Food is definitely one of the best reasons to travel. From piquant spices to pastries and luscious seafood to smoked cheese, the global larder is full of fantastic foodie moments. Whether eating at a local restaurant, strolling through a market or sampling a local delicacy, there’s no better way to get a real taste of a culture than its grub.
So throw away your bagged salad and dig in with these 10 stand-out food and travel experiences for 2016…
Find truffles at Fiera del Tartufo Bianca d’Alba
They’re no oil painting, but white truffles turn anything into a divine experience. In Alba, amid the vineyards and bell towers of Italy’s Piedmont region, the knobbly underground fungus is celebrated like a god during its season. Mid-October to mid-November this town buzzes with a festival spirit thanks to parades, concerts, celebrity chefs, food demonstrations and food stalls. Dig into decadence and enjoy truffle with everything – small matter it costs as much as gold; during this month, everyone eats like a millionaire.
Go foraging at L’Enclume
Chef Simon Rogan’s restaurant in Cartmel, Cumbria, brought the art of foraging to fine dining when it opened in 2002, and it’s still the most delicious and innovative place to lunch on a hedgerow. Rogan and head chef Tom Barnes use wild ingredients picked from the local countryside to create two-Michelin-star dishes that are works of art on the plate and palate. Vegetables, herbs and fruit are also all local, having been grown on the restaurant’s 12-acre farm resulting in virtually zero food miles. The furthest your food will probably travel here is if you hike up nearby Helvellyn afterward.
Give things a kick at Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar
Istabul’s Spice Bazaar in its Ottoman-era marketplace hits all the senses at once. Piles of jewel-coloured spices, Turkish delight, nuts and plump dates sit amid the bustle and the smell of roasting coffee and dried herbs is in the air. There’s a bit of tourist tat here, but for the main part this 17th-century market is still firmly in the business of tantalising the taste buds, with everything from lemon salt and saffron to chili flakes and kofte spices. Just avoid buying from anywhere that seems to sell a little bit of everything – specialisation is a reliable sign of a reputable vendor.
Take up smoking at Marrbury Smokehouse
Smoking your own food is the gastro trend of 2016, but if you’d rather take the easy road, head for the Marrbury Smokehouse in Galloway, south-west Scotland. Everyone from the Queen to Michelin-starred chefs gets their smoked salmon from this family-run producer, which also sells smoked poultry, game and cheeses. Enjoy a picnic in the grounds of Carsluith Castle next door after a trip round the shop, or stay overnight – the Smokehouse has a self-catering barn on-site, with hot tub and its own private pub for a wee dram after hours.
Get a sugar rush at a Viennese coffee shop
Nobody does sugar and caffeine quite like the Viennese, who’ve been serving up coffee culture under chandeliers here since Freud first ordered a brew. It’s still a way of life in the Bohemian grand cafés where long windows cast dusty slivers of light on newspaper-reading patrons who look as if they might discuss art or philosophy at any moment. It’s hard to do through a mouthful of Sachertorte, the dense chocolate cake that is the king of Viennese pastry. Wash down with a melange (a white coffee) – none of your latte nonsense here. And don’t even think of asking for syrup.
Catch a lobster in Maine
Order lobster without all the fine-dining fanfare in Maine, where the summer season brings plentiful and inexpensive soft-shell crustaceans to the US state’s plates. The big celebration is the Maine Lobster Festival at the end of July, but you can chow down on lobster rolls at shacks along the coast at any point – try Shaw’s wharfside offering in the fishing village of New Harbor or The Clam Shack in preppy Kennebunkport, alongside well-heeled yacht owners. Or go all out and don your plastic bib and claw-cracker at a lobster restaurant for the freshest, messiest seafood meal you’ll ever eat.
Grow hungry in the Rhubarb Triangle
Forget Bermuda or Golden, the most mysterious triangle in the world is between Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell in Yorkshire. This is the Rhubarb Triangle, where 90% of the world’s forced rhubarb (grown in darkness for a sherbet-y taste) was once grown. With the import of exotic fruits, the humble crumble favourite lost ground, but now it’s making a comeback in puddings and as an accompaniment to meat. Grab yourself some stalks here from E.Oldroyd & Sons Ltd – visit its magical forcing sheds where rhubarb is grown in candlelight, lighting up the pink stems like glow wands at a rave.
Rack up Michelin stars in San Sebastián
European Capital of Culture 2016 San Sebastián, in the Spanish Basque Country, might have all the arts and smarts – but it’s also got all the Michelin-starred restaurants as well. OK, so not all of them, but it’s certainly got the most stars per square metre of anywhere in the world. For a start, there are seven three-star establishments here alone, including Akelarre and Arzak. Out of your price range? You’ll also find a new wave of young chefs in this foodie capital, whipping up exciting menus in lower-key restaurants. Or just stick to pintxos – the Basque version of tapas. Really, you can’t go wrong.
Shuck a bivalve at the Galway Oyster and Seafood Festival
If you’re looking for craic with your oysters then head for Galway, where the annual Oyster and Seafood Festival in September brings the best of the bivalves to the west of Ireland. Three days of festivity make this a celebration to rival St Patrick’s Day – with seafood trails, the oyster-shucking (opening) Olympics, food demonstrations and a gala ball. And of course, lots and lots of seafood to eat – particularly oysters from Galway Bay, a favourite on the tables of the world’s top restaurants. Wash down with Champagne and stout, and perhaps a jig or two while top Irish musicians play up a storm.
Be ahead of the curve at Restaurant 108
Can’t get a table at Copenhagen’s restaurant titan, NOMA? Then sign up to dine at its new sibling, Restaurant 108, by NOMA guru René Redzepi and chef Kristian Baumann. Opening in May 2016, 108 has already had a two-month dry run, taking over NOMA’s site as a pop up while the restaurant proper was on a tour of Australia. Food will also follow in NOMA’s footsteps – Nordic-style dishes taking inspiration from the local area with foraged products and natural preserving methods. Cured squid with bacon broth and salted plums or grilled pork belly with green gooseberries and fresh pine? Yes please.