Madrid: Foodie Heaven and Jamón Mecca

Categories: Travel Hog

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All photos by Dana De Greff
Jamón Ibérico
Madrid is a foodie heaven. You see it in the markets that offer row after row of fresh produce, and the tapas stacked on café countertops, beckoning passersby in with the thrill of bite-sized pleasures. Pages could be written of the tapas in Spain; hell, pages could be written on the jamón ibérico alone. But for now, the focus is the simple pleasures of tapas in Madrid. Nothing fancy, nothing molecular, just good eating that taps into a heritage of soul-satisfying dishes.

See also: León, Nicaragua: Land of Lakes, Volcanoes, and Unforgettable Food

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Magical, Tasty New Food Items at Universal's Diagon Alley

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Courtesy of Universal Orlando
There are so many wonderful aspects of the Harry Potter universe -- duh, there's magic! -- but one of the most satisfying things is the food.

Throughout the novels, author J.K. Rowling fabricates her fair share of magical creatures as well as delectable wizarding food. We can't naturally concoct any fantastic beasts, but with a little imagination and some flour, sparks can fly in the kitchen.

When planning the latest expansion of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando, senior vice president of revenue operations Ric Florell and executive chef Jayson worked together to conjure up dishes that are both authentic to wizards and delicious for muggles.

See also: 21 Things to Look Out for in Diagon Alley, Universal Orlando's New Harry Potter Experience

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Hedy Goldsmith Inspired by Rare Rum: A Cupcake Is Born (Recipe)

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Courtesy of the Genuine Hospitality Group
Inspiration from Seven Fathoms.
If you've ever wondered how a recipe is created, here's a chance to get inside the head of one of Miami's sweetest chefs.

Michael's Genuine Food & Drink's executive pastry chef, Hedy Goldsmith, has created a Stormy Seven Fathoms cupcake with coconut lime frosting. The cupcake is an Island holiday in a treat, bringing together rum, spices, the tang of citrus and the sweetness of coconut. Goldsmith says that the cupcakes are "my favorite dark & stormy cocktail...only edible. They're a great vehicle for rum." Seven Fathoms rum, to be exact.

See also: Camana Bay in Grand Cayman: Miami Connections, Local Flavors

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León, Nicaragua: Land of Lakes, Volcanoes, and Unforgettable Food

Categories: Travel Hog

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All photos by Dana De Greff
Fresh mango
Nicaragua, land of lakes and volcanoes, is just as much a land of food. On a recent four-day trip to visit a close friend living in León, I learned to travel, drink, and eat like a Nica. My only regret? That I didn't get to try iguana, á la Anthony Bourdain (apparently it's illegal).

León is a hot, steaming city in the west of Nicaragua, about two hours from Managua. The original site was founded on the banks of Lake Managua in 1524, but after a powerful earthquake in 1610, it was moved to the Indian capital Subtiava. Between 1978-79, León was also a place of heavy fighting between Sandinista guerrillas and army troops, which left much of the city center destroyed.

Despite its shaky history, these days León is bursting with students, tourists, artists, and out-of-this-world cuisine.

See also: Pinolandia, Yambo, and Fritanga Montelimar: Hung Over? Visit Miami's Top Three Fritangas

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Almond Milk Lattes & Ice Cream Sundaes: A Vegan's Guide to Tallahassee

Categories: Travel Hog

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All photos by Hannah Sentenac
Vegan chocolate cake at Nefetari's
North Florida is pretty awesome. People who dismiss anywhere above Boca as a no-man's-land are missing out on some of the Sunshine State's best assets, from gorgeous green forests to super-friendly folks, to totally unique eateries. Our state's capital, for example, has lots of amazing vegan options -- probably thanks to those progressive college kids. Gotta love the young'uns.

After lots of trips to Tallahassee to visit my mom (and hang with wildlife), I've gotten the lay of the land as far as vegan eats. So here's my quick guide to meatless eating in the city where Rick Scott lives (shudder). Enjoy.

