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 Cecelia Jenkins, who has a soft spot for pies but has worked on developing recipes in our test kitchen for everything from sweet to savory. 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?
I want to go to the places where I know the landscape and architecture is going to be completely different from what I’ve grown up with here in Massachusetts.
My first stop is going to be Sante Fe, New Mexico. I’ve heard that their landscape views are gorgeous and unlike anything you’ll find here in New England. About five years ago, I went horseback riding with my family at Yellowstone National Park and it’s been one of my favorite road trip memories. While I’m in Sante Fe, I’m going to have to convince my family to go horseback riding again. In terms of food, I’ve never had authentic Southwestern fare. I’m hoping to try huevos rancheros, chile rellenos, enchiladas, and New Mexican chili. I’d be down to try anything with chilies in it, especially if it uses a chile I can’t find back home.
Next, I’ll head over to San Francisco, California. I want to make a stop at Hog Island Oyster Co. to have some of their oysters, but mainly to go on a farm tour. I'd love to go out with the guys, put on a pair of waders and help them put out some oyster seeds into the Tomales Bay. I know it’s a vacation but I’m looking forward to learning all about oysters and how the water affects the briny flavors. I also want to get homemade pasta at SPQR and I can’t leave California without grabbing wine from Petit Crenn.
I developed a recipe for Chocolate Haupia Cream Pie for Cook’s Country magazine—it would be so fun to taste the real thing while I’m in Oahu, Hawaii. Ted’s Bakery (located on the northern coast of Oahu) actually made this Haupia pie famous. I’d also like to go to a real luau and try customary dishes, have a pig roast in banana leaves, eat fresh pineapple, tuna poke, ceviche . . . all of that good stuff. If there’s time I’ll hike the mountainous regions, visit a volcano, go scuba diving, and find a black sand beach.
I grew up going to Cape Cod every summer and getting a different seaside experience in Charleston, South Carolina, would be really cool. That’s where husk originated, so it only makes sense that I visit Sean Brock’s Husk restaurant. I also want to grab some comfort food from Hominy Grill. I’d like to try their shrimp and grits, catfish, collards, and chocolate pudding. I don’t know if I’ve ever had any good barbecue before, so hopefully Charleston won’t disappoint.
I want to experience everything New Orleans, Louisiana, is known for before I head back north. That means I’ll start off with a beignet and chicory coffee at Cafe Du Monde. Then, I’ll find somewhere that has real gumbo, fried okra, and shrimp etouffee. I have to go fishing and make some friends with a few locals so that I can experience a true shrimp boil. When I need to walk off everything I just ate, I’ll visit the French Quarter and different sections of the city. I’d love to go on a gator boat tour and to one of the really old cemeteries with tombs above ground so that I can see the Spanish moss draped over them. That would be my ideal way to end this trip.
Who are you bringing along?
I’d bring along my family which includes my mom, Beth; older sister, Mary; and my younger sister, Lizzy. Oh and I can’t forget my dog, Layla. She loves riding in the car and, like her owner, loves to sample all kinds of food.
What will you be jamming to while on the road?
I have eclectic taste in music but for this trip my playlist would be a lot of throwbacks from the ‘80s and ‘90s. You can never go wrong with some Whitney Houston, so we’ll sing along to a few of her greatest hits. Also, my entire family likes Simon and Garfunkel, so we will have to play "Cecilia" a few times.
Any car snacks?
I’m on vacation so I’m going to live it up and eat some junk food. There will be Twizzlers, Goldfish, and, of course, Coke.
Cook's Country Takes AmericaThe 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.
Don’t forget to check out our other team members' ultimate road trips for great destination, restaurant, and music recommendations.
- On the Road with Cook’s Country: Test Cook Natalie Estrada’s Ultimate Road Trip
- On the Road with Cook’s Country: Staff Photographer Steve Klise’s Ultimate Road Trip
- On the Road with Cook’s Country: Editor in Chief Tucker Shaw’s Ultimate Road Trip
- On the Road with Cook’s Country: Test Cook Matthew Fairman’s Ultimate Road Trip
- On the Road with Cook's Country: Deputy Editor Scott Kathan’s Ultimate Road Trip
- On The Road with Cook's Country: Test Cook Morgan Bolling's Ultimate Road Trip
- On the Road with Cook’s Country: Executive Food Editor Bryan Roof’s Ultimate Road Trip
- On the Road with Cook’s Country: Senior Editor Ashley Moore’s Ultimate Road Trip