condesa DF
    Housed in a 1928 French Neoclassical building on an angular corner, Condesa DF is first and foremost a hotel, but often seems like a clubhouse for posh scenesters. There are swanky turquoise and white rooms, with mid-century modern furniture and a central patio for good measure. Don’t miss the rooftop bar with great views and loungey sofas. There’s always a cluster of young, urban, socialites at the door, looking to party.

    Condesa DF
    Avenida Veracruz 120, Colonia Condesa 52 (55) 5282 2199

    What to Do

    Eat Mexico Grilled Street Corn

    Lesley Tellez

    Grilled street corn, just one of many stops on an Eat Mexico tour.

    The floating gardens, or chinampas, of Xochimilco are where you can catch a glimpse of the grounds on which the ancient city of Tenochtitlan were built. They're narrow waterways with dense patchworks of land constructed on top, like a vegetal version of Venice’s canals. You can hire the brightly painted trajineras, flat-bottomed boats, to float through the canals pushed by youngsters with bulging biceps. Vendors in canoes ride buy selling tamales, elotes, beer, and even full mariachi bands, that will sell you a song.

    Eat Mexico Culinary Tours
    Cookbook author Lesley Tellez’s culinary tours are deliberately small—never more than six people–to keep as little as possible between you and some of the city's best street food. Get ready to dive deep into the scrum of markets and busy taco corridors for a taste of the city that guide books often ignore. There’s a variety of tours to choose from with different highlights, including a custom culinary tour that can be designed with specific interests and/or diet restrictions in mind.

    Mercado de San Juan
    Every market in Mexico City has its perks; Mercado de San Juan is all about diversity. There are vendors that specialize in fruits, vegetables, dairy, mushrooms, grains, dried chiles, seafood, and exotic meats like scorpion, deer, and iguanas. At some of the fresh fish stands you can order a plate of bite-sized, freshly sliced tuna loin, sprinkled with salt, lime, and soy, with toothpicks to eat while browsing.

    Mercado de San Juan Ernesto Pugibet (between José María Marroquí and Luis Moya)

    Arena Mexico
    Is a visit to Mexico complete without watching grown men don masks and capes, climb into a ring, and start fighting? Arena Mexico in the Doctores neighborhood features weekly lucha libre matches of masked Mexican wrestling in all of its bawdy, screeching glory. The people screaming the loudest are often tiny little grandmas. Keep an eye out for micheladas, popcorn, and hot dogs too.

    Arena Mexico
    Calle Dr. Lavista #189, Cuauhtémoc, Doctores, Ciudad de México, D.F.
    01 55 5588 0508

    Scarlett Lindeman is a writer who splits her time between Mexico City and Brooklyn. She is the recipe editor for Diner Journal and is currently working on her PhD dissertation about Mexican restaurants in NYC. Follow her on Twitter.

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    Joe Beef's Brochette de Lapin

    Courtesy of Joe Beef

    There's never been a better time to eat in Montreal.

    To get a taste of European culture in North America, head to the city of smoked meat, dense woodfire-baked bagels, and poutine: Montreal. Thanks to the French-Canadian city’s booming culinary scene, visitors these days can now expect a heaping helping of continental food and flair, as well as a generous sampling of what makes Quebec’s native cuisines worth a trip of their own. Maple syrup and game meats practically merit their own food group, while the city’s cocktail culture—though slow on the uptake compared to America’s imbibing revival—has matured at a brisk pace over the past five years or so. Meanwhile, Montrealers who prefer their own dining room tables to those in restaurants also take eating seriously, as demonstrated by the city’s many farmers’ markets, cooking-supply stores, and other must-see, food-minded destinations. From where to get the best foie gras-topped pancakes to the hotel with the cushiest beds, check out our guide below.

    Where to Eat

    Joe Beef
    Dinner at this always-a-party eatery from buzzy restaurateur David McMillan that Momofuku founder David Chang calls “my favorite restaurant in the world” is worth the hype. The business, named after a legendary 19th-century barman, pays tribute to traditional French and Quebecois fare. For example, the restaurant is home to the over-the-top “foie gras double down,” which smooshes bacon, cheddar cheese, and maple syrup between two slabs of breaded and fried duck liver. With its insistence on hyper-local provisions and creative takes on rustic fare—pressed duck with seared foie gras! duck eggs with pommes frites! bacon-wrapped horse filet!—Joe Beef offers an over-the-top dining experience.

    Joe Beef
    2491 Notre-Dame West, Montreal, H3J 1N6

    Le Club Chasse et Peche
    Montreal’s a meat lover’s town, and since 2004, its carnivorous epicenter has sat behind a nondescript stucco facade tucked in a cobblestone street at the edge of the tourist-laden Old Port neighborhood. Inside, dimly lit small rooms with a lounge-y feel provide the perfect covert setting for eating your fill without worrying about what your fellow patrons might think. The cheeky menu is chockablock with hybrid meat dishes: veal with lobster tail, partridge with Serrano ham, and the house-named Chasse et Peche (which translates to “hunting and fishing”), a surf-and-turf spread often featuring sweetbreads and lobster in multiple forms. Don’t miss the cocktails.

    Le Club Chasse et Peche
    423 rue Saint-Claude, Montreal, H2Y 3B6

    Au Pied de Cochon
    Chef Martin Picard is the jovial-giant poster boy of traditional Quebecois cooking, and his signature restaurant’s menu is so larded up with syrup, fat, and foie gras, it almost reads like a dare. Foie gras, in fact, gets its very own section on the bill of fare; it’s available on top of a hamburger or a mess of poutine, pressed into a salted pie (tarte de fois gras cru au sel), or as part of the “plogue a Champlain”: a towering dish comprised of a buckwheat pancake, potatoes, a fried egg, Canadian bacon, and foie gras, drenched in a maple syrup reduction. The restaurant’s space is bistro-like, cozy, and narrow.

    Au Pied de Cochon
    536 Duluth East, Montreal, H2L 1A9

    Hotel Herman
    Small plates, elegant cocktails, hipster-chic vibe: Partners Ariana Lacombe, Dominic Goyet, and Marc-Alexandre Mercier hit all the requisite cool points when they opened their soignée eatery in 2012. What’s great about Hotel Herman, though, is that along with its swankiness, it also knows how to have fun. A massive, rectangular bar stands in the center of the room, which keeps the on-goings airy and saloon-like, while exposed brick, tiled surfaces, and a pressed-tin ceiling boost the storefront space’s amiable din. And then there’s the menu, which is punctuated by idiosyncratic dishes like deer tartare, raw fluke, and blood sausage with button mushrooms and spaetzle—and for dessert, white chocolate with sea buckthorn and pine.

    Hotel Herman
    5171 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, Montreal, H2T 1R9

    Maison Publique Spread

    Courtesy of Maison Publique

    The hearty spread you'll find at the pub's Sunday brunch.

    Calling Park the best sushi restaurant in Montreal is an understatement because it’s probably one of the best sushi restaurants in all of North America. Chef Antonio Park’s globally inspired menu stems from his identity—a Korean Montrealer who grew up in South America—and he serves up dishes like nigiri with chimichurri, duck breast with a foie gras croquette, and Korean shaved ice dessert patbingsu. Thanks to several special permits obtained by the restaurant, customers can try truly unique seafood, such as snapper that’s given needle treatments by fishermen to lessen the bodily trauma of death. For the best experience, order omakase-style; or for something less formal, go for lunch and get a bento box or bibimbap.

    378 Victoria Avenue, Montreal, H3Z 2N4

    Maison Publique
    Anglophilic food isn’t particularly common in French-speaking Quebec, but this inspired iteration of a classic British pub (which counts Jamie Oliver among its backers) has been warmly embraced by locals for its friendly vibe, smart cocktails, funky-meets-homey decor, and modernized comfort food. The kitchen is in full view behind the bar; from it come delicious dishes like Welsh rarebit, meat pies, crispy pig ear salad, baked oysters, and a ravishing T-bone steak for two. And in a city that loves brunch almost as much as it loves hockey, Maison Publique offers everything from pancakes, bacon, and eggs, to blood sausage and smoked sturgeon.

    Maison Publique
    4720 rue Marquette, Montreal, H2J 3Y6

    Au Kouign-Amann
    The bakery culture of “la vraie France” can be found at this adorable, old-fashioned patisserie and boulangerie. Its namesake specialty is a traditional Breton sweet: Picture a croissant as big as a whole cake that’s been slathered with a mind-boggling amount of extra butter and sugar. Kouign-amann is served in triangular slices; with one of the bakery’s café drinks, it makes for an excellent midday stop while strolling the Plateau. Au Kouign-Amann also serves a Gallic lunch menu featuring croque monsieurs and quiches. If you’re lucky, you can snag a seat at one of three small tables and bask in the bakery’s weathered wood and exposed brick interior.

    Au Kouign-Amann
    322 Avenue du Mont-Royal East, Montreal, H2T 1P7

    Where to Drink

    Le Rouge Gorge Charcuterie

    Courtesy of Le Rouge Gorge

    The charcuterie is worth an order at this beloved local wine bar.

