Travel can offer adventures and excitement, but, in the end, it is always good to come back home. Hopefully, though, travel has informed you and your kitchen with new experiences, tastes and culinary treasures to make your cooking even more pleasurable. Here are five culinary souvenirs that will enrich your kitchen — thanks to your temporary escape — each picked from a major city around the country. Take an escape this fall, and bring back a treasure for your kitchen.
Reclaimed Wood Measuring Spoons from Alder & Co. • Portland, OR
If you're visiting Portland, make sure to visit Alder & Co., a treasure trove of handmade and internationally sourced items, many of which can be used in the kitchen. For the past few months, they've been carrying measuring spoons made from reclaimed wood found in the Portland area. The man who makes the spoons sells them exclusively through Alder & Co. They make an artful and functional culinary souvenir from Portland, Oregon.
Pickling may be the "in thing" right now, but Southerners know — down here at least — that it never really went out of style. We proudly serve our season's best all year-round, whether it's sweet & sour vegetables paired with charcuterie as an app, or lip-smacking chutney to go alongside roasted meat at the dinner table. My favorite way to eat pickled veggies is piled in a spicy Bloody Mary with a barbecue-rub rim. And my favorite brand to use? Phickles Pickles right out of Athens, Georgia. This family run, small-batch pickle business has made a splash in the Georgia food scene, with unlimited room to grow. The carrot 'stix' and 'snaps' beans, my personal faves, are the perfect amount of tangy, hot, and tart, just like your grandma would have made. Make sure you bring home plenty of extra, because these are too good not to share!
One of the jewels of Los Angeles is the Santa Monica farmers' market, a treasure trove of perhaps the most memorable aspect of Los Angeles: fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables soaked in Southern Californian sunshine. The edible souvenirs of the market are tempting, but the best treasure that visitors ought to take home is a copy of Amelia Saltsman's The Santa Monica Farmers' Market Cookbook. This is a beautiful book full of simple recipes and stories from this wonderful market, and a good reminder of the culinary inspiration visitors find on a trip to Santa Monica's market. (Many of LA's chefs shop for ingredients at the Santa Monica market, and it's the setting for Good Food's Market Report.) Long after the colors, tastes, and aromas of LA's farmers' markets are a distant vacation memory, Saltsman's book will continue to inspire and serve as a handbook to enjoying fresh, seasonal food. (Check before you go — Saltsman occasionally does appearances at the market.)
International Housewares from KIOSK • New York City, NY
Nestled in the heart of SoHo, up a staircase covered in vintage artsy grafitti, Kiosk is a unique source for beautiful household items from around the world. Each "collection" is carefully curated from the owner's frequent trips abroad and you will find many new and wonderful kitchen tools and supplies among them. From a chocolate whisk and pitcher from Brazil to a ginger grater from Japan to solid wood bowls from Vermont, you won't be able to resist buying presents for friends and then for yourself as well.
San Francisco has a rich heritage of Asian cooking, especially Chinese, and its famous Chinatown is a rich trove of restaurants and shops. My favorite is The Wok Shop, a tiny, packed source for woks, knives, dishes and nearly any other cooking implement you can imagine. Chinese carbon steel cleavers are an especially good buy. These knives take a little getting used to, but once you become accustomed to their weight and shape, you'll find yourself using it for everything — just as Chinese cooks do. A cleaver's broad, heavy blade is excellent for taking apart chickens, finely chopping herbs, and slicing vegetables. But don't forget: this is one take-home treasure you should definitely pack in your checked luggage!
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross; Nealey Dozier; Emily Ho; Andreas von Scheele; Faith Durand)