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On the Road
On the Road with Cook’s Country: Test Cook Natalie Estrada’s Ultimate Road Trip
The newest member of the Cook's Country team loves the diverse cuisines you can find in the States. Burmese food, anyone?
07-31-2018
Ashley Delma

AT COOK’S COUNTRY, WE’RE big fans of road trips. For the last decade, our team has traveled all around the country in search of the very best traditional and down-home fare. We've visited small towns and big cities, home kitchens and busy restaurants, truck stops and taco trucks. Why? To bring recipes that have flown under the national radar back to the test kitchen and then to Cook’s Country magazine, so anyone can recreate the best in American fare at home—no matter where they live.

Since we love stories—and food—from the road, I reached out to our Cook’s Country team to ask them about their ultimate, no-limitations road trip.

Today’s dream trip comes from the most recent addition to the Cook’s Country team, Natalie Estrada. While she’s new to our team, she’s not new to the world of cooking. She’s had stints at Pujol in Mexico City and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown, New York. Here’s where she would go on her ultimate trip, what she would listen to, and most importantly, what she would eat.

Natalie Estrada

What are your top 5 must-visit destinations and what are you eating when you get there?

I’m starting out in Seattle, Washington, to get myself some oysters and check out the scene there. Seattle is up and coming and really quirky, so I know I’ll have a good time just exploring this city. There are a few restaurants—Manolin, Lark, and Altura—where I’d love to grab a bite. It would be rude of me to leave Seattle without stopping by ChefSteps to visit a good friend of mine who works there. 

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Next, I’ll head to Portland, Oregon, to check out some of the really fun dive bars they’ve got out there. The last time I was in Portland was for New Year’s and I went to this bar called The Good Foot. It was a really, really great time. While I’m there, I want to get some Spanish and Catalan cuisine from Ataula and some wood-fired pizza from Lucca. They have the best pizza ever!

I always have a good time when I’m out west, so I have to make my third stop the longest of my trip. I’m driving to the Bay Area in California. I’ll start off in Bodega Bay and get some fresh seafood. Then, I’ll head to Napa Valley to visit some vineyards like Honig and Rombauer. One big thing in the valley that I love is that no matter where you go, people are really invested in hospitality. I’ve never had a bad experience tasting wine out in the valley.

One big thing in the valley that I love is that no matter where you go, the people are really invested in hospitality.

After a few glasses of wine, my designated driver and I will head to San Francisco for some Burmese food. It’s very hard to explain what kind of cuisine it is specifically, but in summary it draws inspiration from Middle Eastern, Indian, and other east Asian influences. Besides getting Burmese food, I want to grab a bite to eat at The Progress, Lazy Bear, and State Bird Provisions. I’d also like to check out a few classic places like Greens Restaurant and Nopa. To finish off my time in the Bay area, I’ll have a picnic with a bottle of wine I grabbed from one of the vineyards in the Great Meadow Park in Fort Mason or Crissy Field. I just want to relax and enjoy my view of the Golden Gate Bridge before having to hit the road again.

Before leaving California, I have to make a stop in Los Angeles. The food scene in L.A. is truly something else. There are so many different things to do and places to eat in this city. I will stop at different taco spots and anywhere that serves Guatemalan food. My parents are originally from Guatemala, so I love when I can get a taste of something that reminds me of home.

Once I’m reenergized, I’ll journey to Miami, Florida, for legitimate Cuban food. There’s this quintessential place called Versailles there that was in that movie Chef. Everyone rants and raves about it. Still, I think the best place to go in Miami for Cuban food is this restaurant called El Palacio de Los Jugos. You’ll find everything there from sandwiches to traditional desserts.

Who are you bringing along?

My best friend of ten years, Elena. She’s not a person that needs to rush through everything. She’s a go-with-the-flow type of person, which is great—especially when it comes to road trips.

Elena and Natalie
Natalie (right) with her best friend Elena (left) in front of America's Test Kitchen headquarters.

What will you be jamming to while on the road?

A little bit of Echo and the Bunnymen because I love ‘80s music. I’ll also play some tunes by Sade, Alabama Shakes, Celia Cruz, and Bright Eyes. This is the typical music I listen to every day, but it’s also a combination of the stuff I grew up with.

Any car snacks?

Healthy snacks like a crudité platter or fresh veggies and hummus.  My hope is that these snacks will combat all of the bad things I’ll be eating on this trip. I’ll allow the occasional beef jerky.   

What are you bringing back with you from this road trip?

Probably a tortilla press from L.A. from the Vernon Market. Everything is super cheap there!

Cook's Country Takes America

The Cook's Country team is inspired by the home cooks and regional dishes in every region of the country—and we're determined to get to know them all. View this article to read about where we've been, what we've eaten, and how you can recreate our favorite regional dishes at home.

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