Our next Globavore Interview is with Stephanie Cohn. She’s based in Santiago, Chile working at the travel tech startup LocalAventura. After playing 20 questions with her, I am now craving a return trip to South America and their pastry shops. The foodie photography tour with LocalAventura sounds like a great way to make me feel like its research, not indulgence! Stephanie’s bio and social media links are below.
1. Who are you and how does food play into your travels?
My name is Stephanie Cohn. From the first time I tasted an alfajor, I fell in love with Latin America. Between it was the vibrant cultures of Argentina, the natural landscape of Costa Rica, and of course the incredible panaderias and postres, something drew me back here. Somehow I found myself in Santiago, Chile working for a 12-person travel startup called LocalAventura, a company that aims to connect local tour guides with curious travelers for more authentic Latin American travel experiences. As a foodie, my job has allowed me to meet local guides who are experts on food and wine. We have guides who are professional chefs, winemakers, and even food photographers!
Working for LocalAventura has given me the chance to continue my adventures in the region, tasting desserts, delicacies, and drinks, everywhere I go. From Patagonia’s calafate sour, Argentina’s baked empanadas, and Chile’s mil hojas cake, I’ve enjoyed every bite of the way and managed to acquire some recipes for myself. As an avid baker, I love going home and trying to recreate the recipes. It’s never quite the same, but like most foods… it’s worth a try!
2. You’re at your favourite eatery with three companions (fictional, living or dead). Where (and when!) are you, and who are you with?
Of course I have to admit I’m a big Harry Potter nerd, so of course I’d love J.K. Rowling to be there. I know many people think they’re just kids books, but really I think they have such complex messages behind them. I’d love to pick her brain about that.
Second I would be with Tina Fey, another strong women. She’s really the sort of celebrity role model I think most girls should be following.
Third, Mary Berry. I am an avid baker and she is basically the baking queen. I would love to nerd out about baking with her and ask her what it’s really like on the Great British Bake Off. Plus she just seems so sweet, I’d love to give her a hug.
Where: One of the best meals I’ve eaten since moving to Chile was at Astrid y Gaston. It was definitely a splurge meal but it was worth every penny. I would love to go back but this time to the original restaurant in Peru.
(Ed.’s note: I’m going to change the rules on this question and allow you to bring one more person, Stephanie — me! I would so love to have the chance to meet J.K. Rowling and talk everything Harry and Fantastic Beasts :-) )
3. What are your favourite foods?
Pastries. I have a major sweet tooth and am an avid baker so I love desserts. Of course this has been excellent for me in South America — between the pandarias and cafés, there’s endless desserts. My favorite is definitely the milhojas in Chile. Layers of pastry, dulce de leche, sometimes jam, topped with meringue. So simple, so perfect. Oh and Argentina’s chocotorta is a close second.
4. Is there anything that you’d never eat? What is it and why?
About to drop the ball — I’m a pescatarian. Which is surprisingly not as hard in Latin America as many people expect, well at least in this day and age it’s not. So you’ll never find me eating steak — I wouldn’t even do it when I was in Argentina.
5. What do you crave but can’t get whilst on the road? How do you satisfy the craving?
As I mentioned I have a sweet tooth, so I usually need chocolate to get me through long train, plane, or car rides. I like to try to pick up the local chocolate at a nearby convenience store, because let’s face it, Hershey’s just won’t cut it.
6. What food are you embarrassed to admit you like to eat?
Cereal is my guilty pleasure. I’m not embarrassed to say I eat it, I’m embarrassed by how much I eat it. I’ve eaten it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner before, and dry cereal is usually my go-to snack. Something about it makes me happy and feel a bit nostalgic. It’s just unfortunate how fast I go through boxes. My go-to is definitely Special K with red berries, but my favorite is Rice Krispy Treat, which was actually discontinued. However my amazing older sister found a box on Amazon and got it for me for my birthday. It was an incredible gift and tasted like my childhood in a bowl.
7. What / where do you dream of eating, but haven’t yet had the pleasure?
Peru. I’ve been told Lima is the foodie capital of South America, so naturally I have to try. I’ve had some great Peruvian food in Chile as there’s a huge Peruvian population here, but I have to go to the roots for the real stuff. Lucky for me I’ll be spending a month there for work in May! I’d also LOVE to go to Japan and have authentic sushi and okonomiyaki, Japan’s delicious version of a pancake.
(Ed.’s note: You’re in for a treat in May! Lima has magnificent food. And, ummmm, magnificent maracuya pisco sours ….).
8. Strangest meal?
I’m not the best cook, so I’ve definitely mixed some questionable foods together before in the hopes it would taste good. Not quite sure what at the top of my head … I try to forget.
9. Ever had food poisoning while traveling? Any advice to share?
No, but traveling always messes with your digestive system. I’d say be patient and let your body get adjusted. In the meantime try eating small meals. I know it’s tempting to feast your first couple of weeks abroad but you can still enjoy and taste the delicacies without feeling sick if you slowly work your way up.
