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Travel to Eat

Cindy Loose

In its first ever study of wine and culinary travelers, the Travel Industry Association of America, a trade group, found that two out of five leisure travelers have participated in activities associated with culinary tourism.

The full study won't be out until next month, but apparently "activities associated with culinary tourism" means taking culinary and wine tours, cooking classes, or going somewhere more to try out a new chef than because of a new attraction.

TIA thinks they've identifed a major new trend. Let's do a reader blog poll -- have you or would you choose a destination mainly because of it's food-related appeal?

A related question: When on vacation do you tend to have at least some meals in more expensive restaurants than you'd consider when looking for a place to eat near home? My travel companions feel like: Hey, we're on vacation, live it up. But I'm just as likely to think: I'm spending so much money on this trip I'm going to eat as cheap as possible.
Am I in the minority?

By Cindy Loose |  January 31, 2007; 12:07 PM ET  | Category:  Cindy Loose , World Cuisine
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I definitely take food into account when I travel, particularly abroad - one reason I keep returning to Italy over and over!

Posted by: Mary Ellen | January 31, 2007 12:22 PM

Local cuisine, both high-end / expensive restaurants and cheap street eats (as long as the quality is good for both) is one of the main reasons I travel. To me there's nothing more satisfying than revisiting an old culinary haunt or being able to share a new discovery with others.

From Tuscany to Paris to NY to San Francisco, finding great local food is a big travel priority for me.

Posted by: daveq | January 31, 2007 12:32 PM

I eat when I travel the same way I eat most of the time: try to find good, affordable food with 1 or 2 special meals mixed in where I spend more money.

Posted by: SSMD | January 31, 2007 12:44 PM

I'm vegan. We love travelling just to try some of the upscale vegan/vegetarian restaurants in the country. They tend to be in larger cities (or small-town quaint B&B's), so we can plan a nice weekend around food that way.

Posted by: NoVa | January 31, 2007 12:45 PM

I definitely take food into account when I travel; to me, it's one of the primary reasons to travel. I believe that one soaks up a lot of foreign culture from eating the types of food they eat in the manner that they eat it. It helps connect you to a place and widens your view of the world.

Food also plays an important role in my travels for destinations closer at hand. I've visited New Orleans and Las Vegas a lot over the past few years and I always try to find great restaurants to eat in when I'm there. Sure, I leave myself open to cheap local food (that's a pleasure, too) and don't overbook myself, but these are places with fantastic cuisine and chefs of great culinary talent. Why would I pass on someplace incredible just to save a few bucks?

And, yes, I would book a trip specifically around a restaurant if it was a restaurant of particularly high reknown (such as, say, the French Laundry).

Posted by: Matt B. | January 31, 2007 12:47 PM

I always follow my stomach when I travel. I don't seek out expensive restaurants abroad unless they come highly recommended by locals, instead I try to find the local hang outs. I will spend more on wine tours or cooking classes when I'm overseas.

If I travel domestically, I normally do try a more expensive restaurant than I would chose close to home.

On a side note, even when I'm traveling for work I use my evenings to track down some great restaurants in what ever city I'm in. Most recently I found two great restaurants in downtown Reno that made my stay much better.

Posted by: AJO | January 31, 2007 1:38 PM

My husband & I definitely choose destinations based on food! In fact, we like to find "the ultimate" specialty of the areas to which we travel: gumbo in New Orleans; crab cakes on the east coast.
We look for out-of-the-way, non-touristy places where the locals eat and are never disappointed. We do, on occasion, splurge on the big-name, celebrity chef venues, but more often than not are disappointed. Local eateries more often offer great food and good value.

Posted by: Jeannie M | January 31, 2007 1:39 PM

The south and southeast asian cuisine in the DC area is so bland and transmuted from it's roots because of yuppies. I would gladly fly to LA to sample some authentic SE Asian fare. For example? There is a dish in Singapore called fish-head curry (don't make gagging, it's delicious). I have searched high and low for this, but cannot find a suitable replica here. I would travel to anywhere in the US to find this dish along with home made Roti Paratha.

Also, the Thais are catering to you yuppie dollars by altering their recipes way too much. Please stop going to places that are said to be "authentic". You guys wouldn't know until you lived there first.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 31, 2007 1:47 PM

I will pretty much only travel to places with really good food (for example, Italy and Thailand YES - Russia not so much, sorry)- sampling local cuisine is one of my favorite things about traveling!!!