    Le LAB
    Fabien Maillard’s dark corner bar is easy to find but still feels like a speakeasy with its vested staff, clandestine vibe, and innovative takes on pre-Prohibition cocktails. Every month, a new crop of libations highlights different ingredients—anything from chiles to Canadian rye whiskey. But, perennial potables reign supreme, such as the Jerky Lab Jack, a Jack Daniel’s-based cocktail mixed with house-made bitters and syrup, served on the rocks and garnished with a strip of beef jerky pinned to a mini-clothesline. Also, LAB-tenders (as they prefer to be called) are renowned for their love of pyrotechnic bartending, so hunker down for a show.

    Bar Le LAB
    1351 rue Rachel East, Montreal, H2J 2K2

    Big in Japan
    First, some helpful taxonomy: There’s Big in Japan the eatery, a greasy spoon-style izakaya featured on a 2011 episode of Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover; and then there’s Big in Japan the bar, the restaurant’s offspring, located a few blocks north. Open the nondescript door marked with miniscule Japanese lettering, and pass through a long, narrow corridor, and you’ll arrive at in a room with rococo-yet-minimalist candlelit bar tops with sake and Japanese whisky bottles hanging from the ceiling (high-rolling regulars purchase their own bottles and stash them there.) Funny enough, the cocktail menu steers toward Western-world staples: Manhattans, Negronis, Sidecars, and the like. Come on weeknights or early on the weekend to avoid the velvet-rope-and-bouncer treatment out front.

    Big in Japan (no website)
    4175 boulevard Saint Laurent, Montreal, H2W 1Y9

    Le Rouge Gorge
    Le Plateau is a boho Montreal neighborhood made for people-watching, and since opening there this past spring, this wine bar has attracted the see-and-be-seen crowd in droves. When the warm weather arrives, Le Rouge Gorge’s floor-to-ceiling windows offer a breezy view of the area’s foot traffic, as does its cute sidewalk terrasse (a summer amenity to be enjoyed at many local bars and eateries, and one of Montrealers’ favorite things about the city). Designer Zebulon Perron renovated what was previously a divey pool hall into a provocative establishment with a trapezoidal, marble-topped bar and an apparatus suspended above that holds wine bottles and glasses. Don’t miss the charcuterie, cheeses, and pickled nibbles.

    Le Rouge Gorge
    1234 Avenue du Mont-Royal Est, Montreal, H2J 1Y1

    Dieu du Ciel
    This Montreal microbrewery is the Montreal microbrewery; hands down, the best brewpub for its selection, ambiance, price, and most importantly, taste. On any given visit, you’ll likely find 15 to 20 different beers handwritten on the chalkboard menus; the alcoholic content of each will be meticulously noted and everything can be ordered in tasting-sized pours, allowing you to smartly strategize your session drinking. There are too many great beers here to list (and the lineup rotates regularly), but try the Disco Soleil (IPA aged with kumquats), the Route des Epices (pepper-flavored Siegle ale), the Rosee d’Hibiscus (white beer infused with hibiscus flowers), or the Aphrodisiaque (cacao-and-vanilla-flavored stout).

    Dieu du Ciel
    29 Avenue Laurier Ouest, Montreal, H2T 2N2

    Le 4e Mur
    Its name means “the fourth wall,” which is what you’ll pass through, seemingly, to reach this subterranean speakeasy. Located on a block of the Quartier Latin that’s run amok with college-kid hangouts, Le 4e Mur’s unmarked door is manned by a gentlemanly bouncer who will check your reservation on his smartphone, let you into the pitch-black vestibule, then leave you to figure out which brick (hint: it’s on your left) must be manipulated to magically open a second door leading to the basement bar itself. Once you’re there, you’ll be treated to smart takes on classic cocktails like Boulevardiers and Negronis. Since opening in July 2015, Le 4e Mur has scheduled free burlesque shows on the weekends. Enter your e-mail address at their website to make a reservation and find out the bar’s address.

    Le 4e Mur
    Address given out through the website
    No phone number

    Le Mal Necessaire
    Montreal was late to the tiki-craze party but caught up big-time when Le Mal Necessaire finally debuted in the summer of 2014. Locate the bar’s neon-green pineapple along the streets of Chinatown and descend into a hip-yet-welcoming lounge serving tiki drinks that are as over-the-top as they are on point. Classic cocktails include mai tais, pina coladas, painkillers, and Singapore Slings, available in either monster-sized individual portions—many drinks here come served in hollowed-out pineapples or coconuts—or, in a few cases, by the group-friendy pitcher. Patrons can also order food from the Chinese eatery upstairs.

    Le Mal Necessaire
    1106B Boul St Laurent, Montreal, H2Z 1J5

    Where to Stay

    Auberge du Vieux Port Exterior

    Courtesy of Experience Old Montréal

    Ville-Marie's historic 19th-century hotel, Auberge du Vieux Port.

    Hotel de L’Institut
    One of Montreal’s best accommodations is also a best-kept secret: The four-star Hotel de L’Institut, operated by Quebec’s government-run tourism and hotel management school, is located in the lower Plateau, where lodging can be hard to come by compared to Montreal’s tourist-heavy downtown. Every one of its 42 rooms comes equipped with its own balcony; other niceties include bamboo bath linens, goat’s-milk moisturizer, waffle-knit robes and a bounteous breakfast buffet. Guests and non-guests can make a reservation at the penthouse restaurant for an incredibly good and low-priced weekday lunch, while the ground-floor Restaurant de l’Institut holds its own among the city’s fine-dining standouts. L’Institut is also the rare Montreal hotel that provides underground parking for only a modest surcharge.

    Hotel de L’Institut
    3535 rue Saint-Denis, Montreal, H2X 3P1

    Hotel Le St-James
    Housed in a restored bank building from 1870 (the hotel spa is located in what used to be the vault), Lucien Remillard’s boutique property features individually designed and decorated rooms outfitted with hand-ironed Frette bed linens, marble bathrooms, blackout window shades, and museum-quality curios that Remillard personally selects on his travels. The staff even helps guests tailor their accommodations by selecting their own musical playlists and room fragrances. Expect to see a few famous faces traipsing through the small, beautiful lobby; Le St-James is renowned as the celebrity hotel of Montreal.

    Hotel Le St-James
    355 rue Saint-Jacques, Montreal, H2Y 1N9

    Hotel Gault
    Hotel Gault’s location—on a corner of Vieux-Port that borders the more modernized, centre-ville portion of downtown—serves as an allegory for its distinctively Old World-meets-New aesthetic. Housed in a five-story Beaux Arts warehouse from 1871, its 30 loft-like suites are furnished with floor-to-ceiling French windows (that you can actually open!), Flou beds, Mondrian custom cabinetry, flat-screen TVs, and heated bathroom floors. With work spaces provided in each room, a user-friendly lobby, library geared for meet-ups, and free use of the hotel’s iPads and Wi-Fi, Hotel Gault is also a great place to get some work done—but with a check-in desk that doubles as a bar, why would you?

    Hotel Gault
    449 rue Sainte-Helene, Montreal, H2Y 2K9

    What to Do

    Atwater Market

    Courtesy of Montreal Public Markets

    Marche Atwater
    Montreal takes great pride in its system of public markets (which those in the U.S. would recognize as farmers’ markets, with a focus on locally grown and raised produce, meat, and dairy). Located along the banks of the Lachine Canal (a lovely spot to enjoy a market-purchased picnic), Atwater’s year-round set-up makes a visit worthwhile no matter the season. The indoor/outdoor facility boasts several gourmet specialty shops inside its circa 1932 Art Deco edifice. What really makes Atwater recommendable, however, is its unparalleled selection of ready-to-eat victuals, with stalls surrounding the building that sell everything from Reunionese cuisine to Singaporean street food.

    Marche Atwater
    138 Atwater Avenue, Montreal, H4C 2H6

    The Wandering Chew
    This two-woman collective, founded by law student Sydney Warshaw and food writer Katherine Romanow, promotes and preserves Montreal’s Jewish food culture through two main endeavors. Their “Beyond the Bagel” walking tours focus on the culinary history of the adjoining Plateau and Mile-End neighborhoods, making pit stops at such landmarks as Schwartz’s (a Jewish deli beloved for its smoked meat), Wilensky’s Light Lunch (a luncheonette counter that’s barely changed since the 1930s) and rival bagel-makers Fairmount Bagels and St-Viatuer Bagels. The Wandering Chew also hosts dinners and other sit-down events like “Makhn A Piknik: A Yiddish Poet’s Feast,” “A Southern Jewish Thanksgiving,” and “Killer Cheese and Girl Power: A Chanukah Party.”

    The Wandering Chew
    No address
    No phone number

    Dante Hardware and Mezza Luna Cooking School
    If you’d get a kick out of shopping for Laguiole knives and Le Crueset Dutch ovens in a store where firearms are wall-mounted behind the register, then this is the kitchen specialty shop for you. Since 1956, the family-run business has imported hard-to-find cooking and baking supplies from Europe; since 1994, Elena Faita-Vendittelli has run the Mezza Luna cooking school a few doors down to further impart her family’s love for old-world Italian eats. Students can take classes in everything from bûche de noël to sweet-and-salty apples, then head over to Dante to pick up the supplies they need to recreate those dishes at home.

