The best thing about traveling for the holidays?
Well, it’s seeing family and friends you’ve neglected for too long, of course. But I mean what’s the next best thing, after that?
It’s buying local – from their local. Call it distant local, I guess, this habit of finding a whole new set of grown and produced – and fermented – products that aren’t available in your own stomping ground.
Over Christmas weekend, we drove from Pensacola to Elberta, Ala.’s little cheese shop, sampled the homebrews at Pensacola Bay Brewery, and snacked on satsumas plucked straight from the trees. It was more than being like a kid in a candy shop. It was like being a kid in a candy shop you’d never been in before, with giant bins full of sugar, chocolate and stuff made from powdered unicorn horns. (OMG, are those really square candies that look round?)
When we’re on the coast, we’ve been known to pack an ice chest with 20 pounds or more of shrimp from local boats to take home. I remember being amazed, one holiday weekend, to turn around in the queue at Joe Patti’s and see my coworker Mike a few places behind me. He was visiting family in Pensacola too and had the same idea. Because, you know, we’re both pretty much geniuses.
Now I don’t want to overstate the coolness of this. I mean, ever notice that when you go to a
junk shop resell store in a different town, the stuff all seems cooler than the stuff you find on your town’s dusty shelves? That may be a little bit of what’s going on here. Sure, I can buy delicious goat cheese made here (or near). But the Sweet Home Farm cheese shop sells their special Perdido cheese – a hard, sharp, pale cheese with a streak of blue, or bleu, or whatever deliciousness they name it, down the center. It’s made from milk from their own antibiotic-free Guernseys fed on pesticide-free grass. That finally answers this question, I guess:
We’ve found ferreting out the special little places like this while you’re traveling both a whole lot of fun and a great way to spend time talking and noshing with the family. And if you happen to be in Pensacola doing this, grab a seat at Pensacola Bay Brewery and plot your next move over a pint of the Napoleon Complex Imperial IPA.