Returning to the office after the holidays can be tough, especially if you were traveling to distant locations during the break. To help ease you back into the work week, we’re featuring our Nomadic Picnic collection of dishes. We like to think the variety of flavors from around the world will help satisfy your wanderlust—as well as your appetites.
Our Nomadic Picnic dishes are inspired by some of our favorite, and perhaps less celebrated, food destinations around the world. Each lunch comes with a variety of small dishes inspired by the foods you find in each region. They’re not exactly the same as what you’d have on vacation in one of these locales, but we hope they transport your tastebuds to a happy place during lunch.
The Levant is generally considered to be an area of the Eastern Mediterranean encompassing the countries of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Israel. Areas of Northeastern Egypt, Western Iraq and Southern Turkey are sometimes included in this area. It’s been the crossroads of the world for millennia, a melting pot of cultures, religions and food.
Saint George Maronite Greek Orthodox Cathedral and the Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque in Beirut, Lebanon.
If you’re looking for historical architecture and design, the mosques, churches and temples of the region offer amazing stonework, tilework, mosaics and frescoes. It’s visual evidence of the continuous migration of peoples in and out of the region. Along with these people came their food. Spices from India and the East were brought here along with olive oil and seafood from the Mediterranean. They’ve been woven together in a rich tapestry of food unique to the Levant.
Spices for sale at a bazaar in Jerusalem.
The Levant and Mesopotamia are widely considered to be the birthplace of agriculture. Stories of farming and herding in this region go back thousands of years. A visit to the farmlands of the Levant is like stepping back in time. Technology has not changed much about the way the people raise animals and grow food. The warm and semi-arid climate allow for wonderful local produce that make its way to city centers. The term farmer’s market here is quite redundant, as the open-air markets in cities like Beirut, Tel-Aviv and Amman overflow with produce from the countryside.
Terraced gardens in the Zarga River Valley near King Talal Dam in Jordan.
In addition to bountiful fruits and vegetables, the Levant is known to be the birthplace of all modern forms of wheat. Because it has such a long history with wheat, bread is a very important part of Levantine cuisine. We typically think of pita when we think of the bread of this region, but Markouk is another popular bread which is unleavened and thinner.
Markouk, a traditional unleavened flatbread, being cooked on a Saj, a type of convex frying pan used to cook pita as well.
If your tastebuds are left wanting to explore the Eastern Mediterranean, order our Picnic in the Levant for lunch! It features marinated lentils, hummus, dairy-free cheese spread, and all-you-can-dip accompaniments of cucumber rounds, carrot sticks, grape tomatoes, and gluten-free crackers.
Like the other larger, metropolitan Japanese cities like Tokyo and Kyoto, Osaka has its own collection of high-end, Michelin-starred restaurants. But in Osaka, what really makes the city an amazing food destination is its street food and fresh seafood.
Osaka is situated on the Osaka Bay, adjacent to the Harima-nada Sea, the Philippine Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Needless to say, the city has access to perhaps the largest variety of seafood on the planet. The seafood is fresh and here its prepared thousands of ways. From simple grilled skewers found in izakayas, to the famous battered octopus balls called takoyaki, to the most pristine and elegant sashimi, it’s hard to find a better place for seafood.
Seafood stall at the famous, 170-year old Kuromon Ichiba Market in the Chuo ward.
Dōtonbori—known for it's Blade Runner-esque feel—is the main neighborhood to find great food and nightlife. With its bright neon lights and hoards of people, the energy of this neighborhood makes it a must-see, and the numerous street food stalls make it a must-eat destination.
Dōtonbori in the Namba district of Osaka, at night.
Street foods you must try while in Osaka include the takoyaki, or battered octopus balls, fried and served with brown sauce and Kewpie mayo. Okinomiyaki is a type of savory pancake that can include seafood, pork or mochi, and topped with whatever you desire.
Ramen is another must-have, although it is much more of a fast-food experience than the sit-down style often found in the U.S. For a break from the hustle of the street stalls, check out an izakaya. These pub-like establishments serve yakiniku, which are small pieces of meat or seafood skewered and grilled over wood or coal. You can also find yakiniku and kushikatsu (panko-coated skewers) at street stalls too.
Takoyaki and yakiniku being prepared at a stall in Dotonburi.
