Where to Eat and Drink Now

Charleston, South Carolina 
Charleston’s emergence as a food capital has occurred at a leisurely but steady pace. Founded in 2006, the Charleston Wine + Food festival, an event the influential food writer John T. Edge called “a laboratory for what Southern food is becoming,” helped train the spotlight on a generation of chefs – including Sean Brock of McCrady’s (2 Unity Alley) and Mike Lata of The Ordinary (544 King Street) – who are taking Lowcountry staples such as blue crab and Hoppin’ John in fresh and surprising directions.
 
“The scene is like Brooklyn in the South,” says Suzy Xiu, a New York City-based Virtuoso travel advisor and culinary traveler. “There are a lot of sleek places and modern design rather than the old traditional restaurants you might expect.”
 
Farm-fresh produce and just caught fish are never far from tables in a city of just 134,000 residents. Those local ingredients shine at the recently opened Sorghum & Salt (186 Coming Street) in dishes such as collard green tagliatelle with shrimp sausage. Join the queue for ’cue at the new Rodney Scott’s BBQ (1011 King Street), from the legendary pitmaster. Enjoy a progressive lunch at Workshop (1503 King Street), an “exploratory food court” with stalls from Vietnamese food truck Pink Bellies (featured on our cover) and Tex-Mex specialist Juan Luis. Xiu also suggests a nightcap while watching classic black-and-white movies projected on the wall at The Belmont (511 King Street).
 
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In the city’s historic center, the 435-room Belmond Charleston Place is itself a culinary destination, with five bars and restaurants led by its signature Charleston Grill. There, chef Michelle Weaver caters to varied tastes with a four-part menu ranging from ocean trout with caponata, blood orange, and olives to a Lowcountry “muddle” of shrimp, crab, bass, and grits.
Fried catfish sandwiches at Rodney Scott’s BBQ in Charleston.
Photo by Andrew Cebulka
Auckland, New Zealand
Auckland doesn’t just have to compete for attention with the beauty of New Zealand’s countryside, globally broadcast by The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It also gets unfairly lumped in with Australia’s big cities, and some old stereotypes have tarnished its culinary reputation.
 
“New Zealand food used to be known as ‘cooking from your English grandma’s kitchen’ – not great or tasty,” says Lynda Turley, a Virtuoso advisor based in Saratoga, California. “But the scene has dramatically changed, and this striking destination known for its adventure travel and natural attractions has now become a mecca for foodies and oenophiles.”
 
That gastronomic awakening has taken place beyond the popular sauvignon blancs of the Marlborough region. The reinvented Kiwi cuisine – forged by a crew of chefs determined to cook from New Zealand’s volcanic soil and seafood-rich surrounding waters – is evident throughout the country, but most concentrated in Auckland. New in town is Pasture (235 Parnell Road), where chef Ed Verner pickles vegetables, ages butter, and cooks over an open flame for just 20 diners at a time, while his wife, maître d’ Laura Verner, expertly pairs wines and creative cocktails. From legendary chef Gareth Stewart, Fish (Prince’s Wharf ) is Turley’s pick for sustainable seafood. And don’t miss the 40-minute ferry ride to Waiheke Island for tastings at its many vineyards: Turley recommends Mudbrick (126 Church Bay Road), with its “romantic winery restaurant” and casual Archive Bar and Bistro, a recent addition to the estate.
 
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A cruise ship is a natural way to call on the City of Sails, which is frequently included on Australia and New Zealand itineraries. Viking Ocean Cruises’ 15-day, two-country voyage aboard the 930-passenger Viking Spirit visits several Aussie culinary highlights, including Sydney and Melbourne, finishing up in Auckland (be sure to have your travel advisor book Viking’s three-hour tasting tour excursion). Adding a two-night post-cruise extension in the city allows for plenty of unrushed grazing.
 
Pasture’s maître d’ Laura Verner mixes things up.
Photo by Aaron McLean
José Ignacio, Uruguay
The willowy models strolling the strands of Punta del Este, Uruguay’s coastal hub, are hardly billboards for good eating. But continue another 20 miles east to José Ignacio, and you’ll find a series of beachfront restaurants where tables stuck in the sand encourage daylong noshing.
 
“José Ignacio is to Uruguayans as the Hamptons are to New Yorkers,” says Caroline Wallace, a Virtuoso advisor from Richmond, Virginia, who’s visited the town six times in the past five years. “It’s known as a chic retreat from the city, with a barefoot elegance and killer restaurants where time doesn’t matter. You go for a late lunch and stay through sunset cocktails.”
 
It’s also just 20 miles away from the inland village of Garzón, where Bodega Garzón (Route 9, kilometer 175 ), from global vintner Alejandro Bulgheroni, recently added a 170,000-square-foot winery and an eatery overseen by the celebrated Argentine chef Francis Mallmann. Sample the winery’s bold tannat, Uruguay’s rich, signature red, then head into the village for a meal at Mallmann’s flagship, El Garzón (Costa José Ignacio, 20401). “It’s amazing and the place to dine,” says Wallace.
 
While on the shore, order the grilled catch of the day at casually hip Parador La Huella (Playa Brava), the town’s best-known beach camp-cum-restaurant. Nearby, watch the sunset at La Susana (20402 José Ignacio, Maldonado Department) over whitefish ceviche and a Moroccan mojito made with green tea.
 
