I was more than a little nervous about giving up the fantastic variety of Californian cuisine for my move to London. Sure I’d be living in a fantastic neighbourhood (Kensington, ever heard of it?), taking fun classes (hi, field trips to Oxford, Parliament, the Globe), working a fun company, meeting tons of new people, and travelling like mad (read my Dublin post anyone?), but all I could think about as I jumped on that United jet was, what about burritos? Cheeseburgers? Pluto’s salads? As delightful as afternoon tea sounds, anyone who’s hopped on the “English cuisine” Wikipedia page can probably understand my hesitation. I’m sorry guys, but chip sandwiches? How does somebody even come up with that?
Which isn’t to say a chip butty isn’t one of the first things I tried when I got here (add a little ketchup and it’s not bad!), but I certainly wasn’t prepared for the richness of the culinary culture here. Indian, Chinese, French, Thai and Italian places, little places, big places, take-away windows…with the exception of the £1.25 (hey, I’m still a college student) sandwich shop on my block, I don’t think I’ve eaten the same place twice since I got here. And I don’t plan to. Nine more weeks, seven days a week, three meals a day, that means I’ve still got another 189 places to try before I hop on that flight home!
Which has got me thinking, if the variety of food is this good in the city, can you imagine how amazing it will be in its home city? Lucky I work for a travel company, right? And so I present my top five top food-based travel destinations:
Paris, France: I’ve tried making my own coq au vin, but after watching the episode of “Top Chef” where Casey was ripped apart for her interpretation of the classic dish, I’m dying to try the real thing. How envious will your friends be when you come home from your cooking class with a Countess? Picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower with some of the country’s famous bubbly and of course, hit up the Moulin Rouge (just avoid the absinthe, please! No green fairy sightings for me, please).
Florence, Italy: While some might prefer hiking or biking their way through the Italian countryside, let’s remember that the topic of this post is the region’s food! Crostini toscani, prosciutto, pastas, pizzas, sauces, cheese, and, of course, the vino! I’m salivating already, so I guess it’s lucky Florence is so culturally rich, otherwise they’d never be able to pry me away from the restaurants
Delhi, India: Indulge in your touristy reputation and take an elephant ride or visit the Indian National Museum (that’s 5,000 years of Indian history! Make sure you’ve got your walking shoes on). Take a tour of Delhi’s unbelievably colourful spice market and then test your knowledge with a traditional North Indian meal. I can guarantee the tandoori chicken here will be even better than the place I ate in SoHo last night!
Marrakech, Morocco: Spices, spices, spices! There is absolutely no shortage of flavour in Moroccan cuisine, and what better place to experiment with traditional Moroccan dishes than the entertainment capital of the country? Sample everything from lamb stews to Morocco’s famous mint tea while you take in a belly dancing performance and show, and then walk it all off the next day with a tour around some of the city’s amazing outdoor markets or a guided walking tour around the city.
Beijing, China: This city might be known for its Great Wall, but the food is equally awe-inspiring. Once you’re in the capital city, there is no shortage of sites to see, walk around! Have some Peking duck and the go to an opera of the same name. Beijing is also well-known for its small snack-like dishes, check out the beef wontons and the candied cabbage…or if you’re really daring, how about some cold pig ears in sauce?
And if you’re headed to London, give the local cuisine a chance! Why not have fish and chips along with that pint at your local pub? Shepherd’s pie anybody? How about a medieval banquet? Historical and tasty! Maybe I’ll even work up the courage to try black pudding before I leave! (Don't hold me to that though…)