Food and travel are friendly companions, after all, local food is one of the elements that defines a place. But what can you do when you drop in to town and don't know how to assess what's really local and what's just passing through? You can ask the concierge at your hotel, who will likely send you somewhere lovely and safe. You can find a helpful local who may eye you as the greenhorn you are and do exactly the same as the concierge, or worse, send you someplace perfectly awful because the random person you've asked isn't a foodie. Those are hit and miss solutions - why not splash out and take a food tour?
In June, Purple Girl took a food tour of Singapore.
...they had us eat Indian pancakes served with a side of chicken curry which are identical to the Malaysian roti canai . guys, these were the best roti canai in the world. they cost the equivalent of $1.50 and includes a refreshingly delicious glass of hot ginger tea or coffee. the ginger tea is nothing but masala tea infused with ginger but theirs was home-made and so good.
If youâ€™re ever touring Italy and have some time to peak outside the staple tourist zones (Rome, Florence, Venice, etc.), I highly recommend a food tour through the Emilia-Romana region â€” after all this is where they make the original most famous cheese in the world (Parmesan), the most famous and tasty Parma Ham (Proscuitto), the best Balsamic vinegar, the awesome mortadella (donâ€™t call it baloney â€” thatâ€™s the imitator), and of course, some really great pasta. Youâ€™ll emerge from the tour knowing tons more about the food you consume, and thatâ€™s just more fun than trying to remember all the church and saint names.
I have been to Calle Ongpin several dozen times, but in retrospect, realized that we always drive to Chinatown, park at our favorite parking lot, walk by the hopia store, then the grocery store, eat at President, buy some fruit and head back home. That is our regular route. It was brilliant to see Chinatown through the eyes of an expert.
it stuns me that I have walked by this storefront at least 15 times in the past 5 years and NEVER noticed what they were making within.
It's really fun to join a pro tour. After all, you'll get a guide who's devoted to finding the best eats in an easily walkable radius. But you can do it yourself, too. You can find itineraries like this one from City Rag of New York's Lower East side
...the Lower East Side of NY has some of the best eats in the world. delicious ethnic food, beautiful restaurants, amazing bargains, historic icons. when friends visit, we like to take them on a little 1-2 hour walk where we hit the very best spots (the criteria being the eats have to be world class GREAT, and the food has to travel.)
Because restaurants change hands all the time, you may want follow through the links and maybe make some calls to make sure they're still good before setting out - unless you're up for adventure.
Grab Your Fork posts the Turkish Delights tour of Auburn, Sydney, Austrialia's Turkish heartland.
Breakfast for everyone is sought in the form of banh mit, crusty soft bread rolls filled with Vietnamese pork slices, pate, grated carrot, cucumber, coriander and lettuce. I, however, satiate a long-time craving for mankoushe, or Lebanese pizza--an addiction which shows no sign of abating.
And down at the bottom of the post there are instructions for putting together your own food tour.
Research is not necessary; most shopkeepers are more than happy to answer questions, and most will be chuffed if you show a genuine level of interest. The point is to take the time to browse happily. If food is art, then every grocery store is an art gallery.
Food tours were called out as a popular travel trend last summer by CNN Money. They're an exciting - and interactive - alternative to museums and help connect travelers to the elusive "authentic" and "local."
Culinary tours can get quite specialized. EuroAdventures has a six-day holiday called "The Route of the Spanish Iberico Ham," which takes pig-loving tourists to the home ground of Iberia's premier meat treats.
It's not hard to find a food tour, but here are a handful of starter links:
- Seattle Food Tours helps you navigate the 500 plus restaurants of downtown Seattle.
- Taste of Philidelphia teaches you the history of cheesesteaks, pretzels, hoagies, and more.
- Foods of New York offers a few tours - Greenwich Village, the Meatpacking District, Soho...
You need good walking shoes, a bag or backpack to stow your goodies, and a sturdy appetite.
Food tours are fun and educational, but they're also efficient if you're got limited time. They'll connect you with a place in new ways. Best of all, in addition to your photographs, you'll have the flavor of your travels to remember them by.