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The 8 BEST Islands for Food! via [msnbc.com]

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Get out there and eat! Where to dine, cook, drink and fete

By Megan Padilla

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It’s the catch phrase of the gourmet traveler: “You haven’t tasted
real oysters (substitute tzatiki, pad Thai) until you’ve tried
them on Jersey (substitute Santorini, Ko Samui). But it’s true:
Although we have access to international food
in our big-city restaurants, nothing compares to going straight to the
source. We’ve searched the globe for some of the best food experiences
that the world’s islands have to offer. And we have to confess that
while we did it, we got pretty hungry. Plus, it brought a flood of
memories to each and every one of us, from the Caribbean
(potato-and-lentil-stuffed roti) to the Aegean (creamy buffalo
mozzarella with sliced tomatoes ripe off the vine, drizzled with pale
green first-pressed olive oil). Get out there and eat.

Ko Samui, Thailand


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If you only know one Thai dish, it’s probably pad Thai. But just as
we promised, you’ve never really eaten pad Thai until you’ve tried it
from a street vendor in Thailand. Continue to expand your palate on Ko
Samui off the east coast of Thailand. If you don’t speak the language,
your best bet is to recruit and trust local Samuians to take you to
their favorite restaurants, perhaps Bangpo Seafood in the Mae Nam area,
where seafood, fresh or dried, and coconuts find their way into nearly
every dish. Start with khoei jii, an appetizer that’s made
from shrimp paste, shallots, garlic, coconut meat and ground chilies
spread on a coconut shell and then grilled.

Then there’s a thick stir-fry made with waay, small
octopuses that are used fresh or dried, coconut milk and fresh herbs.
But we think you’ll have the most fun signing on for one of the Samui
Institute of Thai Culinary Arts’, or SITCA’s, daily two-and-half-hour cooking classes where you start by shopping in the
local markets for items you’d be hard-pressed to find at home, such as
the carrot-length, bright-green veggie the locals call “stink bean.”
Best of all, at the end of the session you get to feast on it all.
Learn different dishes every day, or if you really want to tackle Thai
food, take SITCA’s 12-day intensive course, offered every month and
limited to four students. Rates for the half-day sessions are about
$50. www.sitca.net; www.samuitourism.com

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

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Isla Mujeres, just off the coast of Cancun, is one of our favorite
islands on which to taste authentic guacamole, fresh, flame-grilled
seafood, salsas and more.

Is it just us or do you, too, get intense cravings for authentic
Mexican guacamole at least twice a day? You know the stuff: fresh
avocados mashed in a stone bowl with tangy lime, sea salt, cilantro and
garlic. Isla Mujeres, just off the coast of Cancun, is one of our
favorite islands on which to taste this concoction. But let’s not sell
the island short; it also excels at tikin xic, a Maya recipe for fish flame-grilled to perfection. Try it
near Playa Lancheros on Isla’s south coast (bring at least three
hungry friends to split one fish).

The island is also known for its ceviche mixto – a little
bit of everything from the sea. Raw fish and shellfish are chopped into
tiny pieces and marinated in lime juice, which effectively “cooks” the
fish, and then chilies, tomato, garlic and other spices are added. It
is often served with fried corn tortilla chips; you can smell the hot
corn wafting in the air. Order the ceviche at Picus Cocteleria right on
the Caribbean Sea close to the ferry terminal. If you’ve had enough
fish, head instead to the taquerias scattered about downtown
(we recommend Super Taqueria Medina, which offers five different salsas
at your table and has an excellent rotisserie). www.islamujeresturismo.com

Oahu, Hawaii

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When you travel to Oahu, you have arrived at the culinary
epicenter of the Pacific-Asian world. In Honolulu you’ll find
Asian-based dishes with a bit of Americana (dare we say, SPAM) thrown
in, as well as an island twist based on local ingredients. Join Hawaii Food Tours’
Hole-in-the-Wall Tour ( www.hawaiifoodtours.com;
rates from $99). It’s offered every day but Sunday and is your chance
to taste the treats that local chefs seek on their day off. You might
try a Hawaiian plate lunch, Chinese dumplings, pastries, Thai noodles,
barbecued meat satay, Vietnamese summer rolls, Bento Boxes or crack
seed, a snack of dehydrated fruit that was introduced by the first
Chinese plantation workers.

Slideshow:
The heart of Hawaii

But for strictly Hawaiian fare, don’t miss Helena’s Hawaiian Foods,
where the menu hasn’t changed much in 60 years. Order the

pipikaula

ribs. These double-thick, kalbi-cut beef short ribs are salted,
air-dried and cooked so they are crispy on the outside and juicy inside.

www.visit-oahu.com

Sicily, Italy

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An
informal poll of ISLANDS editors shows that Sicily is the island that
most ignites the four-o’clock hunger
pains. It’s a landscape best experienced by taste, where trees produce
olives that wind up as delicate oils; almonds and pistachios find
their way into pastries; and juicy white plums are made into preserves.
The earth yields ripe melons eaten in spring, ruby-red strawberries
best enjoyed with a bit of aged balsamic vinegar, and tender grapes
that are crafted into biodynamic wines. And that’s just the beginning.
We haven’t even gotten to the cheese, the fish or the pasta.

