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To travel is to taste the world. And Europe presents a particularly eclectic hotchpotch of flavours. From the strange to the sublime, I’ve sampled various dishes and foodstuffs throughout my jaunts across the continent and here (in no particular order) are some of my personal favourites:
Though the Atlantic archipelago presents a popular European mix of English, German and Italian menus, Canarian cuisine – a fantastic fusion of traditional Spanish recipes with African and Latin American influences – perfectly combines palate with place.
Being an island community means that fresh fish is a cultural staple, which takes a huge array of forms. One of my favourites is the ubiquitous, caldo de pescado (fish soup), which I sampled as the sun dipped below the giant dunescapes of Maspalomas’ mini-Sahara at Gran Canaria’s most southerly tip.
Another top contender for me – and the perfect accompaniment to any seaside shenanigans – is pan-fried fish (think swordfish, tuna, parrot fish or sea bass) served with papas arrugadas (a boiled potato dish), a dollop of bright orange or red mojos (a spicy sauce) washed down with a swig or two of Malvasia wine… Divine.
With every Spanish region from Basque to Andalucia being represented in Madrid with gastronomic gusto, you’re likely to encounter specialties from every corner of the country.
I managed to successfully eat my way round the city courtesy of everything from the classic tortilla de patatas to the traditional tripe dish, callos a la Madrileña (though I stopped at the infamous oreja a la plancha, or pan-seared ear.). For me, a certain snack summed up my stay and still sweetly recalls the place like nothing else: churros.
A deep-fried stick of crispy dough that you dip in thick, melted chocolate – churros were a simple, yet wonderfully self-indulgent way to drink in the flavour of Madrid as I sat, sugar-drunk and propped on an indoor market stool at the must-see Mercado San Miguel, while people-watching the world outside.
My pre-Christmas trip to Berlin was seasonally spectacular, and featured a host of eating experiences, from a hungover Sunday brunch (picture a gut-busting buffet of meats, cheeses, eggs, breads and baked goods alongside trifle, cakes and pies) to a superb smattering of street stalls and food stands.
With the wurst (sausage) being almost as synonymous with Germany as its beer, it was only natural that the first thing I sampled upon arrival was a traditional currywurst from a street stand just up the road from my friends’ apartment.
The cool, crisp winter air belied the warm belly fill of that humble hot dog with a spicy difference, which was cordially completed with a gorgeous Glühwein: the perfect sensory introduction to Germany’s über cool capital.
With food at the cultural core of Rome, it’s one of many things the Italian capital does best, and one of the most celebrated ways to take in this superlative “tasting city”.
And see it I did. A tour with my Italian friends comprised a feast for both the eyes and stomach as I was treated to everything from the Colosseum to the best coffee house (Sant’Eustachio Il Caffe,) and the Vatican to Sunday lunch at locals’ nearby favourite, Ristorante Dal Toscano. Each historical highlight was made more magnificent by my treasure trove tasting tour of the city and eating some of my favorite foods of Europe.
And of course no trip to Italy is complete without consuming some pizza (any pizza). I sampled La Fraschetta’s Roman style, thin white pizza with a side of fresh, melt-in-the-mouth carciofi (artichokes), as well as various pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) from the brilliant Bar del Fico to Trevi Fountain’s Da Michele. All highly recommended.
South of France
Any stay in France will feature food as a focal point; it’s universally known that it’s what the French – quite rightly – pride themselves on. Travelling along the awe-inspiring cliff lines of the Côte d’Azur from Cannes to Monaco was a taste sensation, as the Riviera takes advantage of its unique setting, surrounds and influences to spill a sumptuous selection of sun-grown foodstuffs, from piperade (pepper dish) to socca (chickpea pancake) and galettes (cakes.)
One of my fondest memories of my time in the south of France has to be the fabulous finale to a ten-course feast at a beautiful beachside wedding in Èze. A series of sharing platters at Anjuna Plage Privee culminated in the cutting of the traditional French ‘cake’ of croquembouche – a giant stack of caramel-laden profiteroles – that we devoured during a spellbinding (and champagne-fuelled) Mediterranean sunset.
Dutch cuisine presents something as palatably different as Amsterdam’s cultural landscape, which I sampled between stints at the must-see Museumplein (to see the Rijskmuseum, Van Gogh and Stedelijk Museums) and Anne Frank House as well as nights out at De Wallen (red light district) and Reguliersdwarsstraat (Amsterdam’s trendy gay street).
Renowned for its snack specialties such as the frikandel with fries (minced-meat hotdog), Hollandse nieuwe haring (raw-herring) and Gerookte paling (smoked eel), it boasts an equally enticing range of patat (fries), including patatje oorlog (with peanut sauce, mayonnaise and onions) and patat speciaal (fries with curry ketchup, mayonnaise and onion). Or, opt for the surprisingly scrumptious savoury special, stamppot – a hefty dish comprised of mashed potatoes mixed with vegetables like kale or carrots that is traditionally served with rookworst (smoked sausage). And don’t forget to chow down on some bitterballen (breadcrumb covered, deep-fried meatballs), if only for the name itself.
Then there’s the sweet stuff. Scarf down a stroopwafel (thin caramel waffle), Limburgse vlaai (fruit pie) or Poffertjes (mini pancakes) with koffie verkeerd (a sort of café latte.) Whatever you choose, it is bound to be delicious.
What are your favorite foods of Europe?
Written by Hannah May for EuropeUpClose.com