“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” -James Beard
Travel can expand your mind through art, architecture, culture, and the people that you meet. While all of that is worth buying a ticket and packing a bag, I can assure you that your travel memories will be most firmly cemented in your mind around the food you eat. Some of the most spectacular food we have had when traveling has left us wanting more!
Let’s see if I can get your mouth watering! These are my top ten foodie moments from our travels:
Honorable mention-The Spice House, Chicago, Illinois
The Spice House is a vibrant, aromatic shop with rubs, salts, extracts, and spices galore. They have been highlighted in Eating Well, Taste of Home, Food & Wine, Bon apptéit, Condê Nast, and Real Simple, to name a few. The Spice House was a food tour discovery for us while we visited Chicago with friends. While there, they took us into the store and out into a delightful garden at the back of the property. There, we learned from the experts about the different types of cinnamon. Cinnamon is cinnamon, right? OH NO! With my eyes open to different spices and how they can enhance my cooking, I have faithfully ordered from them since 2012 and I love the quality and freshness of their spices.
If you love to cook, be sure to visit them in person when you’re in Chicago or they will send your spice to you. Order your favorites online at www.thespicehouse.com.
Vienna, Austria: Schnitzel at Figlmüller
When we travel, we do our best to eat locally or find whatever the area might be known for. Recommended to us by our Concierge on our Viking River Ship, we left our tour for the day and tracked down this cozy, traditional restaurant hidden deep in the city. Figlmüller is referred to as the “Home of the Schnitzel” and since 1905, they have been serving expertly crafted Viennese specialties. Genuine Schnitzel is crunchy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside and serve with a warm, vinegar-based potato salad. What a treat!
We highly recommend visiting them for lunch while you tour Vienna. Find them at www.figlmueller.at/en/wollzeile/.
Maine: Naked Lobster Rolls
When in Maine, I try to eat Lobster in any form, as often as possible! My favorite is a Lobster Roll. I recommend the “naked” version (no mayonnaise). Mainers know how to do lobster right!
Rome, Italy: Gelato at the Trevi Fountain, Il Melograno
Isn’t the say, “When in Rome!” Yes! When in Rome and visiting Trevi Fountain, be sure to grab some. Eating gelato at the Trevi Fountain was a pure joy! I recommend the Tiramisu flavor!
Find them at Piazza di Trevi, 101, 00187 Roma RM, Italy, or online at https://melograno-pizza-restaurant.business.site/
Naples, Italy: Sfogliatella (Lobster Tail Pastry)
This lovely morsel is a shell-shaped filled Italian pastry. It’s very thin, leaf layers were delightfully crunchy and they held a slightly sweet ricotta filling. This culinary treat was the courtesy of our guide who took us to a very crowded pastry shop in Naples called Gran Caffe Gambrinus. You can find them at www.grancaffegambrinus.com/en/. We stood outside and fell in love with this wonderful Italian treat with every bite! When in Italy, if you see these on the menu or in a bakery, be sure to grab one–or three! You’ll love them!
Scotland and England; Sticky Toffee Pudding at St. Andrew’s Golf Course in Scotland & Eaton Mess in Durham, England
Hi, my name is Christina and I have a sweet tooth. Being a huge fan of the British Baking Show, I was determined to eat all things British that I have seen on the show. The two I had the opportunity to eat on our Scotland/England trip were Sticky Toffee Pudding and Eaton Mess. Equally heavenly, I dream of these two delectable desserts often! You will not regret trying something new on your travels, especially on the dessert menu.
New Orleans, Louisiana: Beignets at Café Du Monde
When visiting New Orleans, do the tourist thing and enjoy the Beignets of Café Du Monde. A NOLA tradition, these heavenly donut-like pastries shouldn’t be missed. They are covered in powdered sugar so care should be taken. No matter what you are wearing, you will inevitably and delightfully be covered in sugar. TIP: wear light colors!
Café du Monde has multiple locations but you want to have the true New Orleans experience and you’ll find them at 800 Decatur Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Check them out at www.cafedumond.com.
Waco, Texas: Lavender Donut Holes, Magnolia Table; Grilled Cheese, Cheddar Box, Gourmet Grilled Cheese Food Truck on the grounds of Magnolia Silos; Brown Butter Ice Cream, Heritage Creamery
There was no shortage of yummy things to eat when we visited Waco. Of course, the main focal point of our trip to Waco was the Magnolia Silos so the wonderful food was a delight.
**BREAKFAST: We started one of our days at Magnolia Table. Find them at http://www.magnolia.com. They only serve my favorite meal of the day. Breakfast. For me, the highlight was the delicate and complex Lemon Lavender Donut Holes. Don’t wrinkle your nose! (I know what you’re thinking because I thought it too). They did not taste of potpourri or soap at all. They are lemon, floral, and sweet all at once. Try them! You won’t be sorry!
Note: they are closed on Sunday. Be sure to check out their website before you go regarding hours and reservations.
Find them online at https://magnolia.com/table/ or at 2132 South Valley Mills Drive in Waco.
**LUNCH: On the campus of Magnolia Silos, you can choose from any number of food trucks for a quick bite to eat. For us, that was the humble Grilled Cheese at the Cheddar Box Food Truck. Find them at http://www.cheddarboxwaco.com. Crunchy and cheesy, it met our expectations of one of our favorite comfort foods and we paired our sandwiches with Iced tea from another food truck, Alabama Sweet Tea, which was served ice cold in a reusable mason jar. Very Texas!
