Top 10 Gourmet Cities
To some travelers, the food is just as important as anything else a destination has to offer. For these foodies, only the best will do, so this is a list of destinations that will satisfy the appetite of any traveler.
10. Singapore (Singapore)
Borrowing from Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, Tamil and Peranakan cuisines, the food in Singapore is as multi-cultural and unique as the island (and microstate) itself. For a truly unique dining experience, take in one of the city’s hawker centers: open-air food complexes filled with stalls serving all kinds of inexpensive delights. Some of the more popular ones are the Adam Road Food Center, Chomp Chomp Food Center, Lau Pa Sat Food Center, Newton Circus Food Center and Zion Road Riverview Food Center. Singaporeans are passionate about their cuisine. Some local specialties are: Satay, Roti Prata, Char Kway Teow (sweet and savory noodles), Chili Crab, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Fried Carrot Cake, Rojak and Barbequed Stingray (served on a banana leaf).
When it comes to fine dining, Singapore offers gourmet fare from across the globe. Some of the best restaurants to choose from: The Song of India, il Lido, Graze, Mango Tree Restaurant, Blue Ginger, Oso Ristorante, Hai Tien Lo, Ghorkha Grill, IndoChine Waterfront, Café Samar, Original Sinand Morton’s The Steakhouse.
What Else To Do?
Between meals why not check out the Singapore Flyer, Chinatown, the Botanic Gardens or take a shopping trip down Haji Lane, Singapore’s premier shopping district.
9. Honolulu (U.S.A.)
When one thinks of Hawaii, images of a tropical island paradise instantly come to mind, but one of the real treats here is the food. Hawaiian cuisine is a unique mix of dishes from Asia and many different Pacific island cultures. Some local favorites are Lau Lau (pork chicken or vegetables steamed in a pouch of ti leaves), Lomi Salmon, Butterfish, Poke (a raw ahi tuna salad) and Poi (a dish made with mashed taro). But the crowned jewel of Hawaiian cuisine is Kalua Pork, cooked in an underground oven called an imu all day long, it is usually the centerpiece of any luau. One great way to take in the gastronomical delights of the city is to take in a restaurant tour by Hawaii Food Tours (created by former executive chef and food critic Matthew Gray). If you prefer dining in a single restaurant try La Mer, Alan Wong’s, Roys, Hoku’s, Chef Mavro, Hy’s Steakhouse, Orchid’s or 3660 on the Rise.
What Else To Do?
As with any island, checking out the beach is usually close to the top of any traveler’s list, especially when you are so close to one of the most famous beaches in the world, Waikiki Beach. Another must see, especially for history buffs, is the Visitor’s Center and the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor.
8. Fes (Morocco)
Spices have been imported to Morocco for thousands of years and this tradition is still evident in Moroccan cuisine today, along with cultural influences from Berber, Moorish, Mediterranean, Arab and African cultures. Unlike other cultures, the mid day meal is the Moroccan’s main meal of the day (except during Ramadan). Some of the staples are couscous, beef, lamb, poultry, sheep, and locally grown fruits and vegetables. These are heavily featured in dishes like Pastilla (a meat pie made with squab or chicken), Tagine (slow cooked lamb or chicken with vegetables and spices), Harira (a thick soup of tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas and meat served on special occasions) and of course Kebabs. The restaurants in Fes not only serve exceptional Moroccan food but also embrace cuisine from around the world. Some of the best are Al Fassia, L’Ambra, La Kasbah Restaurant, Medina Café, Palais de Fes, Le Majestic, Vesuvio and Jnan Palace. Of course the best way to taste Moroccan cuisine is to be lucky enough to be invited into someone’s home as Moroccans rarely eat Moroccan food at a restaurant. Photo: moroccanhospitality.com.
What Else To Do?
Fes is a beautiful city with a rich history. Some of its best sights are Bou Inania Madersa, the Merenid Tombs, the Berber Pharmacy and the Tannery in the Medina, as well as the exquisitely decorated exteriors of the Moulay Idriss Il shrine, Qaraouvine Library and Mosque and the al-Tijani Mosque (only Muslims are permitted to enter because they are all working Mosques).
