Name: Dina Honke
Occupation: Lawyer / Foodie / Traveler
Hometown: Kelowna, BC
A lawyer by profession but no longer in practice. I publish a food and travel blog with an intellectual edge, writing about food and experiential travel. I cook vegetarian style but am open to experiencing other foods when I travel. My motto would be “Dolce far Niente” (the sweetness of doing nothing). It is an art that needs to be preserved.
How would you describe your travel style?
An explorer, but not rush through. I like to rent a place where I travel and “live” there for a while, absorbing local customs, experiencing food and culture first hand. You cannot do it in a week.
When choosing travel destinations, how important are food/drink choices and experiences to your overall decision-making process?
Very important. I love to learn about people and their culture through the food they eat. When I get to a new destination the local market is one of the first places I go to. You find the soul of the place there.
Culinary traveler or food explorer? Which do you identify more closely with?
I am kind of in between. I can’t say that I would eat anything, as Antony Bourdain does on his travels. I am of vegetarian persuasions in my kitchen but this is not how I travel. I want to experience the local cuisine. I will not go to an island without eating fish or visit a Mexican town and not try chicken tacos. If anyone cooks something for me I will enjoy it with gratitude. I often have culinary destinations on my list but in my experience it’s better to let your intuition lead you.
If we ask your best friends if you’re a foodie, what would they say?
Absolutely foodie first, hands down. Lawyer comes next.
What’s in your carry-on? Any essential food or kitchen tools you won’t leave home without?
I always travel with chef and paring knives for when I can cook. This may sound funny but also a beautiful table-cloth, depending on the type of travel it is. And, it goes without saying, my camera, I never leave home without it. I like a telephoto lens so I am not too intrusive in taking pictures.
What’s the most unusual food you’ve eaten?
Probably corn fungus called huitlacoche. It only grows over certain corn species and looks grey and slimy. We cooked it in butter and cream and drizzled over a deliciously rich corn soup. The fungus had mild flavor and actually looked beautiful, silvery and shiny against the white soup.
If we handed you a ticket to anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Japan. I am fascinated by their culinary discipline and pride in food as craftsmanship honed over a lifetime.
What’s the best culinary travel experience you’ve ever had?
One of my favorite culinary experiences was not so much about the taste of the food but the setting and how it was experienced. I was in Rome by myself and much younger. I walked up the Spanish steps to the hotel on top to have lunch (could it have been the Il Palazzetto?). I was looking around at other diners and saw a naturally elegant young woman dining alone. The staff was fussing over her and I noticed she had a plate of green asparagus with shaved Parmigiano that she proceeded to eat with special asparagus tongs. She had a glass of white wine with it, I assume a Pinot Griggio. I remember being so inspired by that scene and of course, proceeded to order the same (I invented the “I’ll have what she’s having” line). Funny how some things stay with you. Next time I am in Rome in the spring I will return to that hotel and order a plate of asparagus and proceed to savour it using asparagus tongs. Perhaps I will then offer inspiration to another young woman who may be watching me.
Any great travel tips to share?
Pack light, you don’t need all those clothes, trust me. Also, don’t fight local customs. Try to adapt to the local rhythm. When in Spain recently it was annoying at first that everything shut down after lunch. However, we adapted. We stopped for a siesta in the afternoon and then went on an early evening walk, ending with churros and hot chocolate, as the locals do. It made the trip memorable.
Favorite Culinary Destination: Mediterranean (Italy, Spain, South of France, Israel)
Favorite Cuisine: Italian, I can eat pasta every day.
Favorite Restaurant: Recent ones are Susur Lee in Toronto, Hartwood in Tulum, Forage in Vancouver, Comme Chez Maman in Paris, Can Cortada in Barcelona
Favorite Street Food: Falafel in Kerem Hateimanin in Tel Aviv, crepes with sugar and lemon in Paris.
Favorite Food Market: Boqueria in Barcelona
Favorite Winery: Dare I say any grand cru from the Cote d’Or in Burgundy? (Remember, I live in wine country in Kelowna.)
Favorite Cooking Class: I prefer the market to table classes , where we walk through the market picking ingredients and then cooking them back at the home or school. I have to say though that sometimes I prefer to just watch someone cook and talk.
Favorite Food/Tasting Tour: I have one in every city. Hard to single anyone out. I always do a walking food tour wherever I go.
Favorite Travel App: It’s not an app but I must have internet connection when I travel so I buy local sim cards. From there it’s a breeze because I have the internet. If you pressed me for an app then maybe Google translate.