I am one of those travellers who, at least in part, travels to please their stomach. When I write about my day’s adventures in my journal, the entry almost always starts with something along the lines of “This morning I had …… for breakfast”, ends with a detailed description of my dinner, and along the way is punctuated by notes on what I had for lunch and various snacks throughout the day. In honour of this obsession, and because of my conviction that you can tell a lot about a place by its food, I present to you the top five most memorable meals from my travels so far.
Fondue in Switzerland
I ate fondue more than once during my stay in Switzerland, but one instance stands out. It was our first night in Switzerland and we were staying in the skiing village of Grindelwald. Our hotel had a half-board set menu served each night, which we gratefully ordered, feeling exhausted from the flight and several train journeys we’d had to make that day. Little did we know that the set menu included about seven small courses (at least they were meant to be small, as we realised after eating far too much of the first few and then being too full to enjoy the last couple)!
One of these many courses was a ‘fondue chinoise’ – we were each served a plate of very fine slices of raw meat, which we picked up using wooden skewers, cooked in a fondue dish of hot broth in the middle of the table, and ate with a selection of fresh fruit, chips, and dipping sauces. I’d never seen anything like it before, so this one stands out for its uniqueness and the kind-of funny situation – we made sure to eat less of the earlier courses on the following nights!
Mum’s tartiflette in France
You would think that French restaurants have some pretty amazing meals, right? Well, they do, but the French meal that stands out the most in my mind is when my mum cooked tartiflette.
Tartiflette is a rich French potato and cheese dish that mum sometimes cooks at home (in Australia), but the recipe requires Reblochon, a type of French cheese which isn’t sold in Australia due to import regulations, so she has to use a substitute. On this particular occasion we were staying on a canal boat in central France. Mum, trying to decide what to cook for dinner, decided to take the opportunity and make tartiflette using the proper cheese. She had even photocopied the recipe and brought it with her, hoping for just such an occasion. The finished product wasn’t quite like the usual, given it was cooked on a boat in a foreign country, but it was pretty good, and mum was so proud!
Hotel food in Helsinki
I only spent two nights in Helsinki, Finland, on one of the two stopovers between Paris and Sydney when I travelled with my family as a twelve-year-old. It was a beautiful city, and somewhere I’d like to go back to in the future, but, for some reason, one of my clearest memories of that two days was the first dinner we had in the hotel restaurant. The main, I remember, had something to do with asparagus (I’m not sure why that would stand out to me so much – I eat asparagus regularly at home), but the dessert, and I think this is why I remember the meal so well, was chocolate soup. Chocolate soup! Can you imagine what an exciting concept that was to me at age twelve?! I can still taste it now…
Japanese with Eric in London
Once, when we were in London, my dad had some business to conduct with a relative of his – Eric, a world-renowned and very wealthy architect. My mum, my brother and I waited patiently until they were finished. Finally everything was organised, and, to celebrate our visit, Eric announced that he would take us out for dinner.
We ended up going to a very high-end Japanese restaurant called ROKA. I was slightly embarrassed about this, because I hadn’t been expecting a fancy meal and was wearing my trackies… Oh well. The meal was excellent (and huge). This was when I tried edamame for the first time, and we were served wagyu steak with fresh white truffle shaved over it. It was amazing, and something we would never have done if Eric hadn’t taken us.
An Italian feast in Bologna
Here we are, the big number one… And it was a big one, a very big one! My most memorable overseas meal has to be the meal that was provided for us at the end of a food tour that we took around Bologna, Italy.
We were brought to a restaurant in a tiny village some way out of Bologna, seated with the other members of our tour group at a table on the outside verandah and served plate after plate of delicious, home-made Italian food. We started with three different varieties of pasta before moving on to a duck dish, then chicken with porcini mushrooms, all served with the local lambrusco wine (I documented the meal in great detail in my journal). Dessert was fresh mascarpone served with sour cherries. At the end of every course, our tour guide, in typical Italian fashion, begged and cajoled us to eat more of each delicious dish. By the end of the meal we were all absolutely stuffed! Certainly a meal to remember.
Have you had a particularly memorable meal while travelling? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!