Being back in California has confirmed a theory that we had on the road: There is no good Mexican food anywhere but here (and maybe parts of Mexico). No matter how good the menu looks or how much you are craving it, don’t bother to order it anywhere else in the world. Trust me, we tried. The best attempt was in Oz, covered with a slightly spicy, but mostly sweet salsa. The worst was a “fajita” in Ireland that tasted just like the beef and Guinness pie, which is what we should have ordered.
This experience led us to another travel rule. ALWAYS eat and drink the local the food/wine/beer/tea/etc. Even if Indian or Turkish food is not your favorite, I can almost guarantee that it will be better than any version of American food you could order there. I learned it the hard way. After weeks of great stir fry and curry in Asia, I was still craving something else. I broke the rule, and after the one bite of the most horrible chicken sandwich ever, I was back to the wok.
The reality is that every culture has had centuries to perfect the best way to use the ingredients they have. The result is that the best tasting dishes you’ll find are going to be made in the local style with fresh ingredients. It holds true for takeout places or white-table-cloth dining – stick with the specialty. The rule doesn’t just apply to food either. Nothing goes better with the local cuisine than the local drink. Irish stew washed down with a Guinness? Iberico ham tapas with a glass of Rioja? It doesn’t get any better.
The only caveat to the rule above is this: If your yogurt is bubbling, don’t eat it. (Another one learned the hard way.)