Travel 2022 COVID Style
Food is a tasty way to sample a cuisine, a country, a region and even your home turf. When you travel, being on location will engage all of your senses with different views, unusual sounds and unfamiliar scents. Looking for a way to recapture what travel offers? Consider savoring a brand new cuisine to be transported to a fresh place and expose the senses to novel experiences, while restoring the spirit. It looks as though 2022 might again be a year that challenges the traveler with uncertainty. We have some suggestions that may satisfy the urge to travel albeit differently.
EXPLORE NEW TO YOU RESTAURANTS
Fortunately, the Capital Region has restaurateurs who have brought their native cuisine with them. Based on ingredient availability, it is possible that traditional dishes may be slightly modified while still capturing the authentic flavors. Many of these restaurants also import ingredients and sell them in their shops. Is there a country you are dreaming of visiting or wish to remember from travels past? Whether you order take out or feel comfortable dining out – you can travel the globe one meal at a time in Albany, Troy, Schenectady and surrounding areas. We have a number of restaurants from 5 of the 7 continents, only Antarctica and Oceania aren’t represented.
EXPAND YOUR COOKING REPERTOIRE
Virtual cooking classes are a fun way to connect with family and friends, no matter where they reside. This past year, we gifted our loved ones an online falafel making class (from Traveling Spoon), taught by a mother and daughter team cooking from their home in Lebanon. We were all learning together and got to share our successes and challenges family style.
Local chefs also offer online cooking classes and some organizations offered an online, multi-day cooking extravaganza with chefs and experts from around the world sharing their expertise. All recipes and ingredient lists were provided in advance; you could cook along or you could just watch and take notes for future culinary experimentation.
The Capital Region has just had a new culinary studio open – La Centralita, offering small, in-person classes (limit 4-10 participants) where you can enjoy and learn about the gastronomy of Spain. (A friend and I have signed up together for a Saturday afternoon class to celebrate our shared birthday month. Like traveling with a friend, we will be learning more about Spain and creating memories together.
The Upper Hudson Library system offers access to wonderfully diverse cookbook collections from all of our local libraries. These cookbooks are filled with wonderful photos, history of the dishes, a description of the ingredients and local culture. Not only will you expand your recipe repertoire, you will learn which dishes you like and want to experience in person when you can travel to that country on your bucket list.
SHOP AT LOCAL WORLD MARKETS
When I lived in Flushing NY, almost every block was a representation of immigrants from different countries: Israel, Korea, Taiwan, China, Japan, India, Greece etc. I felt like I was traveling the world when I browsed their markets – discovering unfamiliar ingredients to try – often described in native language only. In addition, there were restaurants representing the different cuisines on those blocks as well.
Luckily, in many larger cities, you don’t have to rely on Amazon orders or the small International Food sections in your local supermarket chains. Your local food coop may have many harder to find items as well. My favorite shopping excursion however, is to the many specialty markets (there are close to 20 in the Capital Region) for Halal food, Indian, Chinese (with ingredients from a number of Asian countries) etc. They stock the spices commonly used in their recipes (in larger quantities and better prices than the larger spice chains.) The fresh produce selection is broader and more reasonably priced than the chain supermarkets too. They serve as the perfect setting to get inspired for new recipes and will invite you to enter the mindset of the country you will be bringing to the table. Instead of a trip down memory lane, you could be foreshadowing a trip to a future destination you have yet to explore.
Whether or not you are a local taking a food tour in a city you know or a visitor exploring a new city, food tours are a great way to feel like you are actually traveling. You will sample tastes and sips from 5-7 different independent restaurants, get a sense of that city’s history and learn the backstory of the restaurants as well. Food tourism is one of the newest tour options in travel and luckily many secondary markets and large cities have wonderful food tours from which to choose. While traveling to far away places may still be complicated in 2022, signing up for a food tour in your backyard or in a day trip’s drive might just be the ticket to get you back to feeling comfortable eating at restaurants, being on a tour and reclaiming the joy of travel. In my experience, not only are food tours well worth a try, but once you have gone on your first one, you will continue to build them into future travel itineraries. Most tours will already have 2022 tour dates posted on their websites, so start planning for your warmer weather fun now!