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G. Garvin’s Chicago Travel Tips

Chilling with Christine Cikowski at Honey Butter Fried Chicken

The Windy City is an amazing vacation destination to explore with your family and friends. The third-largest city in the United States is home to jazz, comedy and the country’s first skyscrapers. Many visitors stick to the downtown area, but the next time you’re in Chicago, go beyond the central district. Locals identify proudly with their neighborhoods, and there you’ll find some fantastic restaurants.

Grandma J’s
Grandma J’s sits in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Humboldt Park. This is a hip space the locals love, because it’s filled with knickknacks that would remind you of your grandmother’s house. The food is no joke — if you want a fun breakfast, go for the duck three ways or the pork belly Benedict.

Honey Butter Fried Chicken
Honey Butter Fried Chicken is the product of two chefs with a big passion for putting the butter on the bird. It seems like a simple concept, but it’s a delicious one. You can’t go wrong with any of their chicken dishes with homemade honey butter, but make sure you try the sides like the macaroni and cheese, too.

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G. Garvin’s Big Island, Hawaii Travel Tips

The Sheraton Kona's Luau

The Big Island, or Hawaii Island, is a must-see when visiting Hawaii. Its small population and breathtaking scenery make it a quiet getaway. Restaurants source local ingredients and infuse them with culture. Do not miss The Big Island, including Kona, when you hop on a plane and visit, and make sure you get a tour of the black-sand beaches.

Big Jake’s Island BBQ
Sam Choy knows I love good barbecue, so I’m glad he took me here. Big Jake set down his smoker in 1997, and customers have flocked to it ever since. This modest but mighty spot is known for its Southern smoked meats and Hawaiian keawe mesquite. You’ll enjoy eating outdoors while dining on brisket, ribs and chicken.

Umeke’s
If you haven’t tried poke yet, you definitely need to at Umeke’s. Nakoa Pabre’s flavor combinations will amaze you and make you think of tuna in a different way. He uses fresh ingredients like avocado, fern salad and fruit to create unbelievable dishes.

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G. Garvin’s Midwest Travel Tips

Chef Mark Steuer and me at the Carriage House

The Midwest isn’t just about cold weather and funny accents — the food scene here is growing stronger every year. The Midwest is filled with passionate people making their restaurant dreams a reality. With farmland available to create local products, the food quality of the Midwest is some of the best in the country.

Carriage House
Chef Mark Steuer has something incredibly special in the Carriage House. This Chicago hot spot takes the flavors of the South and modernizes them. Steuer’s fried chicken and homemade sweet-potato hot sauce is packed with flavor; if you’re up for something different, try the quail and dumplings.

Cuppy’s Best Soulful Deli
Andrea White’s dishes have both heart and soul. In her new spot in Ypsilanti she’s making comfort food like no one else in the Midwest. When you try the meats and sides, make sure you save room for dessert: peach cobbler or sweet potato cake.

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G. Garvin’s Oahu Travel Tips

There’s so much more to Oahu than just Honolulu. It’s the most populous of the Hawaiian Islands and is home to Diamond Head and the North Shore, which are great for surfing. When you get off that plane, don’t be afraid to explore beyond Waikiki Beach, because you’ll find amazing food spots beyond the strip.

Dat Cajun Guy
I loved finding a taste of the South in Oahu. Jordan and Ashley Romano (see photo) take Louisiana cooking and dish it out of a food truck in an amazing location. Haleiwa is right along the North Shore, so make sure you stop by this part of the island if you’re a fan of surfing. Be sure to order the Gumbolaya!

Hughley’s Southern Cuisine
Ken and his family make some incredible soul food for the local military. The ribs, the fried peach cobbler, the catfish — all of his dishes take me back to Georgia. Sneak over to Aiea on your trip if you’re feeling homesick for the South.

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Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos’ Favorite Cooking Music

We are living in the era of playlists, which makes me feel a bit old. I left my turntables and vinyl behind, when I moved to Los Angeles to chase Debi, but I shipped all of my CDs.

For many years Debi and I had one of the most-wonderful music libraries I have ever seen in my life: Her passion for old jazz, American classics and early hip-hop married well with my collection of Brazilian and Cuban albums. In our first house together, we had an entire library that showcased our music collection, and we lived the joy of popping a CD into the system until the very last breath of that music medium.

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G. Garvin’s Best of New York Travel Guide

Me and the staff at Rye Roadhouse

New York state is home to far more than just Manhattan. Chefs are learning to love upstate New York as well as the boroughs, like Brooklyn and Queens. Even outside of the city you can find unique dining experiences. Hop on the Metro-North and explore the Hudson Valley.

Evelyn’s Kitchen
In Harlem, Ayala’s desserts reign supreme. I had a great time in her tiny kitchen learning how to make what she calls a “pudgie.” I can see why she attracts so much attention from people throughout the city. It’s completely worth the trek. Get there early to get a seat at her communal table, or grab some dangerously delicious desserts to go.