Of course, there are other things to do in Osaka, other than eat. You can go to Koshien stadium where the Hanshin Tigers, the pride of Osaka, play for the city’s die hard baseball fans. Osaka Castle is another must-see attraction, especially in Autumn or Cherry Blossom season.
Osaka castle in the beginning of Autumn.
If you're feeling inspired by the fresh seafood and convenient street food that make Osaka an amazing food destination, a Picnic in Osaka is a bento box lunch that lets you sample the flavors of the city. This box features a classic Asian noodle salad, shrimp tossed in a miso dressing, edamame pods, sesame-seasoned broccoli, and a square of green tea and yuzu pound cake.
For many who have not traveled in the American Southwest, Tex-Mex may conjure up the idea of heavy, saucy and cheesy mountains of food. If you’re anything like us, this is not a bad type of food. We love the saucy cheesy stuff. But this is not the only food to be had in this diverse landscape of New Mexico. Like many great cuisines, the heart of real Tex-Mex is its regional ingredients and the people who use them every day.
The Taos pueblo in northern New Mexico.
Tex-Mex is a relatively young cuisine compared to the well-established culinary cultures of Europe and Asia. The food of the American Southwest combines Native American and European—mainly Spanish—traditions, and continues to be reshaped as new generations help the cuisine evolve.
Native American Zuni tribe playing drums during ceremony in New Mexico.
Tex-Mex started taking shape as a standalone cuisine once Texas became part of the United States in 1845. The food was based on the homecooking of Mexicans living in Texas at the time. Known as Tejano people, they blended their Native American ancestors’ mastery of local ingredients, like corn, beans, and chiles, with Spanish cooking techniques and imported items like rice, wheat, and cumin.
San Miguel de Socorro Spanish mission.
As the new Americans of the Southwest started breaking from Mexican traditions, the standard favorites we know today began their rise to popularity. Chile con carne was introduced in the 1880s, the rice and beans combo platter debuted in 1900 and Nacho’s Especial (later shortened to Nachos) was invented in Northern Mexico and brought to the U.S. around 1943.
Chile ristras at a market in New Mexico.
Santa Fe could be the home of the most Tex-Mex/Mexican-American/fusion dish of them all—the green chile cheeseburger. Everywhere from fine-dining establishments and down-home eateries all serve these spicy, juicy burgers. Other items to sample on a visit would be cheese enchiladas with chili con carne, fresh tortillas and breakfast tacos. You should also take this opportunity to establish what side of the long-lived debate you belong to: Is red chile sauce or green chile sauce better? (Personally, I can't choose sides and get the "Christmas"—or both red and green sauce)
Green chili cheeseburger at Santa Fe Bites. Photo credit: eater.com
As the appreciation for traditional Mexican cuisine grew in the U.S., in the Southwest itself, it’s hard to say whether Tex-Mex and Mexican can be separated from one another. For example, Mole Poblano shows up on the same menu as Nachos. It seems that food knows no boundaries, and culinary osmosis will happen regardless of country borders. As long as local ingredients are honored with great recipes and people who care, authenticity will always come through.
Get a dose of the American southwest for lunch today with a Tex-Mex inspired Picnic in Santa Fe. This build-it-yourself lunch box comes with shredded chicken, southwestern bean & corn salad, black bean hummus, and flour tortillas. Oh, and the best part—a spiced Mexican chocolate cake.
The nickname “land of the midnight sun” doesn’t conjure up thoughts of scrumptious food right away. But like many places in the world with extreme climates and challenging landscapes, the people of Norway get creative and make amazing food from seemingly very little.
For many years the food of Scandinavia was not well known. We knew of Swedish meatballs thanks to Ikea, the concept of a smorgasbord and various types of cured and smoked fish. The overall impression was of a bland foodscape due to a limiting climate. But over the last couple decades, the cuisine has enjoyed increased notoriety after a 2004 meeting of Scandinavian chefs in Copenhagen rebranded the region’s food as New Nordic cuisine. They set out on a mission to elevate the perception of Scandinavian food, celebrating traditional dishes with hyper-local ingredients and modern techniques.
