Fave Five 2008 Travel Excursions, Part Three

Associate Editor Deanna Ting digests her Fave Five travel experiences in 2008

By: By Deanna Ting

Friends often ask me what I’d do if I weren’t a travel writer. The answer is simple: I’d write about food. A true gastronome at heart, I’m more likely to recall what it is I ate in a particular place than most other things (Granted, I still make sure to take copious amounts of notes on where I’ve been and where I’ve stayed — it’s my job!). Travel has given me the opportunity not only to see, hear, and touch new things, but also the ability to smell — and taste — them, too. For me, 2008 marked a number of culinary feats, each and everyone intimately tied to some of my most beloved destinations and experiences. Here are just a few, in no particular order, that I hope you and your clients will get to enjoy in 2009:

The Sum of All Things

Photo: While it’s debatable whether this dish did, in fact, have the “best noodles” it was definitely delicious. // © Deanna Ting 
While it’s debatable whether this dish did,
in fact, have the “best noodles” it was definitely
delicious. // © Deanna Ting

Traveling to Shanghai last fall was a truly memorable experience. It was my first time traveling to China, the birthplace of my parents and grandparents and a place I’d often heard of with the best of stories — and sometimes the worst (my relatives, like many Chinese Americans, left the country after World War II to escape the Communist Party and the aftermath of the war). Going there now, it seemed like a whole different place from how they had described it. But even though it’s so modern and ever-changing, it was nice to know that some things remain the same, especially when it comes to the cuisine. The most memorable meals I had during my brief trip to Shanghai feature two of my favorite types of Chinese meals. The first was a won-ton noodle soup set off with a rich duck- and pork-based broth, the perfect interlude between a busy day of sightseeing at Yu Gardens and The Bund. The second consisted of tasty dim sum morsels, hand-picked by our Ritz Tours guide, George Ma. George definitely knew his stuff; even my fellow journalists who weren’t usually accustomed to trying new foods couldn’t wait to order more dumplings, egg tarts and spicy chicken. If you have any clients headed to China this year, definitely encourage them to try out Chinese cuisine that goes beyond our normal U.S. takeout menus. They shouldn’t be afraid to ask the wait staff for recommendations, either; locals, I found, were more than happy to share their love of food with everyone.

Fine Dining at 36,000 Feet

 Photo: In anticipation of my first business-class meal, I snapped a photo even before my food arrived. By the time it did, well, it was all gone. // © Deanna Ting
In anticipation of my first business-class
meal, I snapped a photo even before
my food arrived. By the time it did, well,
it was all gone. // © Deanna Ting

My trip to Shanghai also marked my very first experience in business-class, courtesy of Jet Airways. I traveled with the airline from San Francisco to Shanghai in the comfort of one of its newest Boeing 770-300ER planes and, in the process, was formally introduced to its lavish Premiere-Class service. I know it sounds cliché, but my coworker was right; once you fly business-class, you’ll never want to sit back in coach again. Never before had I experienced such attentive service on a long-haul flight, nor such delectable food and drink. First, there was the complimentary Dom Perignon. And then, there was the food: authentic Indian dishes (both vegetarian and non-vegetarian) and Western-style fare (succulent braised short ribs, anyone?) that filled me up and left me feeling ready to explore the city as soon as the plane landed. By far, my favorite meal was a vegetarian bhindi (okra) rice dish that combined unique flavors and spices that I just couldn’t get enough of. (www.jetairways.com)

Cuckoo for Coco Puffs
I remember first learning about Liliha Bakery’s famous Coco Puffs while reading an article in TravelAge West, way back when I was an intern. But it wasn’t until my July sojourn to Oahu that I finally discovered the salty-sweet sensation of those beloved chocolate cream puffs topped off with a dollop of buttery Chantilly frosting. Just thinking about having those little desserts brings back memories of my week-long visit to the Islands, where I got a glimpse into local-style life by spending time with my boyfriend and his relatives. The bakery, which also doubles as a diner, is just one of many old-time establishments that often get overlooked on most Oahu itineraries, but it’s a place well worth a visit, if only to fill up on those one-of-a-kind sweets. My favorite place to savor Coco Puffs? On the beach, of course. (515 North Kuakini Street, Honolulu, 808-531-1651)

You Can’t Beat a Classic
Last year, I found myself in Las Vegas quite often — three times to be exact — and each time my taste buds lusted after an American classic — a tasty, juicy, custom-made burger from Mandalay Place’s Burger Bar. In my trade show days, this was my favorite spot to unwind and relax with co-workers over an ice-cold beer and a burger I built myself from an extensive menu of meats, toppings and buns. My favorite combo consisted of Kobe beef topped off with avocado, bacon, Swiss cheese and sautéed mushrooms. Yum. Better yet, Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar is fairly affordable, as far as Vegas eateries go. It’s an ideal way to get a night in Sin City off to a great start, before the dice start rolling, before the drinks start flowing and before you get to that point where you need to remind yourself, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” (Mandalay Place, Las Vegas, 702-632-9364, www.mandalaybay.com/dining/burgerbar.aspx)

Hong Kong Express

 Photo: My fellow journalists and I indulged a hungry California sea lion in a nutritious seafood lunch at Ocean Park in Hong Kong. // © Deanna Ting
My fellow journalists and I indulged a
hungry California sea lion in
a nutritious seafood lunch at Ocean
Park in Hong Kong. // © Deanna Ting

When I got my assignment to travel to Hong Kong last fall, I treasured it as though it were like my golden ticket to culinary delights and, to be honest, it did not disappoint. Hong Kong was a treasure trove of meals that I won’t soon forget, from a nine-course, Chinese-style welcome banquet on my first night, to an inventive, Old-World-meets-New-World dining experience at Ovologue on my very last. I’ll start with the banquet: I’ve sat at the table of many a Chinese banquet, but this one truly impressed me with the freshness and quality of the seafood that we had. The restaurant, located on the second floor of a small commercial building epitomized classic Hong Kong, family-style dining. At times throughout my trip, I felt as though I were actually eating my way through Hong Kong, whether by sampling the famous roast goose at Yung Kee or trying to identify all the types of produce, fish and meats I saw in the wet markets. After visiting the Big Buddha on Lantau Island, our group ended the tour with a six-course, all- vegetarian meal prepared by nuns from the Buddhist monastery — very enlightening, indeed. I even helped feed a hungry California sea lion at Ocean Park with, what I’m only assuming, was a very tasty mackerel. And, on our final night, I felt as though I’d come full-circle: feasting on contemporary Chinese dishes that didn’t dare sacrifice taste for novelty, and sitting in the same space that, for the past 120 years, has been one of Hong Kong’s most-famous pawn shops. (Ovologue, www.ovologue.com.hk; Yung Kee Restaurant, www.yungkee.com.hk)

 

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