Sunday, March 15, 2009

Regional Staples

One of the best things about traveling is the new options in food that present themselves.  Certainly the local ingredients have an impact on your options, but also just as significant are the local favorites.  There is a special thing that happens when huge competition occurs in one very specific area.  For instance, Bagels in New York, BBQ in and around Austin, Burritos in the San Francisco Bay Area.  This happens at more levels than just the staples (occurs on higher end foods as well) but the areas I find most interesting are the staple foods (and the restaurants competing for a local cultural audience, such as the proverbial few Pho places on a single block).  

An in-depth investigation of a particular subject can bring a deeper understanding of the value of that subject and a renewed appreciation for the variety present.  This is one of my driving philosophies when it comes to food and drink.  Apart from the general desire to try new/great things, the deep exploration of particular foods and drinks is fascinating too.  With travel, you have the opportunity to combine the two.  

The examples of these local delicacies are too numerous to mention here, and I'm still finding then all the time.  One of the incredible things that develops out of these local delicacies is the survival of the fittest element of it all.  Unless you're specifically looking for it, you won't often run into a 'bad' bagel in New York.  Bagels are available almost everywhere, but there IS a big difference.  This is what I get in California:

It's not bad, but it's not the religious experience that eating a bagel is in New York.  There are several key differences between New York bagels and bagels in other places:

1. Size - The bagels in new york are HUGE.  So much so that some people go a preparation where some of the insides are ripped out.  
2. Temperature - When you can get a warm bagel, it's heaven, and I'm not talking about a toasted bagel, I'm saying warm from the oven.
3. Texture - Slightly crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside.  
4.  Cream Cheese - Most everywhere you get a bagel, cream cheese is a condiment, like spreading mustard on a hamburger.  In New York, cream cheese is THE filling of the bagel sandwich. 

I've found places that get one or two of these at times, but if you have a place near me that nails all of these, please let me know.  I'll be there every morning.  


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