Foren Clark, CNN
In the new CNN Original Series “Nomad with Carlton McCoy,” master sommelier McCoy is on the hunt for authenticity in destinations around the world. Whether it’s along the banks of the Mississippi River or in the bustling city of Seoul, McCoy is exploring off the beaten path to find what truly makes each location special.
Below is an episode-by-episode guide through McCoy’s travels. Missed an episode? You can catch up on CNNgo.
Take a look at what he discovered:
Toronto is a melting pot with its cultural and culinary identity created by immigrants from all over the world. Calling it “North America’s most overlooked city,” McCoy explores the immigrant experience in Canada’s largest city and how the metropolis plays its part in creating new opportunities for people taking up residence there.
Here are a few stops he makes along the way:
King’s Noodle Restaurant — This Chinatown restaurant is known for its noodle dishes and barbeque meats. McCoy ordered wonton soup and the house specialty, barbeque duck, on chef Susur Lee’s recommendation.
Kensington Market — In 2006, Kensington Market, a vibrant and diverse mixed commercial-residential neighborhood near Toronto’s Chinatown, was proclaimed a National Historic Site of Canada. In the open-air market, vendors sell food, clothing, art, housewares and more.
Le Spot Billiard Lounge — Located in Toronto’s Scarborough neighborhood, this Filipino-owned pool hall is a popular place to grab drinks and shoot pool. The venue is also known as the home base of 2004 nine-ball champion Alex Pagulayan. McCoy enjoyed fried rice and chicken wings with Guyanese hot sauce prepared by chef Marco Lu.
Amal — Named after the Arabic word for “hope,” Amal is a popular and sophisticated Lebanese restaurant helmed by executive chef Rony Ghaleb. The menu takes inspiration from the values and lifestyle of Lebanon, with the goal to feed not only the stomach but the soul.
Antler Kitchen and Bar — Chef Michael Hunter and Jody Shapiro took inspiration from the nature that surrounded them every day in Toronto when creating Antler. The restaurant seeks to use local, wild and foraged ingredients to create a truly unique dining experience. Hunter prepared some bear meat with cavatelli pasta for McCoy.
TreaJah Isle — This Toronto store dabbles in clothing, accessories, music and food with the mission to keep it all of it rooted in African culture.
Toronto Island Park — Take in great views of the Toronto skyline and Lake Ontario from this park about 13 minutes by ferry from the city’s downtown. The park has walking trails, beaches and children’s amusement rides.
Historically, the Mississippi Delta has made a major impact on American culture, through music, food and other traditions. McCoy makes a pilgrimage to this storied region to find out more about his roots. Rather than turn away from the area’s history of slavery and segregation, he makes an effort to ask questions and understand what makes modern Mississippi a vibrant home for so many.
Check out the places that helped him discover the true Delta lifestyle:
Old Country Store Restaurant — Just off the Natchez Trace Parkway in Lorman, Mississippi, is the Old Country Store Restaurant run by Arthur “Mr. D” Davis. People drive hours to taste his famous fried chicken and hear Mr. D’s singing while they dine, and McCoy certainly enjoyed the buffet-style classic Southern meal.
Magnolia Bluffs Casino — Magnolia Bluffs Casino is a hotel and casino located in Natchez, Mississippi, on the Mississippi River. The casino sits on the site of a former sawmill.
Wyolah Plantation — This 1830s Church Hill mansion was bought and painstakingly restored by “The Help” director Tate Taylor, who uses it and the site next door to develop and edit films and encourage entertainment industry growth in Mississippi.
Farish Street — Once known as the “Black Mecca” of Mississippi, this district in Jackson was a cultural and business hub for Blacks in the South after Reconstruction. Home to historical landmarks like the Alamo Theatre, the street has fallen into disrepair, but the local community is working to rebuild it.
Delta Hill Riders — This group of Black cowboys and cowgirls has been the subject of a photo project by Rory Doyle, who hopes to spread awareness for this under represented subgroup. Historians estimate that one in four cowboys were African American following the Civil War, according to the project.
