Justin Ritchie | Charlotte, NC
At Austria’s most historic estate, in the idyllic Wachau Valley (just over an hour from Vienna), the Saahs family pioneered biodynamic viticulture back in the 70’s. These days, while Nikolaus Jr. and Sr. attend to wine matters (restoring a 300-year-old grape press, for instance), family matriarch Christine Saahs channels her obsession with organic local ingredients into an extravagant buffet of rustic Austrian specialties. The winery’s tavern, decorated with antlers, sets the über-gemütlich scene for Frau Saahs’s free-range goose terrine with green walnuts; plump wild-nettle dumplings; and toothsome salads of biodynamic lentils or corn. To drink?Splurge on a bottle of Nikolaihof’s limited-edition Vinothek Riesling or Grüner Veltliner—complex aromatic beauties aged in giant wood casks for more than a decade but bottled only recently. Bring home: the matriarch’s lyrical elderflower syrup and apricot jam. Dinner for two $80.
Tafalla, Navarra, Spain
Atxen Jiménez, the gorgeous sixtysomething grande dame of Spanish gastronomy, is the magnetic star of this busy, clean-lined dining room on the main square of Tafalla, a town in Navarra, in northern Spain. Though she still runs the place like a tight ship, Jiménez has largely surrendered the kitchen to her gifted son Nicolás—a former student of the legendary Basque chef Juan Mari Arzak. Nicolás upholds Navarra’s reputation as Spain’s Eden for vegetables while adding discreet modern flair to the region’s famous asparagus, cardoons, and scarlet piquillo peppers. Assembled into a colorful bouquet scented with olive oil, garlic, and Ibérico ham, his menestra de verduras is the best thing to happen to fava beans and artichokes. Not that you’d want to miss the delicate stew of silken pochas (white beans), fresh off the vine. Lunch for two $128.
Local chefs, grape geeks, and artists congregate late at night around the wooden counter of this snug bar à vin in the hilly, out-of-the-way 20th Arrondissement. A dedicated champion of natural wines, owner Philippe Pinoteau has amassed one of the city’s greenest cellars, offering a chalkboard menu of about 20 cuvées naturelles by the glass. In the kitchen, his glamorous Argentinean wife, Raquel Carena, takes slow-cooked bistro standards on a bit of a global adventure: lamb shank has a hint of Indian spices; juicy monkfish swims in a galangal-perfumed broth. Pinoteau (a lovable despot) will be sure to growl if you make a “wrong” wine pairing, so just ask him to make a recommendation. Dinner for two $65.
Istanbul’s premier restaurant dynasty, the Ozkanca clan—father Rasim, daughter Bahar, and son Umut—owns some of the most accomplished spots in the city. Their flagship, however, is this elegant Harbiye District dining room with white-napped tables and contemporary Turkish art on the walls. Catering to local families and patrician businessmen, the Ozkancas take an anthropological approach to Turkish cuisine, researching recipes and ingredients in villages all over the country. A perfect meal here kicks off with plump red cabbage dolmas from the Black Sea region and progresses to keskek, a soothing wheat-berry “risotto.” Kunefe, a crisp sweet of shredded kadayif pastry and tangy cheese cooked over charcoal, tops our dessert list. Dinner for two $75.
Courtesy of The Foxhunter
After working in some of London’s best kitchens, Welsh-born celebrity chef Matt Tebbutt returned home a few years ago. He and his wife, Lisa, took over an old stationmaster’s house in the adorable southern Wales village of Nantyderry, on the edge of Brecon Beacons National Park. Here, in a cozy-chic gastropub setting—flagstone floors; wood-burning stoves; leather sofas—carefully sourced local ingredients turn up in delicious, unfussy dishes such as wild-garlic soup with poached egg or John Dory with hop shoots and pickled tomatoes. Curious about local bounty?Tebbutt will happily arrange a foraging expedition for sorrel or elderberries, then create a menu based on your trophies. There are a couple of cottages for staying overnight, too. Dinner for two $115 (book ahead for foraging weekends).