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Ask the experts: Turkish ice cream, jerk chicken and road-tripping the Deep South

Our panel has all the answers, whether it’s where to stop on a gourmet road trip or which culinary souvenirs to bring home

Ask the experts: Turkish ice cream, jerk chicken and road-tripping the Deep South
Order up at Charlie Vergos Rendezvous, Memphis

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Are there any restaurants in Paris that will keep both me and my partner — a meat-lover and a vegan — happy?
In Paris, when a carnivore and a vegan dined out together in the past, it invariably meant a meal where someone got the short end of the stick. That’s now changing as younger Parisians want food that’s as healthy as it is gastronomically satisfying. For a splurge meal, try chef Alain Passard’s L’Arpège. He uses produce from his own organic farm for the seasonally changing vegetable tasting menu — expect dishes such as beetroot with Meyer lemon and timut pepper. Meat-eaters, meanwhile, can opt for the ‘Terre & Merre’ menu, which still features plenty of veg, plus ingredients such as scallops and speck. Another good choice is Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée. The chef offers his celebrated his take on haute cuisine with options made using cereals and vegetables. At both places, specify you’re vegan when booking. At Cambodian-born chef Tomy Gousset’s new restaurant, Hugo & Company, in the Latin Quarter, try dishes such as quinoa and avocado salad with radishes, kale and mushrooms; or grilled mackerel with chimichurri sauce. Elsewhere, Tavline is an affordable Israeli restaurant in the Marais, with a great small-plates option that will keep both diners happy. Dishes to try include roasted cauliflower with tahini, pistou and tomato-seed vinaigrette and ktsitsot daguim — grilled fish balls with Moroccan spiced lentils. Alexander Lobrano, Author of Hungry for Paris and Hungry for France

I visited Turkey recently and fell in love with dondurma, Turkish ice cream. Is it readily available over here, or is it easy to make at home?
Turkey’s unique ice cream originates from Maras in the southeast of the country, and what makes it so special is its hard texture and resistance to melting — you can even eat it with a knife and fork. Salep flour, made from the root of the early purple orchid, thickens the ice cream, and mastic, a natural resin, is added to make it deliciously chewy. Both of these ingredients can be found in some Eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern shops, but it’s still rather difficult to make at home. While it’s not easy to find dondurma outside of Turkey, it is stocked in speciality shops and Turkish restaurants. If you’re in London, you’re in luck — you’ll find it at Kazan Restaurant in Pimlico, or Gallipoli Cafe in Islington, among others. Ozlem Warren, author of Recipes from My Homeland 

I’m heading on a road trip across the Deep South US. Can you recommend any essential food stops?
No trip to the Deep South is complete without barbecue. Different states have their own preferred techniques, but the dry rub ribs served in Memphis are a firm favourite. Head to Charlie Vergos Rendezvous for the smoky, slow-cooked pork that the city is famous for. Southern-fried chicken is also a must, and Hattie B’s Hot Chicken in Nashville is absolutely the place to try it. Beware, it can be pretty spicy, so order sides of mac and cheese and creamy coleslaw to cool off. For breakfast, there are a few key dishes you need to try when you’re in the South: traditional grits, biscuits with gravy, corn pone and fluffy American pancakes. And if you’re planning on hitting the Great Smoky Mountains on your road trip, there’s nowhere better than Crockett’s Breakfast Camp in quirky Gatlinburg. This kitsch joint has a fun, Wild West vibe and serves huge cinnamon rolls that you need to see to believe. Going off the beaten track, the Wildflower Cafe in Mentone, Alabama, is beautiful, dripping in fairy lights and homemade crafts. I recommend the specialty cheese-laden tomato pie, followed by a decadent peanut butter cake. Finally, colourful New Orleans is the destination for seafood-lovers, with oysters, soft-shell crab and crawfish on the menu. Try Red Fish Grill for your gumbo fix and Coop’s Place for a hearty jambalaya. Alternatively, book on to the Magazine Street Foodie Tour by New Orleans Secrets for some unique local restaurants in the leafy Garden District. For an authentic NOLA experience, make sure you go to the Jazz Brunch at The Court of Two Sisters — a buffet of Louisiana specialities in the courtyard, accompanied by a live jazz band, is the perfect cure to any lingering hangovers from a night in the French Quarter. Kara Caradas, travel blogger at Heels in My Backpack

I’m going to India soon and want to stock up on spices. Are there any I can I bring back that I can’t buy in the UK?
Picking up spices in India is a great idea; the variety and freshness is incredible. Dagad phool (black stone flower) is dried lichen and adds its distinctive savoury earthiness to a curry. It’s also added to goda masala, a sweet and aromatic spice blend with dried coconut. Another blend worth buying is Kashmiri ver. It’s similar to garam masala but with more complexity. It’s formed into flat ‘cakes’ and air-dried; you powder one as you use it. If you prefer your blends hot, look for the southern milagu or molaha podi. This is a very spicy blend of ground red chillies, roasted lentils and a few aromatics. Known as a dry chutney, it’s ready to eat and can be sprinkled on to food or mixed with oil for a spicy kick. Back to single spices, look for the dried gem marathi moggu. It looks like a large clove but is actually a dried flower bud with a distinctive peppery flavour. Fried in hot oil, it’s delicious in curries, vegetables and rice dishes. Another dried bud worth picking up is nageskar, or cobra’s saffron — it has a woody tone with citrus notes. Long pepper can be found in the UK but is better sourced in India. It adds lovely heat and flavour when fried and simmered in a sauce. Also look out for dried pomegranate seeds (pictured), which add tart fruitiness; I use them in stuffed flatbreads and meat curries. Finally, if you find Lakadong turmeric, buy some — it has a higher curcumin content than any other. Anjum Anand, food writer and TV chef

I’d like to make proper jerk chicken — do you have a recipe?
Head here for Warren Richards’ (owner of Cafe Caribbean) family recipe.

Published in Issue 2 of National Geographic Traveller Food.