‘The Perennial Plate’ Partners With Intrepid Travel For Online Food Documentary Series

I’ll be the first to raise my hand and say I despise most of the food shows currently on television and online. That’s why I got so excited when I heard about “The Perennial Plate,” a weekly online documentary series, “dedicated to socially responsible and adventurous eating.”

That angle by virtue does not a good show make. But Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine, the team behind the show, have the ideal background to make this concept work, which it does. Throw in a collaboration with well-regarded Australian adventure company Intrepid Travel, and you have the makings of a cult classic.

In case you’re thinking this is another “No Reservations,” or “Bizarre Foods,” the focus is different in that the duo explores the increasingly connected global food system, minus the machismo. That said, there’s plenty for those more interested in armchair travel.

Klein has an impressive resume as a chef, filmmaker and activist, while “camera girl” Fine has a background in graphic design and writing, and has previously released short, food-based films. Together, the two have completed two seasons. The first took place over the course of a calendar year in their home state of Minnesota. The second was filmed across America, taking viewers on a journey of “where good food comes from, and how to enjoy it.”

Season three, which premieres in October (check their site for dates), is the first since joining with Intrepid Travel. The season kicks off with a tour of Vietnam. Future episodes will include China, Japan, India, Argentina and Italy.

Warning: This video will make you want to go to Vietnam

The folks at The Perennial Plate produce a weekly web series about “socially responsible and adventurous eating.” Their most recent episode was filmed while traveling through Vietnam with Intrepid Travel. It’s an entertaining and dynamic video that captures the frenetic pace of Vietnam’s streets and the passion that the Vietnamese people have for their food. The only problem is that we don’t get to smell and taste all of those delicious meals.

Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re off to find a big ol’ bowl of Phở.

Americans are least adventurous travelers

Americans love stories about great adventurers. I grew up wanting to be Indiana Jones (as evidence by the destruction I caused when I repurposed a jump rope into a whip). Bear Grylls has become a celebrity simply by surviving. Andrew Zimmern went from drug addict to chef to celebrity because of his iron constitution. Why, then, are Americans not as adventurous as the people they celebrate? In a recent survey commissioned by Intrepid Travel, Americans lagged behind Brits, Aussies, Kiwis and Canadians when it came to pushing their limits.

1,000 people were surveyed from each of the countries listed above and the United States. Respondents were asked how likely they were to eat fried tarantula, stay with a local family, haggle at a local market and other activities. Americans were the least adventurous while Kiwis seemed game for almost anything.

The survey offers insight into the adventurousness of people in various regions within the United States. Californians were the most adventurous US respondents. Texans were a mixed bag with Dallas residents being the most likely of any Americans to stay with a local family while folks from Austin were the least likely to eschew hotels for some home cooking.

While by no means a definitive study, the survey does seem to quantify something that many travelers have already noticed: Americans lag behind others when it comes to living on the edge. Maybe it’s our litigious society. Could it be our puritan history? Perhaps it’s just simply our lack of vacation time as compared to Western Europeans.

What do you think? Are Americans more adventurous than people think? Would you eat a fried tarantula? Is the whole idea of being adventurous overrated? Sound off in the comments.

Intrepid Travel: Not your average tour operator

Tours have a PR problem when it comes to wooing people who define themselves as “travelers.” Tours are crowded. Tours are contrived. Tours are for…well…tourists. But are all tours created equally? I’ve written before about deciding if a tour is right for you, but it had been a while since I actually took one. Since I last wrote about the topic, I had been curious if I could be satisfied on a tour. If it could cater to my needs for interaction with locals, meals consisting of regional cuisines and limited exposure to excruciatingly annoying crowds. That’s why I decided to experience a tour for myself. I recently returned from a trip to Turkey with Intrepid Travel and realized that you can’t make sweeping generalizations about tour operators.

In my previous post on tours, I referenced a conversation that I’d had with Janelle Nanos, Special Projects Editor at National Geographic Traveler and Intelligent Travel. She was fond of Intrepid Travel after her experience in Morocco because they kept their groups small. That was one of the top criteria on my list, as well, and seems to be par for the course in Intrepid’s business plan.