    Dante Hardware and Mezza Luna Cooking School
    6851 St-Dominique Street and 57 rue Dante, Montreal
    514-271-2057 and 514-272-5299

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    Raw Oysters from Peches

    Courtesy of Link Restaurant Group

    New Orleans, sometimes called “The City That Care Forgot,” is luckily not a city where people forget to eat. Nope. Ours is a city where food is woven into every fiber of daily life. Whether it’s a weekend crawfish boil, a pot of red beans simmering all Sunday, or fresh-from-the-fryer beignets, this city lives and breathes food.

    And it’s a food culture that contains multitudes. Sitting on the banks of the Mississippi, the lively port town was founded by the French in 1718, ruled by the Spanish for 40 years, passed back to the French, and ultimately purchased by the U.S. in 1803. The Crescent City experienced plenty of Caribbean island vibes along the way, not to mention an influx of Vietnamese after the fall of Saigon in 1975. It’s a well-seasoned gumbo of a city, with a long history of equal opportunity when it comes to good food.

    Plenty of guides will tell you to hit up popular spots like Cafe du Monde and Commander’s Palace—and you probably should—but there’s a lot more to New Orleans than the touristy spots, which is why this list makes room for the burgeoning ranks of newcomers, along with some can’t-miss old-school institutions.

    Where to Eat

    1000 Figs

    Courtesy of 1000 Figs

    1,000 Figs
    There are nearly 1,000 reasons to love 1,000 Figs, the cozy nook of a Mediterranean restaurant near City Park. But the best reason? The falafel feast. Expertly-fried-yet-pillowy-light chickpea fritters are plated with flatbread baked in their tiny kitchen, creamy hummus, crisp slaw, a melange of quick-pickled veggies (including local okra), and the wildly delicious dipping sauce schug. And for the latest in interactive dining, the drawers at each custom-built table open up to reveal your menus, napkins, and silverware.

    1,000 Figs
    3141 Ponce De Leon St #1, New Orleans, LA 70119
    (504) 301-0848

    Bevi Seafood
    A trip to New Orleans wouldn’t be complete without a po’ boy, right? There are plenty of solid ones in town, but a new favorite on the scene is Bevi. They do all the divey po’ boy classics—fried oyster, fried shrimp, roast beef—not to mention a crazy mash-up creation called “The Peacemaker,” where plump, fried Louisiana shrimp meld with melty Swiss and juicy bits of roast beef debris in a surf-and-turf-meets-grilled-cheese. Bevi’s original location out in Metarie is a convenient pre-airport stop, but they’ve recently opened a new location in Mid-City. Not just a sandwich shop, Bevi is also your best bet for expertly boiled crawfish (when in season), shrimp, crab, and raw (or fried) oysters.

    Bevi Seafood
    4701 Airline Dr, Metairie, LA 70001
    (504) 885-5003

    Willie Mae’s Scotch House
    Have you really eaten fried chicken if you haven’t eaten Willie Mae’s fried chicken? Debatable. This neighborhood fixture in the Treme was salvaged after Katrina thanks to the herculean efforts of the Southern Foodways Alliance and dozens of volunteers. Be prepared to wait outside for a table to open up, but it’s all worth it once that chicken—this is what fried chicken dreams are made of—comes right out of the fryer and onto your table. The crackly dark brown crust is perfectly spiced with just a hint of heat, and the meat inside is unbelievably juicy. (We raise our drumsticks to Willie Mae Seaton, who ran the restaurant for decades and recently passed away at the age of 99.)

    Willie Mae's Scotch House
    2401 St Ann St, New Orleans, LA 70119
    (504) 822-9503

    Cochon Butcher
    Right next door to its older sibling restaurant Cochon, this butcher shop-cum-bar has an awesome sandwich menu featuring meats cured in-house. Their muffaletta is a cheffy version of the classic New Orleans sandwich, first made at the old-school Central Grocery in the French Quarter (also worth checking out if you have the stomach space). Cold cuts like genoa salami, mortadella, and capicola are layered on a toasted sesame bun with olive salad to add that all-important briny tang. But Butcher goes beyond the classic sandwiches with its divine bacon melt, Moroccan lamb sandwich, and “Le Pig Mac,” which encompasses two pork patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onion (wowzers is right).

    Cochon Butcher
    930 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans, LA 70130
    (504) 588-7675

    Interior of Peche Seafood Grill

    Courtesy of Link Restaurant Group

    At the oyster bar at Peche.

    Raw or roasted, grilled or fried—this is where locals flock for the freshest seafood in town. Another landmark restaurant from local chef-celeb Donald Link, it’s equal parts simple and spruced-up. Grab a seat at the raw bar if you’re in the mood for Gulf oysters, or sit a table and experience the whole fish, cooked on the wood-burning grill in the back (you’ll smell it from your table). The rotating catch of the day is served whole—with eyeballs, gills, and all—so dig your fork in there (don’t be shy) and pull back the crisp skin to uncover flaky morsels of meat.

    800 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130
    (504) 522-1744

    Coquette’s short, straightforward menu will make you think, “oh sure, this’ll be good,” but what comes out of chef Michael Stoltzfus and his partner Lillian Hubbard’s kitchen is nothing short of mind-imploding. From crabcakes to cochon de lait to chocolate beignets, the duo is all about cooking New Orleans classics with refined execution while respecting the local seasons (even the flowers on the tables are Louisiana-grown arrangements). No matter what you order from the seasonally-rotating menu—and don’t skip dessert, just don’t—you’ll start the meal off with the best table bread in the city; the kind that makes you nostalgic for free table bread, at least when it’s this good.

    2800 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115
    (504) 265-0421

    Willa Jean
    Kelly Fields and Lisa White, formerly pastry chefs with the John Besh restaurant group, are two brilliant bakers. Their sticky buns will haunt your dreams, and their homemade Ritz crackers with pimento cheese will put the biggest grin on your face. Located in the Central Business District, it’s not uncommon to see a table of suits power-lunching at this three-meals-daily-serving hangout, but the overall vibe couldn’t be more down-home and welcoming, with a display of chocolate chip cookies and biscuits beckoning you at the front door.

    Willa Jean
    611 O'Keefe Ave, New Orleans, LA 70113
    (504) 509-7334

    Cafe Reconcile
    This non-profit restaurant has a menu with a mission. Serving up hearty-portioned food—hello there, fried catfish with creamy crawfish sauce—Cafe Reconcile’s menu is prepared by young adults from nearby at-risk communities. Alums of the program come back to help train current students. It’s not just a stick-to-your-ribs soul food joint at its most beguilingly straightforward; it’s also a window into the changing character of the Oretha Castle Haley corridor of the Central City neighborhood.

    Cafe Reconcile
    1631 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd, New Orleans, LA 70113
    (504) 568-1157

    Where to Drink

    Interior Solo Espresso

    Beau Patrick Coulon

    Solo Espresso.

    Bacchanal Wine
    “Dreamy” is a pretty overused term these days, but it’s particularly apt in the case of this wine shop/backyard garden restaurant. Walk inside to find open-it-yourself fridges stocked with wine and cheese—grab whatever looks good and they’ll pop open the bottle, plop it in a bucket of ice, and plate your cheese with bread to enjoy in the back courtyard. Sit under the swaying crepe myrtle trees strewn with twinkle lights and listen to live music flowing nightly (cough, Monday nights with cellist Helen Gillet are sublime). This is one of those places that convinces you—myself included—to move to New Orleans someday.

    Bacchanal Wine
    600 Poland Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70117
    (504) 948-9111

    Barrel Proof
    From the folks of Sylvain (another restaurant worth checking out—New Orleans just has too many), this bar is all about whiskey and beer. Page through the binder menu for an extensive array of picks from around the globe including Ireland, Scotland, Japan, and of course the South. Geek out to their selection or go with a $5 “boilermaker,” AKA a shot of Old Grand-Dad whiskey and a glass of Schlitz beer—all while a taxidermy bobcat makes eyes at you from across the dimly lit room.

    Barrel Proof
    1201 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130
    (504) 299-1888

    Solo Espresso
    This closet-sized coffee shop is a destination for “serious coffee people.” Every espresso drink is expertly made, right down to the artfully crafted foam design. Take a hint from the chilled-out shopdog Shinobi and grab a chair to leisurely sip your coffee. If you’re in the mood for a sweet treat, check the pastry case for Port City Pantry’s cookies baked with local ingredients like Louisiana pecans, cane sugar, and Acalli cacao nibs.

    Solo Espresso
    1301 Poland Ave, New Orleans, LA 70117
    (504) 408-1377

    Cane & Table
    Tucked in the heart of the French Quarter, this best-kept-secret-feeling spot is an oasis in a sea of tourist traps. The bar focuses on Tiki-themed drinks like the Boss Colada (Baska Snäps with fresh pineapple and lime juice) and the Flu Cocktail (rye with ginger and Jamaican rum). Soak it all up with peas and rice with andouille sausage or ribs lacquered in a rum-spiked sauce with a side of papaya chutney. If the scene inside is too noisy, escape to the back patio for your own private Caribbean jungle.

