Anyone who knows or watches Tony Bourdain is well aware of his of admonitions to be a traveler, not a tourist. And this advice is both well-founded and well heeded. Tony basis such guidance upon two important pillars; the experience and the taste.
The typical tourist experience is a dumbed down and superficial offering of what one can truly achieve with a little effort to get behind the commercial enterprise. These McTrips are invariably accompanied by endless gamut of homogenized food choices meant to appeal to all and offend none. Consistently constructed from the makings of the modern Western diet for convenience and price as well as familiarity; these little slug nuggets achieve none of their stated goals. Along the way, because of the method by which they are produced and assembled they form yet another obstacle to delicious and healthful eating while on the road. Tony provides the persuasive argument and if any doubt remains; I suggest you just tune in.
But there is a hidden third pillar that is equally, if not in some ways the most important. This is especially true for the many of us so often on the go and for extended periods of time. By being a traveler and not a tourist, not only can you experience great local flavors and unique tastes and textures; but these can and often are, incredibly healthful choices for dining.
I recently had such an experience as I journeyed on I-90 through Idaho. Stopping off at the little historic hamlet of Wallace, Idaho; initial expectations were low. As we pulled into town a delightful little historic Main Street opened like a fairy portal to the past with the interstate overpass framing the valley behind. Unique stores and centuries old shopfronts lent credence to the historic claims. Rich in minerals, including silver and gold I assumed the historic moniker derived directly from those riches. I later learned it was the legend of brothels that made Wallace, Idaho so (in)famous. Seems not all treasure is silver and gold….
This was particularly apparent when right after exiting the vehicle a sign proclaimed- Wine bar and Restaurant! Housed in what was clearly an old bank from the 19th century, the game was afoot. Inside The Fainting Goat was an architectural prize. Clean, spacious, intruiging and most importantly; there was an offering of many sumptuous wines, along with local craft beers and ciders.
Our pleasant and knowledgeable waitress Paige started us off with a beautiful Washington State red, served straight from the cask! The lunch menu was outstanding with all elements locally sourced or in house crafted. Pasta, cheeses, meats were all available. We received a lovely regional chèvre stuffed fig, topped with local blackberry and cinnamon and spice dusted. Not too sweet as the cheese added a savory component and the berry blended famously with the red wine.
Among the many tempting choices, we settled on the in house pappardelle with boar meat. The sauce was a tomato based ragu, thick rich and flavorful-perfect for a chilly fall day. The boar had clearly been braised with a deep meaty earthiness that also was complimented by the wine. The braising technique left the boar meltingly tender.
We also sampled the hunter burger; local elk and bison tenderloin combined with about twenty percent fresh chuck. All the meat (locally sourced and verified by Chef Race Jones) was brought into the kitchen in primal form and then broken down in house. The result was one of the richest, tender, most delicious burgers on the planet topped with house made pickles and pickled red onions. The pommes frites, of course, made Idaho proud. Dessert rounded out the incredible dining experience with a pair of home-made truffles; revealing yet another character aspect to the mischievous Washington red. All this in-including a real wine glass (a pet peeve of mine)- for the price of some NYC street food.
The experience and the scrumptious grub were a vintage Bourdain moment and echoed his message. But because the food was wholesome and fresh, locally obtained and meticulously crafted; it’s the kind of real food that brings us authentic health and wellness. And that is the undiscovered country available only to travelers, not tourists. You’ll never find a Fainting Goat on the carny cruise!