I would say I’ve always been at least a somewhat adventurous eater, although not to the crazy extreme as some people (like eating maggots or worms). When I was growing up, my mom would always tell me I would have to at least try everything that she was serving at dinner. One of my earliest memories is of me eating hot banana peppers with my grandpa when I was around three years old. When I was about 11 or 12 years old I tried frog’s legs and escargot while on vacation with my mom and I really thought I was a big time adventurer.
As an adult I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to 47 states in the United States, both ends of Canada, Mexico, several countries in Europe, all over the Caribbean, Peru and Chile in South America, and the North Island of New Zealand. Some places were definitely full of more memorable foods than others, for good and bad. There are some places that stand out more than others, just looking at the unique and memorable foods I ate there.
Peru was such a huge surprise to me that it’s such a foodie destination. Who knew it has so many amazing foods of gourmet quality but not that gourmet price tag? Certainly not me. Even on the trek to Machu Picchu, we had some amazing meals that were just cooked over a fire but were so full of flavor and everything tasted so fresh. Some of my favorite foods I ate in Peru were ceviche, Lomo Saltado (stir-fried beef), Aji de Gallina (creamy chicken), Causa Limeña (potato casserole), and Pollo a la Brasa (roasted chicken). I also enjoyed the Maracuyá Sour, which is made with passion fruit and is a delicious variation on the pisco sour.
In the Caribbean, I loved the jerk chicken and Jamaican Patties in Jamaica, all of the French foods and pastries on the French side of St. Martin, Conch salad in the Bahamas, and I loved Bahama Mamas (alcoholic drink) way too much (of course there’s a story that goes along with that but I won’t get into it here). Canada is well-known for their poutine, which may sound disgusting to some people, but I loved it. If you don’t know, poutine is french fries and cheese curds smothered in brown gravy. I also had the pleasure of eating Montreal-style smoked meat from Katz’s Deli, and it was every bit as good as the hype. In fact, Montreal is also a foodie destination, with amazing food on every corner.
Before I even set foot there, I knew the food in Italy was going to be out of this world. I swear, even the street food was some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. Even though I tried, my Italian wasn’t that great, but I could just point to anything in a deli case and know I would get something delicious. Some of the best Ethiopian food I’ve ever had was in fact in Italy. I was in Rome, Venice, Florence, and Pompeii and in every city, the food was truly some of the best food I’ve had anywhere. Oh, and the house wine, which was also cheap, was amazing. There were some places where the bottled water cost more than the house wine! Some of the most memorable foods I had in Italy were pizza, so much pasta (tortellini, ravioli, lasagna, carbonara, tagliatelle, and more), breads, prosciutto, and all of the gelato I could possibly eat.
Looking at places I’ve been in the United States, I tried Indian Fry Bread (aka Navajo Tacos) for the first time in Arizona and it was so good I couldn’t wait to have more on subsequent visits to the southwest. Navajo Tacos are large discs of fried dough with taco toppings like ground beef with taco seasoning, beans, shredded cheese, sour cream, diced tomatoes, peppers, sliced black olives, and anything else you want really. Staying on the west coast and some memorable foods I had there, I had delicious fish tacos in San Diego, sourdough bread in San Francisco, and so much wonderful fresh, seafood in Seattle.
I probably never would have had Hawaiian shave ice if not for my daughter. She wanted to get some one day so I got one as well, and I was blown away. I expected to get what I thought would be a snow cone, but real shave (this is no typo, either, it’s shave, not shaved) ice is no snow cone. Shave ice is made by shaving a block of ice, versus the crushed ice you get with snow cones, and has syrups like Tiger’s Blood, Dragon’s Blood, and Bahama Mama. More importantly, you can (and should) get your shave ice with sweet cream over and ice cream under. That first shave ice I had was followed by several others on that trip. My only regret is that I didn’t discover it sooner, as this was my third trip to Hawaii, and you can only get real Hawaiian shave ice in Hawaii, unfortunately for my taste buds, but fortunately for my waist line. Also on my vacations in Hawaii, I discovered poi, kalua pig, poke, and malasadas. Now I want to go back. With so much good food and amazing views, you just can’t go wrong.
Anyone else hungry right about now?
Let’s go to the Midwest in the United States. How about Chicago-style deep dish pizza or Chicago-style hot dogs? Yum to both! I’ve been to Chicago a few times and every single time I had to have both of these foods or I felt like my trip just wouldn’t have been complete. I was looking forward to eating Kansas City BBQ before my vacation to Kansas City, Missouri and it was every bit as good as I had hoped. Michigan is known for their Montmorency cherry, and I had some awesome cherry pie in Traverse City, Michigan.
I’ve spent the majority of my time on the east coast of the United States, since that’s where I grew up and have lived as an adult. Philadelphia has Philly Cheesesteaks of course, but you can also get great ones in other Pennsylvania cities like Pittsburgh, and the best buffalo wings are in the Northeast (meaning Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, northern West Virginia, Delaware). With hot wings, the quality of meat, spices, and overall flavor diminishes greatly when you get outside that area. I also had some amazing lobster rolls and seafood chowder in Maine and I can’t forget the New York-style bagels and pizza I had plus all of the great Asian foods I ate in New York City. Oh, and some of the best shrimp and grits I’ve had were in Charleston, South Carolina. In fact, I don’t remember ever NOT having a meal in Charleston that wasn’t only good but in fact great, which is a convoluted way of saying it’s a true foodie destination that lives up to the hype.
There were other memorable foods that weren’t so great, like all of the sausages and schnitzel in Germany. I got to a point where I was so sick of those two foods comprising 99% of the menus everywhere I went. Seriously, there’s only so much schnitzel a person can eat before they’re sick of it, or maybe it’s just me. When I discovered the Italian food is actually really good in Germany, I was thrilled! Surprisingly, I found the food in Austria to be more varied than it was in Germany, and it was very good, although nothing in particular stands out but I do remember having some good desserts there.
What about you? What are some of the more memorable foods you’ve eaten while on vacation?