    Cane & Table
    1113 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116
    (504) 581-1112

    Where to Stay

    Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery Lobby

    Courtesy of The Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery

    Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery
    Just a few blocks from the Quarter, this new boutique hotel is an exposed brick showcase with an Ace-esque vibe (also worth noting: The Ace Hotel is slated to open in 2016). From its mid-century modern dressers to funky art and graphic-design-accented laundry bags, every detail has been carefully considered in this stylish yet comfortable hotel. The lobby also gets points for its coffee bar and destination-worthy restaurant Compere Lapin.

    Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery
    535 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans, LA 70130
    (504) 527-5271

    Audubon Cottages
    If you’re questing for something quainter than the typical hotel, escape to the Audubon Cottages, just a block away from the Bourbon Street noise. The seven suite-sized cottages (both one and two-bedroom available) sit amidst lushly landscaped courtyards and a salt-water pool with top-notch butler service. It’s like your own little private sanctuary—and the free breakfasts don’t hurt either.

    Audubon Cottages
    509 Dauphine St, New Orleans, LA 70112
    (504) 586-1516

    What to Do

    Willie Mae's Fried Chicken

    Max Falkowitz

    Fried chicken at Willie Mae's Scotch House.

    Vietnamese Market in Nola East
    There’s a sizable Vietnamese population concentrated in a one-mile radius of New Orleans East. In fact, the sub-tropical climates and water-adjacent land isn’t too dissimilar from Vietnam. Wake up early on a Saturday morning (like 6 a.m.-early) to experience this community’s farmers market in a strip mall parking lot. Grandma-aged women wearing conical bamboo hats shop for starfruit, pomelos, lemongrass, and banana leaf-wrapped pockets of glutinous rice. For some post-market sustenance, swing by Dong Phuong Bakery for a $3.25 banh mi on crusty French bread piled high with pickled veggies.

    Vietnamese Market in Nola East
    14401 Alcee Fortier Blvd, New Orleans East

    Hollygrove Farm & Market
    This urban farm has an indoors farmers’ market open all week long. Shop for fresh veggies, fruits, and herbs grown right outside in addition to local dairy, meats, and more produce sourced from local farms around the city and all over Louisiana. Hollygrove’s popular $25 box is like a CSA without the commitment—the rotating fruit & veggie roulette always comes with a few fun surprises (like heirloom eggplant and shishito peppers).

    Hollygrove Farm & Market
    8301 Olive St, New Orleans, LA 70118
    (504) 483-7037

    Southern Food and Beverage Museum
    An entire museum dedicated to the history of all things edible and potable in the South? Why yes! It’s not Smithsonian-sized, but they cram a decent amount of memorabilia into this Central City museum, including the original charred foundation of Ole Miss's The Shed BBQ shack. On Mondays, the museum hosts a lunchtime cooking demo with a focus on southern recipes. If the visit leaves you hungry (or thirsty), slide next door to the museum’s restaurant, Purloo, for lowcountry fare with an open kitchen and antique bar.

    Southern Food and Beverage Museum
    1504 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd, New Orleans, LA 70113
    (504) 569-0405

    Mosquito Supper Club
    This Cajun supper club wants you to feel like you’re eating a family-style meal at your long-lost southern grandmother’s bayou bungalow. Their marsh-to-table menus celebrate local shrimpers, crabbers, and farmers with heaping platters of stuffed crab and big pots of gumbo. Check the calendar for upcoming suppers, typically hosted in their French Quarter space on Thursday nights.

    Mosquito Supper Club
    810 North Rampart Street, New Orleans, LA 70116

    Coutelier Nola
    Since buying a whatever-ole knife just doesn’t cut it (ha), Coutelier Nola—opened by a former chef—specializes in artfully crafted Japanese knives. From Togiharu to Takeda, this shop is a knife nerd’s paradise. Bring your blunt slicer in to get wet-stone sharpened or take a class in knife skills. They also stock handmade spoons, cutting boards, aprons, and other fun kitchen tools.

    Coutelier Nola
    8239 Oak Street (at Dante), New Orleans, LA 70118
    (504) 475-5606

    Erin Zimmer is a writer, editor, and put-an-egg-on-it champion. She was previously the managing editor of Serious Eats, the marketing guru of the local food start-up Good Eggs, and is now developing an urban gardening project in the lower ninth ward of New Orleans.

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    Courtesy of citizenM

    We don't travel for a living, but we do make time for it. Here's where we're headed this fall:

    Adam Bookbinder, Design Director
    I’m heading to Amsterdam for the first time, where I’m looking forward to wandering the streets, stopping at cafés along the canals, and sampling some of the finest chocolate shops in Europe. I’m also planning a side trip to the historic town of Bruges, in Belgium. I’m in need of some old-world European charm, and these two destinations fit the bill.

    Sophie Brickman, Senior Editor
    I'm traveling to Ireland for the first time, to meet up with some friends in the north and attend a “shooting weekend” that one of them is organizing. (I assume you’re supposed to say this with the accent on the second syllable of weekend, à la the Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey.) My friends are planning to shoot partridge. I'm planning to snuggle with the hunting dogs.

    Ben Mims, Food Editor
    I’m going to New Orleans in October to see family and friends and go to the Halloween parade. It’s second only to the city’s Mardi Gras parade, and the weather is always perfect that time of the year. It will be my boyfriend’s first time visiting the city, so it will be great to show him around and do some of the touristy things that are worthwhile, like riding the streetcar and eating beignets at Cafe du Monde at sunrise.

    Katherine Harris, Intern
    I’ll be heading to Boston to attend the Future of Food Studies conference at Harvard. While I’m there, I also plan to check out the newly opened Boston Public Market, a permanent year-round source of New England produce, dairy, and specialty foods.

    Camille Rankin, Managing Editor
    My husband and I are going to Maui in October for a family wedding. We’re staying at the Four Seasons in Wailea for a week, which is a dream in itself, but we’ll also enjoy the many sights on the island, like Haleakela National Park and the windsurfers at Ho’okipa beach. We’re also taking a day trip to Pearl Harbor.

    Jake Cohen, Test Kitchen Assistant
    This fall I’ll make my yearly pilgrimage to the Hudson Valley just as all the leaves change color. I’ll stop by my alma mater, the Culinary Institute of America, before heading up to Rhinebeck to go apple picking. The town is full of cute mom-and-pop stores and restaurants that make it the perfect place to visit, even if just for the day. The best part is that it’s only a short train ride from New York City, so I can come home and still make a few apple pies before returning to the fast-paced city life.

    Jacob Muselmann, Copy Chief
    Like clockwork, the solstice will find me hightailing it to my friend’s farm in Stigler, Oklahoma, for his annual dinner. He’ll sacrifice a lamb, stuff it with rosemary needles, and lay it in a big tinfoil pan next to a bowl of tingly mint yogurt. Then we’ll frolic around a 20-foot bonfire before finding one of 17 recliners to collapse on back in the living room. In the morning, we’ll awake with sizzling pig in our nose, share a spot of black coffee, and walk the grounds, finding relics from the night before.

    Farideh Sadeghin, Test Kitchen Director
    I'm heading to Miami in November to host a few dinners for a series we do with Cadillac. I'm definitely looking forward to escaping the start of the cold weather in New York, and hopefully will make a weekend out of it (and be able to check out Francis Mallmann's new restaurant!).

    Matt Taylor-Gross, Staff Photographer
    This fall I’ll be going home to Austin, Texas, to attend the five-year wedding anniversary of some close friends. And later on I’m heading to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, with my family to celebrate the holidays.

    Allie Wist, Art Associate
    My boyfriend and I are taking off for Colombia for a week in September. The plan is to fly into Cartagena and out of Bogota, and not to plan the rest (except for dinner reservations made four months ago, of course). We hope to escape to Tayrona National Natural Park for a day, where you can eat fresh seafood along a secluded jungle beach, and make a stop in Villa de Leyva, a colonial town known for its quaint streets and nearby hiking.

    Check out our Fall Travel Guide »

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    Sweden, Magnus Nilsson, Jesper Karlsson, kitchen

    Magnus Nilsson

    Three years in the making, Magnus Nilsson's Nordic Cookbook is finally here and available for pre-order. This fall, he's taking it on the road.

    Nilsson's latest book is a compendium of Scandinavian home cooking pulled straight from the source: home cooks themselves. After traveling through all seven Nordic countries, "meeting, interviewing, and eating with people in their homes, photographing and photocopying recipes, sniffing around the gastro-cultural underbrush," he's compiled 700 regional recipes for everything from Swedish meatballs to lesser-known specialties like rose hip soup and juniper beer, all in an effort to "capture the tastes of a region encompassing more than a million square miles," as he wrote for SAVEUR in August. It's an impressively comprehensive portrait of regional cooking as it stands right now, with one eye toward cultural preservation through oral history and another toward the present (and future) of Scandinavian food.