Posted by: Piranha | January 31, 2007 1:55 PM

We try to eat the local delicacies wherever we travel, and ask for recommendations of restaurants whenever we can. Once in La Paz we were taken to a buffet which was a "special occassion/Sunday dinner type place for the locals, but tour guides liked to take their small parties there, too. We sampled most everything and enjoyed the food and learning about it. The restaurant owner was so impressed that we tried everything and didn't leave it rejected on our plates, that he made a point to speak to our guide to pass on his appreciation.What better compliment to a culture than to enjoy their food with them?

Posted by: Anonymous | January 31, 2007 2:01 PM

Sure, I always consider cuisine when deciding where to visit. I scheduled a week in a small town north of Barcelona to make possible a visit to El Bulli, for example. I am now looking for a place to go in May, and local dining is a significant factor.

Posted by: Mike R | January 31, 2007 2:30 PM

Whenever I travel culinary experiences are
part of the trip. Sometimes its to experience the local food, sometimes a
certain chef or restaurant, and sometimes to learn how to make certain dishes.

Posted by: Ken G | January 31, 2007 3:08 PM

My husband does the culture and I do the food. After a great museum, ancient ruin or historical church, we head to a restaurant I have found through the internet or in books. It makes for a complete day.

Posted by: Ellen | January 31, 2007 3:50 PM

i gotta tell this story: an older relative of mine did the grand tour of europe. he wouldn't eat anywhere except macdonalds! for some reason he thought that they would be cheaper than other places. his daughter and i couldn't believe it when he told us. fast food in europe ain't cheap and he could have eaten much better & cheaper at small family type of places. he was so proud that he didn't eat anywhere local. that is a story that his daughter & i still laugh over 10 years later.

Posted by: quark | January 31, 2007 5:02 PM

I don't see the point in traveling to a new place unless you partake in the regional all levels and prices. When I travel, I take the time to research places to eat before I get there in guide books and online. I have a Zagat for every major city I've visited. I always try to find the great places at each of the price levels...perhaps a nice cafe for breakfast, a whole in the wall for lunch and a fine dining establishment for dinner. Not only do you get to sample a variety of food types, you all get exposed to how people of different income levels live within the given area. It's very interesting and alot of fun.

Posted by: Epicuriouz | January 31, 2007 5:16 PM

I've had wonderful food in many places at "working men's" restaurants. But I do tend to splurge once or twice on a trip.

I rarely plan a trip around food but I have a dream beer tour of Europe I've been refining for years: Pilsen, Budweis (aka České Budějovice), many places in Belgium, Munich and so on.

Posted by: Kit | January 31, 2007 5:21 PM

eating new foods is certainly a delightful part of travelling! I usually make lunch the main meal of the day and don't worry about price too much. Lunch tends to be cheaper than dinner even though it's the same food. I eat fruit for breakfast--bought at a local market--and then something small, also from the market, for dinner. So sure, blow the rupees or guilders or whatever!

Posted by: desertdune | February 1, 2007 9:26 AM

My fiancee and i were planning our honeymoon around wine tasting and food tour in france. We both admire the cooking profession and hte culinary world in general, and we're avid wine drinkers. That being said for me, i love to travel and part of traveling for me is absorbing all the culinary differences between the foods i'm accustom to here versus wherever i am traveling to. Sure it may be more expensive, but how likely are to going to be at that place again any time soon?

Posted by: food and wine | February 1, 2007 1:56 PM

desertdune - Choosing a better restaurant for lunch rather than dinner is a great idea! You can eat well, save money, and work off the big meal over the rest of the day.

Posted by: Arlington | February 1, 2007 3:24 PM

Although I have never traveled somewhere solely for food, it is definitely one of the reasons I travel. My husband and I do as much research on restaurants as anything else, maybe more. This can also be beneficial for traveling to destinations not known for their culinary delights.

For example, we took a quick weekend trip to Richmond, VA a few weeks ago. After a some quick research on:

we discovered two amazing restaurants that not only incredibly enhanced the quality of our trip, but also made us want to go back. For anyone planning a visit to Richmond, check out Millie's Diner and Comfort. You will be happy you did.

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