Montreal: Poutine

Montreal: Poutine

Ranked one of the top ten Canadian innovations of all time, Poutine, pronounced “peu-tin” by true Québécois is a must-have when in Montreal.

While there are several variations on this classic dish, nothing beats the original recipe: a base of fresh, crisp, and, most importantly, piping hot French fries. From there, white cheddar cheese curds -that have a distinctive “squeak” when bitten in to- are piled high as they await the light, smooth, brown gravy finish.

Poutine loosely translates to the word, “mess.” As legend has it, Poutine was created in 1957 by a Canadian trucker who wanted fries and cheese. The chef at the time yelled, “It will make a (insert expletive here) mess,” and napkins have been grateful ever since. Gravy was added a little later on in order to keep the fries and cheese warm for trucker’s long hauls. Now, it serves as a signature must-try dish in Montreal. Not a bad deal, eh?


Must-Try Dishes

This isnt just a best-of list. It’s THE best-of list from best-of chefs, world-class world-travelers and culinary connoisseurs. From decadent desserts to classic city fare, these are must-try dishes you need to seek out and find. (Don’t worry, we made it easy).

Click on the dishes below and indulge!

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    Aspen: Buffalo Steak

    Aspen: Buffalo Steak

    Aspen has always been known as a place to see and be seen, but there’s more to this natural beauty than its celebrity-skiers and picturesque Rocky Mountain setting. Visitors and locals alike are clamoring for a high-quality cut of beef, and Aspen’s buffalo steak is the perfect dish. With a sweeter taste and richer flavor profile, buffalo is also the leaner, more nutritionally-dense meat.

    It’s high in essential fatty acids, has an excellent ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 acids, and adds approximately 69% more iron to your diet than beef. That’s a lot of technical info to say - it’s a real delicious rival to your favorite red meat.

    And whether you take the trek to a restaurant situated high in the magnificent mountain setting, or eat within the booming town, be sure to sink your teeth into the best steak you’ll ever meat, err… meet.

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    Seattle: Oysters

    Seattle: Oysters

    It was Jonathan Swift who said, “He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.”

    A funny (and true) thought, even today oysters are a polarizing suggestion. But, if you fall on the side of oyster fan, then you must venture to shoot, shuck and share these half-shelled treats in the rainy and reigning oyster city in the US (if not, the world): Seattle.

    Oysters taste like where they’re from (a phenomenon oyster aficionados call “merroir”) and with Washington State’s sheltered inlets and forested islands it’s no surprise they produce some great, and varied, tastes. To really get a full sense of an oyster’s merroir, chew slowly and savor the aftertaste. And, of course, purists will insist you skip the garnishes. It ain’t pretty, but you may just get a hint of mountain meadow or glacier melt along with your sea brine. 

    Oysters pair great with an iconic Seattle scenic view, a cold drink and good company.

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    Atlanta: Fried Green Tomatoes

    Atlanta: Fried Green Tomatoes

    In a case of life imitating art, fried green tomatoes were not even recognized as a southern food until after the 1991 release of the movie, “Fried Green Tomatoes”. But whereas the movie takes place in Louisiana, we know the best place to “go green” is none-other than the ATL. Unlike their Hollywood rise to fame, fried green tomatoes came from humble beginnings.

    Historically, they were eaten by farmers and their families, who simply just needed a way to make whatever food they had a little more enjoyable. Traditional recipes includes just tomatoes, egg, milk and flour, but variations using cornmeal are also popular. 

    Delighted by a fresh, perfectly tangy flavor, the best fried green tomatoes are crusty on the outside and juicy on the inside.  

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    New Orleans: Bananas Foster

    New Orleans: Bananas Foster

    Nowadays, when people think of going bananas in New Orleans, it rarely involves actual bananas – but we recommend just that. Because no trip to NOLA is complete without a savory, sweet, set-on-fire (literally) bite of must-visit dish: Bananas Foster.

    But first, some history.  Like most things in New Orleans, this decadent dessert comes with a homegrown story; this one dating back to 1940, when New Orleans was the lead importer of bananas.

    The Brennan Family opened the still-fully-operational Brennan's restaurant in the French Quarter. This dish, made from bananas and vanilla ice cream, with a sauce made from butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, dark rum, and banana liqueur, was added to the menu with the name, Bananas Foster. The banana part is easy to understand but the “foster” is a tribute to Brennan’s regular; Dick Foster. (Remember this name. You’ll want to acknowledge him in thanks as you take your first bite).

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    Chicago: Deep Dish Pizza

    Chicago: Deep Dish Pizza

    An obvious but-oh-so-essential must-visit dish on our list is Chicago’s infamous (and scientifically-proven irresistible) deep dish pizza.

