Basil from Adams Fairacre Farms
Even though I'm hardly the world's best gardener, I definitely appreciate all of the great farm markets and local restaurants around me. With The Culinary Institute of America (notable alumni include Grant Achatz, Anthony Bourdain, and Michael Chiarello) less than an hour from my house, I've been very lucky to find many hole in the wall restaurants that are run by amazing chefs and bakers. Beef empanadas and lychee bubble tea from Twisted Soul in Poughkeepsie, alfajores from Los Hornitos in Wappingers, a lemon garden party paleta (enjoyed this afternoon!) from Zora Dora Paletaria in Beacon, crispy Boston haddock tacos from McKinney and Doyle in Pawling, and butter crust lemon squares from Wild Hive Farm, Store, and Cafe Bakery in Salt Point are just a small number of delicacies that I've enjoyed in the past few months. Yelp and Chowhound have provided excellent culinary detours around the ubiquitous fast food chains.
My appreciation of good food comes from a few sources. My mom is a fantastic cook. Whenever we took her out for dinner, she would scoff at the dishes we praised, go home, and whip up the same thing, but ten times better. Living in NYC for a few years also fostered my love of food. Ethiopian at Meskerem one night, Vietnamese at Monsoon another...and they would deliver! It was great. Luckily, walking those avenue blocks to work helped me stay somewhat in shape.
When I dig a little deeper, I think the main reason why I enjoy trying new foods so much comes from the books I read when I was a little kid. Pippi Longstocking made me want to try pepparkakor (a Swedish cookie). Robinson Crusoe piqued my interest in breadfruit (I pictured breaking open a large grapefruit-like exterior to reveal piping hot bread). I wanted to try pomegranates after reading about Persephone's dilemma. I knew that I couldn't travel to all of the locales I read about, but I could imagine the tastes, smells, and sounds. All of those sensory images stuck with me for years. I distinctly remember how tickled I was when I found Turkish Delight at the grocery store. I could finally have some idea of why Edmund from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was so addicted to this treat.
In my childhood, it was my imagination that created vivid depictions of the foods I wanted to try. In my twenties, I was lucky enough to travel around the world and create my own first-hand experiences. Now, I look for hidden savory (and most definitely sweet) treasures in my little corner of New York, often with my three kids in tow.