Doe’s Eat Place — Founded in 1941 by Dominic “Doe” Signa and his wife, Mamie, Doe’s Eat Place is a grocery store in Greenville, Mississippi, that was a honky-tonk before becoming a restaurant. It’s still run by the family today. McCoy and his friends order tamales filled with minced beef and some world-class steak.
Traveling back to Africa for only the second time in his life, McCoy was immediately swept up in the fast-paced and vibrant Ghanian culture. The scents and flavors reminded him of his own youth in the American South, and he was grateful for an opportunity, as a member of the African diaspora, to connect to his ancestral roots. Ghana, with its thriving economy, delicious food and vibrant art scene, was the perfect place to reconnect.
Check out the keys to an authentic Ghanian experience:
Osu — The neighborhood of Osu, right outside the city center of Ghana’s capital Accra, is a hub of business, food and arts. The majority of the action is centered around Oxford Street and can be enjoyed by day within the cafes and shops, or after the sun goes down, at the night market and night clubs.
Black Star Square — Black Star Square, or Independence Square, came to be after Ghana won independence from the British in 1957, the first African country to do so. It serves as the site for all major military and civic parades in Accra, including Independence Day celebrations on March 6.
The Alley — This trendy bar in Accra, located in a converted alley, serves up great food, live music and cocktails made with akpeteshie, the national spirit of Ghana made from distilled palm wine or sugar cane. McCoy took a shot of akpeteshie and said it was like “really delicious rum.”
Heavy Do Chop Bar — Heavy Do is a casual chop house that serves all the classic West African fare, such as the doughy sides fufu and banku, alongside delicious soups like palm nut soup and groundnut soup. McCoy tried the palm nut soup with a side of fufu, his favorite starch he’d sampled so far.
Samini — Emmanuel Andrews Samini, known as Samini, is a Ghanaian Reggae and dancehall musician who has achieved international success. “From the year 1999 to 2007, he was known as Batman (an acronym for Best of All Time Man),” reports Reggaeville, an online reggae magazine.
Elmina — Elmina is a coastal town in Ghana with a busy port. It was once the center of the transatlantic slave trade along the Gold Coast. Elmina Castle, built by the Portuguese in 1482 and eventually transformed into the headquarters of the Dutch West Indies Company, is now a museum and stark reminder of the violence and bloodshed borne of colonial rule in Africa.
Labadi Beach — Among the picturesque beaches of Accra, Labadi Beach stands out from the rest in the way it combines urban and seaside activities. It’s one of the most popular beaches in Ghana because there is no shortage of street food, parties and shops along the coastline.
Revisiting his childhood hometown, McCoy took a closer look at what he calls “two very different images of DC.” There is the more polished Capitol juxtaposed near edgier and more diverse pockets of the city. McCoy hails from Fairfax Village in Southeast DC, and he spent his time in the city trying to reconcile his memories with its changing demographics and evolving culture.
Get to know the real DC:
The Wharf — Pick up blue crab at the home of the nation’s longest-running open-air fish market dating back to 1805. The Wharf stretches along a mile of Potomac River shoreline. It features music venues, local retailers and amazing seafood. McCoy paired his crab with Chacolí, one of his favorite white wines from northern of Spain.
The Florida Avenue Grill — Established in 1944 by shoeshine man Lacey C. Wilson, the grill became a place for Black people to eat a meal without harassment. Today, The Florida Avenue Grill is a northwest DC staple. McCoy and his cousin Paul Avery ordered cinnamon hotcakes, a favorite of their late grandmother, who they call Mama.
DCity Smokehouse — This proudly black-owned smokehouse has been serving up DC staples since it opened in 2013. It’s famous for grilling up the city’s trademark dish: the half-smoke. Spicier and more coarsely ground than a traditional sausage, the half-smoke is usually served on a hotdog bun with onions, cheese and chili. The dish is a favorite of McCoy and DC natives.
Don’t Mute DC — #DontmuteDC started as a Twitter hashtag coined by activist Julien Broomfield and quickly evolved into a petition and then a movement. The movement is focused on policy changes that would preserve the cultural backbone of DC neighborhoods being upended by gentrification.