**TREATS: I hope that it goes without saying that the Magnolia property is best known for its bakery. Serving cupcakes, cookies, and cinnamon rolls…we wanted them ALL! But also, not to be missed is the small-batch, hand-made Ice cream at Heritage Creamery that you can find not far away just off the campus of Baylor University. This ice cream is creamy, flavorful, and scrumptious! As an ice cream enthusiast, this is top-notch, handmade ice cream that you will fall in love with when you take your first spoonful. You can’t get ice cream like this from a grocery store and we loved it so much, we visited twice while we were in Waco. Heritage Creamery sources its ingredients locally and their flavors reflect the season and ingredients available to them. They have unusual hours so be sure to check them out online as you plan your trip. Don’t miss it if you have a chance to visit Waco.
Go find them! They are located at 1125 8th Street, Waco, just off the Baylor campus. You can also find them online at http://www.heritagecreamery.com/info.
Galway, Ireland, Rathbaun Farm: home made Irish Soda Bread, Salad, and Hot tea
An Irish Sheep Farm, Rathbaun Farm was a chance to see the art of sheep farming in Ireland first hand. It was also a lunch stop. We were served the simplest and most delicious of lunches. It was a damp, rainy day so the fresh, warm Irish Soda Bread and tea were soothing and delicious. We felt welcomed and at home. Proof that a simple meal is often all you need to soothe your soul. Time spent on the farm was a wonderful addition to our trip and we did not go away hungry.
If you have the luck of the Irish and have a chance to visit, be sure to experience the hospitality of Rathbaun Farm. Find them at www.rathbaunfarm.com.
Key West, Florida: Glazed Donuts
Saving the very best for last and speaking of soothing the soul…Glazed Donuts is the Southernmost donut shop that makes fresh delights that this weary traveler will seek out! We have been known to plan a trip to Key West around as many visits to this delightful place as possible. Right in the heart of Old Town Key West, Glazed Donuts is not to be missed! I would say that this adult dreams of it often! Be aware that when they sell out for the day, they make no more so for that reason, we always go early to get our favorite flavor. They are also closed on Mondays so be sure to plan appropriately so you don’t miss out!
What is better than a donut at the beach!? Find them at 420 Eaton Street, Key West, or online at www.glazeddonuts.com.
So. When you travel, how do you know where the yummy eats might be?
Take a food tour
Think of a food tour as just that, a tour. An excursion of sorts. It can be a fun way to meet people, immerse yourself in the local culinary scene, and give you an idea of great places to go back to eat if your tour is early in your trip.
We took our first food tour in Chicago. Our friends that live outside the city wanted us to have a taste of all things Chicago and this tour was not for the faint of heart! We had deep dish pizza, Rueben sandwiches, chocolates, oils and vinegar, and an introduction to my favorite supplier of spices, The Spice House (which I highlighted earlier). Thank goodness this was a walking tour!
A few months later, as we planned a trip to Ashville, North Carolina with friends for a long weekend visit to The Biltmore Estate, we decided to try another food tour. In Asheville, we tasted Devils on Horseback, local chocolates and wines, Gourmet popcorn, and Italian main courses. Again, thank goodness for the walking part of the tour!
Our most recent food tour was while visiting Bar Harbor, Maine. This tour included local blueberry soda, gourmet French fries, blueberry and caramel popcorn, lobster rolls, coffee, several Irish pub appetizers, and a vinegar and oil tasting.
A food tour vendor will have relationships with some of the best restaurants and shops in town. We have observed that the food tours have been small businesses supporting each other and it gives you a great community experience. A great food tour will offer some really delicious foods and drinks (some offer adult beverages) mixed with some sightseeing between the biggest food items. We used Trip Advisor to find our food tour in Maine and based on some delicious bites on our tour, we went back to one of the restaurants for dinner later that evening.
If a food tour sounds like fun, we recommend planning one at the beginning of your trip. Finding a yummy place to eat early on can give you spots to return to for subsequent meals and if you enjoy supporting local businesses when you travel, which I recommend, this is a great way to do just that.
Ask a local
Who better to ask for recommendations on the best food and drink in town than a local? A native will likely steer you to an eatery that is frequented by locals and might be a bit off the beaten path of the tourist mobs. Consider asking your hotel front desk or concierge, grocery store clerks, or any local you encounter. Don’t be afraid to ask and I’m betting they won’t be shy on their recommendations.
On more than one occasion, we have eaten where the locals have pointed in Key West, Florida. One specific local was a U.S. Custom’s Agent that had come on board the cruise ship we were getting off of to check our re-entry into the U.S. He lived in Key West and was kind enough to recommend El Siboney Restaurant on Catherine Street which serves traditional Cuban home cooking. Delish! Thank you to our Custom’s Agent friend!
We’ve never had a local steer us wrong.
Research before you go
Sometimes knowing what the local specialty might be for your destination is a great place to start. When in Rome, right? Trip Advisor, locals, and just simple web searches can point you to good local food or specialties that you might want to try.
One very memorable research that we took advantage of was during the same cruise mentioned earlier that stopped into Key West. Before getting off of the ship, my husband did a quick search on places to eat in Key West. He found an article that had a list. Of course, the one listed spot that jumped out at him was Glazed Donuts on Eaton Street. So, that’s how we found our favorite donut shop on the planet! God bless Glazed Donuts!
My husband and I are always afraid that we’ll fall in love with something yummy in our travels that we can never have again. And while that is likely to happen, eating with the locals or trying a regional cuisine has always enhanced our travels, given us great food porn (what we call it when we photograph our food), and given us another experience to remember. Each trip has had its own distinct food that has turned us into storytellers!
Enjoy your culinary travels! Bon appétit!