I wasn’t quite used to just showing up at the airport having done no preparation at all for a trip. I hadn’t had to reserve any hotel rooms. For all our planned moving around, I hadn’t looked at a single train schedule or booked any bus tickets. It felt odd at first, but it was also incredibly liberating. All I had to be concerned about was how much döner kebab I could eat in ten days. Perhaps if I was more OCD I would have been troubled by not playing a major role in the planning of the trip. Instead, I rather enjoyed darting away for a while and not having to think too much about it in advance of my departure.

My biggest fear about taking a tour was that the itinerary would be rigid and uncompromising. That I would be forced to go to a bazaar in which I had no interest or dragged somewhere no matter how exhausted I might be. But Intrepid’s guides were accommodating. Tired? Stay at the hotel and catch up on sleep. Not fit enough for the mountain bike ride through Cappidocia’s fairy chimneys? Go to the Open Air Museum and visit the cave churches instead. This flexibility made it feel less like a tour and more like a holiday with my friends in which we often go our separate ways only to meet again for dinner. Perhaps best of all, free time was ample. Rather than having our days planned from sunrise to midnight, we had more than enough time to explore the markets, wander around the towns or simply catch up on emails to friends back home.

In many ways, our methods of transport resembled how I would have gotten around had I planned the trip myself. We traveled from Istanbul to Bursa to Selçuk to Cappidocia and back to Istanbul. We rode on the same buses as Turks (both local public buses and long-distance motor coaches operated by private companies). We took the metro in Istanbul and an overnight sleeper train from from Ankara back to Istanbul. When we did require private transport, a coach bus was never necessary. Minivans sufficed, which kept us from being a spectacle when we arrived at our destinations.

We dined in the homes of three separate families while we were in Turkey. I’m sure many of you hardcore “travelers” are now shaking your heads and reciting the numerous times someone invited you over for supper while you backpacked overseas. But for your average vacationer, such an experience is rare and difficult to come by. Intrepid believes strongly that dialogue with locals helps people connect with their destination. Those three meals were quite possibly the best I had there. Not only because of the human interaction but because home-cooked Turkish food is downright delicious.

The accommodations were far from luxury but by no means hostels, either. Guests shared rooms at middle-of-the-road hotels. Often the group took up most of a hotel’s rooms not because there were so many people but because it was a small, locally-owned accommodation.

You may still think that tours are for tourists or that no tour could satisfy you, but if I learned anything during my time in Turkey with Intrepid Travel it’s that tours can be a good thing. They can make the weeks and months leading up to a trip devoid of the stress that comes with planning all the moving parts of a vacation. They can handle all of the logistics while still allowing you to customize your trip once you are on the ground. And they can immerse you in culture rather than cocooning you in coach buses and chain hotels.

I was pleasantly surprised by my experience with Intrepid Travel. Apparently not all tours are created equally. And that’s a good thing.

Mike Barish’s trip to Turkey was sponsored by Intrepid Travel. While everyone should agree that döner kebabs are amazing, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are strictly his own.

Intrepid sees travel market turn for better

For travel sector, the good news isn’t supposed to come until sometime next year, at best. Intrepid Travel, though, the market’s already headed in the right direction. The adventure tour operator posted sales growth of more than 30 percent over the past three months. March was up 38 percent from March 2008, with April up 57 percent year over year, so far. It may not be indicative of a broad shift in U.S. travel spending, but it’s certainly great news for Intrepid.

Europe is a top destination for Americans buying through Intrepid: sales to the region are up 625 percent year over year. Egypt is also a hot spot, boasting a year-over-year sales gain of 425 percent in February and March. And, the World Cup has pushed a sales increase of 217 percent for February and March year over year.

“We are certainly thrilled with these results. Travelers are feeling more confident about the economy and they are celebrating the ideal way – by going an adventure that will provide holiday memories to last a lifetime,” said Intrepid Travel North America General Manager, Matt Berna.