Captain Derek Gray shares his favourite foodie experiences in destinations dear to his heart.
6 unique food and drinks experiences to add to your travel bucket list
Tasting something unique or traditional to the destination you’re visiting can be the building blocks of great travel memories – these experiences make great bucket list additions
A 2020 report from the World Food Travel Association reports that in the past two years 93 per cent of travellers took part in a unique food or drink activity, and 83 per cent think foodie experiences help to create a lasting impression of a destination. Will will you add to your bucket list?
- Indulge in a custard tart in Lisbon, Portugal
- Do the tapas trail in Barcelona, Spain
- Try Norwegian Salt Marsh lamb in Stavanger, Norway
- Go volcanic wine tasting in Lanzarote, the Canary Islands
- Taste the freshest fish and seafood in Ålesund, Norway
- Try your hand at chocolate making in Bruges
Two pastelaria’s battle it out for the mantle of best pastel de nata in Lisbon. The city’s vanilla custard tarts are now legendary, and you buy them in many cafés and kiosks around the city. Pastéis de Belém is the oldest pastelaria, and the queues down the street of both locals and tourists alike demonstrate its enduring popularity – don’t be put off, though, as the speed at which they churn out these tasty little treats is impressive. Back in the heart of the city, many locals frequent Manteigaria in Bairro Alto, which now has an outpost at the Time Out Market near the port. Manteigaria is said to be a lighter version, with flakier pastry and not-too-sweet custard. It’s only fair to try both on your visit.
2. Do the tapas trail in Barcelona, Spain
While northern Spain is known for its pintxos (bite-sized portions typically served on top of bread), southern Spain – and particularly the Catalan region where Barcelona is located – is all about tapas. These small sharing dishes often include only two or three ingredients, but they pack a flavourful punch. If it’s your first time visiting, then a glass of Sangria on one of the outdoor tables along the main street Las Ramblas is a must, but for a more traditional tapas experience make a beeline for La Boqueria market about halfway down the 1.2km street. Hop from one stall to the next trying a few dishes at each – patatas bravas, pimientos de padron and croquetas should start you off right, followed by a dessert of churros and chocolate sauce to finish.
3. Try Norwegian Salt Marsh lamb in Stavanger, Norway
Norway’s coastal salt marshes are rich in a variety of plants and minerals, as well as having high iodine levels. This combination gives the lamb that graze here a rich flavour and melt-in-the-mouth tenderness. Norwegian’s used to slow cure lamb legs to preserve them for the deep, dark winters, and Fenalår (slow-cured lamb’s leg) is now a geographically protected dish. In Stavanger, Salt Marsh lamb stew in cabbage is a popular dish, while at Christmas time, racks of lamb or mutton cured in brine or sea salt is often on the menu.
4. Go volcanic wine tasting in Lanzarote, the Canary Islands
You might know Timanfaya National Park in Lanzarote for its out-of-this-world landscape, but did you know that you can visit a volcanic vineyard here? Known as Lanzarote’s wine valley, La Geria has over 10 vineyards and they produce most of Lanzarote’s excellent wines, most of which are made from the Malvasía grape, which can be red, white, or rosé and varies from extremely sweet to very dry. Each vine is planted individually into a hollow and then covered with porous volcanic ash and earth, which both protects them from the wind and helps to maintain heat at night.
5. Taste the freshest fish and seafood in Ålesund, Norway
Norway has one of the world’s longest coastlines, so it’s hardly surprising that seafood is top of the menu here. Tørrfisk (dried cod) used to be the most popular export, and you can still buy snack-sized bags as a salty-but-healthy snack in most convenient shops. These days restaurants in Ålesund make use of the fresh salmon and Arctic cod that exists in abundance in the chilly waters. Find a table at Fisketorget Delikatesse to enjoy a bowl of fish ball soup (a local delicacy), sushi, moules frîtes or a simple yet delicious snack of slid (herring) marinated in vinegar or røkelaks (smoked salmon) piled on top of rye bread with herbs.
6. Try your hand at chocolate making in Bruges
Brussels is famous for its rich and silky chocolate, which has to contain a minimum of 35% cocoa to reduces the usage of other lower-quality ingredients. There are many shops to keep you occupied if you’re in the city to browse – don’t miss Neuhaus, one of the oldest, which is famous for its praline and ballotin boxes. But for the perfect introduction why not try a chocolate-making workshop with a traditional chocolatier?