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Earlier this year, food and travel writer Chaya Milchtein launched a new column for Salon Food called “A Fatty’s Guide to Traveling and Eating the World,” which is dedicated to helping travelers of all sizes find adventure.
“Like most fat people, traveling and adventuring comes with its own unique challenges and considerations (and a whole heck of a lot of planning),” Milchtein wrote in her inaugural column. “Like digging for weight limits and having to call when aren’t listed on typical and nontraditional vacation activities, like helicopter rides, scuba diving, Segways tours and even ATV rentals.”
But adventure she did this year, making stops across the globe from Lisbon to Las Vegas. It’s been a delight reading her dispatches, especially as the various waves of the pandemic have kept many, including me, a little closer to home. I’ve pulled together some of Milchtein’s most popular posts from 2022.
I’m looking forward to another year of traveling and eating vicariously through her writing.
Milchtein first visited Mexico City after becoming engaged to her now-wife.
“We had such an amazing time that it has permanently stayed on our list of future cities to visit. When a trip to Peru fell through the day before we were leaving, we bought tickets to Mexico City without hesitation,” she wrote. “We had no plan, hotel, or reservations, but we were excited and thrilled to be back.”
Churros (Jodyann Morgan )While there, Milchtein enrolled in a churro masterclass — which is exactly the type of class that would tempt me to go back to school. They made circles, spirals and hearts and other designs, resulting in a truly enviable pile of cinnamon-dusted deliciousness.
“Then, we made cafe de olla with cinnamon sticks, dark brown cane sugar, and orange peels,” Milchtein wrote.
New Orleans is one of my favorite cities to visit in the American South, so I was selfishly delighted to see that Milchtein provided suggestions for places I hadn’t eaten (more places for me to add to the lineup for my next trip!).
The restaurant that I’m most interested in visiting, based on Milchtein’s description, is SABA, a Middle Eastern-inspired restaurant with Jewish roots.
“The Louisiana blue crab-topped hummus was a fascinating combination that worked really well, and you absolutely must get a floral soda which is a refreshing addition to any meal — add a shot of vodka if you’re partial to a cocktail,” Milchtein wrote. “While I don’t usually order chicken, the harissa-roasted chicken with charred scallions and caramelized lemon was perfectly balanced. There is only one thing on the menu that I wouldn’t order: the duck matzah ball soup. But that might be because I grew up on the stuff and have a very specific idea of how it should taste.”
Housemade soda (Jodyann Morgan )(You can count on me to order the duck matzah ball soup next time I’m in town, however!)
As Milchtein wrote of Vienna, “come for the currywurst, stay for the organic bonbons.”
While visiting Austria’s capital city, Milchtein visited Bitzinger Wurstelstand. While it’s definitely a touristy spot — buzzing with action, underscored by the soundtrack of various languages being spoken in line — it’s worth a visit for a solid, simple selection of Bratwurst, Currywurst, Käsekrainer and Burenwurst.
If you’re looking for something more sweet than savory, head to Bluhendes Konfekt, a tiny shop from chocolatier Michael Diewald who is creating a world of bonbons made from organic fruits and foraged herbs, leaves and flowers, many from the Viennese Woods.
“Each fruit, herb or flower is carefully processed, then made into a powder to coat the confections, made into a dough that becomes the center of the bonbon or sugared in order to preserve its beauty,” Milchtein wrote. “While some are topped with a small dollop of chocolate, the chocolate is far from the star of the show, but rather an accompaniment. Stopping by this little shop is a must when visiting Vienna. The bonbons make excellent gifts to bring home that don’t take up much space, but make a massive impact. Each is dressed with a sugared flower of herbs like little works of art.”
Milchtein’s wife is from Jamaica, but they live in a smaller city in the Midwest where there isn’t much of a selection of authentic Jamaican food.
“When we travel, especially to major metropolitans, we constantly gravitate to Jamaican restaurants, especially the ones that serve ackee and saltfish, which is my wife’s favorite and is hard to find, even when there is a Jamaican restaurant in town,” Milchtein wrote in her column.
So when they visited Toronto earlier this year, they naturally found themselves at Chubby’s Jamaican Kitchen, a rustic-feeling restaurant with exposed beams and lots of natural light.
“You’re going to want to order the ackee and saltfish bites,” Milchtein advised. “The ackee and saltfish are piled onto a fried dumpling, which has been cut down the middle. Ripe plantains were deep fried, producing a wicked crispy exterior and a super ripe, super sweet interior. While the mac and cheese was not reminiscent of a Jamaican macaroni pie,it was out of this world. It featured little bits of saltfish that acted as a flavor-booster like anchovies do in Caesar dressing. Creamy and delicious.”
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Follow Milchtein’s advice and round out your meal with an Everything Nice cocktail —featuring rum, Aperol, mango, lemon, tamarind and scotch bonnet.
“The rum punch wasn’t super strong, so if you want a stronger drink, add a shot,” she wrote.
New York City
“I practically grew up in New York,” Milchtein wrote. “Summers in Crown Heights at a Chassidic day camp, followed by years living in a room infested with cockroaches, and then a cramped basement apartment while attending high school.”
By the time she moved to Brooklyn just after her 19th birthday, she knew the city like the back of her hand, which is why I was eager to see where she chose to explore after revisiting the city this year after several years away. A few culinary stand-outs included the creamy family-style macaroni and cheese from Benjamin Steakhouse Prime (run by former 20-year Peter Luger veteran chef Arturo McLeod), the chocolate tart with passionfruit and cacao nibs from Vestry, and Yoon Haeundae Galbi’s banchan.
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Ashlie D. Stevens is Salon’s deputy food editor.
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