Going on a food safari

Food safari

Ever wonder where chefs find ideas for inventive new menu items? One source of inspiration comes from visiting other restaurants in diverse locations, as Chef Kevin Binkley of Phoenix, Arizona does. He goes on find-dining 'safaris' to be inspired. Most recently he, along with other chefs from his own and nearby restaurants, traveled to Austin, Texas for a whirldwind tour that included visits to 10 restaurants and eating over 74 different dishes.

Binkley doesn't limit himself to travels in the United States; he often goes to Europe as well. When asked what is his favorite food city in the world, he answers without hesitation: "San Sebastian (Spain), no question. From goose barnacles just harvested from the bay to mozzarella made from a cow milked that morning, I could eat there from the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep."

These trips involve more than just sampling new food. "For Binkley, nothing is overlooked in terms of the total dining experience. Although the food gets the hardest look, the plating, the flatware, lighting, sound level, wall treatments, you name it, are all considered." One thing he found inspiration from on his trip to Austin is, as one might expect, barbecue.

Most of us aren't going to be able to go on a days-long journey that involves nearly a dozen restaurants and a mountain of food. We will have to settle for traveling vicariously through our cookbooks. Region-specific cookbooks have exploded in recent years, and through them you can virtually travel to any location on the planet, from Africa to South America to Asia.

Nearly every country is represented in the EYB Library, with cookbooks dedicated to little-known cuisines like Mauritius, Lithuania, and Costa Rica. One tome even has safari in its name. And if you don't want to commit to an entire book, the Library contains thousands of online recipes that are country-specific so you can sample the cuisine. Start with Lebanese dishes, proceed to Sri Lankan recipes, and finish with Finnish foods.

What's your favorite virtual road trip?

Photo clockwise from right: King's chicken curry from My Feast with Peter KuruvitaHummus kawarma (lamb) with lemon sauce from Jerusalem, and Finnish meatballs with allspice, sour cream and lingonberries from Leite's Culinaria by Tessa Kiros

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