    Nordic Cookbook

    Courtesy of Phaidon

    This fall, starting in November, he'll be joining forces with Dinner Lab to bring a taste of that home cooking to six American cities. Here's the lineup for the one-night-only dinners inspired by the book and cooked by American and Scandinavian chefs, all Nordic cuisine experts in their own rights:

    Nordic Cookbook

    Courtesy of Phaidon

    The five-course dinners will cost $175 per person (including drinks and service charge) and come with a signed copy of The Nordic Cookbook. Tickets go on sale tomorrow, Tuesday September 29th, for Dinner Lab members, and on October 6th for the general public. Each event will have two seatings.

    At those dinners you can expect everything from Finnish caviar and fermented celery root juice to dressed-up takes on homey dishes like herring and eggs, all inspired by the Nordic canon. And for a taste of the kinds of recipes you can expect to find in The Nordic Cookbook, take a peek at the Sunday Suppers Project, where Nilsson shares his versions of fried, pickled herring, skyr, and Swedish chocolate cake.

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    Asian Drinking Food

    Alex Testere

    In Asia, drinking-food (and drinking properly with food) is an art form. So welcome to Asian Drinking Food Adventures, where Dan Holzman, chef-owner of The Meatball Shop, and Matt Rodbard, author of theKoreatowncookbook, seek out the best food from bars, izakayas, pojangmachas, and then some in their home of New York City.

    China Bar is a hard-to-Google, easier to find Flushing sports bar and karaoke near a cluster of LaGuardia budget hotels and down the street from Imperial Palace, Joe’s Shanghai, and a couple of other spots on the Flushing Foodie Star Map. The bar is pretty straight-forward, with a Coors Light and low-stakes gambling kind of vibe. Very Chinatown. But Dan and I weren’t there to throw a game of Liar’s Dice. Lu Wei Shabu Shabu is the basement restaurant below China Bar and has the feel of a Bedouin tent that’s been built to survive a nuclear holocaust. Or a cave with a few too many fake flame votives and neon backlighting. It’s a cement bunker, and it’s perfect.

    The name of the game here is beer and hot pot. Hot pot is the traditional East Asian cooking technique of boiling and seasoning broth, then chucking in bits of raw meat and vegetables, until the pot bubbles to your desired level of tongue-scalding pleasure. Call it fondue, though the smoky, spicy seasonings have more to do with barbecue than melted cheese.

    Dan Holzman

    Spicy cucumber salad

    We take our seats at the bar and order two large mugs of Sapporo and chat up Gary Pun, the co-owner and longtime manager of Blue Ribbon Brasserie. The place is pretty empty, save a couple of women sucking down oysters (the restaurant was previously called the Oyster Cave, and the bivalve service has carried over). But Gary isn’t concerned, even as one of his cooks plays video poker on his phone nearby. It’s a breezy Wednesday night in the teeth of summer and hardly hot pot weather. Soon enough, the chilly fall and hard winter will come, but right now the grotto is ours for the evening. Scanning the menu Dan orders a soup and some appetizers. The first to arrive is the tingly cucumber salad, a go-to at Sichuan restaurants.

    Seasoned and quick-pickled salads like this one are made throughout China, and many parts of Asia at that. Much of Chinese food is largely evolved from the realities of peasant life, and with refrigeration in short supply, salting and pickling are some of the main hot-climate techniques to preserve food and sanitize it for consumption.

    Fresh cucumbers are crushed and quick-cured in salt, then tossed in a dressing of garlic, scallions, sugar, rice vinegar, chili oil, sesame, cilantro, and Sichuan peppercorns that do the Carlton dance on your taste buds. It’s a dish that embodies the essence of Asian drinking food: too salty and spicy to not have a drink after every bite, and just too delicious to stop eating. This is the kind of snack that mysteriously transforms watery Hokkaido rice lager into the flavor of liquid Matchbox cars. But by the second beer, I’m okay with the sensation. Dan is not a fan of the tongue-numbing tingle brought on by the infamous peppercorns, but he still loves the salad. We finish it all.

    Fried chicken

    Dan Holzman

    Fried chicken

    Up next: fried chicken. We have a heretofore-silent pact that mandates we order fried chicken every time fried chicken can be ordered. Every Asian country has its own interpretation of the cult classic many think of as strictly American, from the double-fried sweet and sticky drumsticks that shatter in your mouth in Korea, to the lightly dusted chunks dipped in Kewpie (a cultishly loved mayo that’s like Hellmann’s add MSG and sugar) served in Japan. At Lu Wei, the thigh meat is lightly coated with potato starch and brought to a deep golden brown before being generously seasoned with more Sichuan pepper and MSG, the sometimes-maligned, near essential additive and Asian drinking food staple we’re going to come back to time after time.

    We’re already full when the server arrives with a cloudy pot of lukewarm broth, and he places it on the electric burner built into the faux-marble bar top in front of us. Our hot pot procession has begun. Lu Wei offers several kinds of broth including a standard pork, along with spicy, “herbal,” and curry versions. We opt for the original, with an order of fatty beef sirloin to toss in.

    From behind the bar materializes a small lazy Susan, lined with condiments like fresh chili, scallions and coriander, fried shallots, dried shrimp oil, and garlic; we’re asked to garnish our dipping sauce (bowls of soy sauce and vinegar) while the broth comes to a simmer. Dan does the duties, while I notice a faint odor that intensifies while the broth begins to boil. With the odor, there’s a sense of barnyard, but not the desirable kind of barnyard like an Alps Raclette. It’s the driving through rural Iowa kind of barnyard and it intensifies as we throw in the cuts of meat as well as tofu, squash, corn, and broccoli. We’re offered the house-made shrimp paste (yes, please), which we discover is basically chopped raw shrimp, tastefully arranged in a scallop shell with a small spoon to shuttle it into the broth. When the raw shrimp sit in the bubbling stock for a few minutes, they quadruple in size and become the highlight of the meal.

    Dan Holzman

    By the time the beef, shrimp, and veggies are all eaten, our noses have adjusted to the smell enough to dive into the broth, and Dan reaches for a few spoonfuls. I’m hesitant, but join, too. Not as bad as I expect, like the time I had fermented sake in Busan, but it’s still not a show stopper. A few more swigs of beer, and our attention has turned back to the chicken and more tingly bites of the salad that we can’t get out of our brains for weeks.

    Get the recipe for Spicy Cucumber Salad »

    Daniel Holzman is the Brooklyn-based chef and owner of The Meatball Shop. Matt Rodbard is a writer living in Brooklyn and the author ofKoreatown: A Cookbook.

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    Kitchen Sink sandwich, Gatlin's BBQ, Houston, Texas

    The Kitchen Sink Sandwich at Gatlin's BBQ, Houston, Texas.

    Some of the most exciting barbecue joints in America don't make any of the national lists: they're the tried and true local spots that don't need to advertise or prove themselves to anyone. So: Where do you find them?

    You have to ask the people that live there. Which is why we hit up a cadre of barbecue-loving pitmasters and chefs from Texas and the South on where they go in their off hours. They'll all be talking 'cue and cooking this Sunday in Houston, Texas at Southern Smoke, a smoky feast organized by Underbelly chef Chris Shepherd and the HOUBBQ collective to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

    Aaron Franklin, Franklin Barbecue: Valentina's Tex Mex, Austin, Texas
    "I'm a huge fan of Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ in south Austin. Fresh tortillas, great salsas, and delectable mesquite-smoked meats. One side of the menu is Tex and the other is Mex. They meet in the middle to make the most rad tacos in town."

    Sean Brock, Husk: Helen's Bar-B-Q, Brownsville, Tennessee
    "No one works harder than Mrs. Helen Turner. Her humble place, Helen’s Bar-B-Q in Brownsville, Tennessee is a true American treasure. The smells and flavors of that place haunt me daily. Someday I hope to be a part of something that special."

    Ryan Pera, Coltivare: Allen and Son Bar-B-Que, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
    "I am a North Carolinian by birth, so my heart lies with the wonders of the smoked pig. My favorite barbecue joint in North Carolina is Allen and Son Bar-B-Que outside of Chapel Hill. I discovered it my freshman year at Carolina (20 years ago now) when my roommate and I were driving back to Charlotte on weekends. Soon we were making trips just for the barbecue. Whenever I am in the area I make sure to stop by, and it's still just as good."

    Terrence Gallivan, The Pass and Provisions: Gatlins BBQ, Houston, Texas
    "Gatlin's is one of my favorites. Greg’s pork ribs are pretty hard to beat, and it's a real family affair."

    Gatlin's BBQ in Houston, Texas

    Flickr: hedrives

    Thick-cut meat at Gatlin's BBQ in Houston, Texas.

    Chris Shepherd, Underbelly: Southern Goods, Houston, Texas
    "Patrick Feges has a few delicious smoked meat dishes on the menu at Southern Goods, a restaurant that recently opened in Houston. It’s not a barbecue restaurant, but the dishes they do smoke are done exceptionally well. Patrick has a background in barbecue, and it shows. I’m really proud of what these guys are doing right now."

    Terrence Gallivan, The Pass and Provisions: Allman's Bar B Q, Fredericksburg, VA
    "There’s a sentimental favorite of mine where I grew up called Allman's Bar B Q. They have been there since the 50’s. It's this tiny little place—mostly pulled pork—but really simple and tasty."

