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On the Road

On the Road with Cook’s Country: Test Cook Alli Berkey’s Ultimate Road Trip

In the test kitchen, she’s all about quick and easy meals. On vacation, she’s all about indulging in local specialties.
By Published Aug. 3, 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.

Today’s dream trip comes from the queen of our 30-minute recipes, Alli Berkey. She’s a big fan of quick and easy weeknight meals, but when she’s on vacation, time isn’t a factor—and neither is cooking. Here’s where she would go on her ultimate trip, what she would listen to, and most importantly, what she would eat.

What are your top 5 must-visit destinations and what are you eating when you get there?

Austin, Texas, has been high on my travel list. The combination of cultures there really intrigues me—there aren’t many places where art meets food and lifestyle, all at the same time. Of course Texas is known for its barbecue, so I’ll have some of that while I’m down there. But I want to change it up, too. I’d love to see what kind of Southwestern flavors influence their tacos. Oh, and I can’t leave Austin without making a stop at Kristen Kish’s new restaurant, Arlo Grey.

I’ve never been to Nashville, Tennessee, so I’ll make a stop there, too. Partly for more barbecue and also because it just seems like an awesome city. Being from Cincinnati, Ohio, I always wish I’d made the four-hour drive to Nashville during my childhood.

Super briney or metallic-tasting oysters just don’t do it for us, so I’d be interested to see what the West Coast has to offer.

I’ve been to San Francisco, California, twice but only for a day each time. It’s on my top three places to get back to. Also, my wife has never been so we plan on exploring the Mission area and the Ferry Building Marketplace, right after we grab some tacos. During my brief visits there, I did get some amazing Malaysian food. I remember getting this Curried Laksa soup that I need to taste again. And I need to visit April Bloomfield’s restaurant Tosca Cafe to try her Egg Tonnato and Crispy Pig Tails.

I would really like to visit Portland, Oregon, again, too. The culture there is exciting yet low-key, which is the perfect vibe for me. I would like to try some oysters while I’m there. I’m a big fan of East Coast oysters. My wife and I will travel to the Cape quite a bit just to have mild oysters (those are our favorite). Super briney or metallic-tasting oysters just don’t do it for us, so I’d be interested to see what the West Coast has to offer. I love oysters so much that I’ll likely stop in a few fishing towns, like Astoria, before heading to the next state.

To end my trip, I’m making a stop in the Lower East Side of New York. On some weekends, we take the train down from Boston to the Lower East Side for food and then to the Upper East Side to hear some jazz music. I don’t really seek out the high-end places while I’m there. I’d rather have a sweet bun from Chinatown—something I know is going to be awesome and that I can carry around with me while I explore.

Since we’re driving, we’ll make a quick stop at Rein’s Deli in Vernon, Connecticut, on the way back home. We place a takeout order for their pastrami reuben with a side of matzo ball soup just about every time we head home from New York. I figure there’s no reason this time should be any different.

Who are you bringing along?

There's no way my wife, Esme, would be able to sit this out. She needs to see more of the South and she can match me taco for taco. Our dog, Joey, loves a good road trip, too, so he’s coming along!

Left: Alli (left) with her wife, Esme (right) eating hotdogs from a street vendor in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Right: Alli with her dog, Joey on their way to Provincetown, RI.

What will you be jamming to while on the road?

My must-have road trip songs fit in perfectly in the Southern states we'll visit, but I like them no matter where we'll go.

  1. Dixieland Delight - Alabama
  2. Jolene - Dolly Parton
  3. Lovely Day - Bill Withers
  4. Last Dance - Donna Summer 
  5. I Need Never Get Old - Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

Any car snacks?

My snack of choice will always be Sour Patch Kids. Actually, the chewier the candy is, the better. Throw in some Swedish Fish too—fresh though, not stale.

If I make the time to put together some snacks before we hit the road, there will be some Cheese Straws, Banana-Chocolate Chip Snack Cake, and Crunchy Spiced Nuts.

Any car games?

We’re big Jeopardy fans so we do a lot of music trivia in the car. We’ll put on a specific song or a radio station and ask different questions about the song for the other person to answer, Jeopardy-style.

What are you bringing back with you from this road trip?

I always want to bring back smoked fish and wine. Both are hard to travel with but worth it. The other thing I love to bring back from anywhere—but am looking forward to bringing back especially from Nashville—are condiments. I’m talking brown sauces, different styles of mustards, anything that we may not necessarily have in Boston or is known for somewhere else.

Cook's Country Takes America

The Cook's Country team is inspired by the home cooks and regional dishes in every region of the country—and we're determined to get to know them all. View this article to read about where we've been, what we've eaten, and how you can recreate our favorite regional dishes at home.
Read Article

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

This is a members' feature.