7. Sicily (Italy)
As with most island cultures, fish and seafood is king and in Sicily they are prepared with fresh vegetables grown in the fertile soil in the shadow of Mount Etna. The simply prepared dishes traditionally served here are evidence of occupation by Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans and other European cultures, however, the Arabian influence seems to be the strongest. The Sicilians have a penchant for freshness and as such you will rarely eat anything that wasn’t produced within a few miles of where you are eating. Some traditional Sicilian dishes include Caponeta (a salad of eggplant, olives, capers and celery), Pizza, Crocche (fried potato dumplings), Arancine (fried rice balls), Grilled Swordfish, Snapper, Cuttlefish and Veal Marsala. Sicilians are also renowned for their sweets including Cannoli, Cassata, Frutta di Martorana (almond and marzipan pastries), Gelato and Granita, as well it is possible that ice cream was invented here. All of this is paired with red, white and dessert wines that have emerged on the world stage within the past few years. Some of the best restaurants here are Il Ristorantino, Osteria del Doumo, Casa Grungo, Il Barocco, Locanda don Serafino, Ristorante Il Dehor, Bye Bye Blues, La Grotta di Carmelo and Don Camillo.
What Else To Do?
Some of the must sees on this beautiful Mediterranean island include Mt. Etna, the medieval cliff side town of Taormina, the Valley of the Temples, the Museo Archeologico, San Cataldo ( a 12th century Norman church) or taking in an opera or a concert at Teatro Massimo.
6. Bangkok (Thailand)
Any true foodie has at least tried Thai food once, and the best Thai cuisine in the world can be found in the bustling metropolis of Bangkok. The Thai capital offers a multitude of dining options from street vendors to five star restaurants (usually found in upscale hotels) and offering not only great Thai food but also Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Korean, German, British and Italian food however the Western restaurants are generally more expensive. Here you can have dishes like Pad Thai, Tom Yum Goong, Satay, Kanom Roti, Chu Chi Pla (spicy papaya salad) and Som Tam Thai (deep-fried chicken wings). Some of the best food to be found in Bangkok is sold by street vendors, but use common sense and when in doubt follow the locals. For those who are less adventurous, some of the best restaurants in town are Sala Rin Naam at The Oriental Bangkok, Lemongrass, Spice Market at The Four Seasons, Gianni Ristorante, Maha Naga, Baan Khanitha, Harmonique, D’Sens at the Dusit Thani and Sirocco.
What Else To Do?
Bangkok is Thailand’s tourist gateway and one of the world’s major tourism hot spots, and any of these visitors would tell you that no trip to the city would be complete without a visit to The Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Arun, The Klongs, Muang Boran, Wat Sutat, Bangkok National Museum, The Royal Elephant Museum and Vimanek Mansion.
5. Napa Valley (U.S.A.)
Napa Valley, California is a perfect example of how great food follows great wine. Here simple light dishes are prepared with fresh ingredients bought in Farmer’s Markets that morning or grown at the restaurant itself. Also, here fusion cuisine takes on a persona of its own with Pan-Pacific cuisine blended with locally grown ingredients. It is due to this affinity for freshness that menus change with the seasons and sometimes even daily. Food in the Napa Valley is almost always prepared to complement the fine selection of local wines. Napa cuisine is not only influenced by Spain and Mexico but also by the Italians that established the wine industry in the region. And as a result, the Napa Valley has been transformed into a Neo-Tuscan wonderland. Probably the best restaurant in the area (and many would consider it the best in the United States) is Yountville’s French Laundry. Other great restaurants include Cucina Italiana, Neela’s, La Toque, Redd, Café La Haye, Bistro Jeanty, Bouchon and etoile at Domaine Chandon.
What Else To Do?
Wine is the center of Napa Valley tourism and a visit to a winery is a must. Other attractions in the area include Lake Hennessey, Safari West, Alla Prima Studio, one of the local Farmer’s Markets, the Napa Valley Opera House, Charles M. Shultz Museum and the Petrified Forest.
4. London (England)
London is a multicultural metropolis with a vibrancy and a personality all its own. Because of this, you can find a multitude of different cuisines here from around the world as well as traditional British fare. Originally, British cuisine was defined by simple dishes made with local ingredients, however, it has continually evolved, first with British colonization and then with those who have settled in Britain from around the world. Some British dishes include fish and chips, steak and kidney pie, shepherds pie, bangers and mash, Sunday roast, Cheshire cheese, Yorkshire pudding, and trifle. But you will also find food from India, China, Africa, the Middle East, Vietnam, Greece, Turkey, France, Italy, just to name a few. Some of the best dining experiences to be found are Gordon Ramsay at 68 Royal City Avenue, Petrus, The Gun, Pasha, BoxWood, Clos Maggiore, The Ivy, Melati, Notting Grill, Marcus Wareing at the Savoy Grill, Stef’s, Terra and Christopher’s American Grill.
What Else To Do?
London’s extensive history has left a plethora of must see buildings like the Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Windsor Castle, Hempton Court Palace, Kensington Palace or Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. Also, check out newer attractions like the London Zoo, Thames River Cruise, the London Eye or taking in a play or musical in London’s famous West End.
