Our first interview of 2015 was recently granted to Flavorful World by Corianna Lehrman of the food and travel blog Corianna Goes Cross Country. As a longtime admirer of Corianna’s blog, and as an eater who hasn’t dined or drunk in nearly as many countries as I would like to have done by this point in my life, Corianna’s gorgeously-photographed record of global culinary adventures really awakens my inner wandering foodie. She talked with me on a variety of fun topics, including how travel has influenced her cooking style, how signature food-/dining-style can lend character to a city, and her affection for the Vietnamese soup Pho.
Flavorful World: On your blog you speak affectionately of your grandfather and the things he brought away from his travel and professional experiences that inform his cooking style. What three things have you brought away from your extensive travels that you feel best translate through your cooking, and in what three locales did you acquire them?
Shopping. Shop at specialty grocery stores, get produce from the Farmer’s Market, and drive the extra miles to get your favorite cheese at a cheese shop. This habit comes from France, and the notion of visiting the local markets or marchés, where you would go for your weekly ingredients.
Recipes. Experiment with rigorous recipes that take you all day to create. A memory of this? My best friend, best friends’ mom and my mom made every single recipe from Mimi Thorrison’s Picture-Perfect Dinner Party in France, Bon Appétit’s winter 2013 issue. We cooked and shared stories all day, and at the end of the day, hosted a meal for both of our families. Put in the extra time, I promise you will feel exponentially happier when sharing the meal with friends and family over a class of good wine. I most likely picked this up from my Mom, so my hometown of Vienna, Virginia, right outside of Washington, D.C. Even when my mom had an 8-hour workday, she would come home and put a four-course meal on the table.
Dare to mix. The other night, I went to a cooking class at Southern Season. I was in disbelief about the number of participants who had never tasted couscous. Never had a potato latke. Never had a leek. When I grocery shop, I do a fun experiment that I urge you to try. Switch up your routine. Do you always buy Oreo’s? Try Walkers Shortbread. Do you always buy storage onions? Try a shallot. Constantly have pork chops in your cart? Try veal. This is a habit that I have picked up from all my travels, the idea of expanding your horizons.
FW: What is your usual go-to comfort food when cooking for yourself, and why? What is your usual go-to cuisine when dining out, and why?
CL: When cooking for myself, my comfort food is cold soba noodles, peanut sauce, and chives with a few peanuts on top. It is so easy to make, and so refreshing. When dining out – hands down, Pho. I am obsessed with Pho. I usually crave it 2-3 times a week. It’s a necessity in my diet.
FW: You’ve written of how the vibe at Parisian cafes lend a certain character to the city of Paris. Tell us about a U.S. city with a signature food-/dining-related style and character that impressed you, and what aspect(s) made it the most memorable.
CL: En plein air. Of course, you can only do this where there is fabulous weather, but eating outside is a treat. Ever have oysters on a busy cobblestone street? Tilapia while looking at the dolphins splashing in the sunset? A French brunch at an outdoor community table? Dining al fresco lends itself perfectly to the Charleston climate. You get to enjoy two wonderful things: fresh air and delicious food.
FW: As a self-described olive gourmand, tell us your favorite dish that prominently features olives, what kind(s) of olives are utilized, and what characteristics you look for when tasting or purchasing olives.
CL: Homemade Kalamata bread – got the recipe from a favorite cookbook, My Little Paris Kitchen.I do not discriminate when it comes to olives. For this reason, I frequently visit the olive bar and stock up.
FW: You cite planning travel itineraries (often for others) as your favorite pastime. Tell us what five-day itineraries you’d create for each of the following three traveler scenarios, and why you chose those locales: An extrovert seeking sun, sand, and ceviche; a wine-loving caseophile with an artistic nature; a history buff who loves bbq/charcuterie.
Extrovert seeking sun, sand, and ceviche. A trip to Barcelona – enjoy the ocean views, ceviche (and paella). Days spent tanning on a nude beach, and nights spent drinking sangria in candlelit cafés. Mornings walking along the sand, followed by a well-deserved chocolate churro.
A wine-loving caseophile with an artistic nature. You may not be surprised, but of course, I recommend France. Spend your days visiting your favorite artists’ masterpieces, followed by nights at wine caves. Visit each arrondissement and stock up on cheese, then immediately take the cheese and visit a park in that arrondissement. Spend the entire day there, drinking wine, eating cheese and enjoying life.
A history buff who loves BBQ/charcuterie. Again, biased, but in all seriousness, the Carolinas. First shot of civil war? Check. Gorgeous antebellum mansions? Check. BBQ? Check! My favorite is JB’s Smokeshack, a bit off the beaten path. This beaten path will lead you through roads laced with gorgeous oak trees to a heavenly BBQ mecca. The area lends itself to a specific style of BBQ know as Carolina style. The classic combination is chili, slaw and onions; locally, mustard sometimes replaces slaw, or is added as a fourth item.
FW: Your new City Guide feature is beautifully photographed and offers extensive info on the best that Charleston, SC has to offer. What other City Guides are in the works that we might look forward to in the near future?
CL: Thank you! Stay tuned for Austin, TX, Washington, D.C., New York City, Paris and Boston.
FW: Which do you feel will have the greater influence on the travels you have yet to take: the foods you’ve enjoyed on your journeys thus far, or the past destinations you’ve chosen? How will this inform your future eating excursions and blogging?
CL: What a tough question – it has to be a mixture of both, but if I had to choose, I would say the destination. The way I go about traveling is I plan the destinations, and then according to the destinations and the agenda of my day, plan the restaurants accordingly, whether they are en route to my next location, or near a specific monument. Planning is key.
FW: Excluding the name of any of your pre-existing blogs, websites, or print/online personas, tell us what name you would give to your memoir about your culinary exploits?
CL: “Ingredients from Mom.” My mom is the one that gave me the travel and eating bug. It isn’t the recipes I have taken from her; it is the ingredients. My love of dining came at a young age, from tearing through Zagat’s with her on our annual trip to New York. My love of traveling came about the same way: my mom is always researching the “hot-spots.” She still goes to the library before we go on a trip, to check out a handful of books on the locale, along with tearing out magazine articles, and word of mouth of people who have been, which all curates into a perfectly planned trip.
FW: When you aren’t cooking and/or eating delicious foods and traveling to exotic locales, how do you most enjoy spending your time?
CL: I enjoy practicing yoga and horseback riding – after all, you’ve got to find something that counters all the delicious food you’re eating : )
* Note to Readers: Want to see where Corianna’s ongoing culinary travel adventures will take her next? Sure you do. Why wouldn’t you? So, check her out at www.coriannagoesxc.com or follow her edible exploits on Twitter.