The foodie’s guide to winter travel destinations
In recent months, the Danish word 'hygge' (pronounced “hoo-ga") has taken the world by storm, and for very good reason. The term refers to a unique feeling of coziness and contentment that helps make long winters more pleasurable. Though often used to invoke a warm and intimate atmosphere, this wonderful lifestyle concept can also be used to describe food as well. In the culinary world, things like slow cooked stews, mulled wine, and roasted seasonal vegetables could all be described as 'hygge.' To help you plan a delicious winter vacation, here are seven travel destinations that showcase food at its finest.
Alaska's biggest city is a picturesque winter wonderland from January through March, and its food scene has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years thanks to a robust economy and an influx of sophisticated eaters who are eager to expand their palates. For a dinner that's guaranteed to warm you up, the spicy Alaskan salmon and rockfish jambalaya at the Spenard Roadhouse compares to none. On chilly days, a decadent giant cinnamon roll coated in thick frosting from Orso will keep you feeling extra 'hygge.'
A steaming cup of freshly brewed Seattle coffee sipped on a brisk morning is the very definition of the term 'hygge.' Since the weather in the Pacific Northwest can be spectacularly snowy during the winter months, the city's best restaurants compensate by offering richly flavored meals that will stick to your ribs. Try the slow cooked beef stew with bone marrow at Quinn's Pub, or sample the spicy grilled chicken thighs with poblano peppers at the acclaimed restaurant Brimmer & Heeltap for a tangy winter treat.
Comfort foods are extremely 'hygge' and Chicago features some of the most comforting meals in the Midwest. Winter visitors to the Windy City should reserve a table at the elegantly appointed Tortoise Supper Club. Their famous Pheasant Pie is made with slow-roasted shredded pheasant, combined with seasonal vegetables and foie gras cognac sauce, and comes topped with a crispy pie crust. Or for something simpler but equally delicious, try the irresistible macaroni and cheese with Irish bacon at Lady Gregory's Irish Pub in Chicago's colorful Andersonville neighborhood.
Throughout January, Denver's evening temperatures drop to an average of 15-degrees. To combat the cold, hungry visitors should make their way to the historic Five Points neighborhood and pull up a chair at Acorn, an award-winning restaurant specializing in wood-fired cooking. There, you'll find 'hygge' dishes like wood fired baby yams, tomato braised meatballs, and Creole-style rock shrimp and grits. If you prefer Asian Fusion, head on over to Denver's Highland Parks area and order a comforting bowl of duck ramen at the popular Uncle restaurant. Their shoyu (soy sauce) broth is extraordinary.
Few destinations in North America capture the magic of winter quite like Vermont. When a fresh blanket of white snow settles on the vibrant streets of Burlington, the effect is like a picture postcard come to life. Diners looking for a taste of something special should pay a visit to Leunig Bistro, an upscale French restaurant in downtown Burlington. Since 1980, they've been serving 'hygge' meals like roast pumpkin chowder with applewood-smoked bacon, and classic beef bourguignon braised in red wine. Whisky lovers owe it to themselves to try a creamy Irish coffee made with triple distilled Tullamore Dew at cozy Finnegan's Pub, also located in downtown.
The winter landscape in Bend, Oregon, is nothing short of breathtaking. For those who worship the great outdoors, this snowy playground is truly a must-visit. After a day spent skiing or ice skating, the homemade pecan sticky buns and syrup-drenched French toast at McKay Cottage will put a huge smile on your face. If farm-to-table dining is more your speed, then the pizzas and pastas made with local seasonal ingredients at Jackson's Corner are exactly what you're looking for.
Each winter, visitors to Calgary get to experience the best of both worlds: a bustling urban metropolis and an environment filled with scenic natural beauty. Since nothing is more 'hygge' than a warm glass of mulled wine, be sure to stop at Lounge XVIII for a sip of pinot gris infused with clove, anise, ginger, and rosemary and flavored with fresh citrus and honey. If you're in the mood for an intimate atmosphere, the rustic charm of Charbar is the city's top choice. Ask one of their expert mixologists to make you a classic B&B (brandy and Benedictine, served at room temperature) or a cozy fireside cocktail like a Hot Buttered Rum. You'll be experiencing the magic of the 'hygge' lifestyle in no time.
If you go
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The question of where David Ferrari was had haunted retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major Vincent Salceto for the better part of 66 years.
Rarely did a week go by that Salceto didn't think about his old friend. Often, he relived their last moments together in a recurring nightmare. In it, it's once again 1953 and Salceto and Ferrari are patrolling a valley in what is now North Korea. Suddenly, explosions shatter the silence and flares light up the night sky.
Crouching under a barrage of bullets, Salceto, the squad's leader, drags two of his men to safety, then he sees Ferrari lying face down on the ground. He runs out to help him, but he's too late. And that's when he always wakes up.
Italian Americans from opposite coasts – Salceto from Philadelphia, Ferrari from San Francisco – the two became close, almost like brothers, after being assigned to the same unit during the Korean War. When Ferrari died, it hit Salceto hard.
"After that, I never let anyone get close to me like I did with Dave," he says. "I couldn't; I didn't want to go through that again."
When the war ended, Salceto wanted to tell Ferrari's family how brave their son and brother had been in battle. Most of all, he wanted to salute his friend at his gravesite and give him a proper farewell.
For decades, though, Salceto had no luck finding his final resting place or locating any of his relatives. Then, in June of this year, he uncovered a clue that led him to the Italian Cemetary in Colma, California, where Ferrari is buried.
Within days, Salceto, who lives in Franklinville, New Jersey, was packed and sitting aboard United Flight 731 from Philadelphia to San Francisco with his wife, Amy, and daughter, Donna Decker, on his way to Colma. For such a meaningful trip, he even wore his Army dress uniform.
That's how San Francisco-based flight attendant Noreen Baldwin spotted him as he walked down the jet bridge to get on the plane.
"I saw him and said to the other crew members, 'Oh my goodness, look at this guy,'" she says. "I knew there had to be a story."
The two struck up a conversation and Salceto told Baldwin why he was traveling. She got emotional listening to him talk and made a point of fussing over him, making sure he and his family had everything they needed.
About halfway through the flight, Baldwin had an idea. She and her fellow crew members would write messages of encouragement to Salceto and invite his fellow passengers to do the same.
"We did it discreetly," says Baldwin. "I asked the customers if they saw the man in uniform, which most had, and asked them if they wanted to write a few words for him on a cocktail napkin. A lot of people did; families did it together, parents got their kids to write something. After the first few rows, I was so choked up that I could barely talk."
When Baldwin surprised Salceto with dozens of hand-written notes, he, too, was speechless. He laid the stack on his lap and read each one. At the same time, the pilots made an announcement about the veteran over the loud speaker, after which the customers on board burst into applause.
"It seems contrived, and I hate using the word organic, but that's what it was; it just happened," Baldwin says. "Mr. Salceto was so loveable and humble, and what he was doing was so incredible, it felt like the right thing to do. And you could tell he was touched."
On June 27, Salceto finally stood before Ferrari's grave and said that long-awaited goodbye. As a trumpeter played "Taps," he unpinned a medal from his jacket and laid it reverently on the headstone.
"I had gotten a Bronze Star for my actions [the night Ferrari died] with a 'V' for valor, and that was the medal I put on Dave's grave," says Salceto, pausing to fight back tears. "I thought he was more deserving of it than I was."
For the first time in years, Salceto felt at peace. His mission was accomplished.