Food and Travel – One of the Best Combinations
One of the best parts of traveling, that is sometimes overlooked, is the food, and the delicious flavours you can experience while exploring the world. Some of them may be interesting local delicacies that are what you would say, “an acquired taste” like Iceland’s kæstur hákarl, fermented shark; others are more simple such as the joys of eating fresh local fruits, vegetables, and herbs; and you can never beat the love and comfort of a home cooked traditional meal. I decided to share some of our favourite travel & food stories.
Peru offers so much variety when it comes to its cuisine. You can never get tired of eating fresh ceviche in Lima complimented by a pisco sour. I was recommended to head to Punta Azul, a local favourite in the Mira Flores region in Lima. I was warned that I would have to wait for a table, but it is well worth the wait! I went during the day on a Sunday which was a super busy time, and most locals eat their ceviche for lunch in the afternoon. I was told that I had to try the Tacu Tacu (the Peruvian version of refried beans & rice), the ceviche, and of course I had to order a pisco sour too! It was so tasty, the tacu tacu reminded me of a rich flavourful risotto served with fresh seafood, and the ceviche tasted light, fresh, and with a nice spice to it. I highly recommend heading there when you’re in Lima.
Another food experience in Peru, that blew my mind is the food that you are served in the Andes during your trekking experiences. We were on the Salkantay Trek surrounded by mountains in a pristine natural setting waiting for our first meal in our dining tent – our appetizer of mango ceviche was served for us, followed by a spread of delicious vegetables, fish, rice & quinoa dishes beautifully seasoned. And just when you think the meal is over, dessert always appears. One evening for dessert, the Chef came out and served us flambéed pears… wow. So impressive what they could cook while we were on a five day trek in the middle of no where.
Another great addition to food and travel in Peru was that you could tell the locals were proud and passionate about their local cuisine. They have over 4,000 varieties of potatoes that grow in the Andes, the dishes they prepare with quinoa are inspiring, they grow their own coffee, and have a variety of herbs and spices that have medicinal qualities as well. And I haven’t even gotten into the Amazon and other coastal regions of Peru… if you are a food lover, this destination will not disappoint. We can assist you in creating a custom adventure for Peru – email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Costa Rican Cuisine
Costa Rica is home to a variety of delicious tropical fruits, tasty vegetables, coffee & cocoa plantations, and locally sourced seafood/meat. We stumbled upon the opportunity to work with a culinary team that is based in Nosara that specialized in vegan, raw, and Latin American cuisine which proved to be the perfect combination. In Costa Rica, we had creative meals prepared with fresh local ingredients. Love and passion were placed into each of the meals – they were creative, vibrant, colourful, and so tasty! A classic traditional Costa Rican dish is gallo pinto, a mixture of rice and black beans, sometimes served with fried or scrambled eggs, and plantains. Sounds pretty simple, but when prepared properly it is one tasty and satisfying dish.
Also one of the best things about food experiences in Costa Rica is the Naturales – the fresh juices. One of my personal favourites is watermelon with lime – so refreshing on a hot day. And the coffee is so good – it’s one of the few places where I don’t need to add sugar or cream into my coffee, the flavour is so good on its own. The rich volcanic soil of Costa Rica in the higher altitude regions provides an ideal location for growing the beans, resulting in some of the best coffee in the world. One tip is to try to support fair trade coffee plantations to ensure that local workers receive fair wages. Costa Rica is an ideal location to grow a variety of delicious cuisine which makes it one of our favourite foodie destinations. We have another upcoming retreat to Costa Rica this February 3 – 11, 2018 if you’re interested in experiencing the food first hand.
I wasn’t expecting to eat as well as I did in Iceland. Each meal that we had during our experiences there was prepared with locally sourced meat/seafood, paired with high quality ingredients and sometimes a story attached to it. The fishing industry is a strong part of Icelandic culture, so for all you seafood lovers out there, you would love this country! One of my favourite culinary experiences in Iceland was up north in Ísafjörður. We had dinner at Tjöruhúsið, a family owned and operated restaurant that only serves fresh catch of the day, hence they have no menu on display. Generally you can expect to feast on wolffish, cod, halibut, bacalao, redfish, spotted catfish – they also serve a langoustine and tomato based fish soup and if you’re in luck, traditional Icelandic fish stew. The restaurant has a shared table environment, so be prepared to sit beside a stranger or two, but it adds to the experience. You pay one price and it is all you can eat and I guarantee that you will taste some of the best seafood you’ve ever tasted.
Lamb is also a very important cuisine in Iceland. Sheep farming in Iceland dates back to when settlers first were living on the island. To this day farmers are still using methods established by centuries of tradition, with most farms still family-owned and operated. The breed is still the same as in the time of the Vikings – sturdy small animals, well adapted to the environment. They roam freely throughout the countryside and seem more wild than domesticated. Icelandic people are proud that their lamb is produced without the use of hormones and antibiotics which is strictly regulated by the country. So when you have lamb in Iceland, you will know that it is a sustainable, healthy, source of meat using traditional methods.
Of course Iceland is also home to some interesting delicacies for the more adventurous – such as the fermented shark meat and boiled sheep’s head. If you are more adventurous you can get a chance to sample these local delicacies. Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, is also starting to be recognized as a foodie destination, home to a couple of Michelin Star Restaurants. There are no shortage of great dining experiences in Iceland. We have 2 upcoming Iceland experiences in June 2018 – if you’re interested in getting more details visit us at www.travelroots.ca.
When people ask about the food in the Maldives, I simply ask them two questions – do you like fish? do you like coconut? The Maldives is a remote island nation southwest from India. The islands have poor soil quality so they can’t grow a large variety of fruits and vegetables, but they do have a lot of coconut trees, and the sea if home to a variety of fish and seafood options. In the Maldives you literally have fish for all three meals per day. One of the best dishes is their traditional breakfast called Mas Huni – composed of tuna, onion, coconut, and chili. All ingredients are finely chopped and mixed with the grated meat of the coconut. This dish is usually eaten with freshly-baked roshi flatbread and sweetened hot tea. Another favourite is the local fish BBQs – when spending time in the local communities in the Maldives you will be bound to be invited to a local fish BBQ. The fish is seasoned with spices and then cooked over an open flame bonfire pit creating the fire by burning coconut husks. You then partake in sharing a meal with the locals primarily eating with your hands – such a fun local experience.
Another unique experience in the Maldives was going octopus hunting at night during low tide. We were overnighting on an uninhabited island, put on our head torches, and set out slowly walking around the island at low tide searching for octopi. We were led by one of the locals known for his octopus hunting skills and he didn’t disappoint. It was such a cool experience to be part of – the bonuses were that we also got to experience some of the amazing sea life at night which included the magical bioluminescence plankton, sleeping reef fishes, eels, turtles, and other interesting crustaceans. The Maldivians are so in tune with the sea and the abundance of food that it provides them with. If you are interested in a local island experience, I recommend volunteering in the Maldives. Our next small group experience will head out in April 2018 – more details are found here.
Food and Travel
Food is such an important part of travel experiences – I can share so many more stories. I can spend a whole day writing about culinary experiences in India! You’ll have to wait for another blog story solely on that destination. If you have any stories you have about food and travel we would love to hear about them in the comments below. For travel inspiration and purpose driven travel visit us at www.travelroots.ca.