Spotlight

Dining Destinations to Watch in 2011

Sure, you know about Portland and Paris. We uncovered the world's best new food destinations.

Breadbar A restaurant in the traditional sense, Breadbar also hosts pop-up events for outside chefs to showcase their talents with anything from soba dishes to Korean pub food. Sandwiches from $12, breadbar.net.

Houston, Texas

You could always find a great steak in Houston—and not much else. Thanks to the growing population of Mexican, Indian, Korean, and Thai immigrants, the ethnic food scene is now thriving. Most places are on the outskirts of town, including a farmers' market on Airline Drive with great Mexican food. Even better is a stretch of Long Point Road that's become home to many Thai, Korean, and Mexican restaurants. Good luck picking among them.

Taqueria El Mercado In a trailer just behind the farmers' market on Airline Drive (where you can sample Mexican hot chocolate and pan dulce) you'll find the place to feast on tripe and carnitas tacos. Tacos from $2, 2520 Airline Dr.

Vieng Thai Long Point Road is another culinary hotbed, with unassuming restaurants serving everything from Thai to Korean to Mexican. Vieng Thai is a hit for its coconut-milk soup and array of curries. Entrees from $8, 6929 Long Point Rd., 713/688-9910.

Where Chefs Eat Chefs are so enamored of Houston's ethnic food scene that a few of them have partnered up to offer culinary tours. Each tour is led by a chef---including local celebrities like Bryan Caswell of Reef, and Mark Holley of Pesce---and focuses on a different cuisine. Tours $180 per person, houstonculinarytours.com.

Patagonia, Argentina

Patagonia is famous for its adventure tourism, but now it's giving Mendoza a run for its money as a wine-producing hub. In the mid-1990s, investors realized that simple irrigation could transform the arid flatlands at the tip of Argentina. The vineyards, lush patches of green in an otherwise dusty landscape, still look like they got lost on the way to Napa. But the wine coming out of them is special enough to draw visitors and aspiring vintners from miles away.

Bodega del Fin del Mundo When it comes to Argentine wine, Mendoza has held the spotlight for years. But these days, Patagonia seems to be the one to watch. The superstar vineyard in the Neuquen region can be found on nearly 8,000 acres of land planted with several privately owned vineyards that produce impressive Malbecs and Pinot Noirs. Free guided tour and wine tasting, bodegadelfindelmundo.com.

Bodega Humberto Canale It turns out that Patagonia's hot days and cool nights are exactly what grapevines need to thrive---and in the mid-1990s, a few pioneers figured out that some simple irrigation could fix the chalky desert-soil problem. In Rio Negro, Bodega Humberto is a lush patch of green in an otherwise dusty landscape, and it excels in white varietals like Semillon, Viogner, and Torrontes. Guided tour and wine tasting for $20 per person, bodegahcanale.com.

Honolulu, Hawaii

With all the buzz about celebrity outposts such as Morimoto and Nobu opening in Waikiki, you'd think that the native chefs had all skipped town for vacation. In fact, local kitchens are serving some of the most noteworthy dishes, and for good reason. The Hawaiians (several of whom trained in top mainland restaurants) are every bit as skilled as the newcomers, and they've got a kind of home-kitchen advantage, making it easier to hunt down the freshest fare around.

Azure Executive chef Jon Matsubara graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and apprenticed at Jean-Georges in New York---but he's a local boy at heart. At Azure, in the Royal Hawaiian resort, Matsubara starts with the best seafood and produce his native Oahu has to offer and transforms it into something special. Local yellow tail ahi rises to a new level when paired with a salad made of Japanese hamachi, avocado, watermelon, and radish, topped with a ginger vinaigrette and a papadum crisp. Entrees from $22, azurewaikiki.com.

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