A world of food is waiting for eager post-pandemic travelers — and home cooks – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A world of food is waiting for eager post-pandemic travelers — and home cooks – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Reflecting on these past 15 months, the pandemic changed so much of our daily lives. One thing so many people missed was the freedom of traveling.

As we head into a new normal, several borders are opening up, and many people can’t wait to fly away again. Although there are so many things to love about traveling (A new culture! Amazing architecture! The weather!), experiencing local cuisine may be at the top of the list.

Hear from fellow Milwaukeeans on where they can’t wait to get back to, and most importantly, what they’ll be eating when they get there.


For Sally Hegwood Vliet and her mom, Susan Borges Vliet, both from Milwaukee, traveling abroad together is one of their favorite things to do.

“During a high school trip to China that my mom chaperoned, we found that we were good travel buddies!” said Sally. “Since then, we’ve made an effort to travel together once a year, and it’s an exceptional way to spend time together and create unforgettable memories.”

In the past 10 years, they have visited together Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Portugal, Austria, the Netherlands, Mexico and Vieques.

In 2017, they visited Slovenia because they have an interest in former Communist countries.

“It’s one of the most stunning countries we’ve ever been to,” she said. “Slovenia is a very healthy country, and their focus on health is definitely noticeable in the cuisine.”

One such dish is a dandelion green salad they ate several times during their trip, which consists of sliced hardboiled eggs, pancetta or bacon, boiled potatoes and pumpkin seed oil.

Regratova Solata (Slovenian Dandelion Salad)

Recipe tested by Alysha Witwicki

Makes 2 servings

  • 4 pieces of bacon, diced
  • 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 4 cups dandelion greens, arugula, mustard greens or watercress
  • 2 hardboiled eggs, sliced
  • 2 boiled red potatoes, quartered
  • Pumpkin seed oil for garnish

In a skillet over medium-low heat, cook bacon until golden; drain the bacon fat and set aside until slightly cool. In a small bowl, whisk together bacon fat with vinegar, season with salt, pepper and caraway seeds and set aside. Toss greens with the dressing and divide among two plates. Add the eggs and potatoes. Sprinkle with the bacon and drizzle with pumpkin seed oil.


Milwaukeean Carla Bruss loves traveling because she gets to meet new people, see different cultures and landscapes, and enjoy the feeling that anything can happen.

During a memorable trip to Thailand with her sister in 2014, the amazing food was the prize.

“I miss the street pancakes, fresh fruit, pad Thai and red chicken curry with coconut milk,” Bruss said. “During the trip we participated in a cooking class where we got to make the pad Thai and curry dishes, which were so memorable because my sister and I got to learn how to create them with the Thai people who were so proud to share their cuisine.”

The Thai chicken recipe, which is similar to the one Bruss made in her cooking class, is from the blog

Thai Chicken Coconut Curry

Recipe tested by Alysha Witwicki

Makes 6 servings

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion, diced
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken tenders
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 13-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1½ cups shredded carrots
  • 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • Rice for serving

In a large skillet, add the oil and onion, and sauté over medium-high heat until the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken and cook for about 5 minutes, flipping halfway through. Add the garlic, ginger and coriander, and cook for about 1 minute, or until fragrant; stir frequently. Add the coconut milk, carrots, Thai curry paste, salt and pepper, and stir to combine.

Reduce the heat to medium, and allow the mixture to gently boil for about 5 minutes, or until liquid has reduced and thickened slightly. Add the spinach, lime juice, and stir to combine. Cook until spinach has wilted and is tender, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in brown sugar. Place rice in bowls and top with curry. Garnish with cilantro and serve.


For Wauwatosa native Holland Asbach, who currently resides in Denver, travel isn’t just a passion but a way of life (she has visited 30 countries).

“Throughout this pandemic year, I’ve found myself coping from the lack of travel with cookbooks, pushing myself to reminisce and re-create dishes from familiar places,” Asbach said. “When I travel, my pre-travel researching efforts are focused in learning more about what to eat and where.”

Although her list continues to grow with new countries that she wants to visit, she plans on returning to Italy in the near future.

“I minored in Italian language in college and still continue to take Italian classes to keep up,” Asbach said. “Each region of Italy is unique, and I have been dreaming of visiting Ischia, Puglia and Trentino.”

A memorable dish she re-created during the pandemic was bucatini all’amatriciana.

“In 2012, I had been working as an intern for a Rome food tour company and was finally able to align my class schedule to participate in one of the Testaccio neighborhood food tours. We made a stop at Flavio al Velavevodetto and received a flight of pastas.

“My first bite of bucatini all’amatriciana was the perfect balance of the sweet, tangy tomatoes, the rich guanciale (pork cheeks), and the sharp, savory flavor of grated Pecorino all wrapped up in the bite of al dente pasta,” she said. “That exact moment felt like the scene in Disney’s “Ratatouille” where the main character Remy sees fireworks as he savors the culinary combination of strawberries and cheese.”