3. New York City (U.S.A.)
To many, New York City is the center of the universe and it’s undeniable ability to attract immigrants searching for the American dream is world renowned. Over the years, these immigrants brought their food and culture with them and the city itself has created signature dishes like Manhattan Clam Chowder, the New York Bagel, the New York Hot Dog, the New York Deli Sandwich, New York style pizza, New York Cheesecake, New York Egg Cream and the Waldorf Salad. New York offers everything from street food to five star dining and cuisines from every corner of the globe. From Little Italy to Chinatown to the Kosher Lower East Side and everything in between; the only problem you will have in New York is deciding where to eat first. Some of the lower-priced establishments have become monuments in their own right, like The Carnegie Deli, Lombardi’s (the first pizzeria in America), Katz’s Deli, Nathan’s, Ray’s Pizza, Junior’s, Gray’s Papaya and Lindy’s. For fine dining some of the best choices are: Nobu, Daniel, Le Bernardin, Per Se, Café Boulud, Gramercy Tavern, Peter Luger Steakhouse, Bouley, Jean Geroges, Masa, Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca, Aureole and Le Cirque. Photo: delinyc.com.
What Else To Do?
New York is a tourist’s dream with an iconic attraction around every turn, but the best of the best are the Empire State Building, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, Grand Central Station, Rockefeller Center, Ellis Island Immigration Museum, the Staten Island Ferry, Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Ground Zero Museum. After a day of sightseeing, take in a musical or play in one of the world renowned Broadway Theaters.
2. Paris (France)
The French’s passion for food is well known across the globe and it’s this devotion to their gastronomy that makes French cuisine one of the best in the world. In France each region has its own traditional dishes depending on what is grown locally but as trains from these areas all converge on Paris, it is the perfect place to taste the best of what France has to offer. The best of French cuisine ranges from the over the top elegance of Haute Cuisine to the understated simplicity of Cuisine Nouvelle, with a lot of options in between. The food here has evolved from the Middle Ages and heavily features cheese, wine, bread, cream, mushrooms, goose, chicken, beef, veal, sardines, oysters, shrimp, calamari and fresh produce all seasoned with a variety of herbs. Some of the most well known French delights include crepes, baguettes, coq au vin, cassoulet, quiche Lorraine, bouillabaisse, fondue, ratatouille, croissants and other pastries, as well as delicacies like fois gras, escargot, frog’s legs and caviar. Eating establishments in Paris range from bistros and cafes to five star restaurants that are featured in the Michelin Guidebook. Some of the best restaurants Paris has to offer are La Tour d’Argent, Le Grande Cascade, Le Meurice, Taillevent, Music Hall Restaurant, Pomze, Pierre Gagnaire, Plaza Athenee, Citrus Etoile, Le Grand Vefour, L’Ambroisie, Aperge, Pavillion LeDoyen, L’Astrance, Pre Castelan and Guy Savoy.
What Else To Do?
One of the most romantic cities in the world, Paris has a plethora of must see sights including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, The Arc de Triomphe, a river cruise on the Seine, Napoleon’s Tomb at Les Invalide, the Musee d’Orsay and the Opera Garnier.
1. San Sebastian (Spain)
Nestled in the heart of Spanish Basque country, San Sebastian (or Donostia to the locals) has more Michelin stars per person that any other European city, making it practically impossible to eat badly while you’re there. Sandwiched between the sea on one side and the fertile Ebro Valley on the other, San Sebastian’s cuisine incorporates the very best of both sides. Not unlike the rest of Spain, San Sebastian is filled with pintxo bars (called tapas bars elsewhere) serving small portions of many different dishes until around 7pm, after which the Spanish dinnertime starts. Some of the typical dishes you will find here are Marmitako (tuna stew), Bacalao a la Vasca (salt cod with tomatoes), Txangurro (hot spider crab), Percebes (goose neck barnacles), Talos (tortillas), wood pigeon, pisto (similar to Ratatouille), Txipirones (baby squid in its ink) and grilled and roasted meats. Some of the best places to eat here are Arzak (the first Michelin 3 star restaurant in Spain), Alona Berri, Extebarri, Martin Berasategui, Akelarre, Mugaritz, Fagollaga, Miramon Arbelaitz, Urepel, Casa Nicholasa, Rekondo, Kursal, La Muralla, Lanziego, Kaskazuri Restaurant ans Branka, although almost every restaurant and pintxo bar in town promises an exceptional dining experience.
What Else To Do?
San Sebastian is a coastal town where the best thing to do is lay on the beach and wait for the next scrumptious meal. It’s the kind of place where the chaos of your regular life drifts away into the beauty of the city. For those who are more adventurous, go for a climb up Monte Urgull or Monte Igueldo, visit the Naval Museum or the Museo de San Telmo or take a stroll through the Parte Vieja, the historic area of the city(it is also the area to find the best pintxos).