There are few things that give you a taste of a place better than the local culinary specialities.
Nothing says Bangkok like an aromatic, lemongrass and coconut curry. Blinding strong coffee and melt in the mouth burek is the taste of Istanbul. And you wouldn’t leave Tokyo without a visit to a sushi bar.
Lorne Blyth, director of Flavours Italian Cookery Holidays and expert on gourmet experiences across the globe, gives us her top ten recommendations for food themed holidays. Bon appetit!
1. Puglia, Italy
I have a real soft spot for Puglia, which is right down on the heel of Italy. Flavours Holidays have a fabulous 18th century palazzo there for our luxury cookery weeks; the local produce is rustic and hearty and the setting is gorgeous – all rugged coastline and ancient, picturesque Byzantine architecture. I go every year to this region to relax, try new recipes, pick up freshly pressed olive oil and eat in my favourite restaurant in Lecce. It really is foodie heaven.
2. East Sussex, England
This holiday is at the opposite end of the luxury spectrum! Ray Mears Bushcraft Woodlore holidays offer courses that run from two days to a week where you live in the wild, forage for your own food and cook over a campfire. The food is (of course) basic, and the outdoor living is not for whingers, but the experience of catching and cooking your own dinner is very rewarding and will certainly make you appreciate the luxury of local shops when you get home!
3. Boschendal Winery, South Africa
The last few years I’ve visited South Africa over the winter; it’s such a beautiful and diverse country. We always book a picnic at Boschendal – my favourite winery just outside Franschoek – one of the oldest in the New World. Nothing beats spending the afternoon picnicking on the lawn, sipping their perfectly chilled wine and basking in the South African sunshine.
4. Various locations, USA
On the other side of the world, in America, I am inspired by Outstanding in the Field. Set up by chef and food campaigner, Jim Denevan, it’s a roving culinary adventure that takes place across the continent. The team pick a location, source the best local food and, for one night only, throw a dinner party that could be anywhere from Central Park in New York to a winery in the Napa Valley. If you are planning to visit the States, check their website to see if they have a food event in the area during your stay.
5. Galway, Republic of Ireland
I love the food market in Galway on the West Coast of Ireland. On a Saturday morning the streets around picturesque Quay Street fill up with artisan food producers who arrive from all over Clare and Connemara. Galway is a stronghold of the Slow Food Movement and there are some wonderful local cheeses, artisan bakers and organic vegetable farms. Afterwards I always head to the wine bar above Sheridans Cheesemongers for lunch.
6. Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
A couple of years ago I visited New Zealand and I can’t contemplate making this list without recommending the wine and food hotspot of Hawke’s Bay. There are over 70 vineyards and an array of Culinary Tours and local food festivals. The seafood is fabulous; there is something particularly mouth watering about eating scallops and oysters in the Antipodean sunshine, right beside the ocean.
7. Shetland, Scotland
For a fishy experience closer to home, visit Scotland’s Highlands and Islands. During mackerel season you can take a fishing boat out for the day; they come in such vast shoals that you can almost scoop them out of the water with a bucket! There is little skill required to catch mackerel and you cannot fail to come home without your dinner, making this a great family day out. Freshly-caught mackerel lightly fried in a skillet on the dockside is the perfect way to end your day.
8. Various locations, Netherlands
For people with a sweet tooth, a trip to the Netherlands to experience the Dutch Stroopwafel is a must. This sticky caramel waffle biscuit dates back to the 18th century and you’ll find them freshly prepared on street stalls everywhere from Gouda to Amsterdam. The Dutch have a strong culture of coffee and cake; Java, after all, was originally a Dutch colony. It’s the perfect finger licking, gooey pick me up.
9. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Thai curry is so light and delicious that of all the Asian foods, it’s definitely my favourite. As in many cultures, the culture is to have lots of small servings so you get to try many different dishes. Visiting Thailand in the rainy season is when I like to go; the humidity levels plummet and it’s very much cooler than during the summer months. There is also a strong vegetarian tradition here and the flavours are mind blowing; lime leaves, cardamom and freshly picked coriander all contribute to the unique, Thai dining experience.
10 San Francisco, USA
San Francisco is the food capital of America’s West Coast. The city is a melting pot of different cultures and therefore a Mecca for the food tourist. It doesn’t matter if you prefer Italian, Thai, Nicaraguan or Chinese, you’ll find them all in this cosmopolitan foodie haven. I agree with celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, who said ‘You can’t have a bad meal in this town.’ Think of your taste buds and book yourself a ticket.
__ __Flavours Italian Cookery Holidays is a specialist ATOL bonded Italian holiday tour operator offering a wide range of quality Italian cooking holidays, painting and pilates courses since 1998. To find out more visit www.FlavoursHolidays.co.uk