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Food is an integral part of travel. What better way to experience the culture of a place than one bite at a time? So often, we seek out the quintessential meals everywhere we visit. But sometimes the meal itself is worth the journey. These four destination restaurants can be vacations all on their own.
Chef Grant Achatz and restaurateur Nick Kokonas founded Alinea in 2006. Since then, Alinea has become one of the top destination restaurants in the world and has collected three Michelin stars. The restaurant and cuisine are always pushing the limits of what food and dining can be. As they say, Alinea is not a restaurant, at least, not in the conventional sense. Their signature dessert, an edible helium balloon, definitely reflects that approach. Every dish is a feast for the eyes and the stomach. Then they add a dose of theater and display to dining as well. Choose the small Kitchen Table for an intimate experience, the 10-12 course Salon Menu, or go big with 16-18 courses plus top-notch showmanship in the Gallery Menu. Alinea is constantly reinventing itself, which included a full renovation in early 2018. No matter what, Alinea is sure to deliver a once in a lifetime dining experience.
Thomas Keller’s Napa restaurant The French Laundry is the definition of a destination restaurant. The New York Times’ Ruth Reichl calls this restaurant “the most exciting place to eat in the United States.” Since 1994 they’ve served the highest quality ingredients prepared in the French tradition to the tune of three Michelin stars. Choose from a 9-course chef’s tasting menu or a vegetable tasting menu. The menu changes daily but is always based on fresh ingredients, many of which come from the gardens around the restaurant and others are sourced from the best producers in the area. Each day, the team of chefs takes these ingredients and creates works of art anew. No meal is ever the same. Of course, you can always count on the delectably French gougeres, a delicious pastry wrapped around a cheesy center.
Dan Barber’s idyllic field-to-table restaurant is located on a working farm alongside the Stone Barns educational center in the Hudson Valley. Blue Hill at Stone Barns showcases fresh local ingredients from the surrounding area. You’ll see the finest local meats and produce. Instead of a menu, guests at Blue Hill enjoy “a multi-taste feast featuring the best offerings from the field and market.” Selections have included Sea Urchin and Kabocha as well as Face Bacon. Their website lists what’s being harvested rather than what you’ll see on the table on any given day. The equally impressive wine list promises Unconventional Pairings to make your meal truly superb. However, Stone Barns serves a mission of education working to “create a consciousness about the effect of everyday food choices.”
Most of us probably don’t think of a National Park as a destination restaurant location, but 229 Parks Restaurant and Tavern in Denali National Park fits the bill. 229 Parks is located inside of Denali National Park, home of North America’s tallest peak. The 6 million-acre park is larger than the state of New Hampshire and inside you’ll find some truly amazing cuisine. Owner and head chef and James Beard Award nominee Laura Cole brings her passion for Alaskan food to the table. The constantly changing menu reflects the local food culture and availability. Chances are you won’t see dishes such as Reindeer Ragu and Alaskan Octopus in the lower 48. Combine the unique ingredients with the majestic scenery of the park for an experience you won’t find anywhere else.
After the meals are over, check out other things to do in Chicago and Napa here.
(Image Source: Pixabay)