What are Michael Chiarello's favorite cities?
I really have been enjoying domestically is — I hate saying this — secondary markets. D.C., Philadelphia. And Chicago is such a good food town. In D.C., we did a four-restaurant dine-around one night. D.C. used to be a culinary wasteland 25 years ago. I think it’s really developed. When real estate isn’t as expensive, people try something that they wouldn’t try in Midtown Manhattan. I think young chefs are traveling to be a big fish in a smaller pond and doing really well.
I love Spain and Italy. When you take beach vacations out of it, Americans tend to be fond of places we like to eat — and the types of food we like to eat. I’m going to Spain in a couple weeks again. I hear the early adopters in travel say, “We went to Barcelona, spent three days in San Sebastian, then we went to the Basque country and we finished in Andalusia in Southern Spain.” The new tour is kind of that five-, six-, seven-day tour of northern Spain.
Outside of San Sebastian is a restaurant called Etxebarri. That’s kind of a chef spot for 100 percent cooking over live fire. He designed it as fine dining cooked over live fire in a casual setting where the sommelier is from El Bulli. The food is just exquisite. There’s a whole tradition in San Sebastian that’s been going on for centuries: men’s culinary clubs, where they get together a couple times a week and cook for each other. It’s an amazing experience. And then they go to the casino at two in the morning, drink gin and tonics. There are a couple travel guides that can get you into some of these meals, which is what you want.
I’ve heard people talk about Peru. I’ve been to Peru a few times, and I’ve heard people talking about Peru being the new Italy. I really think that’s Spain. Peru is too far, too different from us. That proximity of the wine country to Barcelona is the same as Napa Valley to San Francisco; so you have multiple things you can do from the city. In Barcelona, you have the beach. If you’re cyclist like I am, you go to Girona and bring your bike. They have Barceloneta and the whole Cava region. Simply said, I think Barcelona is the new Florence for the early adopting domestic traveler.