At SAVEUR, our obsessive quest to unearth the origins of food and discover hidden culinary traditions sends us from our test kitchen in New York City to far-flung destinations, and sometimes into our own backyards, documenting the whole thing as we go. For November, we hit the beaches of Hawaii and New York, eating everything from pho to apple pie. Here are all the ways SAVEUR editors ate the world this month.
I worked in restaurants for years and rarely was able to get away over the holidays. This year, for the first time in over a decade, I went home to Rhode Island for Thanksgiving.
I did miss hosting a late-night orphan Thanksgiving for my food service family—a quick-roasted spiral-cut ham and Champagne out of paper cups have their own charm—but it was good to be back at my parents’ dining table. I flaunted my knife skills by breaking down the bird while I listened to my dad’s latest theories about the Kennedy assassination. We scarfed down the giblet stuffing and pecan pie (our oldest family recipes) and my mom’s magical, never-dry turkey, before nodding off in front of the fireplace with the cat. We put up the Christmas tree, put whiskey in our cider, and watched Alien on an enormous suburban television. I guess it’s nice to go home sometimes. — Kat Craddock, test kitchen associate
One of my favorite places to spend a weekend in November is Maine, specifically Boothbay Harbor. It’s the time of year when all the tourists have gone home for the season, and the true local culture shines in all its rugged, weathered glory. A few weeks ago I drove along the winding, coastal roads, went for a short hike on Barters Island, and after, I warmed up at Oxbow Brewery in Newcastle. In their barn-turned-brewery, we shared a flight and a bottle of Bobasa, a barrel-aged smoked farmhouse ale before heading back into town for dinner. Although the restaurant selection is minimal this time of year, you can always find the local gems open year round with warm bowls of clam chowder and lobster that’s just as good as any summer day. —Michelle Heimerman, photo editor
I never realized how much I’d taken crawfish for granted till I moved to New York seven years ago. In my hometown of Houston, Vietnamese Cajun crawfish joints do it best and on a recent visit home, I went straight from the airport to a local mainstay called Crawfish & Noodles, which, as you may have guessed, serves both crawfish and an array of Vietnamese noodle dishes. I mean, where else in America can you get a heaping platter of mouth-searing mudbugs and a bowl of pho and the famous cua rang muoi, or Vietnamese stir-fried soft shell crab? — Dan Q. Dao, deputy digital editor
The north shore of Long Island isn’t a very popular destination in November. The beaches are barren, there are more clouds than there is sun, and the sea is grey and inhospitable. So naturally, it’s the perfect time for a fall getaway. We took a trip to Greenport for my partner’s birthday, renting a little beach cottage nestled on a hill along the rocky shore. We didn’t have much planned: some long strolls for gathering peculiar stones and shells, a hike through the nature preserve. When we weren’t eating plump, briny oysters at any of Greenport’s excellent dives, we were cozied up at home, drinking a bottle of Jo Landron’s impeccable French sparkling wine, Atmospheres, which rivals the best champagne for depth of flavor, and clocks in at a cool $20 a bottle most places. We haven’t stopped drinking it since. —Alex Testere, associate editor
For most of my life, the only pie I had ever eaten came from my great aunt Susie in West Virginia. I remember watching her cut apples for what felt like hours, always meticulous but never on a cutting board (paring knife into the thumb, a method I still use whenever I cut up an apple). But now, in my SAVEUR life, pie is a little easier to come by. This one was probably my favorite of the year: apple, with a perfectly crispy crust and some beautiful end-of-the-day light. —Katherine Whittaker, associate digital editor
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Every time I head back home, the first thing I ask for when I step off the plane is a chicken biscuit. It’s the meal I miss most since moving to New York, and the one that’s impossible to recreate. I used to be a Bojangle’s kind of girl, but Rise Biscuits and Donuts quickly changed that. I ate a chicken biscuit with white cheddar cheese from there twice during my five-day vacation, because yes, they’re that good. I remember when they opened. My family and I piled in the car to try the “best dang biscuits and donuts” shop that had opened down the street. We began our biscuit expedition unsure what we were in for, because proper southern biscuits are hard to beat and sometimes newcomers are welcomed with a “bless your heart” instead of a smile. We ordered a half-dozen homemade donuts and two biscuits to split between my five-person family. Within two minutes we had ordered three more biscuits so each person could have their own, and it’s now my family’s go-to on Saturday mornings. As my brother said when he greeted me with a flaky chicken biscuit wrapped in orange paper the morning before my flight took off, “You just can’t beat a Rise biscuit.” And at this point, I’m really not sure anyone can. —Madison Roberts, digital editorial intern
I started November in Oaxaca City for Día De Los Muretos, or Day of the Dead, and even though that’s a great time to be in Mexico, the best parts of Oaxaca exist year-round. There are endless taco and fruit sands on every corner, but the real fun is in the Mercado 20 de Noviembre. It’s a giant and slightly overwhelming food hall that consists of aisles and aisles of food vendors selling beautiful breads and cuts of meat and produce. On one side you’ll find restaurants, but through a narrow and crowed arched entry you’ll find the very best part of the market: A giant meat hall. Narrow kiosks line each side selling almost identical cuts of meat. You pick how much meat you want and what kind, then it’s passed to a grill person (it seemed the best ones were older women). They grill it for you over open flame. Next, take your plate of meat and find the tortilla lady, and finally, pick what toppings and sides you want from a different vendor. It was a hectic and fun meal. —Matt Taylor-Gross, photographer
It’s hard to believe a place like Kauai exists until you visit. And even once you do, it’s hard to express how magical it is. Nicknamed The Garden Island, it’s magnificently lush and jungly, a true rainforest and quite literally one of the wettest, most fertile spots on earth. We split our time between jungle and beach, travelling across the north shore in a friend’s pleasantly beat up car from the 80s that screamed local surfer. In and around our neighborhood of Hanalei Bay, we rode gearless cruiser bikes between the house and the sandy shores where our paddleboards awaited, along the way passing palm trees and brightly colored flowers as well as wild chickens and roosters (a growing “problem” on the island). Because of the abundant fresh coconuts, papayas, and all kinds of tropical citrus growing in the backyard, each morning we hacked away at the fruits to make fresh juice before breakfast. But one of my favorite mornings was spent visiting local farmers’ market, understanding just how different parts of this amazing planet can be from one another. —Stacy Adimando, test kitchen director