about We are Akila and Patrick. Our minds (and waistlines) expand as we travel, cook, and eat our way around the world with our two dogs.
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three best kept foodie travel secrets

Melbourne Restaurants

Melbourne outdoor seating for restaurants

Like a cold making its way through a kindergarten class, the meme started by Katie of Tripbase , where bloggers list out three best kept travel secrets, has quickly spread through the travel blogverse.  But, this is a good sort of virus that doesn't involve Kleenex, runny noses, or sneezing and, instead, when compiled together, will be a Creative Commons document with hundreds of interesting and unique travel secrets.  Melanie from the fantastic site Travels With Two tagged us and, so, today, we are going to share with you three of our best kept food-related travel secrets (because we're all about the food, as you know).

1.  Talk to people and follow the trail of good food to find hidden gems, like the French Pantry, in Jacksonville, Florida.

In towns like Jacksonville, Florida, where food gems lay hidden beneath a profusion of chain restaurants and strip mall mediocrity, you have to talk to people who love food to find the best restaurants.  We found the French Pantry by picking up a loaf of delicious french bread at a small gourmet food market.  We went back to the market the next day to find out where they purchased their bread and learned about the French Pantry, a bakery that supplies restaurants in Jacksonville.  The restaurant is located in a windowless concrete industrial building next to car parts manufacturers with no attempt made at producing ambience.  But, the smell of fresh baking bread drew us into the shabby little storefront.

Tomatoes and basil

Tomatoes and basil

When I had my first taste of their bruschetta, a composition of soft, toasted french bread layered with pesto and bufala mozzarella, surrounded by a sweet tomato salad, I couldn't stop smiling.  Their cheesecake is what I dream of when I dream of cheesecake, velvety, smooth, and soft with a hint of cream cheese and sour cream, atop a buttery graham crust.  The French Pantry is one of our all-time favorite restaurants in the world but the only way to find it is by talking to people who know and love food in that area.  Don't sell your trip short by being shy; talk to people who love food to find the best restaurants.

Rialto market Spices at the Rialto Market, Venice

2.  To market, to market: the best way to experience local food and local people.

We are obsessed with farmers markets.  It seems right that food should grow in the soil, be picked by a farmer, and then pass from his hands to ours.  In Maui, we found honey-sweet pineapple at the Honokowai Farmers Market and, the fish in the Rialto Market in Venice were the freshest Patrick has ever seen.  At the Montepulciano Farmers Market , we watched elderly women purchase cotton tablecloths and pass time at the butcher's cart.  On the advice of a farmer who claimed that his grapes were "dolce," we purchased grapes that tasted like nectar from the gods.  While we could have purchased equivalent food at the grocery stores, the market adds personality to what we eat because we met the people who grew those products.  In fact, we would say that the Montepulciano Farmers Market should be a must-see destination for any tourist visiting that region.



3.  Eat local.

Perhaps this isn't a secret because finding locally grown ingredients seems obvious to us.  Yet, we continue to be surprised when we see desert restaurants offering "fresh fish" or northern restaurants offering tropical platters of fruit.  In New York, we seek out apples.  In regions with abundant cattle, like the Barossa Valley , we always find cheese platters to be a cheap and delicious light lunch.  In Hawaii , we opt for platters of sliced mangos, papayas, and bananas.  In India, we fill ourselves with fresh coconut milk, and in Puerto Rico , we enjoy plantains to our hearts' content.  Eating locally grown food is cheap, healthy, and tasty and allows us to best experience the variety of the world's produce and meats.

I am now tagging five other travel bloggers to share their top 3 best kept travel secrets:

Manali and Terry , a couple who have transformed themselves from yuppies to hippies on their around-the-world honeymoon

Gourmantic , a blog where travel and culinary passions meet

Sending Postcards , Mina and Alex also head off on their honeymoon beginning in Mexico City

Fake Food Free , Lori's blog about real food from every corner of the world

Legal Nomads , a blog devoted to proving that even lawyers can have fun as Jodi describes her round the world travels since 2008

What are your best kept travel secrets?  We would love to hear them, especially if you have tips for India and Southeast Asia, as we are heading there in less than a month!