11 Questions, Travel

11 Questions with The Dining Traveler

Jessica van Dop Dejesus - The Dining Traveler

Photo courtesy of Jessica van Dop Dejesus

If you’re a food and/or travel blogger in the Washington, DC area, you probably already know Jessica van Dop Dejesus aka The Dining Traveler. If you don’t, well you’re missing out on a generous blogger and local influencer who pays-it-forward more than any person we’ve ever met. Seriously, almost every cool trip, blogger-friendship, and restaurant relationship that we’ve established over the last year can in some way be traced back to her.

Jessica is currently in the last leg of a Kickstarter campaign to fund her Dining Traveler Guide to Puerto Rico, a photo book and travel guide that portrays the island from a Puerto Rican perspective. Take a moment and check out her campaign video below, then channel some holiday spirit and make a donation to help her close in on her goal. And “donation” is a loose term, since you’re basically pre-ordering the guide along with some other cool perks at different pledge levels (including a home-cooked Puerto Rican meal made by Jessica herself!).

Despite being insanely busy with the campaign, as well as traveling, and finding time to enjoy the holidays, Jessica was kind enough to answer 11 questions about Puerto Rico, traveling, and (of course) food.

1.  What’s the one food dish that you recommend people try while in Puerto Rico?

Where do I start? My favorite places on the islands are the panaderias (bakeries). I love a medianoche sandwich. It’s similar to a panini; a soft baguette filled with roasted pork, ham, and Swiss cheese.

The Dining Traveler - Jessica | getinmymouf.com

Medianoche | Photo courtesy of Jessica van Dop Dejesus

2.  If someone wanted to stay away from touristy areas in Puerto Rico, like San Juan, what area(s) would you tell them to check out?

The west coast of Puerto Rico. Cabo Rojo in the southwest coast has beaches to die for, like Playa Buye and Playa Sucia. The town of Mayaguez for the food; they are known for their artisanal sangria and the guava jelly roll (Brazo Gitano).

Playa Buye in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico

Playa Buye in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico | Photo courtesy of Jessica van Dop DeJesus

3.  What is the one thing that you’d like to share about Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican culture that people might not know?

That Puerto Ricans are very welcoming and open people. Don’t get weirded out when people tell you their whole life story after five minutes of meeting you!

4.  On average, how many days do you spend traveling each year?

This past year I have been on the road over 100 days so far.

5.  You seem to have already traveled almost everywhere, but what’s one country or city that you haven’t visited yet, but would like to?

Peru. It’s my dream destination. We’ve been trying to go for the last two years but something always happens. Hopefully in 2016.

6.  Do you have any travel rituals that you follow before a big trip?

I always wait until the last minute to pack. Does that count as a ritual?

7.  Do you remember your first plane ride?

I was five. We flew Eastern Airlines (dating myself here, LOL). We moved from Rochester, NY to Puerto Rico. I was super excited. The whole family, including our German Shepherd, was on the flight!

8.  When you’re back home in DC, what are some of your hobbies and other activities that you like to do to relax?

I love exploring DC. I enjoy going for a run along the Mount Vernon Trail and admiring the monuments across the Potomac. I also love checking out the new exciting restaurants that continue to pop up in the city.

9.  Okay, it’s late at night and you’re craving a sweet and/or salty snack. What do you make or grab from your kitchen to satisfy your late night hunger?

Well… this food blogger is trying to lose weight! I’m trying to be disciplined! However, my downfall is cheese. We always bring tons of cheese back from Holland, where my husband is from.

10.  You currently live in Washington, DC; what other U.S. city or cities do you think you would enjoy living in for an extended period of time? 

I lived in Miami for three months and truly enjoyed it; there are so many cultures converging in this area. Wouldn’t mind returning. I would be open to living in Chicago or San Francisco. However, I love DC. It will be hard to get me out of here.

11.  If you could have one person from any time period, dead or alive, be your tour guide in any city in the world, who would you choose and why?

