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Ask T+L: Street-Food Safety, Tracking Down Relatives, and More

Portrait of Editor at Large, Peter Jon Lindberg.

Photo: Niloufar Motamed

Ask an Expert: Peter Jon Lindberg, Editor-at-Large

Q: How can I tell whether street food is safe to eat—at home and abroad? —Alice Emerson, Pacific Palisades, Calif.

A: When it comes to street food, the best tip is to look to the locals: long lines are usually a testament to good hygiene. (Plus, a quick turnover means the food stays fresh.) Ask that your meal be cooked to order; high temperatures can kill lingering bacteria. And make sure that the person cooking is not also handling the cash (or is at least changing gloves between the meal and the money). In the United States, the food-truck surge has prompted more stringent safety policies (Los Angeles’s letter-grading program now includes street vendors). Strange but true: according to David Weber, president of the New York City Food Truck Association, all employees at mobile units are required to hold a food handler’s license—but at restaurants only one person must have one.

Q: I want to track down distant relatives to meet on our upcoming trip to Europe. Where do I begin? —Joseph Raffaele, via e-mail

A: Roots travel is booming, thanks in no small part to the popularity of Who Do You Think You Are?—the reality show that traces a celebrity’s lineage. Founded by an original producer of the television hit, Ancestral Footsteps (from $6,178 for basic research) offers you the same service: investigators spend months researching your family, then arrange bespoke tours that include everything from accommodations to a translator who’ll help you chat with distant cousins. For instant access to family records (such as marriage and birth certificates), try ancestry.com ($239 per year for global records). T+L A-List agent Anne Morgan Scully also recommends the free database at familysearch.org, operated in partnership with the world’s largest genealogical organization—the Family History Library, in Salt Lake City.

Q: We’re off to Vancouver and Whistler. Any advice? —Derrick Baker, Evergreen Park, Ill.

A: Vancouver’s recently opened Fairmont Pacific Rim (doubles from $309) combines Asian-inflected design with cool Canadian comforts—fire pits in the spa; one of the largest sake cellars in the city—and has a towering view over Coal Harbour. With Top Chef Canada winner Dale MacKay at its kitchen’s helm, the new Ensemble Restaurant (604/569-1770; dinner for two $75) is the place for dinner. Two hours north, Whistler Blackcomb (866/218-9690) has introduced an Olympic-size half-pipe for snowboarders. Download the Whistler Blackcomb Live app (free; Android, iPhone, iPad), which allows you to view trails and track the distance and time of your runs.

Q: Which cruise lines offer significant savings for advance booking? —Shirley Hunnicutt, via e-mail

A: With economic waters anything but calm, lines are providing some of their largest early-bird incentives ever. Arrange a trip for 2012 with Oceania Cruises before January 1 and you’ll secure half-price fares and free flights to select ports of call (including Miami and New York), plus a savings of up to $5,000 per stateroom, depending on the route. Cunard Line opens itineraries for its World Voyages as early as 18 months ahead and offers up to 10 percent off the regular rates. Guests who reserve any 2012 voyage with Silversea Cruises can earn up to $1,500 in onboard credits—just don’t spend them all in one place.

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