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Five Secret Foodie Cities

From:  Forbes Travel Guide Blog

If you choose your travel destinations by culinary reputation, there are some obvious choices. But recently, a growing list of unexpected cities has joined the traditional foodie meccas such as New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Here, we explore five secret delectable destinations worth a second look this year.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

The western-half of the Twin Cities, Minneapolis is having its full moment when it comes to food. Though we hate hearing that head chef and co-owner Jack Riebel is leaving Butcher & the Boar, we're crossing our fingers that the recipe for housemade sausages, fermented venison with homemade cheddar cheese whiz, to jerk duck sausage with green cabbage, green mango slaw and plantain aren't exiting with him. Riebel was a James Beard Award semi-finalist for Best Chef: Midwest in 2013; here's hoping that Peter Botcher can keep up the delicious work in the kitchen as the new head chef. Now, if you're looking for a place to drink, look no further than Marvel Bar, a lavatory of libations located downstairs from The Bachelor Farmer in the Warehouse District. Get to the newish spot early to grab a seat and ask any questions you might have about the menu, but whatever you do, don't miss the Tomas Collins or any other cocktail with the spicy Scandinavian-inspired liquor called aquavit -- it's a local treasure.

Columbus, Ohio

Known more for its businesses than its food, Columbus is quickly transforming that reputation, particularly in the Short North Arts District near downtown. Last year, restaurateur Cameron Mitchell opened The Pearl, an oyster bar and gastropub serving classic cocktails such as the barrel-aged Manhattan and a stout list of entrées such as ricotta dumplings with acorn squash, toasted walnuts, crispy kale and crimini mushrooms. The nearby, and more established, North Market offers locals and tourists a European-style, indoor food vendor market, where the James Beard Award winner for best baking and desserts book in 2012, Jeni Britton Bauer, got her start churning splendid, full butterfat treats that can be savored today at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. And don't miss James Beard Award semi-finalist for Best Chef: Great Lakes in 2012 Kent Rigsby's delectable oysters diavalo at Rigsby's Kitchen. This Italian-American treasure served with Tabasco cream and crispy eggplant will leave you licking the bowl.

FTG-FoodieCities-DropIn-Zaza-CreditAngelMcVayLittle Rock, Arkansas

Once a land dominated by chain restaurants and barbecue joints, the capital of The Natural State has thoroughly expanded its palate. For high-end fare, the Joël Antunes-helmed Ashley's at Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Capital Hotel sets the standard with its collection of Southern cuisine done with an international flair. For small plates inspired by European traditions (see: ham and brie crostini), venture to the Hillcrest District for Ciao Baci, or if you're looking for a more relaxed meal of organic, local ingredients, don't miss Zaza's Fine Salad + Wood-Oven Pizza Co. -- the prosciutto-arugula pizza pairs well with just about every fresh salad on the menu. But if you're still hoping for that traditional smoked barbecue during your Little Rock visit, don't worry -- the award-winning Whole Hog Café's four-bone rib plate will certainly hit the spot.

Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville prides itself on being on the wacky side, and a little bit of wacky goes a long way when it comes to interesting cuisine. To get a taste of the variety to be found in this little mountain town, consider the fact that the 2012 James Beard Award Rising Star Chef of the Year semi-finalist Katie Button's Cúrate offers her take on modern Spanish tapas on one street, while chocolatiers Dan and Jael Rattigan's French Broad Chocolate Lounge serve sips of ganache-based drinking chocolates, also known as liquid truffles, just around the block. To try more down-home delights, consider a drive to the Looking Glass Creamery, just 10 miles from downtown Asheville, and sample locally made goats milk, brie-style, or aged cheeses with wine and bubbly pairings. For an even more elevated experience, venture an hour into the mountains to Spruce Pine and reserve a spot at Knife & Fork. This January and February, chef Nathan Allen will transform his restaurant into seven different concepts over seven weeks, pulling inspiration from around the world. The culinary journey begins with stops to Mexico (January 9-11), Italy (January 16-18) and India (January 23-25).

Boulder, Colorado

Boulder may have a reputation for snow bunnies and tapping the Rockies, but there's much more happening here than ski-lifts and beer. Flagstaff House Restaurant, the Forbes Travel Guide Four-star rated restaurant and Boulder staple for fine cuts of meat and perfectly prepared seafood, is undergoing an extensive renovation that will be complete in February. Chef Corey Buck recently opened a breakfast and lunch restaurant called Food at the Riverside (1724 Broadway), serving delicacies such as lobster Benedict, quiches and fresh salads, along the city's only patio overlooking Boulder Creek. For a happy hour that won't quit, try Bramble & Hare (1970 13th St.). Everything from the restauranteur's organic 130-acre farm is $5 in the 5 o'clock hour: small plates such as country pâté and an artisan cheese plate, beer, wine, and cocktails, too. And local foodies won't let you leave until you know that Boulder is also home to five out of the country's 118 master sommeliers. Boulder's not just for skiing, folks. Not anymore.

Photos Courtesy of The Pearl and Angel McVay

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