“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. Find them at http://www.thespicehouse.com. The Spice House is a vibrant, aromatic shop with rubs, salts, extracts, and spices. 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 me. 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.
Vienna, Austria: Schnitzel at Figlmüller. Find them at http://www.figlmueller.at/en/wollzeile/. 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!
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 (my favorite was tiramisu). Find them at Piazza di Trevi, 101, 00187 Roma RM, Italy. Gelato in Italy can’t be beat. Eating it at the Trevi Fountain….was a pure joy!
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 and we stood outside and fell in love with this wonderful Italian treat with every bite!
Scotland and England; Sticky Toffee Pudding at St. Andrew’s Golf Course in Scotland & Eaton Mess in Durham, England. 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 was Sticky Toffee Pudding and Eaton Mess. Equally heavenly, I dream of these two delectable desserts often!
New Orleans, Louisiana: Beignets at Café Du Monde. Find them at http://www.cafedumond.com. If you are ever in New Orleans, you must try the Beignets of Café Du Monde. A NOLA tradition, these heavenly donut-like pastries shouldn’t be missed. They are covered in powered 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!
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!
**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 it’s 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. Find them at http://www.heritagecreamery.com. This ice cream is creamy, flavorful, and scrumptious! As an ice cream enthusiast, this is top notch, hand made 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. We loved it so much, we visited twice while we were in Waco. Heritage Creamery sources their ingredients locally and their flavors reflect the season and ingredients available to them. They have unusual hours so be sure to check them out on line as you plan your trip. Don’t miss it if you have a chance to visit Waco.
Galway, Ireland, Rathbaun Farm: home made Irish Soda Bread, Salad, and Hot tea. Find them at http://www.rathbaunfarm.com. 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 sooth your soul. Time spent on the farm was a wonderful addition to our trip and we did not go away hungry.
Key West, Florida: Glazed Donuts. Find them at http://www.glazeddonuts.com. 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 Travel Addict adores. 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, Florida, ” Glazed Donuts “is the donut shop you dreamt of as a kid.” I would say that this adult dreams of it often! Be aware that when they sell out for the day, they make no more for the day. For that reason, we always go early. They are also closed on Mondays so be sure to plan appropriately so you don’t miss out!
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 vinegars, and an introduction to my favorite supplier of spices, The Spice House (if you like freshly ground spices, this is the place! I have bought nearly all of my spices from them-through the mail-since 2012). 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 pop corn, 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 great food and drinks (some offer adult beverages) mixed with some sight seeing 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, I would 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.
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 Sibooney 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 in to 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. OMG!!! If you love a FANTASTIC donut and you’re in Key West or thinking about going that direction, this has to be on your list of places to go. God bless Glazed Donuts! Since that discovery, we have been known to plan a trip to Key West around grabbing a donut (or two) at Glazed Donuts. They ARE that good!
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 it’s own distinct food that has made us story tellers!
Enjoy your culinary travels! Bon appétit!