(Still) eating my way across Europe!
I wrote a while back about the great culinary adventure I am having as I travel throughout Europe. And I am happy to report, that it just keeps getting better!
I really have not had bad food anywhere. I am still trying to eat "locally"; that is eating food native to the country and place I am visiting at the time. It hasn't always been possible, but I have managed to avoid the American fast food places. I can't imagine eating such blah food when there is so much good food to be eaten!
As I mentioned before, I really enjoyed the food in Austria and the Czech Republic -- surprisingly so, since I thought I wouldn't care for the meat and potatoes thing. And it just kept getting better as I made my way through Switzerland and Germany.
What can I say about Switzerland except cheese and chocolate? Who wouldn't love a place where these two are staples of the diet? I enjoyed cheese fondue several times. I shared a great fondue meal with Ryan and Erica at their apartment, and again while my mom and I were in the mountains. It was the perfect meal for a chilly alpine night. The chocolate was out of this world, and thanks to Erica, I left Zurich with a good supply. I also really enjoyed the muesli served for breakfast in the B & Bs. Crunchy granola with real fruit and creamy yogurt on top -- delicious! I tried Rivella, a famous (or infamous) whey-based Swiss soft drink. Let's just say it was an acquired taste.
In Germany, I really enjoyed the bakeries. So many tasty treats to try! And the bread was fantastic too. In Munich we had great sausages and sauerkraut. I am not usually a fan of sauerkraut in the U.S., but the authentic German version was great. It is a little sweeter than ours, and goes perfectly with the sausages and a little horseradish on the side. Add a classic Hofbrau, and it was the perfect meal! I also really loved obazda -- a kind of cheese spread appetizer that is perfect for smearing on pretzels and eating with a cold beer. One of my other favorite things about Germany were the gummies. Gummy candy originated in the Black Forest region of Germany, and even today a lot of the gummies we get in the U.S. (think Haribo) come from Germany. They were so much better here! Fresh gummy candy -- and so many kinds to sample!
As much as I have enjoyed the food everywhere I have been, I think the best food award definitely goes to Greece. I enjoyed eating there so much. Great fresh food, very flavorful, with so many different options. I would wake up each morning to thick, creamy Greek yogurt slathered with honey -- a yummy way to start the day. I snacked on Greek salad, fried feta cheese, gyros, spanakopita, stuffed grape leaves -- the list goes on and on. In the islands, I enjoyed fresh seafood, including one of the best shrimp dishes I have ever eaten. And to top it all off, the baklava was amazing!
I was not looking forward to eating in the UK as much as I had in other countries. British food generally gets a bad rap as being bland, fried and colorless. I am happy to report that it is none of the above! The food in Scotland was really good, and even better because we were eating at Lisa's parents house. Our first night we had minced and mash, a ground beef dish with mashed potatoes. It was great! Of course we also had to have haggis, and Lisa's friend Claire made a wonderful dinner of chicken stuffed with haggis topped with whisky sauce. I liked cullen skink -- the Scottish version of clam chowder. I loved the buttries -- flaky pastries served for breakfast with jam. We also had real porridge for breakfast, along with sausage rolls, which were delicious. We got to sample Nana's famous meat roll too. By far the best part of Scottish food was dessert! Sticky toffee pudding, banoffee pie, and my all time favorite caramel shortbread. Lisa and I tried to sample caramel shortbread daily while we were travelling. It is a cross between cookie and candy, with a shortbread base slathered in caramel and coated with chocolate -- amazing! I am actually going through caramel shortbread withdrawals. Lisa also introduced me to flapjacks. They are not like American flapjacks (pancakes), but more like fresh granola bars made out of oats. Lisa introduced us to all of the wonderful packaged foods that she can't get in the states. I think Mary sampled every kind of potato chip (crisps on this side of the pond), including prawn cocktail, flame grilled steak, and cheese and onion. Prawn cocktail were by far her favorite, although I didn't really care for them. I will stick to the salt and vinegar. I loved the digestive biscuits (cookies) and Ministrels -- small chocolate candies kind of similar to M&Ms, but with much better chocolate. Of course we also had to try Iron Bru, the Scottish contribution to the soft drink industry. It was actually pretty good -- fizzy orange-colored soda that kind of tasted like bubble gum. Apparently it is the best cure for a hangover there is (didn't test that one out).
In London, we continued to eat well. Because London is so multicultural, there are so many different types of food available. Indian food is really big in the UK, and we had several great curries -- so delicious! I also had some great Italian and Thai food. We enjoyed the beer and pub grub on several occasions. The sausages were really good. As Mary said, "These guys really know how to do sausages." We also drank well while we were in London. In addition to the beer, we sampled the cider -- both apple and pear. In Covent Garden, we shared a wonderful cocktail of prosecco, chambord and fresh berries -- the perfect thing for a sweltering hot day! And of course we had to have a Pimm's at Wimbledon -- Pimm's liquer mixed with lemonade and served over fresh cucumbers, lime and mint. It became my staple drink for tennis watching throughout my trip.
In Bath, I had what can only be described as the best fish and chips of my life. It was so good I can't even describe it! Tender cod, perfectly fried with salt, vinegar and lemon juice sprinkled over the top. Apparently the chip shop is considered one of the top 5 in the UK, and I can see why. I resisted going back for dinner after eating lunch there.
In Ireland I had some delicious food. One memorable meal was a great Irish beef and Guinness stew -- filling and perfect for a rainy day. I visited the town of Kinsale, which is considered the culinary capital of Ireland. I had an amazing lunch there -- crab and avocado salad that was out of this world. I have also had some great soups, including a creamed mushroom soup and a veggie soup. The brown bread is really good slathered with butter and dipped in the soup. And of course I had to sample the Guinness!
Belgium was another culinary highlight for me, mainly because the cuisine is based on three of my favorite things -- beer, chocolate and french fries! Two of my all-time favorite beers are Belgian: Stella Artois and Hoegaarden. I also sampled several other Belgian beers, including Kriek (a cherry based beer), Framboise Lambic (raspberry beer), abbey style ales and wheat beer. I loved the frite stands, especially the two identical competing stands at the base of the Bruges Belfry. Of course I had to try them both! Belgians served their fries with mayo for dipping, which is actually a lot tastier than I originally expected. I also sampled a yummy Belgian waffle with fresh fruit and drizzled in chocolate. The Belgian waffles are a little different than the breakfast food we eat in the states. They wouldn't consider eating waffles for breakfast; they are more of an afternoon snack food. I really enjoyed browsing and sampling at all of the chocolate shops. Belgians really know how to do their chocolate, and there are chocolateries on every street corner. It is amazing how they all have a similar product and yet they can all taste just a little bit different.
In the Netherlands, I ate some amazing Indonesian food. I haven't had really good Indonesian food since I lived there 8 years ago. Since the Dutch colonized Indonesia, they consider Indonesian food part of their national heritage. And it was so amazing! Great tempeh, gado-gado, sate, coconut rice -- I actually went back to the same restaurant two nights in a row because it was so good. I sampled several different types of cheeses at the Haarlem market. I also had a very delicious, warm, hot-off-the-grill stroopwaffel (basically two thin cookies with a layer of thick syrup in between).
One of the greatest parts of travel for me is sampling new and different cuisines. It has been an incredibly mouth-watering journey!