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10 food trails worth the flight (and the calories)

Courtesy of Kentucky Bourbon Trail via Condé Nast Traveler

To wisely enjoy the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, sign up for a bus tour, such as one run by Mint Julep Tours.

When you're visiting a place famous for a specific dish or type of cuisine — say, barbecue in North Carolina — trying it once isn't enough. You want to sample as many versions of that pork shoulder as possible. We found 10 places around the world where it's easy to sample the local specialty — you only need to get there …

1. Portland Beer Trail
Boasting more breweries than any other city in the world (current tally sits at 51), Portland is a no-brainer for beer lovers. This drag-and-drop map makes it easy to plan your route. Highlights include:

2. Finger Lakes Cheese Trail
New York’s largest wine-producing region is also home to dozens of artisan cheesemakers. You’ll have your pick of straight-from-the-farm wheels and blocks, including French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish-style blends. Base yourself in Wakins Glen or Geneva, rent a car, then head to:

3. Spain's Olive Oil Greenway
Nearly 20 percent of the world’s olive oil (and half of Spain’s) comes from Jaén, in Andalucia. A 34-mile trail called the Vía Verde del Aceite, or Olive Oil Greenway, was once a working railroad that transported olive oil to market. Today, the abandoned rails have been converted into walking and cycling paths that run through half a dozen small towns and into the city of Lucena — surrounded by olive groves the entire way. Bring your bike; the entire trail takes about five hours. A couple of stops along the way:

  • Cortijo El Tobazo, where the Soler Romero family has grown olives since 1850.
  • La Cazuela Andaluza, a small family-run restaurant right off the trail near where the Olive Oil Greenway meets the Ruta de Califato (the path that connects Cordóba to Granada).

4. Kentucky Bourbon Trail 
Bourbon was born in Kentucky, so you might as well go to the source for a tasting. The self-guided trail, designed by the Kentucky Distillers Association, takes visitors to six distilleries (in between Louisville and Lexington), which are easily split into two loops. In terms of transportation, a better-safe-than-sorry option is Mint Julep Tours, which operates bus tours from place to place.

5. North Carolina’s BBQ Trail
The North Carolina Barbecue Society’s Historic Barbecue Trail, which runs from eastern North Carolina down to Tennessee, features 28 of the state’s best pits. Most are down-home eateries that serve moist, tender cuts of pork, with a side of slaw and hushpuppies. You’ll need to drive between stops, so if you only have a day, your best bet is to stay in Chapel Hill — it’s the dividing line between the eastern and western styles (eastern features plain, whole-hog pork with a touch of vinegar-based sauce; western ’cue is always made from dark-meat pork shoulders with a tomato-y sauce). Three to try:

  • Wilber’s for eastern-style, whole-hog BBQ
  • Allen & Son, chopped-only ‘cue in a vinegar-based spicy sauce
  • Stephenson’s for a smoky flavor (the pig spends more than 15 hours cooking)

6. Louisiana's Bayou Bounty Trail
More than 15 restaurants from Lafayette to Morgan City on down to Leeville comprise this lip-smacking trail. Cajun dishes and seafood dominate, of course. What to try:

  • Catfish at the nearly 50-year-old Abears Café in Houma
  • Crab cakes at Café JoJo’s on the river in downtown Morgan City
  • The Orielle de Cochon, a beignet-like pastry stuffed with boudin, at Café Des Amis in Breaux Bridge.
  • All sorts of Tabasco flavors at the McIlhenny family’s Avery Island, where the peppers for the hot sauce are still grown.

7. New Mexico’s Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail 
More than 8,000 people voted for their favorite green-chile cheeseburger to make up this list of the state’s definitive dish. A few highlights from the 66 restaurants and 100 locations that made the cut:

  • Buckhorn Tavern. Its burger beat out Bobby Flay’s on a "Throwdown" episode in 2009.
  • Blake’s Lotaburger, a statewide chain and one of the many diners that claims to have invented the green-chile cheeseburger. As the story goes, customers would order a cheeseburger and bring their own chiles to put on top; eventually, Blake caught on and started serving the burgers that way.
  • The Owl Bar & Café, located in the tiny town of San Antonio. The green chile here is sandwiched between the meat patty and the melted cheese. 

8. Tuscany's Truffle Trail
San Miniato, a small Italian town responsible for a quarter of the country’s white truffle crop, plays host to dozens of truffle-related activities every fall, including festivals and fairs, demonstrations and special restaurant menus celebrating the fungus.

  • Most of the festivities take place on the second, third and fourth weekends of November
  • If you're visiting during another time, get your truffle fix at the Ristorante Canapone in Piazza Bonaparte, which has plenty of truffle dishes on the menu year-round.

9. Maui's Upcountry Trail
Mineral-rich volcanic soil makes Maui’s Upcountry — in the central part of the island, on the slopes of Haleakala — home to some of the island’s best farm-to-table spots. Start near the sugarcane fields lining the volcano, then visit:

  • Surfing Goat Dairy, Hawaii's only award-winning caprine operation. German expats own the 42-acre working goat dairy farm, which produces more than 25 cheeses.
  • Tedeschi vineyards, on the historic grounds of Rose Ranch, where King Kalakaua once came to relax.
  • Alii Kula Lavender Farm, home to some 55,000 lavender plants and 45 different varieties of lavender, olive trees, hydrangea, and protea blooming on 10.5 acres.  
  • Oo Farm, a private estate that grows and supplies food for Lahaina restaurants PacificO, IO, and the Feast at Lele
  • The Haliimaile General Store from Beverly Gannon, one of the original chefs behind the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement.

10. Vancouver's Sushi & Seafood Trail
It’s no wonder the city that introduced Greenpeace and the "100 Mile Diet" (a book touting the benefits of eating locally and sustainably) is also home to one of the world’s most sustainable seafood industries. Here’s where to stuff yourself:

  • GoFish on Granville Island for local spot prawns and fish tacos. The restaurant is located at Fisherman’s Wharf, where you’ll see fishermen selling the shrimp right off their boats.
  • C restaurant, the first eatery in the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise conservation program, which partners with local restaurants to help them provide sustainable seafood.
  • Tojo’s Seafood, where the California roll was supposedly invented.
  • Kirin, for Chinese takes on jellyfish, clams and sea urchin, many of them caught locally.

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