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Estancia Vik José Ignacio offers 4,000 acres on which to roam and ride horseback. Each of its 12 suites is decorated by a Uruguayan artist, and the boutique retreat features its own traditional parrilla, or barbecue restaurant.
Bodega Garzón’s vineyards
Portland, Maine 
The largest city in “Vacationland” combines access to the bounty of the sea with an urban flair for experimentation. Those lobster boats and fishing trawlers stationed in downtown’s Casco Bay harbor are more than Instagram stars – they’re working vessels, supplying fresh seafood to local chefs and the warren of portside restaurants along cobblestoned streets.
 
“Portland is quintessential New England: historic buildings, a seaside setting, and outstanding seafood,” says Myrna Arroyo, a Virtuoso advisor and certified sommelier based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who visits Portland every summer. “It’s been revitalized, but it’s not a resort; it’s real.”
 
Her first stop is always Eventide Oyster Co. (86 Middle Street), a contemporary oyster bar with dozens of bivalve varieties, as well as venturesome dishes such as lobster stew with coconut and green curry. The bar overlooking the open kitchen at Central Provisions (414 Fore Street), from owners Chris and Paige Gould, offers the best views of bluefin tuna crudo and linguiça and clams in the works. Away from the downtown waterfront in the West End neighborhood, newcomer Little Giant (211 Danforth Street) applies local ingredients to European dishes.

Breweries add another tasty draw, from Portland’s long-standing Shipyard Brewing Company (86 Newbury Street) to small-batch master Rising Tide Brewing Company (103 Fox Street), which makes Daymark, an American pale ale, with local rye.
 
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At the 61-room beachfront Inn by the Sea on Cape Elizabeth, seven miles south of Portland, chef Andrew Chadwick specializes in sustainable and underutilized seafood in dishes such as roast hake; his hit lobster tacos also come with the assurance that lobsters are plentiful in these parts. Twelve new two-bedroom cottage suites include living rooms, fireplaces, and full kitchens.
A beer flight from Rising Tide Brewing Company.
Tel Aviv, Israel 
Israel’s second-largest city, Tel Aviv serves as the country’s tech center. Compared to historic Jerusalem, “Tel Aviv is the new Israel,” says Virtuoso advisor Fallon Hirschhorn of New York City. “It’s super laid-back, casual, warm, and friendly – an amazing hub for Middle Easterners.”
 
That tone transfers to the tables where shared plates are common and flavors span the Mediterranean and Middle East. “You’ll find a food scene with restaurants dishing out 18-seat tasting menus and 20- to 25-year old chefs being discovered on Instagram,” Hirschhorn adds.
 
The success of London-based Israeli-British chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author Yotam Ottolenghi in popularizing Israeli cuisine globally has paved the way for other vegetable-and-spice champions. Local celebrity chef Eyal Shani, often called the “king of cauliflower” for his whole-head preparation, has announced plans to bring his street-food-focused, pita-centric Miznon (30 King George Street) to New York City. Open just two nights a week, his HaSalon (8 Ma’avar Yabok) is considered his lab for new ideas. Another chef to watch is Omer Miller, who recently expanded his burger joint Susu and Sons (6 Herzl Street) and opened Calypso (Frishman Beach), a seaside seafood spot.
 
“On the other end of the spectrum, visit the stalls at Carmel Market (HaCarmel Street), which is a melting pot for the region’s flavors,” says Hirschhorn. “You can buy anything from spices to candy there to bring home.”
 
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Three nights in Tel Aviv provide ample time to explore the city’s cuisine during a private, nine-day culinary-themed tour of Israel with Artisans of Leisure. Highlights include a visit to the traditional Levinsky Market and a hands-on cooking class in the home of a local chef.
Toronto, Canada 
Toronto likes to call itself “Canada’s downtown,” a reference to its urban density and cultural multiplicity. Roughly half of the city’s residents were born outside Canada, and, from Chinatown denizens to newly arrived Syrians, they speak some 140 languages and dialects. Around the city lies the agricultural bounty of Ontario, including its heritage wheat fields and Niagara wine region. All of this contributes to a great ethnic stew of good eats and drinks.
 
“Toronto is the New York of Canada, the country’s largest city, so there’s lots of diversity reflected in its food,” says advisor Suzy Xiu.
 
For starters, she suggests cocktails at The Cloak Bar (488 Wellington Street W.), a speakeasy-like hideaway in the downtown Entertainment District with a drinks menu that includes punch bowls for up to eight. Then move on to Baro (485 King Street W.), a new venue with a long list of tequilas and chef Steve Gonzalez’s arroz chaufa (Peruvian fried rice). The just-opened Copetin Restaurant & Bar (107 King Street E.) showcases the talents of Claudio Aprile, a judge on MasterChef Canada, in dishes such as tea-smoked squab. Also new, family-owned Soufi’s (676 Queen Street W.) bills itself as Toronto’s first Syrian café, specializing in flatbreads called manaeesh. One of Canada’s top toques, Lynn Crawford, former executive chef at Four Seasons hotels in New York and Toronto, and star of Pitchin’ In, models locavore cooking at Ruby Watchco (730 Queen Street E.).
 
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Next door to David Chang’s New York export Momofuku Daishō (190 University Avenue), the 202-room Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto features the modern-art-filled Lobby Lounge, with a tea library offering 68 varieties, and Bosk restaurant, specializing in modern Canadian cuisine. Work off calories in the 20,000-square-foot spa and fitness floor with an indoor pool.
 
Chef Steve Gonzalez’s OG Duck Chaufa.

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