I consider myself a minor league foodie. By this I mean that there is nothing very sophisticated or educated about my food obsession, other than the fact that I simply love good food. And because I wouldn’t say that I really love to cook, I’m a person who loves good food someone else cooks. It doesn’t have to be fancy, or complicated, or even hard to pronounce… it simply has to be delicious.
For this reason, I am a firm believer that every amazing vacation should include great food. There are very few destinations on my list of places I have immensely enjoyed visiting that didn’t offer this component. (Besides maybe the Czech Republic. I loved Prague...hated the food!) As such, I like to make it a point to discuss this topic with clients when creating custom itineraries.
My preference is to include food a few different ways. Obviously, amazing restaurants. From Michelin starred to the $5 pie at my favorite place in Florence (Gusta Pizza— don’t ever visit Firenze without a stop here!)
I also really love authentic cooking classes, and think they can be a fun way to interact with locals and learn about their passion behind the food. I created an experience in Italy for some clients who needed to eat gluten-free in Italy (the pain!!) and they were able to meet in the home of the chef to create a gluten-free Italian meal— and it was amazing!
Another thing I personally love to do when traveling, although it might seem a bit cheesy to some, is do a walking food tour in a great neighborhood I want to explore. I do this often when I’m traveling, and especially when I travel solo because it’s an amazing way to connect with other people for just a short period of time. When I traveled to Mexico City, I quickly learned why their food scene is no joke and had some of the best tamales of my life. I also did one in Vancouver earlier this year, and that introduced me to some of my favorite restaurants in Vancouver, as well as gave me the lowdown on a really cool neighborhood.
You eat out while you’re traveling, so food is a big part of travel. But are your food experiences doing their part in making your overall experience in a destination the best that it can be? My advice is usually to do a combination of the above. And here are 3 of my favorite ways to make sure I am eating at the best restaurants while traveling.
1. Research the best restaurants before you travel and make a few key reservations. This is especially key when you are say traveling in Paris during July and want to eat at a highly acclaimed restaurant. For a recent honeymoon couple, I called a popular restaurant in Paris, Frenchie, 3 times over the course of a month before I could secure the right reservation for my clients! If I hadn’t of done this though, they would have never been able to eat at this super popular establishment that only seats 26 people, and has just two seatings per night.
2. Ask locals… not the concierge. Very rarely is the concierge the best resource, and sometimes they will just steer you to a place where you walk in and are greeted by every other American visiting the city. If that’s the case—run. You want to eat at the place the concierge goes himself when they’re off the clock. Asking random locals, bartenders, and people who you vibe with and meet throughout your trip is a wonderful way to get the lowdown on some hidden gems. Also, when traveling, real people are so much better than Yelp and the like. By and large, yelp reviews are from all the other tourists who use Yelp in America, and so they use it when they travel. It’s not going to give you the authentic low-down you are looking for, it’s going to give you the opinion of Bob and Jane from Minnesota.
3. Wander and be spontaneous. I never like to plan out each and every meal someone will have on vacation because sometimes the best moments are unplanned—and that includes meals too. Look for places with a good amount of people, but ones that don't look and sound like you do, if you get my drift. I would also advise not eating right by popular tourist spots most of the time. On a trip I took to Barcelona a few years ago, one of my favorite days consisted of simply walking into restaurants and letting them surprise us with a few dishes. This is actually a perfect thing to do in Spain, and places where tapas are the specialty. I probably gained 17 pounds that day, but it was such fun to not have an agenda and find random new places to stuff ourselves as we walked and explored the city.
If you are interested in a foodie-focused travel experience of your own, or simply want to make sure you don’t end up at Applebee’s in Europe, I would love to help you plan the perfect adventure. Let's chat!