Since then, chefs like Magnus Nilsson of Sweden and Rene Redzepi of Denmark, have been creating uncompromising, modern Nordic food in their Michelin-starred restaurants. For some time, Norway was missing its top chef, but in 2012 Esben Holmboe Bang, and his restaurant Maaemo in Oslo, became the first 3 Michelin-starred restaurant in Norway.
Esben Holmboe Bang at Maaemo in Oslo. Photo credit: munchies.vice.com
Although New Nordic cuisine has helped to galvanize the pride that Scandanavians have in their food traditions, distinctions between the countries remain. In Norway, a young chef named Christopher Haatuft is breaking away from the pack to work on a new style of “Neo-Fjordic” cuisine that’s Norway-centric. He’s elevating the traditional staples of Norwegian food, fish and potatoes, with new techniques and borrowed ingredients. Yet even with all the critically-acclaimed haute cuisine, simple, rustic cooking using local ingredients remain most important to Norwegians.
The sidewalk cafe scene in Oslo.
Norway’s climate and extremely long winter shape the agriculture dramatically. Seafood is a staple of Norwegian cuisine due to its proximity to the North Sea, Norwegian Sea and the Atlantic.
Smoked fish—a staple of Norwegian cuisine.
During the short summer growing season, the sun is out for 18 hours per day, producing extremely flavorful fruits, vegetables and grains. Rye, potatoes and berries are prized ingredients for Norwegian cuisine. Rye bread and potato salad are close to the hearts of many Norwegians, which is why you can still find these simple dishes in cafes around Oslo.
Indulge in the delicious Norwegian noms of the Picnic in Oslo box for lunch. This bento box features sunflower seed rye bread, smoked salmon, sliced cucumbers, capers, diced red onion, and dill creme fraiche sauce for you to build your perfect bite.
With so many culturally rich cities in Italy, it’s hard to make the case that you should go anywhere else besides the epic cities of Rome, Florence, Venice, and Milan.
But you’d be surprised how some of the most memorable trips happen when you visit those off-the-beaten-path towns. Nothing can be more true in the case of Treviso.
Piazza dei Signori, the main square in the older section of Treviso.
With its picturesque landscape and medieval historic sites, Treviso is the capital city of the province that bears the same name, located Northwest of Venice in the region of Veneto. What it lacks in metropolitan cityscapes, it makes up for in gorgeous, provincial scenery and a romantic vibe. The city is not as popular as its neighbor Venice, but it does have small canals, excellent cafes and a quieter, more relaxed atmosphere.
A small neighborhood canal in Treviso, Veneto, Italy.
Being in the North of Italy, the city enjoys the seafood from the Adriatic Sea, the cheeses of Parma, the balsamic of Modena, the cured meats of Bologna, and the wines and pasta of Tuscany. It even has a type of radicchio that bears its name.
A variety of desserts and Aperol spritz at a cafe in Veneto.
Then there’s the Tiramisu, which has recently become a hotly debated dessert. For years, Treviso was known to be the birthplace of Tiramisu, as it was storied that the dessert was created in a restaurant there in the 1970s. In 2017 however, the neighboring region Friuli Venezia Giulia to the Northeast petitioned the Italian government to grant it ownership over Tiramisu. What does that mean, you ask? It’s just like how sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France is the only one that can legally be called champagne. Balsamic vinegar is another example that can only be called “authentic” if the grapes were grown, and the balsamic produced, in Modena, Italy. Naples made the same case for pizza and many regions in Europe have been petitioning the EU to grant exclusivity to their indigenous food and drink. It’s seen as a way for consumers to easily identify what is truly authentic versus an inspired replica.
Tiramisu is a layered combination of mascarpone, espresso-soaked savoiardi (lady fingers) and cocoa powder.
Regardless of who made it first, Tiramisu is one of those desserts that’s typically always tasty, wherever you are. But sitting in a piazza in Treviso, savoring the espresso-soaked pastry and mascarpone, it’s hard to say there’s any place better for Tiramisu.
Tiramisu, in any piazza in Italy, is awesome.
If your tastebuds want to mangia in Northern Italy for lunch, our Picnic in Treviso box is an assortment of rustic Italian favorites including roasted red onions, peppers, and butternut squash, a pasta salad with roasted tomatoes, garden herbs and parmesan, and a piece of Tiramisu for dessert.