Issue 30

From Travels to Table: Preparing and sharing the flavors of your vacation

From Travels to Table: Preparing and sharing the flavors of your vacation

Picture this; You’ve just gotten home from your magnificent vacation or weekend getaway. You may have a t-shirt, dishware, plenty of digital photographs and social media posts to remember the great time you had, but what if you could bring back a souvenir that could immediately take you back to that perfect Sunday brunch spot you found, or that fantastic Friday dinner on the bay? With a little preparation beforehand, and some careful storage after your return, you can bring back the flavors of your vacation to share with friends and family with remarkable ease.

Research – Before your trip commences, research is your best friend. A Google search of your destination, plus a few key words (such as: farmers markets, organic, seafood, and produce), can be your baseline. Customer review sites like YELP or Trip Advisor can point you in directions of good restaurants/retailers with items to take home as well. If traveling by car, leave enough space in your cooler to bring back items. If traveling by plane, a soft cooler can be easily stuffed in your checked luggage to transport perishable items home.

Get some goodies – Your bags are packed and you’re on your way; it sure feels great to be on vacation. Upon reaching your destination, here’s how to embark on your quest to bring the foods of your travels back home. There’s no substitute for local knowledge. People are usually proud to showcase the best things about their area. Ask them what it’s known for and the best places to get these items. Map these locales on your phone to see if they are within your reach while in your normal vacation activities. For perishable goods, try to visit these places as late in the trip as possible. When visiting the vendors, grab their contact information for potential future shipments.

Getting it home – Now it’s almost time to return home and protecting your culinary treasures is of utmost importance. For those flying, it’s essential that your meat/seafood is frozen before you fly home. Stop by a local grocery store to pick up a couple pounds of dry ice, then wrap your items in a few plastic grocery bags and place them in your soft cooler. Seal the cooler and tuck it away in your checked luggage. Here’s a neat trick I learned from Erick Cook of Big E’s BBQ Sauce at the Parker, Colorado Farmer’s market this summer: he tells customers to wrap his sauces in a plastic bag and put them into a shoe before packing it into checked bags. I can proudly say the sauce and shoe made it home perfectly intact! Vendors such as Cook are very happy to talk to out-of-town visitors. “Word of mouth is my best form of advertising. Once people have tried my products, they tell their friends about it and also how to get my sauces.” He added, “Tourists provide valuable exposure to areas outside of my local area and allow my sauces to be sold in stores I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to reach.”

Returning home with produce can be a bit trickier for fliers. On two flights this year, I chose to carry on peaches and oranges in my small backpack. My approach resulted in moderate bruising. Next time I’ll grab a small cooler and secure them more with small towels or plastic bags. The less movement these items endure, the better condition they’ll be in when you get home.

For the road trip adventurers out there, your task is easier. Hopefully you’ve got ample space in your regular cooler after eating many of the things you brought from home. A good block or bag of regular ice should suffice for perishable items. Pack any potential breakables in safe places on top of your heavy luggage. You can also use the same approach your flying companions do with shoes and towels. For the produce, do your best to minimize movement and keep items out of the sun for any significant amount of time to prevent rotting.

At home – The vacation is now over. You’re home and the reality of returning to the daily grind sets in. It’s essential to determine when you will be using the well-traveled items. Unpack and store them according to expiration date and expected usage. Seafood can be stored for quite some time, although a shorter turn-around time yields much more flavorful results. If fruits and vegetables are your haul, salsas, jams, or canning can be used to extend the duration of usage (I made a jam with Colorado peaches this summer). For mixes, pastas, and other non-perishable items, save them for a special occasion, holiday dinner, or potluck.

The benefits of your tasty travels can even enhance your everyday cooking. Many places have good websites to order their products online throughout the year. Lauren Berry, a New York native now living in Omaha, travels frequently to different parts of the country. She told me, “When I moved from New York to the Midwest, I knew I would miss many of the foods I had grown up with. I soon realized that with relative ease I could hop onto a website and contact my neighborhood deli and have delicious German sausages delivered to my door within two days. Now, after vacationing in a city and falling in love with the local fare, I can hop online and have a little piece of vacation shipped directly to me weeks or months after being there.”

Incorporating food into your travels enhances your time on vacation by exposing your taste buds to flavors and foods not otherwise found at home. Whether it’s a unique spice blend from New Orleans, fresh caught fish from Florida, or a local orchard you found driving through the countryside, the aromas and flavors in your kitchen can transport your mind immediately back to the first time you sunk your teeth into that amazing local food. Your family and friends will surely look forward to hearing about the highlights of your adventures.

Kent Cisar

Kent Cisar

Kent Cisar searches the local and national scene for unique ingredients and flavors to bring to the table here in Omaha. He'll catch his own fish from Florida, ship farmer's market shrimp from Louisiana, stash jams from the Pacific Northwest, or find the best cut of meat from a Nebraska farmer. Kent believes that regardless of where the it comes from, good food is meant to be shared.


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