Wine Country / About Wine, Food, and Wine Country Living

Plan your
visit here:

For more information, choose
from the selections below:

Posted March 2006

The Moveable Feast

The Moveable Feast - Dining in Wine Country

Planning Your Trip, One Restaurant at a Time

WINE COUNTRY-Any trip beyond 20 miles from home requires a serious consultation with my mother's file cabinet. Over the years, she's collected hundreds, possibly thousands of articles about restaurants, cafes, local pubs and roadside greasy spoons. Boonville, California: Large file. Peoria, Illinois: Small file.  New York, San Francisco and anywhere else family lives: industrial-size expandable folders.

No matter, in her mind, that she may never actually travel to Tokyo to try blowfish sushi mentioned in a small article in Gourmet circa 1981, or to rural Texas for BBQ. It's the dream of the adventure and the small scrap of paper with a precious phone number and address that she holds onto, just in case. See, my mom has always been at the forefront of culinary tourism—a recently penned term for what our family has always done: travel on our stomachs.

More and more folks seem to be joining in, however. Walk into the French Laundry any night of the week, and chances are you'll find at least half or more of the fawning diners on vacation from somewhere else, with this dinner (and likely half a dozen others) carefully planned and orchestrated long before the plane tickets were ever purchased.

Dining is, after all, a perfect way to get to know a new and exotic locale. More personal than museums, galleries or shopping malls, regional foods and recipes are a huge part of what makes, say Napa different than Knoxville, or even neighboring Sonoma. The search for that perfect regional dish (some might say a quest, but alas, that is what culinary tourism is all about) is what could drive a normally sane personal to drive miles out of their way to experience six barbeque joints in a three day trip to Tennessee (yes, I have the pictures to prove it). It's a sort of sport-eating, where menus and extra pounds serve as proof that you have, in fact, been there and done that.

How exactly to get the message out? Magazines and the Internet are a good way to start. In Oregon, a new non-profit organization, the International Culinary Tourism Association has recently begun helping restaurants find ways to promote themselves to hungry travelers by working with local tourism boards to co-promote themselves right along with local events and places to sightsee. In fact,  the Oregon Tourism Board has created several campaigns solely devoted to food, including the recent Taste Oregon's Bounty campaign, which enlisted the help of many wineries and restaurants to promote Northwest foods throughout the month of November.

So what are you hungry for? And more importantly, how far are you planning to go to get it? We've put together a list of some of our favorite regional dining stories—everything from dining in Oregon's rustic Yamhill County (which has some of the most progressive cuisine around), to Santa Barbara, Healdsburg and Napa.

What are some of your favorite regional restaurants? Tell us.

Sponsored Links