Peaches
Ben Grossman and Craig Samuel are no strangers to Brooklyn. They’re the masters of Southern comfort food and know just how to please the neighborhood and stay cutting-edge. Their ever-changing drink list can set up the evening for a culinary adventure in Brooklyn. You can’t go wrong with Grandma’s meatloaf!

Rye Roadhouse
Named after its location in Rye, New York, you would never expect to find such amazing Cajun food north of New York City. The guys at Rye Roadhouse took great care of me, as they do all of their patrons. This is a great spot to try some new dishes and hang out with the locals.

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Gabriele Corcos’ Italian Take on Soul Food

Here in the United States the definition of soul food is pretty straightforward: It indicates traditional Southern food that is representative of the African-American heritage and legacy. It is in every sense the result of the African diaspora and the necessity that displaced communities, during the dark ages of slavery, had to maintain their historical identity, using food as a medium.

It is not as easy, when referring to Italy, to define a similar way of cooking, mostly because of the peninsula’s much longer history. Italy always has been a point of access to Europe for many civilizations that lived on the Mediterranean Sea; it has been colonized and/or dominated through the centuries by foreigners such as Greeks, Byzantines, Spaniards, French and many North African populations, and those have made their way into our Southern regions since history can remember. Because of the access that the Italian peninsula offers to central Europe, in the past few decades our land has also become a real highway for many people migrating away from countries like Morocco, the Balkan regions and the Middle East, to more promising economies such as France and Germany.

As a result, many recipes and ingredients in the south of Italy carry memories of ancient times and modern migrations as well: Middle Eastern flatbreads, Moroccan couscous and Turkish capers are the first examples that come to mind as you explore the culinary offerings of Sicily and other southern regions.

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G. Garvin’s Miami Travel Tips

G. and the staff at Swine

Miami has a big reputation for being a party city because of South Beach, but there are plenty of wonderful things to see and restaurants to visit. When you’re in town, check out Coconut Grove and Coral Gables for shopping and different cuisines. Brickell is a new neighborhood in downtown Miami with great restaurants and free public transportation.

Crackers Casual Dining
I loved this place’s vibe — it’s a wonderful combination of Florida and the South. This spot can be found in the growing city of Miami Springs. At Crackers you’ll find a great family welcoming you with warm hospitality and awesome Southern dishes. Make sure you save room for dessert!

Swine Southern Table & Bar
Just like Yardbird, Swine takes all of the wonderful things about southern cooking and steps it up. The space, the smells and the whisky all create a fantastic experience that you’re going to have a hard time finding anywhere else in Miami. Swine is located in Coral Gables, right off of Miracle Mile, making it a great spot to visit after doing some shopping.

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Debi Mazar and Gabriele Corcos’ Favorite Wines

When you visit certain regions of Italy and get lost in the multitude of flavors that are so specific to the land, the simple thought of not bringing home some food is in general inadmissible. Parmigiano, lardo, salame, extra virgin olive oil, a couple bottles of wine you just need to have your friends try. How many times did I pack it all up in the dirty laundry secured in my luggage, then fly back home, hoping that the smell of a hot and humid summer on my tank tops would be enough to trick that brown beagle roaming the basement of JFK airport with a USDA agent on its leash?

As the world is shrinking, though, many of the ingredients you can savor while traveling through the bel paese are now somewhat available in the United States — and more so on the Internet. Once you have developed a taste for something Italian that you cannot live without, rest assured that with a little research, chances are you can relive your tasteful experience back home, wherever that might be.

Whenever we travel to Fiesole, Italy, one of our excuses for bouncing around villages like pinballs is to taste all the new batches of the wines we are fond of, make notes of new ones we discover along the way and occasionally buy a couple of cases.

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G. Garvin’s New York City Travel Guide

Me and Double Wide's Christen Hagan

There are plenty of reasons to visit the Big Apple, the food scene being just one of them. There are thousands of restaurants in New York City. Obviously, you can’t visit them all, so my advice is to pick a few in different neighborhoods; that way you can explore the city and have different dining experiences.

Bell Book & Candle
Chef John Mooney’s created something special in Bell Book & Candle. The West Village is filled with romantic places perfect for a date, and his restaurant is no exception. The rooftop garden guarantees you’re getting the freshest produce possible, and the space is as imaginative as the menu.

Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque
If a New Yorker waits in line, you know it’s worth it! Hugh Mangum brings Texas–style barbecue to the East Village in a modern space. As soon as you step in, the smell from the smoker hits you and makes your mouth water. Sides like the sweet potato casserole are a must when digging into the brisket.

Double Wide
Owner Christen Hagan has created a Southern getaway in the East Village at Double Wide. The drinks are creative and nostalgic, and the tasty bar food pairs perfectly with them. Double Wide doesn’t take itself too seriously, making it a great bar for a fun night.

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