    Justin Yu, Oxheart Houston: Rudy's Bar-B-Q, Texas
    "I'm a huge fan of Rudy's Bar-B-Q. There's a lot of locations, but it's solid and—more importantly—a lot of fun. From the large picnic tables, to the excellent smoked prime rib, to the top-notch cream corn, and even what I can only imagine is banana pudding mix from Sysco: It's always a good option."

    Rodney Scott, Scott’s Bar-B-Que: You Have to Live There
    "There is a local guy here (in Hemingway, South Carolina) who mostly cooks for his family. We call him "Coop." His ribs and chickens are amazing! He had a joint back in the nineties. This guy does some great food and is well known in my area. His sauce is a little sweet but not too sweet! Just right!"

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    It’s hard to feel more like a local in Prague than at 1 p.m. at Zlatý Kříž, a hundred-year-old delicatessen just steps from the city’s Old Town. In the shop, a line of employees from the nearby municipal office curves around tub after tub of creamed salads, among them egg, carp, and “Hungarian mousse,” a concoction of waxy salami puréed with butter and melted cheese. A generous bowl of tripe soup, a cafeteria staple, goes for 30 Czech crowns, or about $1.22. But the stars of the show are the chlebíčky, open-face sandwiches on rounds of cheap hero bread.

    The open-face sandwich has a storied history in Europe, from the hearty medieval trencher to the delicate Danish smørrebrød, the French tartine, the British whatever-on-toast. But many of the ingredients that top those Western specialties were largely unavailable during the Czech Republic's communist years. Instead, Czech sandwich-makers made do with inexpensive proteins folded and fussed into greatness. In a country marked by its stark winters, fat is how you eat through cold weather, and fatty ingredients get piled on each oblong sandwich: pillows of yellow-hued mayonnaise, tufts of buttery herring paste, oily ham in origami folds, and red salami rosettes.

    Czechs take pride in their chlebíčky, and the story goes that in the early 20th century, a painter purportedly commissioned Prague deli owner Jan Paukert to devise a snack that could be eaten with one hand. Paukert’s famous shop shuttered its doors early this year, but the sandwich continues to thrive at delicatessens and butchers around town, most notably at Zlatý Kříž. The deli sells some 50 varieties in-store and for bulk ordering online, from the standard meat-and-mayonnaise fare to riffs with markedly Central-European names (“Debrecen sausage,” “Westphalian heart,” and the rather un-PC “gypsy back”). They don't speak English here, but a point and a nod will do—order two or three snack-sized sandwiches and sidle up to the aluminum counter for a standing lunch with the masses. Whatever you choose, it’ll be salty and fatty and will stick to your ribs, even in the midst of an interminable winter. Trenchers and tartines be damned—this is pure Czech.

    Zlatý Kříž
    Jungmannova 34, Prague 1

    Morgan Childs is an American writer living in the Czech Republic.

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  • 10/13/15--09:00: Embrace the Isaan Slow Burn
  • Asian Drinking Food

    Alex Testere

    In Asia, drinking-food (and drinking properly with food) is an art form. So welcome to Asian Drinking Food Adventures, where Dan Holzman, chef-owner of The Meatball Shop, and Matt Rodbard, author of theKoreatowncookbook, seek out the best food from bars, izakayas, pojangmachas, and then some.

    The goalie runs the show. It’s true on the soccer pitch, and it’s true when ordering spicy and fragrant (did we mention spicy?) Isaan Thai dishes at Somtum Der in New York’s East Village. It’s a lazy Labor Day evening and we’re seated next to the goalkeeper and his crew of weekend warriors—mostly middle-aged Thai men—who have made the trip down from Boston to play some soccer, and feast on the restaurant’s famous papaya salads (called som tum), a medley of larbs (small plates of minced meat dressed with lime, toasted rice and chiles), and plenty of Singha.

    We post up next to the goalie, and after a little chit chat, he drops some World-Cup-level strategy about the menu and the dishes we plan to order. First order of business? Ice cold rice beer, and a round of tap water to keep us safe. Dan triples down with a Thai iced tea, hoping the condensed milk will spare his tongue the worst of it, and give some protection against the spice to come.

    Somtum Der

    Dan Holzman

    The soccer crowd at Somtum Der.

    Isaan lies in the northeast corner of Thailand, bordering Laos and Cambodia on three sides. Generally speaking, central Thai food, centering on Bangkok, is inspired by Chinese cooking traditions (Thai-Chinese is the largest ethnic minority in the region, numbering some nine million in total); noodles and wok-cooked stir-frys abound. But in the north, food is built around the ubiquitous basket of sticky rice—a staple on all Isaan tables. Diners dip small handfuls of rice into saucy and spicy dishes of vibrantly flavored ground meats and fresh fruits and vegetables, often seasoned with crushed peanuts and dried shrimp.

    It’s a rustic style of cooking motivated by the region’s poor soil and unpredictable weather. The chef and Thai food historian Dave Thompson describes it simply as “industrious cooks using a small amount of food to flavor a large amount of rice.”

    Before the fireworks begin, our “Der's H'orderves” arrive with the nodding approval of our friend the goalie. It’s a platter of fried and grilled pig parts styled like a cross between a French charcuterie plate and the deep-fried sampler platter at a Texarkana bowling alley. There’s a selection of sausages (one fermented in a tightly packed casing; another, looser and mild), a “pork roll” (basically deep-fried hot dogs, which is a good thing if you’re wondering), and chunks of fried pork, heavily seasoned with coriander seed, chile, and salt. The dish is served with a side of dayglow orange sweet chile sauce, roasted peanuts, slivers of ginger, and a healthy bouquet of cilantro. It’s a delicious tornado of salt, fat, bitter, and sweet, begging for big sips of beer to wash it down.

    Somtum Der offers a dizzying dozen som tums available on the menu, and once again we look to the goalie for advice. He points at the classic tum thai kai kem—built on a foundation of green papaya, lime juice, tomato, palm sugar, and dried chili and topped with a salted egg. We tell the server that we want it as hot as they serve it, and she nods with a smile (our receipt later reveals she mercifully plugged in two peppers out of a possible four). But two-chile hot at Somtum Der is plenty hot, and as the spice takes over our bodies we quickly drain beers and refill our glasses of water. I order a weird Dr. Pepper Shandy (yes, that would be half DP, half Singha), which I drink down in a couple sips. Turns out the combination is near-genius and a highlight of our experience. Time is our new best friend while we recover between assaults of chile heat, and we’re left to suffer while the goalie smiles and enjoys our pain.

    Farideh Sadeghin

    But of all the dishes on the table that night, our favorite—and the one we most wanted to prepare in our home kitchens—is a lemongrass and sardine salad with raw onions, lime juice, and Thai sweet chile sauce. It’s listed in the Central Thailand section of the menu, amongst the “mild” dishes. Dan loves canned sardines and wishes they were more popular, so he orders them whenever they’re available. In the cooling salad they’re cut into large chunks, and their tender flesh and oily, briny flavor works magically with the fragrant lemongrass, crunchy raw onions, and sweet chile. It’s a recipe that can be prepared quickly for a snack or lunch, or to go along with any Southeast Asian bowl of noodles or sauté.

    Now, of course you can buy sweet Thai chile sauce basically anywhere sriracha is sold, and if you are short on time, go for it. But we really like our homemade version, which leans a bit on that glorious condiment from Pittsburgh: Heinz ketchup. It will keep for several months in your refrigerator and you will want to put it on many things.

    Get the recipe for Thai Sardine and Lemongrass Salad »

    Daniel Holzman is the Brooklyn-based chef and owner of The Meatball Shop. Matt Rodbard is a writer living in Brooklyn and the author ofKoreatown: A Cookbook.

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    Built on the banks of the Ljubljanica river below a 16th century castle perched on steep wooded hill, Slovenia’s capital and largest city (population 275,000) is a delightful town that’s very much worth visiting for a day or two before or after traveling to eastern Slovenia. Founded by the Romans in around 50 B.C., Ljubljana was under Hapsburg rule almost continuously from 1335 to 1918, and it has some superb medieval, art nouveau and cubist architecture.

    During the last few years, Ljubljana has become a great restaurant city, and during good weather, the cafes lining the river are packed until late at night. To get the local gastronomic lay of the land, book a food walk with Ljubljananjam, which is run by knowledgeable food-loving Ljubljana native Iva Gruden, who speaks perfect English from having living in Vancouver for two years.

    Otherwise, you can get a quick lesson in the Slovenian palate and shop for edible souvenirs like honey, jam, and sea salt if you hit Glavna Tržnica, the city’s open-air market (Vodnikov Trg 6, Tel. 386-1-300-1230, Open: Mon–Sat: 6am–4pm; Sun: 9am–6pm). Another good gastronomic gift address is the Ljubljana boutique of Piranske Soline (the Piran Saltworks), which sells the sea salt collected from salt pans near Piran on Slovenia’s tiny Mediterranean coast (Mestni Trg 8, Tel. 356-1-42-50-190).

