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On the Road

On The Road with Cook's Country: Test Cook Morgan Bolling's Ultimate Road Trip

This native Southerner plans to travel from New York to LA, followed by some barbecue and Tex-Mex.
By Published July 12, 2018

At Cook's Country, we're big fans of road trips. For the last decade, our team has traveled all around the country in search of the very best traditional and down-home fare. We've visited small towns and big cities, home kitchens and busy restaurants, truck stops and taco trucks. Why? To bring recipes that have flown under the national radar back to the test kitchen and then to Cook’s Country magazine, so anyone can recreate the best in American fare at home—no matter where they live.

Since we love stories—and food—from the road, I reached out to our Cook’s Country team to ask them about their ultimate, no-limitations road trip. First up is senior editor and resident grilling expert Morgan Bolling. Here's where the native North Carolinian would go, what she'd listen to, and most importantly, what she would eat.

What are your top 5 must-visit places and what are you eating from there?

My first stop is definitely going to be Queens, New York, for Greek food. I've heard that BZ Grill has some of the best gyros in New York, and I’m particularly looking forward to trying their pork gyro. The idea of a pork gyro is so interesting to me; it’s not something I’ve seen many people do. Also, I love to grocery shop at interesting places, so I plan on taking a trip to Titan Foods and Muncan Food Corporation. Thinking about the lamb prosciutto and fried pork they’ll have at the meat market makes me excited! To be fair, these are foods I don’t get to enjoy everyday.

This may feel like a cop out, but I think my hometown has some of the best food in the nation.

After I’ve had enough Greek food, I’m heading over to Denver, Colorado. I’m going here to hike more than anything else, but since I’m already there, I’ll have to try some of the Mexican food that Tucker always raves about. There's a place out there called Los Chingones and their Pig Nachos dish sounds delicious.

Next, I’m driving to Los Angeles, California. L.A. has such a strong immigrant population, so that means that they’ll have really good food for me to try. I’m hoping to get some good Mexican and Thai food, and maybe even some ramen and Korean barbecue. It’s supposed to be one of the best places in the U.S. to get ramen. Who doesn’t love thick slices of pork belly and broth with a nice runny egg?

I’ve already done Austin and San Antonio, but I only had a day in each place. So I’m going back to Texas to attend the Texas Barbecue at Texas A&M University. It’s a two-day, immersive barbecue course that I would love to take. After completing my course, I’m going to treat myself to more barbecue food at Franklin Barbecue. I’ve always wanted to go there!

Before heading back “home” to Boston, I’m heading home to Charlotte, North Carolina. This may feel like a cop out, but I think my hometown has some of the best food in the nation. Where I’m from in Charlotte there’s this really great fried chicken place called Gus’s Fried Chicken. It’s just awesome. Even Bojangles, which is like a fast food joint, serves these biscuits that are impossible to beat. If I have time to make it up east, I’m visiting Vivian Howard’s restaurant Chef & The Farmer. I’ve been there a couple of times and it’s so good. Cook’s Corner is another favorite— I have a lot of good memories from there. I’ve never been to Ashley Christensen’s restaurant Beasley’s Chicken + Honey, so I’d love to make a stop there, too. There’s a lot of great female chefs in North Carolina like Ashley Christensen, Vivian Howard, and Andrea Reusings whose food I would love to try or eat again.

Who are you bringing along?

Morgan and Lauren
Morgan and Lauren on their way to a pond in Jamaica Plain, MA.

I’m bringing a member of the America's Test Kitchen Tasting and Testing team, who also happens to be my best friend: Lauren Savoie. She’s naturally a Californian by heart so I know L.A. will suit her. Plus, she's got a palate like no else I know and we have similar taste in music (for the most part) so I know it will be really fun. We’ve actually been on a couple of trips together. This past January we went San Francisco for the Fancy Food Show and we got to try the some of the best cheese in the world. (Ed's note: Read more about the show in “The 6 Best Things We Ate at the 2018 Winter Fancy Food Show.”)

What will you be jamming to while on the road?

At the risk of embarrassing myself, I'll admit that Lauren and I listen to a lot of Taylor Swift and Macklemore together. I also like acoustics and country music artists like Zac Brown and Johnny Cash. Lauren is less into those genres but she can deal with it when we’re in Texas. And we love crime shows, so we'd also listen to this really cool podcast called Crimetown, which is by the same creator of the HBO mini-series The Jinx. I mean, you need something to break up that T Swift.

Any car snacks?

I’m a big snack packer! When we used to go up to Vermont to film the Cook’s Country television show I would actually bring a picnic basket with snacks for myself . . . even though I knew there would never be a lack of food seeing that we’re filming a food show. Anyway, here’s what I’d bring:

Supermarket Snacks: Chocolate, Sour Patch Kids, Pork Rinds, and Moon Pies. 

Cook's Country Snacks

Salted Caramel–Peanut Granola

It sounds boring compared to everything else I’m bringing but that’s probably a good thing. This is a really good granola recipe—one of my favorites actually. 
Cook's Country Snacks

Boiled Peanuts

I have to bring boiled peanuts. They’re super good and salty.
Cook's Country Snacks

Cowboy Cookies

They’re really big but I think that’s perfect for a road trip. Barbara Bush was actually the one who made them famous, so it would feel very appropriate for Texas.

Any car games?

Lauren and I always play this game where we pick what our last meal will be. We pick an appetizer, a main, and a dessert—it changes every time we play it. We also play a game where we pick five places we want to travel to and we get into these conversations about who we’d bring and why. It’s more just friends but maybe we’ll add in celebrities for this trip. Like Meghan Markle . . . I’d hang out with her.

What are you looking forward to most about this trip?

Every place is fulfilling something different. Queens, New York is all about the food for me, L.A. is about the food but about laying out on the beach too. On the other hand, Texas is all about barbecuing and relaxing, while, Colorado is about hiking and North Carolina is about seeing family. With the way this weather in Boston’s been, laying on the beach in L.A. sounds great.

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Don’t forget to check out our other team members' ultimate road trips for great destination, restaurant, and music recommendations below.