Compiled By June Naylor and Babs Rodriguez
Some travelers plan their itineraries around museums; others set their sights on hiking trails; and there are those who follow historical paths, stake out sandy stretches or shop till they drop. We like all of that, but we just can’t do it on an empty stomach. And why would we? There are a lot of tasty traveling options out there that are well worth the calories. We never get fed up with that.
Louisiana pit stop
Driving to Destin for your summer beach trip? The best overnight en route lies just off I–12 (less crowded than I–10, bypassing New Orleans traffic) in sophisticated Covington. The village, in St. Tammany Parish, on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain, is home to the Southern Hotel, where a spectacular renovation of the 1937 post office building next door resulted in the new Garden House. A beautiful 1939 WPA mural by artist Xavier Gonzales was preserved, along with pristine terrazzo floors. Garden House rooms and suites bear notes of 1940s elegance, with flora and fauna in upholstery and wallpaper, and there are delightful nooks, crannies and patios for relaxing over a book and a drink. Walk next door across the brick courtyard to the hotel’s seductive Cypress Bar for a cocktail amid murals of historic Covington and on to Oxlot 9, where chef Jeffrey Hansell’s dishes rival those in famous dining rooms across the lake in NOLA. 428 E. Boston St., Covington, Louisiana, 844-866–1907, southernhotel.com.
Hotel dining redefined
They had our attention at 11 dining concepts. The Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi opens July 1, stretching villas, cabanas and a remarkably diverse selection of dining and bar options over three private atolls. Dining with Indian Ocean views is a given, but treetop tables add something extra. Multicourse dinners with wine pairings are served at Terra, seven bamboo pods in the jungle canopy — six for dining à deux and one large enough for a family of four. Back on earth, The Rock is a wine cave boasting a communal table carved from a single 200-year-old Australian timber where a dozen guests may order from a wine menu of 700 labels including special releases and rare vintages. Head for noodle restaurant Tangled to sample handmade xiaolongbao, its signature soup dumplings, and be transported to another age at Yasmeen, built as a traditional Arabian villa with centuries-old doors and windows and a 100-year-old bread oven. Tasty fun fact: The Maldives’ first wood-fired oven — for Peking duck — creates a gotta-go enticement at Li Long, a restaurant on stilts above the waves. Lest you think anything is ho-hum, know that The Ledge, a poolside bar and grill, is helmed by Michelin-starred chef Dave Pynt of Singapore’s Burnt Ends. Finally, raise a glass to the still and sparkling water produced on premises as part of the hotel’s sustainability efforts. All 122 accommodations, some accessible only by boat, have access to a 107,000-square-foot spa, a water park, water sports center and more. Prices start at $1,700 per night (spa treatments and some activities are extra). For more info and reservations, visit waldorfastoria3.hilton.com and search Maldives.
Big sky, big eats
Sprawling across 37,000 acres near Missoula, the Montana resort called Paws Up provides everything you could want in a ranch escape, from horseback riding and trout fishing to spa indulgences. Even better, it’s a mecca for foodies, thanks to fabulous wine weekends featuring noted vintners and menus from new executive chef Sunny Jin, a veteran of fine dining from Napa’s French Laundry to Spain’s El Bulli. Throughout the summer, it’s all about eating under the big sky, starting with its renowned “long table” dinners, such as Taste of Montana, June 13-16. The weekend promises a local seasonal al fresco spread beside the Blackfoot River, as well as a guided hike with the chef and a mixology class on an island. (Other long table events happen July 20 and Aug. 24.) You can ramp up grilling skills at BBQ-U, July 12-14, when Georgia cooking legend Sam Huff leads a three-day barbecue course, complete with sides of feasting, live music, craft beer, lawn games and ranch adventures. Rates start at $510 per person per night based on two adults and two children in one of the resort’s Meadow Homes lodgings. For details call 866-627-6614 or visit pawsup.com.
Mexico, by the book
To peruse the pages of the newly released Mercados: Recipes From the Markets of Mexico (University of Texas Press, $60) is to meander through the colorful market stalls in cities from Guanajuato to Oaxaca to Zacatecas to Merida — and many more. Following in the footsteps of the book’s late author, David Sterling — his previous tome, Yucatan: Recipes From a Culinary Expedition, won two James Beard Awards in 2015 — you’re swept up in the heritage of Mexico’s rich diversity. While it’s technically a cookbook, the greater purpose of Mercados is to convey how deeply particular foods shape a culture. Within its 568 pages are almost 600 color photographs that bring to life the markets, their ingredients and the people who’ve made them essential since pre-Columbian times and continue to do so today. Order from utpress.utexas.edu/books/sterling-mercados or amazon.com.