Monday, September 16, 2013

If You Left Home, What Food Would You Miss?

Salmon with basil sauce, beets, blueberries and a baguette from Boat Street.
If fortunes took you away from your hometown, perhaps away from your geographical region (the US West Coast for me) or even away from your home country, what kinds of foods would you miss? What restaurants would you like to visit when you ventured back during a holiday?
A few of my friends' lives and careers have taken them abroad and the types of foods or specific restaurants that they crave have become very apparent. The overwhelming culinary request is for Mexican food when friends go abroad and come home to the US. For the majority of the US, Mexican food is fairly common and may have distinct regional variations. Texans will miss Tex Mex, SoCal natives will miss street tacos while Bay Area fans might miss sloppy mission-style burritos and so on. My friends will ask for Mexican food, even if it's a pile of chips and salsa or a mess of carne asada. Regardless, Mexican food has yet to make a giant culinary impact around the world in the way Italian food or pizza has. My friends in Europe crave it as their mouths water at the smells of tacos al pastor and my pals from Asia will lap up guacamole like it's water.
My friend Skye is happy with her Serious Pie.
Here are the top requests from friends who move abroad and miss the culinary delights Seattle has to offer:
Halibut tacos from La Carta de Oaxaca
  1. Salmon. Let's face it, Atlantic salmon is just not the same. I don't care if Europeans love their Norwegian smoked salmon but proper Pacific Northwest salmon tastes different. Also, the easy access to Alaskan halibut, Dungeness crab, Puget Sound oysters and such help make the Pacific Northwest a seafood mecca. But feels like home more than a perfectly cooked and simple filet of salmon.
  2. Mexican food. Unless my friends relocate to Latin America or elsewhere in the states, the resounding requests are always for good Mexican food. My pals are eager to hit up La Carta de Oaxaca or El Camion or even the Matador happy hour. My friends in Taiwan tell me that there are two Mexican joins in Taipei run by America expats and some friends in London say that efforts have been made to try to bring Mexican food to the UK. Nonetheless, there probably isn't going to be lengua, mole, posole or Tapatio outside of the western hemisphere.
  3. Burgers. The kinds with American toppings, oozy cheese and tater tots or French fries on the side. I know what you're thinking... they have burgers everywhere! There are burgers in Europe, burgers in Asia and sometimes they come with excellent toppings like fried eggs or weird sauces and alternative buns. But Americans are attached to their burgers - whether it's a simple Dick's Deluxe or the Red Mill Val Verde burger dripping with jack cheese and spicy with roasted poblano if you are from Seattle.
  4. American-style barbecue. Barbecue purists might be in shock, but any regional variation will do once you've been abroad. Don't get me wrong - ethnic barbecue may be one of the best things you can possibly experience while traveling such as Vietnamese barbecue, Korean barbecue, anything roasted on a spit in South America, etc. My friends still want a Texas-style brisket or rack of ribs with KC sauce when they are home.
  5. Asian food unless you're in Asia or on the West Coast. Sweet and sour chicken and soggy noodles drenched in soy sauce is available just about anywhere. But access to a variety of Asian standards from very fresh and authentic sushi to Korean soondooboo spicy soup, northern pho is severely lacking when you're in the Midwestern US, smalltown Canada or most areas of Europe. My friends who have relocated to Asia pretty much avoid this cuisine like the plague when they visit since they can get cheaper fare overseas but friends who have spent too much time in the bowels of Europe make a beeline for pho when at home.
  6. Northwest mash ups. Northwest-y food has its own flair that is hard to pinpoint. A lot of it is fusion cuisine or features use of local or unusual ingredients. Friends who hit up an Ethan Stowell or Tom Douglas joint know that there is a little added something that kicks those restaurants up a notch from being strictly authentic to Italian, Greek or Japanese food, depending on the spot. Revel and Joule impart Korean and Asian flavors and Northwest ingredients to refined dishes and Duke's features distinct chowders and seafood that differs from seafood anywhere else. It's comforting to Seattle natives.  
What would you miss if you left home?

Serious Pie is serious business

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