See also: Fight To Legalize Beer Growlers and Beer Tastings in Florida Heads Back to Tallahassee

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Camana Bay in Grand Cayman: Miami Connections, Local Flavors

Categories: Travel Hog

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All photos by Laine Doss
Cayman Islands: Closer to Miami than it is to Canada.
Just about an hour's flight from Miami lies Grand Cayman, the largest of three islands that make up the Cayman Islands. Grand Cayman is best known for two things -- beautiful beaches and international banking. The island, filled with pristine hotels and condos lining the sugar sands of Seven Mile Beach, is filled with wealthy Americans and Brits, who come for a bit of refined island time.

What's most intriguing about Grand Cayman is its commitment to serving fresh, local foods -- and the strong Miami connection that helps sustain that commitment.

On a recent weekend jaunt, I realized how close Miami is to Cayman on a first-hand basis... down to where to purchase a beach read (Books & Books).

See also: Slow Food Miami Snail of Approval Tasting Party: Clean Bites on the Beach

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Animal in Los Angeles: South Florida Born Chefs Nominated for James Beard Award

Categories: Travel Hog

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Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo are to Los Angeles what Jose Mendin, Andreas Schreiner and Sergio Navarro are to Miami. Born and bred in South Florida, the buddy duo opened Animal on the busy street of Fairfax (hipster central) in 2008.

As the name suggests, animal is the main attraction in this joint, but by no means is it utilized in a traditional manner. While other places get adventurous with items like bone marrow, Animal likes to explore beyond the bones of its creatures. Here, you can choose between veal (brain or tongue), pig (ear or head). Or you can have swine mixed in right into your chocolate crunch bar, which comes with a scoop of salt & pepper ice cream.

With dishes like these, it's no wonder Shook and Dotolo are nominated for a James Beard Award (Best West Coast Chef). On a recent visit to the city of angels, we simply couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit the place that was rated number 8 of the top 101 restaurants in American by the Daily Meal.

Our sister publication, LA Weekly, named it top five of the top 20 restaurants in Los Angeles.

See also: The Pubbelly Boys, Sovereigns of Swine

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Norwegian Getaway: Bar Lab Cocktails, Dining by Geoffrey Zakarian on Board

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All photos by Laine Doss
Welcome aboard. Have a Bar Lab cocktail.
You might have seen her while driving along the MacArthur Causeway. She's the gigantic ship with the colorful mermaid, designed by Miami artist Lebo, dancing on her hull.

That's Norwegian's newest cruise ship, the Getaway. The massive, 145,655-ton vessel can accommodate nearly 4,000 passengers on its weekly sailings from the Port of Miami. It boasts an on-board water park, performances of Broadway shows, a Grammy museum complete with music memorabilia (including Whitney Houston's dress), and a dinner theater-in-the-round. Of course, there's plenty of food -- nearly 30 dining options, to be more specific.

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I Ate Dog Meat in Vietnam

Categories: Travel Hog

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All photos by Zachary Fagenson
Dog meat, herbs, fish sauce.
No, I don't know what breed it was. Yes, I know I'm disgusting. It tastes mostly like overcooked lamb. The worst part is actually the mushy gray fermented shrimp sauce that smells like a bowl of anchovies left to bake in the sun for six months.

Now that your basic questions about dog meat -- thit cho (pronounced teet-choh) in Vietnamese -- are out of the way we can dig a little deeper.

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Three Great Dining Spots In the Upper Keys, From Burgers to Tacos to Hogfish

Categories: Travel Hog

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Bill Citara
Bill Burkhardt
No one has ever accused the Upper Keys of being a hotbed of fine dining. Lukewarm-bed, maybe. Cold-bed, even.

But over the past couple of years the local dining scene has started heating up, giving diners who just can't choke down the thought of one more plate of fried shrimp with a side order of Margaritaville a few more palatable options. Here are three good ones.

See also: Key West: Where to Score the Best Hogfish, Doughnuts, and Shrimp

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