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On the Road with Nancy Brown: Food and Travel—the Perfect Pair

Nancy D. Brown and Fancy Food Show vendors reflect on how food influences travel.

Photo by Nancy D. Brown

As the train pulled into the station, it appeared strangely quiet in Bordeaux, France. Grabbing our backpacks, we walked into town to secure lodging for the night. After numerous rejections from French pensions, we turned our attention toward food. Certainly we could find a room at an Inn serving local wine country cuisine, right?

It turns out that our visit coincided with a local holiday and Bordeaux was eerily shut down that afternoon. There were no rooms to book nor any restaurants open for dinner. Dejected, we headed to the only open restaurant we found in Bordeaux—McDonald’s. Our first visit to this French wine and food mecca and we were dining at Mickey D’s. My husband and I ate our hamburgers with pommes frites and reluctantly boarded the next train to Italy. The memory still lingers in my mind, like a bad taste in my mouth.

Of course, travel evokes positive memories too. How often have you reminisced about your favorite travel adventures all the way down to the details of that hidden café down a cobblestone street or your visit to the local farmers market? It’s no surprise that food plays a star role in our travels; it’s one of the easiest ways to experience a new culture. People are what they eat after all.

Two Food Network Stars Inspired by Travel

Chef Cat Cora. Photo by Cindy Chew.Like Diablo’s food editor, I recently caught up with Food Network star and former Postino Restaurant Chef Cat Cora at San Francisco’s Fancy Food Show. Chef Cora was promoting her new Greek food line, Cat Cora’s Kitchen, as part of Gaea’s family of Greek products.

Cora talked fondly about her family travels to Greece and how her Greek heritage influenced her product line of olive oils, olives, sauces, and spreads. Cora claims that Greek cuisine is her soul food. “There are absolutely no other Greek products on the market like this,” says Cora. Along with her commitment to sustainability and organic products, she said that, “we are bringing sexy back to Greek cooking.” Clearly, food plays a major role in Cora’s travels, as well as her cultural heritage. Click here to skip to a video interview with Cora.

Food Network’s Ace of Cakes Celebrity Duff Goldman, said his travels often influence his Charm City Cakes creations. “The Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids Michigan had this amazing Chihuly exhibit,” Goldman gushed. “I came back from that trip with tons of photographs and said, you guys, we need to make cakes that look like this!”

Slow Livings Meets Travel and Food

While franchises like Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s make their presence known from Australia to Zeeland, Netherlands, people from all walks of life Ace of Cakes Duff Goldman. Photo by Nancy D. Brown. suggest we buy local.

This slow food concept supports our love affair with farmers markets and is especially relevant during our travels. What better way to mingle with locals and experience regional food and cuisine, often at very affordable prices, than at a far-off market?

While traveling with his family in Venezuela, Patrick Pineda of Eastbluff Trading Company came across a group of cacao farmers. “I didn’t know that chocolate came from cacao,” laughs Pineda. “The next thing I knew, I traded in my camera gear and started trading chocolate.” Pineda has found that the specialty foods business has allowed him to travel the world, slow down, and get back to basics while he searches for great ingredients and products.

Hear more about Cat Cora’s new line, Goldman’s cake inspiration, and Pineda’s cacao adventures in the video below:


What role has food played in your travels? How has travel inspired your life? Share your comments below.

A lifelong resident of Contra Costa County, Nancy D. Brown grew up in Moraga. When she’s not traveling, she lives in Lafayette with her husband and teens. Nancy is the Uptake.com Travel Editor, writes the What a Trip blog and is a Contra Costa Times Lamorinda Sun columnist. Horse lovers will find her at writinghorseback.com. Follow Nancy on Twitter at twitter.com/Nancydbrown and visit Diablo Travel every second and fourth Tuesday of the month to see where Nancy will take us next.