Right now I am in Montreal, Canada – a weeklong family trip that was booked during this month of my Locavore Challenge. When you’re traveling, it can be much more of a challenge to eat local and organic – though not impossible, and it’s always relatively easy to just eat healthy in general. Because of this trip, I am extending my Locavore challenge by an extra week at home, so it will run through August 2. I also decided to take this opportunity to write about eating local on the road.
First, a few resources. Below are some useful websites that can help you find restaurants serving local food around the US and even in other countries:
Eat Well Guide – This is a terrific website, with a search engine that lets you find restaurants, as well as farms and markets, in every US state and Canadian province. There is also a mapping tool that allows visitors to the site to map sustainable, local food options while on the road and even create a printable guide with the results!
Organic Highways – Lets you search for restaurants under categories of serving local, organic, dairy free, gluten free, vegetarian, etc. Covers the USA, Canada and a few random locations in other places like Hong Kong and the UK.
Organic Kitchen – Offers a smattering of restaurants that serve locally sourced food, in about two dozen US locations (many on the east or west coast).
While I have been here in Montreal (and other places I travel as well), I make it a point to find restaurants that serve local, organic and healthy food as much as possible. This can be done via searching on the internet, guidebooks, or simply asking locals or people who work at hotels and in the tourism service. Besides the fact that it’s healthier, it also puts more money into the local economy – particularly important in less developed countries.
Another way of eating on the road that virtually ensures you’ll be getting the freshest, most local food is street food. This also happens to be a very fun way to eat. I love street food and seek it out everywhere I go – it’s adventurous, fun, cultural and you get to meet some interesting local characters. Street food can be everything from very small, portable sidewalk carts to the fanciest of mobile “trailer cuisine” contraptions.
Last month, in Vancouver with Keith, we ate at a gourmet food trailer called Feastro Bistro, which served up some very impressive gourmet tacos, among other offerings – I had one with huge, fresh jumbo shrimp and an unbelievable cream sauce, and Keith’s was salmon and pesto. Delicious!
Here in Montreal, another thing we did that was healthy and delicious, as well as a great experience enjoying the city, was to shop at a local market and then cook dinner with our purchases. We are staying in a two bedroom condo as part of a home exchange, so that gives us a full kitchen with the ability to cook complete meals. I know that when traveling, you don’t always have this option; but if you are staying in a vacation rental or condo, it’s a great way to eat local AND save a lot of money on dining out. (By the way, if you’re interested in swapping homes as a great way to get accommodations when you travel at absolutely no cost, check out my and Keith’s book, How to Travel for Free)
We visited Marché Jean Talon, a terrific local market offering not only plenty of produce stands, but also small restaurants and shops selling cheese, meats, pastries, seafood, bread, jams and much more. Spending a couple of hours at the market was a blast, and the food we purchased was fresh and local. We came away with potatoes, carrots, garlic, tomatoes, cucumbers, plums, cilantro, goat cheese and some fresh shrimp. That night we cooked a delicious dinner at our condo:
Cucumber-tomato salad in a vinaigrette dressing
Shrimp sauteed in olive oil, garlic and lemon juice
Sauteed potatoes and carrots with green onions & garlic scapes
Sylvain, the owner of the condo and my home exchange partner, provided me with this good website of Montreal farmer’s markets. The Local Harvest is also a very good resource for finding markets, farms and CSAs all around the US and Canada.
While in Montreal, we also ate at Muvbox, a new mobile eatery concept in Old Montreal. The Muvbox opens up in under a minute and transforms into a restaurant, pop-up store or an art gallery. I had a fresh and fantastic lobster roll, pictured.
Created out of an old shipping container and powered by solar energy, this application of the MUVBOX concept in Old-Montreal is a modern-day reinvention of the old-fashioned canteen. Each night the MUVBOX vanishes back into its cube, and redeploys early the next morning at the touch of a button, in less than two minutes! Check it out in action here.
Of course, when it’s difficult to eat at a street food stand, local-sourcing restaurant or farmers market, you can always eat as healthy as possible in your selections of what to order from virtually any menu.
Eat and travel well!