As I send our annual travel issue to the printer, I’m realizing, as Dorothy did, that there’s no place like home.
Sure, these stories made me want to get outta town—to L.A. for ceviche in the ocean breeze, up to Maine for Atlantic oysters and pork belly in a century-old barn, and to China on Whole Foods’ new tour of ancient tea routes—right after I book a long weekend in Brussels for yeasted waffles, black mussels and those spectacularly sour Belgian beers.
But our profile of Andrew Knowlton made me put down my passport. As restaurant editor for Bon Appétit magazine, the Carroll Gardens resident is a very frequent flyer. This year alone he logged nearly 30,000 miles researching and reviewing restaurants. Right now, depending on which autumn week you read this, he’s eating very fancy food in Oslo, Rio or Tokyo.
Thing is, although the man gets paid to parse the priciest menus on the planet, he has just as big an appetite for the homespun, heartfelt fare available right here at home. While some critics may dismiss much of our country, Knowlton ate his way through 22 states this year alone, and says some of the best new restaurants in the U.S. are to be found in places like Charleston, Nashville and Austin.
His 2013 top-10 list in B.A. includes a very round number of restaurants in Manhattan—that would be zero. But Aska, right here in Brooklyn, made the cut. And you get the sense Knowlton loves Roberta’s backyard—or cooking in his own kitchen—as much as any tasting menu in Tuscany.
You should, too. You can taste the world right here without getting on a bridge or tunnel, much less an airplane: Indian cooking classes in Kensington, authentic salsa in Williamsburg, Syrian bread on Atlantic Avenue and serious Scandinavian in Greenpoint. (To savor many global flavors under one roof with me, buy a ticket to our melting pot bash Edible Escapes on Tuesday, October 22.)
But when it comes to living out Dorothy’s dictum, I think the ultimate inspiration is Marie Viljoen. The South-African-native-turned-Brooklynite-garden-designer has written several foraging stories for us, and her new book, 66 Square Feet, is an ode to the adventures she lives right here in the city, like buying muscat grapes at the Greenmarket or foraging maitake mushrooms in Greenwood Cemetery. Much of what she eats she grows herself, right on the tiny terrace for which her book is named.
Which brings me back to that post-Oz epiphany. Sure, take to the skies and visit the Emerald City. But next time you go looking for your heart’s desire, try your own backyard.
Enjoy the journey,
Gabrielle Langholtz, Editor
Cover photos: mussels in Brussels by Vicky Wasik.