    Pizza made its way onto menus back in 1905. As Italian populations grew in U.S. cities, local entrepreneurs added their own unique twists to this instant favorite. In Chi-town that twist went deep by making a crust that reaches up the sides of the baking pan, making it taller and thicker. Unlike the traditional version, cheese is sprinkled on the bottom of a deep dish pizza instead of across the top, with sauce and fillings sandwiched in between.

    Who can we thank for this carb-filled fantasy? Deep dish can be traced back to 1943, when the restaurant that came to be known as Pizzeria Uno opened. Many still claim Uno as the ultimate slice. We recommend trying as many as possible and making up your own mind.

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    Charleston: Shrimp and Grits

    Charleston: Shrimp and Grits

    Easily the most classic southern food, shrimp and grits just begs to be ordered with the charming southern drawl of the best place to find it: Charleston.

    This South Carolina staple used to be called "shrimps and hominy," hominy being the term Charlestonians used for cooked grits until after World War II. Despite being assigned to “supper” these days, it was a breakfast dish back then, and a very popular one during the June to October shrimp season.

    The name changed but the soul of the dish remained: made with seafood, bacon, corn, cheese and with a refreshing zing of lemon to balance the flavors. No doubt, this dish is best enjoyed while “sitting a spell” along the historic streets of this charming city, sipping on a sweet tea and letting the street musicians help you find a perfect sway. We’d venture to say there’s no chance you won’t find comfort in this classic comfort food and quaint locale.

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    Hawaii: Poke Bowl

    Hawaii: Poke Bowl

    To properly pronounce “Poke” you have to rhyme it with okay, but make no mistake: this dish ranks much higher than just okay. And with the Hawaii islands as the backdrop, we’d argue as way better than okay.

    Commonly referred to as “king of the island foods,” Poke is a traditional Hawaiian cuisine, typically treated as an appetizer and prepared with raw tuna that is marinated to perfection. Poke means "cut piece" or "small piece," and originated with fisherman seasoning the cut-offs from their catch for a snack. Poke can be made from aku tuna (an oily fish), or he’e (octopus), but the increasing popularity of the dish stems from the yellowfin tuna adaption. Typically mixed with seaweed, sea salt, wasabi, some sesame oil and seeds for a little crunch, this dish certainly takes you on a culinary journey.

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    Caribbean: Mofongo

    Caribbean: Mofongo

    Just mention the word “Caribbean” and people tend to take a deep breath, gently relax their shoulders and a small smile starts to creep across their face. Maybe it’s the music. Maybe it’s the island breeze. But it’s definitely the people. And great people, make great food.

    Want some proof? Just take a bite of the classic Afro-Puerto Rican dish, Mofongo. Pronounced moh-faung-oh, Mofongo isn’t just fun to say, it is also incredibly satisfying to eat. Unripened plantains (or those “big funny bananas” you see in the grocery sometimes) are the main ingredient. They are mashed, sautéed and blended with garlic. It is generally served one of two ways: as small balls served as a side dish, or formed in a cup or ramekin and stuffed full of shredded meat, most typically roasted pork. As amazing, fresh seafood is all-too easy to find in the Caribbean, more sophisticated seafood versions of the dish have made their way to local Carribbean hotspots - and into the hearts of both locals and visitors alike.

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    Los Angeles: Ramen

    Los Angeles: Ramen

    LA is known for many things: celebrity sightings, sprawling beaches, Rodeo-drive shopping, and now, Ramen.

    Make no mistake though: this is not the two-dollar ramen of college-days-past. In fact, ramen has become something of an art-form in this foodie town. The garnishes, regional styles and ingredients vary in very-particular nuance and make the plate presentation something to be savored with just as much enthusiasm as your first “sip”. Not sure where to start? Most ramen can be categorized into four major types based on the broth used: tonkotsu (pork), shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce), and miso (fermented bean paste).

    Ramen can be found easily in LA. But ramen’s origins are much more elusive. It’s often thought to come from Japan, but it actually originated in China. How it made the jump is up for debate, but one thing is for sure - it is here in the States to stay.

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    Kansas City: BBQ Burnt Ends

    Kansas City: BBQ Burnt Ends

    Modern-day barbeque aficionados know that of the four main barbeque regions, Kansas City doesn’t see their skill as a means to an end. In fact, it’s their ends that they're known for.

    Unfortunately-named, burnt ends are flavorful pieces of meat cut from the point half of a smoked brisket. A proper burnt end displays a modest amount of “bark,” or char, on at least one side. It’s what provides a perfectly crispy end to a tender beginning of each bite, and is made from the fattier part of the brisket.