Maketto — Founded by chef Erik Bruner-Yang, Maketto is a marketplace in DC that combines retail and dining venues. The Maketto restaurant, located inside, features Bruner-Yang’s unique take on Cambodian and Taiwanese cooking with a mission statement focused on building community.
Métier — Métier is a Michelin-star restaurant that serves a tasting menu designed by chef Eric Zeibold, whom McCoy calls “one of the most significant chefs in American history that most people haven’t … heard of.” McCoy samples an elevated version of the classic American dish, succotash.
South Korea is a combination of old and new. The country is on the cutting edge of worldwide popular culture and also a conservator of centuries-old traditions.
McCoy met up with his old culinary school friend and one of the first Korean master sommeliers, Kyungmoon Kim, who guided him through Korea’s major cities and most remote villages and introduced him to the concept of jeong, loosely translated to mean the feeling of attachment to another person and the hospitality that arises from that connection.
Take a look at some of the spots where McCoy experienced authentic Korea:
Gwangjang Market — Located in the center of Seoul, Gwangjang Market is one of the oldest traditional markets in Korea and includes a selection of clothing, textiles and some of the best street food the city has to offer. McCoy samples some sundae, or blood sausage.
Onjium — This Michelin-starred restaurant in Seoul is helmed by chef Cho Eun-hee and researcher Park Seong-bae and features a menu that takes inspiration from the four seasons to give a modern makeover to Korean royal court cuisine. McCoy enjoyed chef Eun-hee’s take on galbi, or short ribs, and the popular rice dish bibimbap.
Nongam Jongtaek — Located in Andong, South Korea, this hotel is the converted estate of the Lee family, whose ancestors have been on the land for over 600 years. Visitors are treated to homemade liquors and meals prepared by the Lee family during their stay. McCoy described that visiting the unchanged setting and architecture was like stepping into a time machine.
JookJangYeon — This artisanal farm run by wine importer Michael Jung is located in the remote village of Jukjang-myeon. It specializes in making Korean jangs, or thick sauces, such as doenjang, ganjang and gochujang in large earthenware pots called jangdok.
Ojina — This pop up restaurant on Jeju Island from chef Austin Kang and brothers chef Hwang Ji-Won and doctor Hwang Na-bi uses careful ingredient selection and personalized menus to bring out the healing powers of food.
While in Paris, McCoy expands his search for authentic Parisian experiences to the lesser-known banlieues, or suburbs, that surround the city center. Beyond the Champs Élysées and the Eiffel Tower, the rich diversity of dining options and cultural offerings highlights the complexities of the Parisian identity.
Interested in learning more about the authentic Parisian lifestyle? Check out these six spots:
New Saigon — This Lognes restaurant explores Vietnamese food for a French audience. Lognes, a banlieue with the highest proportion of Asians of any town in France, naturally has some pretty stellar Asian cuisine. One of the dishes McCoy sampled at New Saigon, a noodle soup called Phnom Penh, actually has its roots in Cambodia.
Basilique Cathédrale de Saint-Denis — Formerly the royal abbey of Saint-Denis, the Basilique Cathédrale de Saint-Denis is a medieval landmark known as the first example of Gothic architecture and as the “graveyard of kings.” It has served as the burial site of 43 kings, 32 queens and 10 servants to the monarchy.
Bonne Aventure — This Saint-Ouen restaurant was opened by publicist-turned-chef Alcidia Vulbeau and features her unique take on French-African fusion cuisines. McCoy particularly enjoyed the shakshuka, based on the traditional North African dish.
Le Clarence — Located in the 8th arrondissement of Paris proper, Le Clarence is a restaurant that was awarded two Michelin stars in 2017 and features innovative takes on classic French dishes by chef Christophe Pelé.
Mariane Ibrahim Gallery — The second iteration of the Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, following its success in Chicago, opened on Avenue Matignon in Paris in September of 2021. Ibrahim, the gallery’s French-Somali founder, focuses on highlighting artists from Africa and its diaspora.
Palais de l’Élysée –– The Élysée Palace is essentially the French White House, home to President Emmanuel Macron. It is only open to tourists during the European Heritage Days, and it’s larger than the Palace of Versailles. Francis Oge, the chef de partie at the palace, prepared mille feuille for McCoy.
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