This recipe is from Bon Appétit.

Bucatini all’Amatriciana

Recipe tested by Alysha Witwicki

Makes 4 servings

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced guanciale, pancetta, or chopped unsmoked bacon
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 28-ounce can peeled tomatoes with juices, crushed by hand
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • 12 ounces dried bucatini or spaghetti
  • ¼ cup finely grated Pecorino

Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add guanciale and sauté until crisp and golden, about 4 minutes. Add pepper flakes and black pepper; stir for 10 seconds. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring often, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes, reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt; add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until 2 minutes before al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta cooking water. Add drained pasta to sauce in skillet and toss vigorously with tongs to coat. Add 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water and cook until sauce coats pasta and pasta is al dente, about 2 minutes. (Add a little pasta water if sauce is too dry.) Stir in cheese and transfer pasta to warmed bowls.


For Alefiyah Adam of Bay View, the pandemic had her reminiscing about a family trip to Turkey in 2008 after she and her brother finished college.

“Our favorite thing to eat was gozleme. I remember being in a gullet ship for three days in the Mediterranean Sea and these little boats would ride up to us with a “stove” that was heated by a fire and make us fresh gozleme as requested,” she said.

“I definitely want to go back here with my husband, Nate. The food, culture and history in Turkey is so rich and amazing. I really feel like he would enjoy it, and there is so much more to see.”

Gozleme can be filled with various fillings, such as banana and Nutella; lamb or ground beef; and spinach and feta cheese.

This recipe is from

Gozleme with Feta and Spinach Filling

Recipe tested by Alysha Witwicki

Makes 4 servings

  • 2½ cups flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 10 ounces baby spinach
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 10 ounces feta cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Olive oil for cooking

Fit stand mixer with dough hook. Combine flour, 1/3 cup olive oil, water and salt in the stand mixer bowl. Mix for 2½ minutes on medium-high speed until smooth. Dough should be a pliable, smooth ball, not sticky. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle work surface with flour. Cut dough into four equal pieces. Roll each out into a 14-by-8-inch rectangle (dusting the top of the dough with flour if necessary). Place spinach, garlic, egg and pepper in a bowl. Scrunch with hands to reduce volume and wilt spinach. Add feta and stir through. Spread filling on half the pastry, pushing to the edge. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Fold other side of pastry over to cover filling. Press down edges, pressing out excess air pockets trapped inside as you go.

Heat 1½ tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Slide gozleme into skillet. Cook, lightly pressing down (including edges), until deep golden and crispy, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook, pressing down lightly, until crispy, about 4 minutes. Transfer to cutting board to cool slightly before cutting into wedges and serving. Repeat with three remaining gozleme, adding more oil as you go.


Shorewood resident Julie Bamberger Roubik is “chomping at the bit” to get back to Japan, what she calls her second home. The first time she visited was in 1989 as a foreign exchange student. She lived with a host family in Kasugai, Nagoya, and returned in 1999 for a teachers conference.

Since then, she’s gone back every two to three years, and was supposed to visit last summer for the Olympics.

“We all know how that went!” she said.

Her favorite thing about Japan is the communal nature of their culture. “Everyone cares about everyone else.”

But also, the food. “Presentation is everything. Even the menus and plastic food in the restaurant windows are an art form,” she said. “One of my favorite things to eat there are the sweets because they are so beautiful and flavorful and reflect the season or location where they are made.”

In addition to sweets, Bamberger Roubik can’t wait to eat sushi, soba noodles and ramen.

This recipe for ramen is from

Easy Pork Ramen

Recipe tested by Alysha Witwicki

Makes 2 servings

  • 4 cups of beef or chicken broth
  • 2 slices ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 green onions, cut into large sections, plus more for garnish
  • ½ tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 cup baby bok choy leaves
  • 2 packets of plain, dried ramen noodles (2½-3 ounces each)
  • 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cooked pork tenderloin, sliced, for garnish
  • 2 soft- or hardboiled eggs for garnish

Place broth, ginger, garlic, green onions, red pepper, black pepper and soy sauce in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring the stock to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and let it simmer on medium-low heat for about 15-20 minutes. Add the bok choy and blanch quickly for 1-2 minutes in the simmering water. Remove and set aside.

Add the ramen noodles and sliced shiitake mushrooms and let it simmer for 4 minutes, or until the noodles are done. Divide the ramen noodles and broth into two bowls. Add the blanched boy choy over the hot broth, followed by the pork slices, eggs, cut in half, and garnish with more chopped green onions.

Alysha Witwicki is a freelance food and lifestyle writer living in Whitefish Bay. Contact her at 

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Published at Tue, 29 Jun 2021 12:00:31 +0000

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