    It’s a pretty technical process but all you really need to know is that it’s considered a delicacy in the ‘que world. And whether smoked, soaked in sweet-and-tangy sauce, or added to dishes for an enhanced smoky flavor - these trimmings of down-home goodness are for sure a stand-out star of Kansas City.

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    Mexico City: Tamales

    Mexico City: Tamales

    There are recipes that are handed down generation to generation. And then there are tamales, which has roots (and husks) traced back to as early as 5,000 BC.

    Back in BC (and before drive-thru lunch options) Aztecs and Mayans would stuff a cornhusk (masa) or banana leaf full of fruit, vegetables, meats and/or cheese to provides nutritious support to their armies, hunters and travelers. Today, there are over 100 variations, and even though you are simply enjoying the final product, the tamale-making process, know as la tamalada, or, “the tamale-making party” is often the best part, as an assembly line is made so that all are involved in the food preparation.

    It’s no surprise that this dish hails from a city steeped in history at every corner: Mexico City. And a trip to Mexico City wouldn’t be complete without learning about Aztec and Mayan traditions, tamales included.

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    Miami: Stone Crabs

    Miami: Stone Crabs

    Multicultural. Melting pot. Utter Madness. Call it what you will, but Miami has become a true multicultural hub, and has the international fare to prove it. But, even with an array of eclectic influences, the dish worth braving the Miami airport for, is the unrivaled, oh-so-fresh seafood. And, more specifically, the sweet, succulent Stone Crab.

    Florida’s Stone Crab Season is October 15 to May 15 and this real Miami vice brings locals and tourists alike to the beaches in droves. Why? One taste and you’ll understand. The classic claws are often served very simply: on ice with mustard, butter and lemon. Oh, and a bib. Because even in the fanciest of establishments, you gotta get “hands on” to get the meat out of these claws. But just like the beach bods that line the shore, it’s worth all the hard work.

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    Minneapolis: Tater Tots

    Minneapolis: Tater Tots

    In 1953, Ore-Ida founders F. Nephi Grigg and Golden Grigg were trying to figure out what to do with some leftover slivers of potato and, in what can only be described as a stroke of genius, accidentally gave us the greatest, miniature potato treat of all-time: the tater tot.

    Light and hearty, crispy and airy, tots have an almost cultish fan-base, and nowhere is it more concentrated than in the Upper Midwest. Because tots aren't just delicious on their own. They also stepped up the most classic of all Minnesota dishes: the Hotdish. The hotdish is a casserole of epic-midwestern proportions (both in size and starchy content) and when people started topping it with tater tots? Whoa (or as Minnesotans say, Uff-da)!

    Lucky for us, among the tot-enthusiasts, were chefs who took ‘tatoes to the next level. You can find them perfectly fried and paired with sauces ranging from spicy to sweet, or served high-concept: filled with porcini béchamel next to fall-of-the-bone short ribs. 

    Worth a trip to Minnesota? You betcha!

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    Boston: Lobster Roll

    Boston: Lobster Roll

    If you’re wondering what came first – the hot dog bun, or the lobster roll – wonder no more. Ten years after the invention of the commercial hot dog bun in 1912, the lobster roll came to life in New England.

    Boston showcases two kinds of lobster rolls. The traditional consists of lobster meat soaked in butter and served on a top-split, white-bread hot dog bun that is also soaked in butter and toasted to perfection. If that’s not how you roll, there are variations to what’s known as “America’s most expensive sandwich,” such as adding diced celery, scallions and mayonnaise instead of butter.

    While there are debates on the perfect way to enjoy your lobster roll, one thing reigns true – a lobster roll that’s not served on a top-split, white-bread hot dog bun has no chance of earning its claws.

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    Montreal: Poutine

    Montreal: Poutine

    Ranked one of the top ten Canadian innovations of all time, Poutine, pronounced “peu-tin” by true Québécois is a must-have when in Montreal.

    While there are several variations on this classic dish, nothing beats the original recipe: a base of fresh, crisp, and, most importantly, piping hot French fries. From there, white cheddar cheese curds -that have a distinctive “squeak” when bitten in to- are piled high as they await the light, smooth, brown gravy finish.

    Poutine loosely translates to the word, “mess.” As legend has it, Poutine was created in 1957 by a Canadian trucker who wanted fries and cheese. The chef at the time yelled, “It will make a (insert expletive here) mess,” and napkins have been grateful ever since. Gravy was added a little later on in order to keep the fries and cheese warm for trucker’s long hauls. Now, it serves as a signature must-try dish in Montreal. Not a bad deal, eh?

