Beets are a bit of a lightning rod. Tastebuds will either fall madly in love or stop dead in their tracks and do a U- turn. Food always offers the opportunity to dig into a new destination when traveling. Can a pot of soup unlock the cultural secrets of a country? Can the flavor of a root vegetable give insight to a new destination? I was game to find out while tasting beets and borscht in Ukraine.
Strong, earthy and filled with vitamins and minerals (follate and manganese and more), beets have always been one of my favorite foods. Some nutritionists even call it crimson spinach because of high levels of iron. On a trip to Ukraine with JayWay Travel, I challenged myself to find the tasty beets on as many menus as possible. The country did not disappoint.
Wondering why travelers should visit Ukraine now? The country has a rich and storied past: from humble beginnings it became a trade route established by Scandinavians in the 800’s. Later it played a role as a location for Cossack outposts. More recently we all know about its time as a part of the USSR and Russian suppression. When offered the opportunity to visit this undiscovered destination with JayWay Travel, I was fascinated to learn more about one of the largest countries in Europe. I wanted to see for myself why so many were being seduced by the charms of Eastern Europe.
Dark, lacquered walls and deep, plush banquettes in rich jeweled tones seemed appropriate. Afterall, the retro speakeasy, Pennyroyal is just off the lobby. Jimi Hendrix greets us decked in 19th century military costume. Kelsey Grammar holds court at the end of the hall. I can’t decide if I’m dreaming or jet-lagged. A delayed flight had us arriving at the Seattle Kimpton Palladian well past midnight, but from the get go, the Kimpton team is hospitality ready. Within minutes, a welcome platter and bottle of wine arrived at our door. Hello Seattle, I’m happy to meet you!
Vichyssoise. The first time I had a healthy chilled soup, my third grade vocabulary bastardized the pronunciation. My ever so proper grandmother corrected me by rounding her lips and whispering a drawn out Alison it’s viiishy swaaaa. In the sweltering August heat, we were on our annual trek into Manhattan to buy my winter coat at Bonwit Tellers.
As we approached Iquitos from the air, the river snaked below and started to come into focus. Colored shades of coffee, chai and caramel, it forked and stretched into the distance as far as the eye could see. I started to imagine the adventure ahead. For the next 5 days, I would be off the grid responsibly cruising Peru’s Amazon in luxury.
Stepping off the plane, I was immediately struck by the humidity. Almost oppressive with intensity, I recalled the cold temperatures back home and immediately chilled out.