10. Have you fallen so much in love with a foreign dish that you learned to make it at home? What’s the story?
Chocotorta. This cake is like Argentine tiramisu, kinda. I was living in Argentina with a homestay and one night my host mom made us this Argentine dessert. Between me and the two other girls staying with the family, we basically finished the cake (it was a big cake too). The recipe was simple, it was layers of chocolate crackers dipped in coffee paired with layers of dulce de leche mixed with cream cheese. Then the whole thing is topped in cocoa powder and left in the fridge to set. The next day I bought three jars of good quality dulce de leche so I could make it for my friends and family when I got home. The problem is I didn’t buy the Argentine crackers and couldn’t find a substitute at home. I instead used chocolate graham crackers which worked but was definitely not the same.
11. What’s the first thing you eat after returning home from a long trip?
It depends on the country, but usually it’s brunch. I’m from Boston and the brunch is superb there. So much so that it has become my friends’ tradition to brunch every weekend. A lot of countries outside the USA don’t really do brunch, and when they do, it just doesn’t feel the same as when I’m with my group of brunchers back home.
12. Favourite foreign ingredient you wish your home supermarket carried?
Those Argentine crackers for chocotorta.
13. Country / city where you’ve found the best food? Details please so we can check it out too!
Mendoza, Argentina. Mendoza is Argentina’s wine capital so they have to make equally good food to match. I literally did not eat one bad thing the entire time I was there. The food tastes extremely upscale to match the wine, yet the prices aren’t even bad. If you love Italian food then you’ll love it too, because Argentina has a huge Italian immigrant population. Their pastas are incredible. I don’t eat meat but I was fine with my delicious pastas and vegetarian meals. So despite stereotypes, you can be vegetarian in Argentina just fine! People might give you a weird look when you tell them, but you’ll be able to eat very well still.
14. Country / city where you’ve found the worst? What made it so awful?
I didn’t love the food in Amsterdam, it was just bland to me. The cheeses were good but otherwise I wasn’t impressed.
(Ed.’s note: Ah, you needed to add sambal oelek to your food! That’s the secret with Dutch cuisine. Their desserts are fantastic as-is though. Did you try stroopwafels and speculaas cookies? I’m drooling just thinking about them ….)
15. Do you have favourite markets for a) buying stuff to eat b) finding unusual things (which you may or may not want to actually eat!) and c) just for taking photos?
Buying: Traders Joe’s, it’s cheap and has some really interesting specialty items. Finding: I love going into cultural groceries stories. I’ve been to Turkish, Indian, Japanese, and Latino stores. I usually don’t buy anything not because I don’t want to eat the food, I just don’t know how they are traditionally supposed to be used. Taking photos: The food markets in Santiago, Chile are so colorful and bustling. I love seeing the brightly colored fruits and fresh-caught fish line the aisles. It’s perfect for photography and for people who are still trying to improve their photo skills, like me (getting there but still have a lot of work to do). At LocalAventura, we have a photographer guide who takes people on foodie photography tours, she goes to this market and shows people how. I’ve been meaning to do one with her but haven’t had time yet.
16. If money were no object, where (and what) would you eat?
So many places on my list of amazing restaurants to save up for. I love the show Chef’s Table, as well as similar shows and I love following celebrity chefs. Right now top on my list is the restaurant Next in Chicago, because my sister works there and it’s from famous chef Grant Achatz. The restaurant changes themes every few months and the next theme is South America so after being here for so long I’d love to see their take on the cuisine here. I would also love to go to n/naka in Los Angeles. I was so inspired by chef Niki Nakayama’s plight as a woman in the male-dominated culinary field. Her food looked absolutely visionary and I would love to try it and thank her for persevering through the sexism.
17. Do you have any food regrets?
All the gelato I didn’t eat while I was in Italy because I was worried about “getting fat.” Ladies, just go for it. Whether you gain weight or not, when’s the next time you’ll be in Italy? Like seriously.
18. If you could invent any ice cream flavour, what would it be? (yes, I am looking for ideas to add to my ice cream repertoire!)
I actual have a secret life goal to start an ice cream shop. Since my last name is Cohn (pronounced like cone, not con) I want my shop to be named “Cohn’s,” so cheesy I know. Ice cream making is one of my hobbies so I’m always thinking of new ideas. Flavor …
19. What do you love and hate about food writing (yours and/or in general)?
I follow a lot of health bloggers, and sometimes the way they talk about food and calories it just reinforces this female obsession with body image. I love finding healthy recipes and healthy alternatives (especially in my baking) yet it really annoys me when the bloggers take a negative spin on it and make it all about cutting calories and use words like “bikini bod.” I really like Chocolate Covered Katie because she reinforces the idea that it’s not about calories it’s about living a healthy lifestyle.
20. You’re having surgery tomorrow and there’s a reasonable chance you’ll lose your ability to taste (oh the horrors!). What would you choose as, essentially, your last meal?
A chocolate chip cookie sundae. With Ben and Jerry’s fish food ice cream. The cookie must be big warm and gooey though.
Stephanie Cohn. studied Journalism and Latin American Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. She is currently working for a travel tech startup called LocalAventura based in Santiago, Chile where she interviews and writes about local tour guides. In her free time you’ll find her taking on a new baking challenge or seeking out new restaurants to try. She’s already been to Argentina and Chile, and dreams of eating her way through the rest of South America. Follow her on Twitter @localaventura, Instagram @localaventura and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/localaventura/.