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    San Francisco: Ciopinno

    San Francisco: Ciopinno

    The pronunciation of this steamy San Fran original is up for debate (some say chuh-pee-noh, others the more Italian chawp-pee-naw) but one thing is unanimous: Cioppino is delish - and a must-try dish.

    Derived from the traditional ciuppin—which means "little soup" in the Genoese dialect, Cioppinowas made famous in the 1850’s by Genoese immigrant and restaurateur Giuseppe Bazzuro. The dish was originally a puree of cooked vegetables and leftover fish scraps (not so must-visit) but over the years, Bay area chefs transformed it into a luxurious stew using local delicacies, like the cold-water San Fran bay Dungeness crabs, and other catches of the day.

    Now that is fresh!

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    Philly: Cheesesteak

    Philly: Cheesesteak

    Philadelphia, or as locals call it Philly, is also known as the City of Brotherly Love. That is unless you’re talking cheesesteak.

    As the story goes, in 1930, South Philadelphia hot dog vendor Pat Olivieri put some beef on his grill. A passing taxi driver got a whiff and asked for a steak sandwich. The next day, taxicabs were lined up asking for one of their own. Olivieri went from hot dog vendor to store owner and then made another genius move: adding cheese. Well, that is unless you believe rival cheesesteak maker and Geno’s founder, Joe Vento, who claims it was he, not Olivieri, who first added cheese to the cheesesteak.

    The rivalry is real. But there is only one hero. And that hero comes with Cheez Whiz and fried onions.

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    New York City: Pastrami Sandwich

    New York City: Pastrami Sandwich

    If you’re of the belief that a good sandwich is an art, then get ready to be schooled in true art history. The over-stacked, stacked-high pastrami sandwich is a New York City classic, but is said to originally hail from Romania. What exactly is pastrami (aside from delicious)? It’s beef (or occasionally pork, mutton or turkey) brined, partially dried and seasoned with herbs and spices before ultimately being smoked and steamed.

    This must-try meat made its way to the big apple by way of kosher butcher and Lithuanian-immigrant, Sussaman Volk, who used a recipe given by his Romanian friend and began to serve it on sandwiches out of his butcher shop. Because it’s New York – they went big, with stacks of meat piled high between freshly sliced rye bread. The sandwich become so popular, Volk changed the butcher shop to a restaurant, a perfectly dill pickle was added as a garnishment, and the rest, as we say, is delicious, delicious, history.

    Hey, if you can make it here …

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    Washington DC: Crab Cakes

    Washington DC: Crab Cakes

    The results are in, and the Maryland Crab Cake is D.C.’s landside win. The winning platform? Chock full’o crab.

    In fact, if you “dig in” and find yourself wondering where the crab is – call for a recount. Because a true blue Maryland crab cake is chunks of sweet, juicy crab meat, lots of it, and not much of anything else: just enough egg and fresh bread crumbs to bind that oh-so-sweet crab meat together. The “cake” is then sautéed, baked, grilled or, the most popular choice, broiled, and then served. (Preferably with a side of homemade tartar sauce and a cold beer).

    The prime season for Maryland Crabs (a.k.a. Blue Crabs) is during the summer months of May to September. Despite the short run, they play an integral role in the local economy since the mid 1800’s. So, red or blue, visiting our nation’s capital and digging in on a fresh Maryland blue crab cake is not just satisfying … it’s downright patriotic.

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    Austin: Breakfast Tacos

    Austin: Breakfast Tacos

    With a city motto of “Keep Austin Weird,” one should expect nothing less than tacos for breakfast.  Luckily, they are more why-didn’t-I-think-of-this delicious, than weird. Austin is known for it’s Tex Mex approach to everything; from art and architecture to the “Spanglish” spoken by many of its locals.  So, it’s no surprise that it’s also the inspiration for many Mexican-Anglo crossover culinary creations.

    It’s as simple as the name suggests, starting with the most important, Mexican staple: the tortilla. Then you can choose your favorite breakfast ingredients to fill it with: eggs, cheese, pork, beans, salsa. Some restaurants even cater to more bold-brunchers wanting tofu or a more hearty steak and eggs combo. 

    There is no shortage of filling options, in fact it’s the variety and versatility that makes them an Austin staple. But true to Austin form, ingredients should be locally farmed, organic and the funkier the better. 

Unforgettable Weekend
with Michael Mina

We sat down with one of our favorite celebrated chefs to find out what can’t-miss food experiences inspire him.

Keep Indulging.

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