    Slovenia, Ljubljana

    Michelle Heimerman

    Ljubljana, Slovenia

    You won’t want a car in this small, pedestrian friendly city, so stay at the Hotel Cubo (Slovenska Cesta 15, Tel. 386-1-425-6000), a 26-room boutique hotel in a 19th century office building that once housed police offices when Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia, or the Lesar Hotel Angel (Gornji Trg 7, Tel. 386-1-425-5089), a comfortable and beautifully restored medieval house in the Old Town.

    Though the JB Restavracija (Miklošičeva 17, Tel. 386-1-433-1358) is formal and a little stuffy, go for chef Janez Bratovž’s superb cooking, including dishes like roasted beets with beet ice cream and horseradish panna cotta, veal shank with cabbage noodles, and cottage-cheese pancakes with tarragon. The city’s most charming restaurant is Špajza (Gorni Trg 28, Tel. 386-01-425-3094), which is run by a brother-and-sister team, and has lots of small dining rooms in an old house. They serve venison tartare with roasted pistachios and tarragon, horse steak with truffles and scampi buzara. Golstilna Na Gradu (Grajska Planota 1, Tel. 386-8-205-1930) in Ljubljana castle is a good choice for lunch and offers an appealing Slovenian locavore menu created by three of the country’s best known chefs. All of Slovenia’s regional kitchens are represented on a menu that includes dishes like pumpkin flowers stuffed with cottage cheese, zucchini and poppy seeds, pork stuffed with cheese and spinach, and Kobariški štruklji, dessert dumplings stuffed with ground walnuts and raisins.

    For more on the food of Eastern Slovenia, see: How to Eat Slovenia, the Land of Roast Goose and Dumplings »

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    Sundowners Safari

    Vanita Salisbury

    I’m riding in an open-air Land Rover on Singita Sabi Sand, a private game reserve in South Africa, and somewhere in the distance there are lions. I know this because earlier we were privy to a pride on a mad and magnificent game ride that included elephants, rhinos, and a leopard whose velvety pelt rippled each time he lifted his leg to mark his territory on an anthill. Soon it will be dark, and when the Land Rover pulls to a stop, the game ride is over. I think.

    Our strapping field guide Ian cuts the engine and hops out into the spartan wilderness. “Here looks good,” he says, smoothing a polka-dotted cloth on the hood of the vehicle, on top of which he spreads an elaborate picnic: mini bottles of liquor, mixers, wine, chips, cheese, crackers, and biltong, the musky South African cured jerky. Against a sky beginning to turn pink and purple, the setup feels so sumptuous, I'm half expecting to be handed a robe. Instead, Ian offers: "Gin and tonic?"

    This is our sundowner: a drinking ritual marking the transition from day to evening, which originated in South Africa during British colonial rule. The purpose of the tipple was two-fold: to wind down the day in a location that takes advantage of the spectacular South African sunset, and, more practically, to stave away malaria with tonic water’s quinine. As the origins were partially medicinal, the choice of cocktail was simple: Utilize any type of liquor to make tonic water, a vehicle for bitter quinine, more palatable, and make sure it also tastes good with the scurvy-preventative lime (there were quite a few ailments to contend with back then). This therefore meant whiskey, or gin. It’s said that Winston Churchill even once proclaimed, “The gin and tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire.”

    Sundowners Safari

    Vanita Salisbury

    Today sundowners are less practical and more fanciful: a showy stop on the game drive of those who went to REI to buy neutral-colored clothing to more authentically play safari out on a private reserve. It is still primarily a ritual associated with being out in the wild, but the word has worked its way into the vernacular worldwide, now casually referring to the pre-dinner drink taken at the end of the day, similar to the Italian “l’aperitivo” or French “l'apértif.” Pairing with a spectacular sunset is bonus.

    Sundowner tips from Caitlin Hill, manager of Cape Town’s popular gin bar Mother’s Ruin:

    • For a safari-style sundowner, use a double measure of Musgrave Gin (which has notes of cardamom and ginger) with Fevertree Tonic. Schweppe's is also great, but Hill likes Fevertree’s lower sugar content, which gives your drink “a bit more pizazz.” Add a few fresh squeezes of lime, some sage leaves, and a few grinds of ginger.

    • For Hill’s signature G&T, go with a double measure of Tanqueray London Dry (Mother’s Ruin’s standard gin), two slices of grapefruit (lightly muddled), and Fevertree elderflower tonic.

    • Add sunset, obviously.

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    In Taipei, a city located on the northern tip of an island much more famous for its tea, the coffee has never been better, and it’s surprisingly easy to find a cup that rivals some of the world’s coffee destinations. That wasn’t the case 10 years ago, but today the city is home to an impressively diverse coffee scene, one that shows no signs of slowing down.

    Within a five-mile radius, you can sit down and savor an Australian flat white, a Norwegian-style Aeropress, a Japanese siphon brew, an Italian double espresso, or an American-style latte. All in cafes where people talk as much about single origins and roasting as in parts of Brooklyn or San Francisco. It’s an eclectic selection, but so is Taipei. While Taiwan’s tea is very much rooted in Chinese tradition, its coffee culture has been free to expand and unfurl, touching on inspiration from all the countries, near and far, that have left their impressions on the island, and especially its capital city.

    According to Uncle Coffee, a Taiwanese coffee writer who documents local coffee culture, Taipei’s coffee scene is naturally far-reaching because the bean itself is an outsider. "Coffee was first introduced about 50 or 60 years ago when Taiwan was under Japanese influence. Back then, it was usually siphon-brewed or hand-poured and paired with non-dairy creamer."

    Then the inevitable happened in 1998: Starbucks entered Taiwan. The brand brought with it espresso-based drinks like lattes and cappuccinos. "There was a lot of confusion when Starbucks arrived,” Uncle Coffee explains. “People were used to Japanese-style black coffee with Taiwanese names. Suddenly there was milk foam and everything had a different name.” But their marketing efforts were eventually enough to change public perceptions about what coffee could be, and it wasn’t long before a herd of copycat chains followed in its wake, hawking Western-style coffee in all its forms.

    The scene didn’t go wild until 2007, when the National Coffee Association began hosting the Taiwan Barista Championships, where winners would go on to represent Taiwan at the World Barista Championships. Participants began to dig deeper into foreign traditions and ingredients for inspiration, from the Americas to Scandinavia and Italy. Meanwhile, more and more cafes began roasting their own beans, and paid greater attention to where those beans came from.

    Competing on the global stage gave Taiwanese baristas immediate exposure to the latest trends and techniques, bolstering a melting pot culture that was already drawing influences from Japan, Korea, and the U.S. Taipei was and is the center of it all, and it’s there that collective ambition and elevated local tastes drive the country’s coffee ever forward. If you want to see that ambition first-hand, here are five places that show the range and scope of Taipei’s surprisingly delicious coffee culture.

    Where to Drink Coffee in Taipei

    Fong Da
    Dating back to 1956, this is one of Taipei's original coffee houses, and the very first to offer iced coffee. Its retro interior and vintage Japanese siphon equipment are the main draws; try the signature cold-drip coffee and charmingly old fashioned cookies. Just don’t expect to settle in for a few hours—the staff are keen to turn over the tables.

    Fong Da
    42 Chengdu Road, Wanhua District, Taipei City, Taiwan
    (02) 2371-9577
    Hours: 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily

    Luguo Cafe
    A quiet second-floor cafe in a beautiful heritage building in the historic Dadaocheng area. This is a fitting place to try a pot of locally grown coffee from the Mount Alishan region in central Taiwan. It’s served black, and has the creaminess, delicate florals, and hearty roasted character of a strong oolong tea.

    Luguo Cafe
    2F, No.1, Lane 32, Section 1, Dihua Street, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan
    (02) 2552-1321
    Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

    Woolloomooloo Xinyi
    Flocks of Taiwanese youth have gone to Australia on working holiday visas and returned with a love of Aussie café culture, including the flat white and the piccolo (an extra-short latte). Beans from Toby's Estate are flown in weekly for their three branches in Taipei, the largest of which is in the Xinyi District. The lattes come with super-creamy foam and the cappuccinos are dusted with chocolate powder.

    Woolloomooloo Xinyi
    379, Section 4, Xinyi Road, Xinyi District, Taipei City, Taiwan
    (02) 8789-0128
    Hours: Sunday through Thursday: 7:30 a.m. to 12 a.m.; Friday through Saturday: 7:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.

    Fika Fika Cafe
    The owner of Fika Fika represented Taiwan at the 2013 Nordic Roaster Cup, and after three days of competitive roasting, brewing, and pouring, walked away the winner. The cafe specializes in single-origin Aeropress-brewed coffee enjoyed in a bright, minimalist shop. Or try the “cube latte,” with ice cubes made of espresso, warm frothed milk, and a molasses-tinged brown sugar syrup.

