The dreamy aroma of fresh pastries in a French patisserie, the deeply-satisfying smokiness of a ribs on the grill in Nashville or the refreshing flavour of mint tea in Morocco—taste sensations add a dimension to travel that no photo or video could ever match. Here we’ve rounded up some of the world’s most mouth-watering hidden gems. If exceptional cuisine is high on your agenda, here’s a wish list worth travelling for.
Italy, more than pasta and pizza
You can find incredible food all over Italy, but the secret is to know your regional specialities. For example, if you want a pizza experience to write home about, make sure Naples is on your itinerary—the birthplace of pizza and still renowned as the city that does this dish the best. Or, if you want to sample some of Italy’s finest gelato, our tip is to make a beeline for San Gimignano and the artisan gelato parlour of world champion gelato maestro, Sergio Dondoli, to sample some of Italy’s creamiest frozen treats.
One of Italy’s hidden gems is the cuisine of Umbria. It’s rustic and has its origins in ‘cucina povera’ (peasant cooking) but today we know that more as making the most of your region’s best produce. And this they do oh-so-well. Umbrian specialties include pork, truffles, cheese and what many chef’s regard as the best lentils in the world. The flavours are rich and the dishes deliciously comforting, especially when you add handmade pasta into the mix. La Buca di Baco di Ely in Orvieto is one of the region’s best-kept secrets, so add this to your travel plans if you can.
France, where to begin?
The cheese, the wine, the bistros and the country-style cooking... France is a gourmand’s paradise. As with Italy, the only way to sample the best of the best is to let the regions do the talking, and here are some of our favourite local secrets.
In Southwest France, coastal cuisine is one of the gastronomic gems and if you want to tantalise your tastebuds, you’ll never forget fresh Arcachon Bay oysters, perfectly complemented by a local dry wine such as Entre-deux-Mers.
Travel to Provence for the master of the regional dishes, bouillabaisse. Bouillabaisse requires at least of four types of fresh fish, cooked in fish stock with onions, tomatoes, garlic, saffron and herbs. Its appeal lies as much in the flavour as in the ceremony of how it is served. First the broth, then the fish flesh, followed by generous quantities of croutons and rouille (a spicy, saffron garnish). Bon appetit!
New Zealand, a foodie’s delight
The land of the long white cloud presents more than a few gourmet highlights for travellers. First up, seafood. Not surprisingly for an island nation, New Zealand is known for its excellent fish and seafood—particularly crayfish and mussels. Looking for the perfect wine pairing? Luckily New Zealand is also famous for its remarkable wines. No visit is complete without sampling the fine wines from Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay, Central Otago, Wairarapa and more.
New Zealand slow cooked lamb is another must-try and the best restaurants in Auckland and Wellington (and beyond) will surely have this national treasure on their a la carte menus. A Central Otago Pinot Noir is your wine for this mouth-watering dish.
One seriously big hit amongst gourmands-in-the-know is Kapiti Cheese. One of their multi-award winners is Kapiti Kikorangi Triple Cream Blue. Decadently creamy with soft rivers of blue, it is slowly becoming a New Zealand cheese legend. Whitestone and Puhoi Valley are other favourites but with such a robust dairy industry, it’s not difficult to find fabulous cheese in New Zealand. Which can be paired perfectly with... more wine.
Morocco, spices and sweet treats
Think Casablanca, Fes, Marrakesh and if your mind travels to rich, aromatic cuisine and sumptuous exotic flavours—you know what awaits. One of the best ways to sample the delights of Morocco is through a tasting tour of the medina, where you can wander the food stalls and try some of the traditional treats and pastries that include mlawi (pancakes), briwates (sambosas), potato cakes, cured olives, delicious wild honeys and over 100 varieties of date. Fine dining in Morocco is equally as satisfying, with signature dishes such as tagine, fish chermoula, cous cous and of course, always rounded off with refreshing mint tea.
England, summertime favourites
With its epic history and stunning scenery, England is a top destination at any time of year. But if you’re lucky enough to be travelling during the English summer, you’re in for a few special treats. Wimbledon is one of the biggest events on the calendar and if you’re in the neighbourhood, you’ll need to make sure you sample its two most famous delights: Pimm’s No. One cup, a lemony drink with gin and fruit, and strawberries and cream.
Summer is also when the hanging baskets around corner pubs burst into bloom and the clientele spill out of doors to enjoy the hazy English daylight (which lasts until around 9pm). To visit an English pub is a must-do experience and while you’re there, see if you can land one of the country’s most iconic dishes—the Sunday Roast. This is one of Britain’s best and most celebrated food traditions, centred around roasted meat: beef (with Yorkshire pudding and horseradish), lamb (and mint sauce), chicken (with redcurrant jelly or bread sauce), and pork (with apple sauce and crackling). It’s served with roasted potatoes, an assortment of roasted vegetables, and gravy made from the roasting juices.
If you can spare a few hours before you leave, our tip is to get yourself to Borough Market in Southwark, one of the largest and oldest food markets in London. There has been a market on this site since at least the 12th century, and Borough Market is open every day. Don’t go past the freshly shucked oysters at Richard Haward Oysters followed by a cheese toastie or raclette at Kappacasein Dairy.
Nashville and the Deep South, southern flavours and charm
The Deep South has a cuisine all of its own, and if you’re exploring this creative corner of the United States, there are some standout dishes you need to know about. You won’t get food like this anywhere else.
In Nashville, ‘Meat and Three’ is a must-try. Restaurants that offer it usually list two to five entrees and one or two dozen side dishes, so you choose your meat and three. The protein can be meatloaf, fried catfish, pot roast or hamburger steak with gravy. Sides may be vegetables, salads, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, and rice. Cornbread, hoecakes, biscuits, and dinner rolls are always provided too.
Locals will tell you that another dish you have to sample while in the South is Hot Chicken. It is fried chicken loaded with super-hot spices and served on a bed of white bread with a pickle. If you like your chicken hot, this is your dish.
From chicken, to seafood. Crawfish is a delicacy in this part of the world (known in Australia as crayfish). If you can, line up a lunch with the freshest crawfish you can find—you won’t be disappointed.
For a world of flavours unto itself, make your way to New Orleans. The cuisine of New Orleans is heavily influenced by Creole cuisine, Cajun cuisine and soul food. Seafood is huge in all of the above, and if you’ve been hankering for Louisiana Shrimp Creole, gumbo or jumbalaya, this is the place.
South Australia, the delectable state
There are so many wonderful foods worth travelling to South Australia for. Adelaide alone is a hot contender for the food and wine capital of Australia, with countless award-winning restaurants, all supplied with some of the best fresh produce in the country.
South Australia gives you vineyards galore: the Coonawarra is arguably home to the world’s best cabernet, with the Barossa Valley and Adelaide Hills also famous for their impeccable wines. Don’t even get started on cheese, Coffin Bay King Oysters or the Ligurian honey of Kangaroo Island.
If your tastebuds are tingling just thinking about some of the wonderful cuisine that’s waiting for you around the world, take a look at our small-group tours, where exceptional flavours and food experiences are something to look forward to, every day.