I would have loved for Pablo Neruda to show me his native Chile. I studied his poetry in high school and college. His words made me feel as if I was already in the country.

Many thanks to Jessica for taking time out of her non-stop travel schedule to chat with us. Don’t forget to check out her Kickstarter, Dining Traveler Guide to Puerto Rico, before the campaign ends on December 10th!

Mouf Links

Mouf Links: Travel Edition

MOUF links

Although this is mostly a food blog, you can’t find great food without a bit of traveling. With the travel bug still in our systems from our recent California trip, we figured it would be a good idea to share a few travel-related links. The recipe is simple: Click the links. Travel. Find food. Eat. Mouf is happy.

1.  Trippy.com
No, this isn’t an online store that sells hallucinogenic mushrooms. Trippy is a travel-based social media site designed to connect travelers around the world in a user-friendly Q&A style site. Expert travelers also engage with the community, so your travel question may be answered by the likes of Andrew Zimmern or Anthony Bourdain. The design is clean and site allows you to integrate maps, links, and pictures in your answers, resulting in a rich, intuitive design that will be your new BFF in travel. Seriously, this site makes that other advisory travel site look like an old Buick station wagon.

2. The Dining Traveler Blog
Our DC #Foodiechats friend, Jessica van Dop DeJesus recently re-branded her travel blog from the DC Repatriate to The Dining Traveler. Go check out her new site, packed with travel and food info from not only her current home in Washington, DC, but also other places like New York City, Chicago, Belgium, Germany, Australia, and especially her childhood home, Puerto Rico. And if you’re planning a trip to Washington, DC, feel free connect with her on Twitter for some advice from a local (she’s pretty much eaten at EVERY great restaurant in DC). WARNING:  When you visit her website, you will become extremely jealous of all the beautiful places she’s visited and delicious food she’s eaten. 

3.  Lowepro StreamLine 250 Camera Bag
I’ve been using this camera bag for the last year and it’s graduated (with honors) into an all-purpose travel bag. Since it’s supposed to hold all your camera goodies, there are lots of nooks and small pockets for batteries, lenses, etc. I’ve found it works great as your “one personal item” for flights since it easily holds an iPad, magazine, plane snacks, headphones, and anything else you might need to help you forget you’re stuck on a plane for hours. You can even squeeze in a 13-inch Macbook if you don’t mind not being able to zip it up.  For those of you traveling with mushrooms, the small front pockets should work wonderfully. This little guy is also perfect for hiking since you can tote around some camera stuff, with plenty of room for a bottle of water and a burrito. Yes, a burrito. What do YOU pack on your hikes? (I’m not getting paid to write this and I actually bought the bag with my own money. I really like it.)

4. Costco Travel + Alamo
There are lots of travel packages and deals you can find on the Costco Travel site, but I’ve never actually used them. I’m sure they’re fine, but what I do use almost every trip is the rental car section. If you travel and rent a car (even just a couple times each year), it’s worth it to become a Costco member. The deals are always the best and the booking process is fantastic since you don’t have to pay upfront and you can cancel at any time.  I may save it for another, longer post, but Alamo is the company I always try to use since they have check-in kiosks (yay, no human interaction!) and they let you physically walk around and pick out your own car at most locations. When you combine Costco and Alamo, renting a car is smoother than room temperature butter. (Again, not paid to say any of this. I mean, come on, like Costco is going to pay to be on this silly little blog.)

5. Alton Browncast Episode #43:  Samantha Brown
Fill your ear-moufs with this podcast full of tips and stories from the undisputed queen of travel, Samatha Brown. She’s been around the block (or globe) more than a few times, so heed her advice with more than a grain of salt. I specifically enjoyed her explanation of why taking a simple walk can help open up your travel experience to something beyond tourist traps. Not to mention, Alton Brown is as good of an interviewer as he is a devious Cutthroat Kitchen host.