In Vietnam, coffee culture is as deep and rich as just about anything else. On old brick sidewalks and in old colonial shops adorned with art deco tiles, old men sit on small stools in the morning and afternoon. They sip little cups of iced-coffee rocket fuel, or as they would say, cafe sua da (or ca phe sua da), while playing checkers and cards.
Panadería La Uníon in Tolhuin, Tierra del Fuego. A magical oasis in the midst of a vast, windswept, sparsely populated landscape. Part tourist center. Part museum. Part bakery. Part zoo. Panadería La Uníon is quirky, to say the least, and the constant stream of hungry travelers who frequent this establishment is a testament not only to its notoriety as the premiere bakery in Patagonia, but also to its prime location between the tourist destinations of El Calafate and Ushuaia, a barren stretch of road with limited options for dining.
Your Backroads trip to Peru and Machu Picchu starts and ends in Cusco, which was the beating heart of the Inca Empire and is still a hub for adventures in the Andes. This lofty Incan capital, colonial wonder and World Heritage site sits at 11,200 feet above sea level and offers bountiful cultural attractions, opportunities for adventure and delights for the palate.
Nutella is the mass-produced version of something much more sophisticated: gianduia chocolate hazelnut spread from Piedmont, Italy. Yes, the land of Langhe and Roero vines is also pretty famous for its hazelnuts.
Welcome to one of the most fabulous cities on the planet and one with darn good food. San Francisco is a wonderland of exceptional restaurants and artisanal foodie delights. Good thing most of our California trips begin or end around this beloved city–a perfect excuse to stay a few days and explore!
The Spanish love their ham. I just never realized the profoundness of their devotion until I first stepped into a local cervecería (bar). To say I was astounded by what I found would be an understatement. The sheer volume of pig legs hanging from the walls and ceiling… the bar sported more pork parts than pints!
Much like the US, Thailand has dramatically changed the way it grows food with the introduction of modern agricultural practices. And in northern Thailand, there’s a huge movement to go back to small, organic and sustainable farming. There’s a local farmer leading the Thai food revolution–Jon Jandai.
Before heading out to lead Backroads trips in Italy, I had already gathered that Italians have an ongoing love affair with olive oil. However, I was almost completely ignorant of the pepper to this salt: balsamic vinegar. “Italian dressing” in my household was a mix of spices shaken with olive oil and white vinegar–no balsamic included–and I wouldn’t consider putting the bitter stuff on ice cream. Not even in my dreams would I suppose that some balsamic vinegars cost hundreds of dollars for just a few ounces. I had a lot to learn.
Imagine a fruit so creamy it might be considered a part of the custard family. And so key to survival that it might be grouped with the apple. And there you have my favorite fruit, the cherimoya. I’ve loved cherimoya since I first laid taste buds on it in Costa Rica in November of 2005 (yes, I remember the date-this fruit is that impactful). I drank it in batidos (delicious Costa Rican fruit smoothies), I ate it fresh from the market and I made sure that it took part in every picnic I prepared. You might say I was obsessed.
The punctually repetitious ezan (Islamic call to prayer) will forever ring distinctly in my ears–that shrill wailing cry echoing from loudspeakers perched on minarets towering above nearly every town throughout Turkey. And never will I forget the hospitality that I experienced during my six weeks of cycling from the rocky eastern Black Sea coast, through the historic hills and caves of central Anatolia, and along the rugged sun-drenched Mediterranean coast before eventually turning north to Istanbul–the geopolitical gateway between Europe and Asia.
Oh, Canada…such a beautiful landscape, which we get to ride our bikes through! While the land of the maple leaf is known for its incredible scenery, what you don’t often hear about is the fantastic cuisine that can be found here.
A hint of a sea breeze fills the air. The sky is a deep blue. From where I’m sitting I can see Table Mountain looming overhead. The waiter casually walks in and places my food in front of me. I look down, and I know I’m in for an exciting new culinary experience.
For me, the last few years have been nomadic to say the least, as I have lingered in no particular place longer than a month or two at a time. And the few phrases that I know in various Asian languages scarcely afford the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation. So, while traveling I choose to experience a culture in a different manner. I choose to experience a place through its cuisine. And that’s exactly what I did in Vietnam.