Travel the World Through Food
I ended my time in Latin America with something I had been looking forward to since before I started the journey, a photo session at the Salar de Uyuni.
Now I am home.
I am ready to be home.
I am ready to keep exploring while still enjoying the comforts of home.
A week after I returned, I was riding my bike through my neighborhood and came upon a booth for Columbus Food Adventures.
I chatted with the owner Bethia Woolf, went home and started drooling over the variety of food tours listed on their website, and then signed up for the Alt Eats Food Tour.
Alt Eats Food Tour
The first line of the description of the Alt Eats Food Tour is,
Travel the world without leaving Columbus.
I just wrote about how ending my travel sabbatical would simply be an opportunity to continue exploring my hometown and an opportunity to explore other parts of the world.
Columbus Food Adventures is like a welcome home gift.
On a Friday evening, I traveled to Vietnam, Somalia, Nigeria, Mexico, and India, and I was home in time to watch a re-run of Sex and the City and get to bed early.
I learned a few interesting things about the world along the way.
For starters, I learned that the best ethnic food in Columbus is in the strip malls in the no-man’s land between the downtown neighborhoods and the suburbs. Our guide Andy explained that this is because the best restaurants are serving their own people, and there is a large concentration of the immigrant population where both residential and business property is affordable and available.
A Taste of Vietnam
I had my first experience with Vietnamese food when I was living in Buenos Aires. However, that was a fancy restaurant. Mi Li Café is nothing like that. This is a casual, no-frills restaurant serving authentic Vietnamese cuisine.
Banh Mi Sandwich
Not knowing much about Vietnamese cuisine, I was surprised we would be eating a sandwich. I learned that the banh mi sandwich shows the French influence in Vietnamese cuisine. This is a seemingly simple thing to make, however, after one bit I realized how the freshness of the baguette, the crisp vegetables, and the savory pate make this a perfect example of a simple excellent dish.
Love may also be the secret ingredient setting apart this banh mi sandwich from others in the Columbus area. The owner assembles all sandwiches herself to ensure quality.
A Taste of Nigeria
Our stop at Intercontinental Restaurant is where I experienced food so different from anything I had ever had.
I learned that most food from Nigeria and West Africa is quite healthy, usually oven-baked, low in sodium, and incorporates power foods.
Everything on this plate except the plantains was completely new to me.
Two specific dishes I enjoyed for their flavor and strangeness are moi moi and egusi. Egusi is spinach with smoked fish and ground white watermelon seeds. Moi moi is a bean loaf made from black-eyed pea flour, spices, and egg.
A Taste of Southern India
Indian food is something that has always intimidated me. First, I am sensitive to spicy hot food. Second, there are so many dishes, and they all have crazy names I can never remember. The few times I have eaten Indian food were with friends who love it and know what to order.
Indian food is delicious. I just feel lost.
This experience at Udipi Café was different from any Indian food I have had before.
Andy started off by explaining that it is hard to make generalizations about Indian food because it has so many different ingredients and flavors, and there are differences across all regions of this huge country.
We tried fried curry cutlets with potato and vegetables (pictured above) and dosa, a thin crepe made from a lentil and rice flour mixture (pictured below).
Two things really stood out to me. The curry cutlets had this incredible cinnamon flavor.
And I learned that Indian sauces are simply divine. We had mint cilantro and tamarind sauces for the curry cutlets and coconut chutney and sambar sauces for the dosa. I wanted to buy jars of this stuff to take home. I would never be able to prepare these dishes on my own, but I think I would be happy just drinking the sauces.
A Taste of Mexico
The moment we walked into Panaderia Guadalupana, I was in heaven. The smell of a good Mexican bakery triggers something in my brain that makes me want to stuff pastries into my mouth, waistline be damned.
I can honestly say that even after traveling in Latin America, this is the best churro I have ever had. The dough was not-too-sweet with a little crunch, had a light sprinkling of sugar, and contained just the right amount of custard filling.
I want to go back early morning when all of the baked goods come out of the oven and buy one (or two) of everything.
A Taste of Somalia
I did know that Ohio has the second largest Somali population in the US, but I knew nothing about their food. (Shameful, I know.)
I learned that Somali food has influences from Ethiopia, the Middle East (specifically Yemen), India, Italy, and Britain. Yep, that’s right. Apparently, they serve rice as a side dish in the north and pasta as a side dish in the south.
I also learned that goat is delicious (pictured above), and Somalis know how to make tasty bread. This chewy, airy bread is anjeera (pictured below.)
Columbus Food Adventures
Not only did I love the food on this tour, but I love what Bethia Woolf and Columbus Food Adventures are doing in Columbus.
There are now seven regularly scheduled tours that focus on Taco Trucks, Coffee, Desserts, Meat Lover’s, and the neighborhoods of the Short North and German Village, and of course Alt Eats ethnic food.
I have a feeling this won’t be my last Columbus food tour!
Another thing I love about Columbus Food Adventures is that they really know their stuff. I could have written 5,000 words about what I learned in just a few hours and not just limited to the cuisine that was part of the tour. I chatted with Andy about all types of food in the Columbus area. I am now a loyal reader of their Columbus food blog, as well as their Taco Trucks Columbus blog.
It is obvious that Bethia and Andy are passionate about what what they do and are continuously sampling and continuously learning in order to make these food tours informative, delicious, and fun.