It simply doesn’t matter how fabulous a life you lead – everyone needs to escape once in a while. Folks who live the kind of lives the rest of us envy just make it look easy. In reality, they endure grueling schedules and demands that come from every direction. We asked five hard-working foodies to tell us about the places they run to for a break during the short, gray days of winter.
David Rocco, cookbook author and host La Dolce Vita and Avventura.
“My favorite winter haunt in Europe would have to be Rome. The weather is about 15 degrees and sunny so you can get away with just a sweater and everyone is still outdoors. The tourists have, for the most part, packed up and the cafés and restaurants are full of locals. You end up with a more authentic Roman experience and you can really connect with the whole culture.”
Laura Calder, cookbook author and host of Food Network’s French Food at Home
“It’s hard to pick just one place – there are so many cities in Europe I just love in the winter. Venice, Paris, Bologna are all so beautiful, but for me, Munich is tops – especially in the month of December. No one does Christmas like the Germans! The English Gardens, the Marienplatz (that square with the Rathaus-Glockenspiel), and the Christmas markets – wooden toys, puppet shows, kuchen, twinkle lights – I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. And the food is amazing – any time of year, really. Everyone loves Mediterranean food now, but German breads are unsurpassed; I ate one of those big, salted pretzels every day! And every day at four o’clock, it’s time for coffee and cake: quaint cafés fill up with locals tucking into 30 different kinds of cake and torte. And of course, there’s nothing like a fine, dry German riesling.”
Annie Sibonney, cookbook author and host of Food Network’s From Spain with Love
“Most people think of Barcelona, Spain, as a summer destination but I love escaping there in winter. There’s such a great feel to the city, the crowds are long gone and the weather is perfect for taking in the Gaudí architecture, museums and shopping. There are few cities in the world quite like it – so rich in every form of art and culture, and it has a nightlife that’s likely to have you out long enough to see the sun rise. But for me, Barcelona is ultimately all about the food. Catalan cuisine is to die for and the social life in this city revolves around food, wine and great friends. Whether in a tapas bar or in a Michelin-starred restaurant, the dining is incredible and unique at every turn. I love to eat and when I’m on vacation, my appetite is even more insatiable, so I feel very comforted knowing that my indulgences won’t be spoiled by the threat of having to fit in to my bikini from last summer.”
Kevin Brauch, world traveller, champion imbiber and floor host of the Food Network’s Iron Chef America
“My secret runaway spot is Treasure Beach on the coast of Negril, Jamaica. It’s rustic, low key, not as built up as the other big beach areas in Jamaica and sunsets are the city’s specialty. It’s situated on the southwest corner of the island and the sunsets are full-on and dramatic – they just crush you! Roadside jerk stands are still plentiful for honest eating with locals in plastic chairs, drinking ice cold beer out of a cooler – it makes you feel like a local. Rum and beer are the go-to drinks here. Beer gets you through the day, rum is for the evening. The locals drink the cheapest rum (white, unaged), I splash out on the good stuff (amber or dark), which the locals think is pretty funny!”
Roger Mooking, musician, chef and Food Network host of Everyday Exotic and Heat Seekers
“The very first vacation with my girlfriend was to the Dominican Republic. It was an all inclusive resort and after repeatedly being warned not to leave the compound by everyone we met, including the armed guards at the front gate, on day two we hit the road. Off we walked, my lovely girlfriend and I, right past the resort’s armed guards. We spotted a cab and off we went into the unknown. We explored food markets, the cafés where locals eat, had fresh coconut on the beach and took in sights, seldom seen by tourists. The Dominican Republic will always have a place in our hearts. The girlfriend is now my wife and we have three beautiful girls. This winter, we’re going back as a family.”
By Signe Langford