Hands down, Sicily is our land of milk and honey. No matter where you
travel on the island, the largest in the Mediterranean, you’re going
to eat well. After all, Sicily is divided into 20 regions that all
participate in Slow Food, the 21-year-old, Italian-founded organization
that is committed to the connection between the pleasure of food and
its origins; www.slowfood.com.
If your island dream means you cook as well as eat, then head for the
island’s heart, midway between Palermo on the north and Agrigento on the
south, and into the kitchen of cookbook author Anna Tasca Lanza on her
family’s 1,200-acre country estate and winery, Regaleali-Tasca
d’Almerita; www.absoluteitalia.com.
After dinner, stay overnight and enjoy a cooking demonstration the
next day. Or come for five days to cook, shop, walk the countryside and
dine in village trattorias. www.italiantourism.com

Jersey, Channel Islands

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We know that everyone’s island dream is unique. If yours
is to eat, then start planning a trip to Jersey where nearly 200
restaurants, four annual food festivals and regular farmers markets make
eating a year-round sport. Go there at your fighting weight and let
your hedonistic impulses run free: Never skimp on the rich butter and
cream from Jersey’s eponymous cows, always take a helping of the
delicate Jersey Royal new potatoes, say yes to your third round of Royal
Bay oysters, and order lobster tail for lunch.

This southernmost English Channel Island is nearer to France than
England, and its position in the path of the warm Gulf Stream creates an
abundance of seafood, particularly shellfish. Hence, a favorite saying
in Jersey French: Du paisson dait nagi trais fais: dans la me,
dans l’beurre et dans l’vin
.” Fish should swim three times: in the
sea, in butter and in wine.” A great time to visit is during the Out
of the Blue Maritime Festival (July 7-8) for a weekend of seafood, sea
shanties, street theater and alfresco dining, plus a special-edition
farmers market featuring the neighbors’ Norman-French products, such as
foie gras, honey, cheese, candles and Calvados. It’s also a good place
to try des mervelles, better known as “Jersey wonder,”
deep-fried twisted-shape cakes that, in accordance with custom, are
never made on a rising tide. www.jersey.com

Penang, Malaysia

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Warning:
If you love noodles but want to watch your carbs, tread carefully in
Malaysia. There you’ll find a noodle dish called mee goreng.
It’s a melting pot of flavors made spicy with chili peppers and
seasoned with garlic, onion and curry powder. It’s highly addictive and
ubiquitously available, mostly from the hawker stalls along the roads
of Penang, the epicenter if Malaysian cuisine that is a fusion of
Chinese, Indian and Malay – all groups represented on the island.

At these stalls, graze your way through dozens of dishes, sometimes
served on banana-leaf plates: Taste satays, thin slices of skewered
charcoal-cooked meats whose flavors explode in your mouth; char kway
teow
, stir fried rice noodles with egg, spring onions and shrimp
prepared with curry paste in hot oil; popiah, a fresh spring
roll filled with raw and cooked vegetables; and roti canai, a
chewy Indian flatbread served with lentil curry. Don’t miss the pasar
malam
, or night market, in George Town where you can shop and
eat, or the fishing village of Kuala Jalan Bahru for a bowl of assam
laksa
, a tangy fish soup with noodles topped with shredded
pineapple, sliced green chilies and fresh mint. www.tourismpenang.gov.my

St. Martin, French West Indies

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Who
says you have to cross the big pond for authentic French cuisine? We
say go south to the French West Indies in the Caribbean, including St.
Martin and Guadeloupe. Half of St. Martin is a property of the French
government. And though the island’s other half, St. Maarten, is a Dutch
holding, dining a la mode francais is very much alive on both
sides of the island. An evening-long, five-course meal is par for the
course. French creole specialties intermingle with local fish and
vegetables, including taro, pumpkin and coconut, but traditional Old
World fare like boudin sausage (blood sausage) and rack of lamb
is widely available.

Try the lamb in brik, a North African Arab-inspired dish of
lamb cooked in spices for seven hours then tucked into a turnover. It’s
known as Shank of Lamb at Sol’E Luna in Mount Vernon on the French
side. As in Europe, bistro dining is popular here, but like the many
haute eateries around the island, they can be expensive. The best bet
for quick, cheap (yet skillfully prepared) food is one of the many lolos,
or food shacks, lining the beaches, where you can eat grilled fish and
jerked meats. The best lolos are on the piers at Grand Case on the
north shore. www.st-martin.org;
www.st-maarten.com

Guadeloupe, French West Indies

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Cooking traditions run deep on Guadeloupe,
where Gallic colonists first arrived in 1815. One of the best ways to
sample Guadeloupe’s superior French technique is at the Fete des
Cuisinieres, a festival celebrating the island’s traditional women
cooks, held each August since 1916 on the Saturday closest to the feast
day of the patron saint of cooks, Saint Laurent.

Among the delights are bountiful seafood towers of crawfish and
lobster as well as foods demonstrating strong culinary influences of
East Indian, Arab and African migrants to the region, influences that
include the prodigious and sometimes painful use of hot pepper and colombe,
the local name for curry, which was brought here by East Indians and
is a staple ingredient in island cooking. In fact, colombe de
poulet
, or chicken curry, is often considered the island’s
“national” dish. Try it at Pipirite’s in the heart of Basse-Terre’s
jungle. If you want to try to recreate the flavors found on the island,
then don’t miss a visit to the Marche des Epices, the spice market in
Point-a-Pitre. www.lesilesdeguadeloupe.com




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