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GoodRVfood Travel Food Finds

In addition to cooking good food we enjoy eating at local restaurants and finding new and exciting favorites. This is an entertaining part of all the fun things to see and do while traveling. When we find something special, a real food find, we like to share it with our friends.

Ask the Locals

By: Cathy Lea.

When traveling through any small town the best way I know to find good food is to ask the locals. Sure a modern phone with apps like Yelp and Trip Advisor are fine, but I have had the best luck just asking around.

A friend and I took a road trip to Taos, New Mexico (the 47th state) many years ago long before the Internet was open to the public if you can imagine that. We spent time walking around the plaza and would ask shopkeepers and people on the street where I could find the best food. More than half of them said at my house but unfortunately none of them invited us for dinner. Many of the others said to go to the Chow Cart and order a Suzy. Back then it wasn't on the menu, but it was a very popular item. So off we went, driving down the main road in search of a big parking lot with an old converted UPS van at the back. Sure enough, there it was. There was a hand written menu board in front of the truck with a few items, but none of the customers standing in line seemed to read it. A young lady came out to our truck and asked what we would like. We both ordered the mysterious Suzy. We had no idea what it would be, but it was recommended enough that we had to try it.

Imagine a roasted green (Anaheim) chile stuffed with mild cheese then coated in a cheesy batter, grilled to crispy perfection and served wrapped in a flour tortilla with a little refried bean, guacamole and some sour cream. It was the best combination of hot and cold, spicy and mild, crispy and creamy in almost every bite. Serious yum on several different levels which is why this is still one of my favorite food finds decades later!

The Chow Cart is now an actual restaurant building. They now have a real menu board with the Suzy listed, booths to sit at and even a framed painting of the old UPS truck on the wall. It is still one of my favorite places to eat in Taos. I have never been able to recreate that crispy cheesy batter at home and they won't tell the secret.

So be adventurous, ask the locals, tell them what you like and try their suggestions.

Oh and as a general rule I avoid restaurants with white tablecloths when possible. I much prefer restaurants that pay more attention to their food than the décor.

Collecting Cookbooks

By: Cathy Lea.

I admit it, I am a certified cookbook addict. I own well over 300 cookbooks. I read them like novels, I drool over the pictures, and sometimes I actually cook something from them.

My favorite cookbooks are the ones I have picked up around the country on our travels. Visitor centers and museums, especially in the national parks, are the best places to find unusual regional cookbooks. Bookstores, of course, are another possibility. They will often have a section just for books on their region, especially if you are in a very touristy area like Charleston, SC.

The Junior League in most cities publishes a cookbook, I have found those to have some of the best recipes. Those women must have contests to see who can create the best recipe. You will find many recipes from their part of the country in their cookbooks. I have quite a collection of those also.

So, if you like to cook be sure to search out local cookbooks while you travel. They are small and easy to tuck away I a corner of the RV until you get home. Then you will have to find a place on your bookshelf, or possibly invest in a whole new bookcase just for your cookbooks. Whenever you wish you could be on the road but instead are stuck at home you can pull out a cookbook from whatever area of the country you are dream about and bring a little bit of the local flavor right into your own kitchen.

Trader Joe's Roast Beef Hash

By: M. Kelly.

We keep several packages of Trader Joe's™ brand Roast Beef Hash in our emergency earthquake pantry and a couple in our Roadtrek.
• Comes in a flat packet, so it's easy to store/stack.
• Has good flavor.
• Nutrition facts not too bad, i.e., sodium 250mg per serving.
• Delicious heated in pan and served with an egg or two on top. Add a little catsup, salsa, or chili sauce on top if you like. Good for dinner or breakfast. You can actually taste the roast beef. You might have to ask a clerk at Trader Joe's where they keep it as some stores use different locations.

This is a product of Brazil and the package says its packed under Brazilian Government Inspection.

Red or Green?

By: Cathy Lea.

The state question of New Mexico is - Red or Green? What does this mean? Why, chile sauce of course. There are two types of chile served in New Mexico, red chile and green chile.