    Fika Fika Cafe
    No. 33, Yitong Street, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan
    (02) 2507-0633
    Hours: Monday: 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Tuesday through Thursday: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday: 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

    Opened in 2004, GaBee is a veteran of Taipei’s new wave of specialty cafes, and just about every winner of Taiwan's Barista Championship has worked its counter at some point. Their award-winning signature creation is definitely not for purists: an espresso enriched with sweet potato purée and topped with a thin, crisp slice of caramelized sweet potato, and served in a small martini glass. It looks like a cocktail and tastes like dessert. And the cafe’s name? It’s the Taiwanese pronunciation for, you guessed it, coffee.

    No. 21, Lane 113, Section 3, Minsheng East Road, Songshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan
    (02) 2713-8772
    Hours: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

    Kathy Cheng writes about design, food, and culture for Tricky Taipei. She's also the founder of Thankful Registry.

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    Wei Zhu made sure he delivered the duck to the table himself because it’s such a special dish.

    The 49-year-old chef-owner of Chengdu Gourmet in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood placed the platter in the center of a lazy Susan already crowded with dishes, from glossy stir-fried cabbage, matchstick-cut vinegared potatoes, Sichuan cucumbers, and sad jello noodles—so named because they’re hot enough to make you cry.

    Leaning toward the table’s center, Zhu used scissors to cut through the crispy skin, revealing the eight treasures inside that lend the dish the name Eight Treasure Duck. Sticky rice mingles with shrimp and scallops, several types of mushrooms, and vegetables diced like confetti.

    Pittsburgh sits at the gateway to the Midwest and the crux of the Appalachian mountains, with more bridges than Venice, a vibrant arts community, and a growing restaurant scene. But the city has not been known for its national diversity, with a 2010 census showing that only 4 percent of residents were born abroad.

    That's changing now as schools like University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon, Duquesne University, and Point Park University are attracting more international students from Asia—especially China. Five years ago, Pittsburgh universities counted under 1,000 Chinese students in their undergraduate and graduate programs combined; today more than 5,000 Chinese students, and several thousand more residents, call Pittsburgh home—a number that's expected to keep growing.

    The surge in diversity has sparked changes in restaurant kitchens around the city, with Chinese-American and pan-Asian restaurants recruiting Chinese chefs with the help of overseas government agencies, cooking schools, and placement services in New York in order to get cooks with the cultural literacy and specialized skills to serve more regional Chinese cuisine.

    The Soup Dumpling Palace

    Soup Dumplings at Everyday Noodles; Pittsburg, PA

    Soup Dumplings at Everyday Noodles.

    Mike Chen has been a pioneer in the regional-Chinese-food boom. The longtime Pittsburgh restaurateur opened Everyday Noodles in 2013, his seventh restaurant, and the one that’s the most true to the foods he grew up eating in Taiwan.

    Chen opened the noodle house a few years ago after a trip to Toronto, a city thick with Chinese restaurants. Inspired by those restaurants’ regional Chinese menus, he decided to do the same in Pittsburgh, so he linked up with the Taiwanese government to recruit cooks. Today, he helps Taiwanese cooks get H1-B visas that allow them to stay in Pittsburgh between six months to a year so they can work in his restaurant. When their visas are up, they return to China, and he seeks out new staff.

    At Everyday Noodles, those cooks put their skill to work making traditional starters like wood ear mushrooms, tofu skins, and clear batons of jellyfish salad. But the big draws are xiao long bao—Shanghai soup dumplings—and bowls of broth full of ropy hand-pulled noodles.

    One evening, I watch a young cook through the open kitchen thrust a muscle of dough overhead, the center bowing with its weight. He loops and pulls, twists and turns the dough, dividing it into more manageable sections. He repeats the rhythmic kneading that ends with his fingers lacing dough into delicate noodles. Of the noodle soups, I like the pickled mustard greens with chopped pork, served atop thick or thin noodles in a fragrant consomme.

    No matter the time of year, just about everyone gets the soup dumplings, says Chen. Once the server lifts the lid from the bamboo basket, a diner spears a liquid-filled purse with a chopstick to let the steam out before she dips it in black vinegar and sesame oil. Another grabs a soup spoon and ladles one into her mouth. Variations on this scene play out across every visit, as diners practice their own private soup dumpling rituals.

    "This place is good," said Chen Li, a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon from the northern province of Hebei.

    While she was waiting for takeout at Everyday Noodles, she said it took her a while to figure out where to go among Pittsburgh's Chinese restaurants.

    "I had a lot of Americanized Chinese food that reminded me of the 80s," she said. It has only been within the past year that she has found her regular places serving dishes that resonate with her.

    Live from Xi'an

    Eight-Treasure Spicy Sandwich at Sakura Teppanyaki & Sushi; Pittsburgh, PA

    Eight-Treasure Spicy Sandwich and Chile Noodles at Sakura Teppanyaki & Sushi.

    Across the street sits Sakura Teppanyaki & Sushi, a Japanese restaurant on its face, but the sandwich board out front courts Chinese students with the day’s specials written in Chinese.

    The place is owned by Ping Geng and Feng Gao from Xi’an, the capital city of Shaanxi Province, who have lived in Pittsburgh for nearly 20 years. They first opened nearly a decade ago as a Japanese restaurant, but when Chinese students learned that Gao was a skilled Chinese cook, they asked for off-menu dishes from his home city.

    Today, so much of their clientele comes from northwest China that Gao went to a Xi’an cooking school in May to learn more regional dishes and to recruit cooks for the restaurant. He recently found a new head chef who has moved to Pittsburgh to work at the restaurant.

    In the meantime, Gao features a separate Xi’an menu at the restaurant inspired by his cooking school experience. It’s filled with classics like hot oil noodles with chile flakes and chile oil, scallions, and wilted bok choy. Xi’an’s proximity to Central Asia means the local diet is high in lamb, and at Sakura the lamb skewers are almost dainty, with meat pounded thin, rubbed in cumin and dried hot pepper, and served on sticks as thin as wire.

    There is also an eight-treasure spicy sandwich, a flaky flatbread with crisped tendrils of dough around the edges. Inside, marinated pork joins a medley of celery, carrots, onion, garlic, and peanuts, served with a side of chile oil and scallions. But the meal that draws crowds so large they line up out the door is weekend breakfast. Students and professors come here for congee and fried you tiao (dough sticks) with sides like soy milk and salty bean curd.

    Looking Beyond Pittsburgh

    Sakura Teppanyaki & Sushi; Pittsburgh, PA

    Sakura Teppanyaki & Sushi.

    This influx of Chinese students to U.S. schools is not limited to Pittsburgh. In June, the BBC reported a rise in matriculation every year for the past decade, and a 17 percent rise in the number of Chinese students in the U.S. from 2013 to the following school year. According to a report last year from the Institute of International Education, students from China make up 31 percent of international students in the U.S.

    Another university town with an increasing number of Chinese students is the Urbana-Champaign metropolitan area, since the University of Illinois campus there hosts nearly 5,000 Chinese students, more than any single U.S. university.

    Four years ago, restaurants such as Golden Harbor Authentic Chinese Cuisine in Champaign opened to accommodate the growing number of Chinese students. The family-run business features several menus, including a “Chinese menu” of cold appetizers, Hong Kong–style noodles, rice cakes, and congee; “new,” less traditional with separate categories for pork liver and homemade salted pork; and a “Taste of Taiwan.”

    Diving Deeper into the Hot Pot

    Chongqing Beef Hot Pot at Chengdu Gourmet; Pittsburgh, PA

    Chongqing Beef Hot Pot at Chengdu Gourmet.

    Back in Pittsburgh, Zhu at Chengdu Gourmet uses an agency in Queens, New York, to hire line cooks from his hometown. Today, he has five cooks in the kitchen, with the newest one originally from Chengdu, China, having moved to Pittsburgh from New York a few months ago.

    When Zhu was a teenager, he got his start first baking Western-style cakes, then transitioned to savory cooking. In a Chengdu restaurant, he spent five years just honing his knife skills. Today, Zhu’s cooking is nuanced, with a range of dishes from the Sichuan canon—think mapo tofu and cumin lamb. But he’s also serving off-menu and special items that are closer to what’s being served in Chengdu and Chongqing right now.

    Though the presentation at Chengdu Gourmet is far more casual than his training would suggest, the special family-style dishes display fine-tuned skills, with ingredients cut like flowers or feathers or, for that special-occasion dinner, a duck deboned in one fell swoop. Then it’s stuffed, roasted, and flash-fried before serving.

    My favorite order at Chengdu Gourmet is the Chongqing-style beef in a hot, spicy broth. It calls to me at least once a week—even after Zhu teases me that in Chengdu, it’s so eight years ago.

    The bowl is defined by the seductive ma-la—the combination of chiles and numbing peppercorns—atop cauliflower florets, lotus coins, fronds of enoki mushrooms, thin slices of beef, and triangles of fried tofu.

    The fragrance also captivates, with its Chinese five-spice and star anise, clove, and cassia, which is somewhat like cinnamon. The deeper you dig in, the better it tastes.

    Melissa McCart is the dining critic for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Before that, she wrote about food in South Florida for the Broward-Palm Beach New Times and freelanced for a decade in Washington, D.C., for the Washington Post, Washingtonian, Washington City Paper, and Gourmet, among others. You can often win her over with a bowl of bouillabaisse or cioppino.

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