World-Class Chefs and Food Writers on the One Meal They’d Travel For

From soba noodles in Nagano, Japan to shrimp tacos in Mexico.  
Fresh corn tacos are filled with local plump shrimp coated with a crunchy batter, and garnished with avocado, cilantro, and pico de gallo (salsa) at  La Fragata in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Photo: Laura Brenner
Fresh corn tacos are filled with local plump shrimp coated with a crunchy batter, and garnished with avocado, cilantro, and pico de gallo (salsa) at La Fragata in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Photo: Laura Brenner

We asked world-class chefs and other food folks about the meal they’d get into a plane, train, or automobile to savour again.

Greek Greens

Lemon accents a dish of Greek horta with olive oil. Photo: Katia Sotiriou

Lemon accents a dish of Greek horta with olive oil. Photo: Katia Sotiriou

I’d travel to Serifos, an island in the Cyclades, to eat wild horta drenched in local olive oil. On this severe, dry island, the greens (horta) grow on the mountainside and the women go out and collect them, tame the inherent bitterness with a good boil, and then soak them in olive oil with a squeeze of lemon. It’s indicative of the island that so much can be made from so little.
—Gabrielle Hamilton, chef and author of Blood, Bones & Butter

Canadian Foie Gras

I’d head to Montreal to eat Joe Beef’s foie gras double down—two large slices of chicken-fried foie gras with bacon and house-smoked melted cheddar in between, all doused with local maple syrup. I wouldn’t recommend eating this on a regular basis, but the dish reflects the city’s Gallic influence in the foie gras, Canadian pride in the liberal splash of maple syrup, and a whimsical North American irreverence. It can get very cold there, so this piping hot, uber-rich sandwich is sure to warm anyone up.
—Anita Lo, chef at Annisa (New York City)

A chalkboard lists the menu at Joe Beef. Photo: Susan Seubert

A chalkboard lists the menu at Joe Beef. Photo: Susan Seubert

Italian Cake

Get me to Siena to eat a thin slice of panforte with an espresso or a dessert wine. Just as every neighbourhood has its own flag, the variations of this warm, spiced, dense cake differ from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. While walking the cobblestone streets, you can see through store windows the stacked slices revealing the ingredients: apricots, peaches, raisins, dates, candied oranges, cherries, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pine nuts. The varied and beautiful packaging make it the perfect gift.
—Krystina Castella, author of A World of Cake

Soba Sampler

In Nagano, Japan, the traditional inn Ryokan Sugimoto is chef-owned, and the meal the chef prepared for us on our last visit included three different types of soba (buckwheat noodles) that were worth the flight to Japan alone.
—Grant Achatz, chef at Alinea (Chicago)

La Beaugravière, France. Photo: Restaurant La Beaugravière a Mondragon

La Beaugravière, France. Photo: Restaurant La Beaugravière a Mondragon

Truffles All the Time

I’d go to the village of Mondragon in Provence and the restaurant La Beaugravière to eat chef Guy Jullien’s all-truffle menu, paired with the best Rhône wines, because it reflects the fact that simple family restaurants in France can offer some of the most memorable experiences.
—Patricia Wells, author of Simply Truffles

Shrimp Taco

Playa del Carmen, Mexico, located along the clear and warm waters of the Caribbean, may be a paradise for swimmers and sunbathers, but I would travel there to enjoy the tacos de camarones at La Fragata, a small restaurant on 26th Street. Beatriz, the chef/owner, is one of the best cooks around. Fresh corn tacos are filled with local plump shrimp coated with a crunchy batter, and garnished with avocado, cilantro, and pico de gallo (salsa). And her prices are dirt cheap.
—Jacques Pépin, author of Essential Pépin

Chicken Salad

I crave the garlicky chicken-walnut salad at a tiny basement canteen in Tbilisi, Georgia, tucked along a back alley of the sagging Old Town—not only because it’s the best chicken salad I’ve ever tasted, but because the contrast between the humble setting and the voluptuous flavours embodies that Georgian ability to seemingly effortlessly extract the best out of life.
—Marisa Robertson-Textor, former research chief, Gourmet

Szechuan Surprise

After visiting and meditating at the famed Lama Temple in Beijing, we walked down the incense-heavy road and came upon a little place where we had this amazing Szechuan shredded beef. We enjoyed it so much we had it again at another restaurant where it was called Spicy Ass Meat. This was alarming, so I asked the server, “Ass meat?” And he said, “Like donkey!” Well, we still loved this dish and I’d go back for it.
—Art Smith, chef at Art and Soul (Washington, D.C.)

Açaí on the Beach

Florianópolis in Brazil is one of the most alluring cities I’ve ever been to, with incredible beaches, each one trumping the next. Spending three weeks there changed my life forever, and every morning before I hit the majestic waves with my board I would dig into the sweet, raw pulp from the açaí berry. Its unadulterated flavours are perfectly juxtaposed with the salty beach air and the sand between your toes.
—Sam Talbot, chef, Imperial No. Nine (New York City)

Appeared in the January 2014 issue as “Cravings”.

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