Green chile is made from the Anaheim style chiles grown throughout New Mexico. The most famous green chile is grown in Hatch, New Mexico in the southern part of the state. The green chile sauce will vary depending on who makes it, but it usually contains green chiles that have been roasted and peeled, garlic, pork, onions, and stock or broth (pork or chicken). This spicy dish is served over almost any type of New Mexican food including burritos, enchiladas and tamales. It is also made into a stew with large chunks of pork and potatoes. One ingredient you will not find in New Mexican green chile is tomatoes. That is strictly a Tex-Mex or Colorado version of green chile.

Red chile is made from dried red chiles. The chiles are green when they become ripe and the longer they are left on the plant the more red they become. They are dried in the sun and then ground into a powder or left whole, often strung into a ristra. Red chile sauce is made from red chile powder or a paste made from a rehydrated red chile. It may contain onions, oregano or other spices but it is often just the rehydrated chile.

Which is hotter? It depends on many things, each chile harvest is different. When you order a dish with red or green chile ask the wait staff which is hotter. If you want to try both you can order the dish Christmas which means half red and half green chile sauce, that is my favorite. If you get a bite that is too hot be sure not to drink water, that only makes it worse. Eat a bite of tortilla or a spoonful of sour cream or sugar. That helps take the heat away.

Indian Tacos

By: Cathy Lea.

The first Indian Taco I ever had was some time in the 80's at the Eight Northern Pueblo Indian Arts Show at San Juan Pueblo in San Juan (now known as Okay Owingeh) New Mexico. An indian taco, often called a Navajo Taco, is a piece of frybread covered with additions including beans, hamburger, green or red chile, lettuce, onions, tomatoes and shredded cheese. It's a little piece of heaven for your mouth. They are served at all of the fairs and festivals in New Mexico and also at many restaurants. Each one is different, just like each batch of green or red chile is different (more about that in another entry).

A highlight of our first road trip through the Southwest was to eat a Navajo Taco on the Navajo Indian Reservation at Monument Valley, AZ in 1998. It was probably no different than any other Indian Taco, but just looking at the amazing red sandstone mesas and buttes in the otherwise empty desert made it taste like the best food I had ever eaten.

Another special Indian Taco is found at the Wooden Knife Cafe in Interior, South Dakota just outside of the Badlands National Park. We visited the cafe in 2001 having heard about it on the Food TV Network. They use a secret recipe for their frybread made from a root similar to a turnip. Unfortunately the cafe has closed but they sell their products online.

If you are traveling through the southwest United States don't miss an opportunity to try this delicious treat.

Regional Specialties

By: Cathy Lea.

Each region of the country has its special food items. Tourist towns often have gift shops where you can find a lot of different food items such as special jellies and sauces, cans of local specialties and lots of other good things to eat. You can often find the same items for a lot less money in the local grocery stores. Visit a small family owned grocery store and walk up and down the aisles to see what fun things you can find. We did this in a little grocery store in a small town in Louisiana and found wonderful cajun spices and sauces. This is a great way to spice up your meals cooked in your RV on the road and also great to take home for gifts or to cook and take a mini-vacation in your mind when you eat those favorite flavors from far away.

We purchased a can of smoked salmon in Oregon that was very different from anything we can get in our stores here in Colorado. There were two recipes on the can, one for a smoked salmon dip and the other for a salmon chowder. You can find both of those recipes here on the RoadChefCuisine web site.

Barbecue for Breakfast

By: Cathy Lea.

One of the most fun things to do on the road is to try new and different food. While traveling the Natchez Trace Parkway we took time to stop at the Loveless Cafe, a famous road food stop just outside of Nashville at the northern terminus of the Trace. We got there very early, but of course we brought our own waiting room with us in our RV so we just relaxed and waited for them to open.

They are famous for their wonderful biscuits, which indeed were the best I have ever eaten. We bought a bag of biscuit mix to take home and though they weren't quite as good as the ones we had at the restaurant they were still delicious.

The menu was filled with tempting choices, but as soon as I saw barbecue pork I knew I had to try it. I have never eaten barbecue for breakfast, but only because I have never seen it on the menu anywhere else. It was delicious, of course. Don't be afraid to try something different, it will make your travels even more memorable.

Please share your RV or travel related food finds with us.