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Hi everyone. I haven't posted here in a LONG while, so bear with me.

I recently got married, and fortunately for me, my wife works for United Airlines. This means that I can now fly free anywhere I choose. (Don't hate me).

This is an incredible gift, and I want to use it well. One thing I want to do is travel to various parts of the country to pick up high quality foodstuffs that I can't find here in the midwest (I live in the Chicago area). For example, here in the midwest it is very difficult to find good seafood without paying a lot of money. However, we could travel to Boston or Maine, hit some of the local markets, and get some superb mussels, clams, fresh fish, lobster, etc.

My thought is that A) this can be a lot of fun, as we can travel to different parts of the country and have some goal once we arrive, B) we can explore different areas trying to find great sources for various foods; many of which may be off the beaten path; C) we can educate ourselves (and our palates) about how to distinguish high quality fruits/produce/seafood/whatever. This can help us even on trips to the local grocery store, and can be even better when we go on these long-range shopping expeditions. And last and best D) we will probably make friends along the way with many people throughout the country who share our appreciation for good food. overall we might be able to eat better and healthier than we ever have before, honing our cooking skills, and have a lot of fun and meet a lot of great people while doing so. What more can one ask for?

Anyway, I was fortunate enough yesterday (saturday) to take some baby steps in that direction. I stopped at a bookstore and stumbled across a presentation being done by, of all people, world famous Chicago-area chef extraordinaire Charlie Trotter! (talk about "synchronicity"; there's a reason I chose that name!) I inquired about places one could check out, and he suggested "Chino's Ranch", located near San Diego. Also in the audience was a very nice lady who had recently moved from San Diego; she was kind enough to tell me a bit more about the place. Apparently it has superb produce, and many San Deigo chefs go there regularly to purchase items for their restaurants.

OK, enough of all that. I guess my questions to everyone are:

A) do any of you have more information on this "Chino's Ranch" near San Diego?

B) Can any of you recommend any local (for you) places that have unusually good seafood/meat/produce/whatever. I'm looking for local markets that have produce fresh of the farm, or seafood places that have shellfish brought in that morning right off the boat, etc. (I remember buying mussels at such a place in Freeport, NY, on Long Island)

I promise to share any discoveries I make over the next few months/years with everyone here. Right now I'm just beginning my quest to educate myself foodwise. I know a bit about cooking, but actually going out and really selecting high quality ingredients...that's a whole new world.

Thanks to anyone who can help. It's great to be back on this board,

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