What Is Food Travel?: Experience the Rich Flavors of the World
Traveling is one of the best methods to explore the world we live in and learn who we are. The foods we encounter in our travels can embed the travel experience to the point where sometimes the culinary encounters exceed the travel moments.
Even in our modern world of cultural exchange and accessibility to foods of many types, travel brings new foods right to your face. Most of us have never had New Zealand green-lipped mussels. Few of these delectable treats make their way out of the southern hemisphere.
Once you have a helping of the most gorgeous steaming bowl of seafood happiness ever at a waterfront restaurant in Nelson, New Zealand, with the blue-green waters of the Tasman Sea lapping the shoreline below you, a transformation takes place. Paired with a local glass of sauvignon blanc you’d swear this is the best meal ever!
Soon after arriving home, you go out to dinner at your favorite trendy restaurant and lo and behold they have green-lipped mussels on the menu. A bowl of mussels appears at your table, and in an instant you are transported back to that New Zealand restaurant, reliving the moment you first tasted green-lipped mussels. That’s the power food has on us when we travel.
So what exactly does food travel involve? Does it have to mean taking expensive tours and dining at some of the best restaurants in the world? Here are some tips for combining your love of food and travel.
Let Others Guide You
Quite often a travel destination holds so many food experiences in one place a food tour is recommended. Philadelphia is one of America’s most historic cities. For first-time visitors, a food tour will not only shed light on the food specialties of the region, but will also dig deep into the local history and culture.
In Philadelphia take the Flavors of Philly tour with City Food Tours and learn about local specialties. You’ll not only devour a Philly cheese steak sandwich, pretzel and tomato pie, you’ll learn about the city’s history.
On the tour, you might get to see Ernesto — the tomato sauce chef at Joe’s Pizza and the son of the original owner from Sicily. The Flavors of Philly guide will explain that Ernesto has “been making the special San Marzano pizza sauce every morning for decades and won’t let anyone else do it.”
Ernesto uses the same variety of tomatoes he did in his native land and serves up this delicious low-acid sauce daily. He seems too old to still be cooking at Joe’s, and as we leave, there he stands watching over the dining room in satisfaction.
If you want to get more specific, there are often tours for certain types of food. Take a tour by Cheese Journeys, sampling locally made cheeses in regions in England, France and Switzerland. Take a pizza tour in New York City or a macaron tour in Paris. The options are almost endless!
Where There’s Wine, There’s Good Food
On the trail of food and travel adventures, one will undoubtedly come across wineries. Well-known wineries used to be mostly in Europe, California, New Zealand, Australia and other small-scale production regions. Nowadays, good quality wineries seem to be everywhere.
Just 20 minutes north of Charlottesville, VA you’ll find Barboursville Vineyards producing not just amazing wines but quality food, too. This far-flung venture of Italy’s Zonin family brings eight generations of wine-making skill to Virginia. In their restaurant Palladio, you can enjoy not just their fabulous wines but one of the best wine country lunch or dinner experiences anywhere.
The chef has access to produce grown on site for much of the year. Dig into one of the most delicious salads you’ll ever have then move on to petto di faraona ripieno; a fontina stuffed guinea hen breast with black lentils and sautéed escarole. Who knew you could find this kind of excellent Italian cuisine in rural Virginia?
Buy a bottle or two of their award-winning wines to take home and relive the experience with each glass long after leaving.
Food Travel Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive
Tokyo is known as one of the most expensive cities on the planet. Learn to eat like the locals and grab a bowl of chicken or pork curry at a tiny curry shop in Shinagawa or Tokyo Station. This savory bowl of saffron-colored sauce and meat will fill you up and won’t empty your wallet.
In Tokyo and beyond find the ubiquitous ramen shops where locals slurp large bowls of noodles in a rich broth. Add an order of gyoza (pork dumplings) and still manage to keep the bill under 2,000 yen ($18.50 USD). For dessert, find one of Cozy Corner’s 170+ sweet shops in Tokyo where a lighter-than-air cream puff still cost just 100 yen.
Once you dine like the locals, you will tell everyone back home how good the food was. In so telling the story you will be transported back to the streets of Tokyo with that sweet cream puff’s taste lingering.
Go to School
Culinary schools are scattered all over the globe. On your travels look for one that serves meals in the school’s restaurant where chefs-in-training hone their skills. The price is usually quite reasonable and will expose you to regional specialties. From Prince Edward Island’s Holland College to the Culinary Institute of America in Napa California find local cuisine shining.
Consider taking half day or full day cooking classes offered by some culinary schools to go deeper in your travel experience. Take home a new skill that will allow you to relive the travel experience for the rest of your life.
Follow Your Eyes and Nose
Sometimes the very best way to experience food and travel is to lose the guidebooks, smartphones and tips. Try walking the streets and allow your eyes and nose to lead you to a fabulous find. In Paris, the narrow, winding streets hold an occasional rotisserie shop where locals grab spit-roasted chicken and tasty potatoes that have been cooked in the space below the chicken.
Take this feast back to your room or a park bench in good weather and you’ll never forget it.
In Spain, go searching for the best tapas late in the afternoon. Each bar will have tapas prominently displayed for your inspection. Go from bar to bar as you decide who has the best looking selection, then jump in. Devour olives, wine, grilled octopus, croquetas and tortillas until it’s finally time to move on.
All of the above are mere appetizers on the menu of a trip well-tasted. Follow this script or chart your own path, but by all means get out and try something new. Food and travel deliver powerful memories to be savored forever.
For more food inspired travel, visit Taste of Travel 2 and accompany Kurt on his culinary excursions around the world.