Last updated: 10:00 PM ET, Tue May 12 2015

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  • Tom Bastek | May 12, 2015 10:00 PM ET

    How to Make your Favorite Vacation Dishes at Home

    How to Make your Favorite Vacation Dishes at Home

    Photo courtesy of thinkstock.

    At one time or another, all of us have gone to a restaurant while on vacation and had a dish that was so unique and incredible that we wanted to make it for ourselves at home. The problem is that in the middle of dinner service you aren’t going to be able to pull the ear of the executive chef to get a recipe. More often than not, the chef is probably not going to give up his secrets anyway (for free anyway). So what can you do? Here are a couple of hints that might get you closer to recreating that fantastic dish from your trip.

    Document Everything You Can

    You may be one of those people who takes pictures of your food for social media anyway. If not, this is a great time to start. Because once you have tucked into the meal, the plate will surely not look the same. Also, ask the server for the menu back so you can snap a pic of the description, and make sure to ask the server if there is a special ingredient in there or anything else they can tell you about the dish. 

    Sometimes it is just the flavor that you will need to make it perfect. When you get home, Google not only the name of the recipe but also some of the alternate names for dishes. Many places want their menu to sound different but ordinary folks might not remember the name, and so you have to Google “chilled soup” as well as “gazpacho” as it was listed as on the menu.

    Talk to your Local Chef

    If you have a favorite restaurant that you go into on a regular basis and can pull the ear of that head chef without too much trouble, have a conversation about the dish that you enjoyed. More than likely, he has used a similar technique, has a tip or trick for you, or maybe can help you deconstruct it for you.

    There are even some chefs that will take it as a challenge and try to duplicate it themselves right on the spot. In addition, if the recipe calls for an ingredient that is hard to find or overly obscure, he will be able to give you an idea for a substitution.

    Take a Class

    This is something that you can do while on vacation, not just when you get back. Culinary classes are a lot of fun, and they can give you some great skills and confidence that you might not have had before. Instructors at the culinary schools are also a wealth of knowledge when it comes to dissecting dishes and recipes. Don’t be afraid to ask for help remaking your masterpiece. 

    Have it Shipped

    So you are trying to remake a Shrimp Po-boy from New Orleans when you realize that one of the things that makes the sandwich so good is the bread. And no matter what you are doing, you just can’t replicate Leidenheimer Bakery recipe. But, what you can do is go to the national distribution and find out who carries it locally, and have your favorite chef friend order you up a box of it for the local supplier. Many producers will even ship directly to the consumer's door. It never hurts to ask.

    Google is Your Friend

    At the end of the day, the internet is a vast, wonderful place, and you can find a lot of what you are looking for just by digging deep enough. Scour the reviews on websites like TripAdvisor for people who loved the dish as much you did and reach out to them. Ask them if they ever tried to make it. 

    Look for magazine articles and newspaper columns from the area. Often when these outlets run a story about a restaurant, the chef sometimes puts a recipe in for folks to make at home. It may just be the one you are looking for. And if worse comes to worst, email the chef, tell him all the trouble, trials and tribulation that you have gone through, and ask if you can have the recipe minus one or two ingredients so that you can survive until the next time you are in town to eat there again, keeping his recipe safe in the process.

    Hopefully this has given you a few ideas about replicating your favorite dishes from your travels. What dishes have you made and from where? How did you come up with the recipe? Let me know in the comments below.


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Tom Bastek The Main Course

Tom Bastek Tom is a writer in the Atlanta Area. He has traveled to all 48 continental states and almost every stop in the Caribbean. In addition to Traveling, Tom geeks out on bowling, craft beer, trains, pinball, comic books, sci-fi and playing the tuba. You can get him at and @TravelWriterTom.
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