When we stumbled upon Danielle Walsh’s Instagram, we weren’t sure if we should first envy her food or travel adventures. As travel editor at one of our favorite travel magazines, AFAR, Danielle travels and also eats for work.
Ok, she travels more for work, but the eating part comes with it. Formerly at Bon Appetit in New York, Danielle switched coasts three years ago and is still in love with her new home, San Francisco. We met Danielle recently over an avocado toast (she is the toast queen, check out her @daily_toast feed) and talked all things she wouldn’t travel without, travel rituals, favorite SF spots and what food is overrated.
You absolutely make us hungry with your Instagram feed! The caption in your profile reads “I travel and eat a lot.” And that’s so true – partly because you just love it and partly because your are travel editor at AFAR. How did you get there? What were you doing before?
I’ve always loved food—specifically, the way it brings people together. Eating with people is my ideal activity. You’re sharing both food and stories, plus your endorphins are going crazy when you’re eating or drinking something delicious. Why wouldn’t you want to eat with others? It’s because of this love of food and communal eating that I began my career as a food writer. I started at Food Network Magazine, and New York Magazine as an intern then scored a dream job at Bon Appétit right out of college. After three years working there, I realized I wanted to go a bit deeper: I wanted to learn the stories behind what I’m eating. That naturally led to travel, and to my role as senior editor at AFAR.
*Danielle exploring Ho Chi Minh City.
How is life as an editor for AFAR (which we btw love!). What is great about being a travel editor and what it’s not so great? ( if that’s even possible?)
What can I say? Life as an editor at AFAR is wonderful. Of course, dealing with travel for my job makes my day-to-day fun. AFAR itself, however, is just a phenomenal place to work. The company really practices what it preaches, offering its employees ample time off and travel stipend each year to explore a part of the world they’ve never been to before.
I love working as a travel editor because you get to meet so many fascinating people and get to tell their stories. Travel, after all, is about people. At least, that’s the kind of travel we champion at AFAR.
Sometimes, I’m on the road for three or four weeks at a time, which can get a bit exhausting. Maintaining a regular workout schedule can be a challenge, but I’m developing a love for hotel gyms—they’re often so much nicer than my gym at home!
“Never been so in awe of a natural sight. And I got to see it from a helicopter too!” – Danielle at Twelve Apostles, Great Ocean Road, Australia
You won’t travel without….
A big, warm scarf that doubles as a blanket or neck pillow on long flights. Even in the summer!
What is the first thing you do when you arrive at a new place?
Throw all my luggage into my hotel room, then go out into the world and walk around. I need to orient myself immediately, as well as find the cute shops, bars, and restaurants that are close to where I’m staying. Plus, fresh air and exercise is a surefire way to kill your jetlag!
You always bring back from your travels…
Some kind of spice or pantry-friendly food item. The past few years, I’ve grabbed both hot and sweet pimento from Barcelona, lavender honey from France, and delicious dry Riesling from Germany.
Any travel rituals?
Not exactly a ritual, but I LOVE watching T.V. in bed in hotel rooms. It’s novel and comforting at the same time (I don’t have a T.V. in my room at home).
What country left a big influence on you?
Vietnam left a major impact on me. It was the first place I’ve been where I was like, okay, these people’s lives are completely different than mine in every way. The city is cramped, apartments are unimaginably tiny, and the area has been through war and multiple occupations. Still, everyone was so welcoming. The food was just stunning, too—it’s influenced my cooking at home quite a bit.
For your work, you have to research a lot. How do you come back from a rabbit hole that’s the Internet? How do you stay focused?
I make an old-fashioned to-do list. I juggle a lot of things, from my 9-5 work at AFAR to my freelance writing to planning a wedding. Keeping a list helps me extract everything from my brain, organize, and get things done. It also helps that Facebook has been too depressing to scroll through lately.
How does your typical day look like, from am to pm?
I wake up around 7:30 a.m. and cook breakfast with my fiancé, Greg (usually eggs and toast with pour-over coffee). I get ready and am at work by 9:30 a.m. From there, it could be anything from a phone interview to editing online pieces to writing about a recent trip. After work, I hit the gym, then either go out with friends or cook dinner at home. I end the day with either freelance work or watching House Hunters on HGTV and turning off my brain.
Food is a big deal for you. According to your Instagram, you love to eat out, but you also enjoy cooking at home. What’s your signature dish?
I don’t really have a signature dish for dinner—I experiment with new recipes all the time, from quick curries to interesting salads to lamb flatbread. My main signature, though, is breakfast hash. I grew up eating breakfast potatoes my dad made on the weekends and I kind of took that and made it my own. It’s just diced potatoes tossed in paprika, salt, and pepper, then cooked on the stove until they’re soft and browned. I like to throw in some chopped shallot, garlic, and greens sometimes, too. When it’s finished, I pile the potatoes into a bowl and top it with an over-easy egg. It’s best eaten on the couch, slightly hung over.
Five things always in your fridge?
Fish sauce, maple syrup, eggs, miso, gochujang
Best lazy Sunday toast combo?
Avocado for sure! Salted aggressively, seasoned with chili flakes, and topped with an olive oil-fried egg.
What food trend or ingredient is overrated in your opinion?
I’m not a big fan of the fried chicken thing that’s happening right now. Fried chicken needs to be REALLY good for me to justify eating it. Otherwise, it just gives me a grease stomach ache. The best I had recently, though, was a fried chicken sandwich at Bartlett House in Ghent, NY.
Tell us your five favorite food spots in San Francisco…
Nopa—this is the definition of California cooking. Has a slight Mediterranean bent, and the dining room has high ceilings and is sexy in an understated way.
The Riddler—This brand-new champagne bar is run by one of my favorite ladies in the biz, Jen Pelka. It’s got a list that slays, but also playful things like tater tot waffles and chambongs (look it up)
Spruce—Very fancy, but I love eating at the bar and getting its delicious kale salad and knockout burger. The wine list here is pricey, but hot damn, it’s amazing.
Wise Sons Bagels—I’m a former New Yorker, and I’d kill you for a proper New York bagel. Wise Sons have some of the best in the bay area and make me miss NYC’s a little less.
High Treason—This is the most chill wine bar in San Francisco. Hands down. If you like approachable yet interesting wines and vinyl, this place is for you.
If we have only 12 hours in San Francisco, what should we do … Where do you take out-of-town friends?
I always take out-of-towners to Lands End—it’s this gorgeous park at the northwestern tip of the city that’s all cliffs and the Pacific Ocean. Plus, it has one of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge in the city. After, I take them to the Cliff House down the street for some more killer views and a drink.
Best kept California secret…
Home cooking here is SO much more fun for so many reasons. The produce is fantastic, and you have access to a wide variety of ethnic foods. I live in the Richmond area, which is traditionally an Asian neighborhood, and there are so many grocery stores that sell ingredients I’d never dreamed I’d be able to find, like handmade rice noodles, bitter melon, and delicious, hearty greens like gai-lan.
What do you love most about California?
Everytime I touch down in California, my shoulders relax. People don’t live to work here—they live to live. And when most people hold that philosophy, life is better for everyone.
*All images courtesy of Danielle’s Instagram (@wandereatrepeat)