Countries I Have Been to With The Best Food So Far

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Countries I Have Been To With The Best Food So Far

“I was at this restaurant. The sign said “Breakfast Anytime.”So I ordered French toast n the Renaissance.” Steven Wright

My food experience when I am traveling totally impacts the experience I have  in the country. Sometimes I make trip destinations  based on food. Other times, it is a complete surprise how much I love the food. Here are my favorite countries for food so far.

Japan applies the same precision to their food as they do to their engineering. You can get a lavish multicourse kaiseki meal that presents the seasons in a spread of visual and culinary poetry..

I dream of the sushi bars in Tsukiji market and the tofu restaurants where everything is made from tofu.  You can eat something random in a train station or risk your life and try Fugu (poisonous blowfish – delicious). I love yuzu and green tea desserts. Cold soba noodles is my go to Japanese lunch. 

It is impossible to eat badly in Japan.  This country is officially one of the best culinary destinations in the world. 

Spain has long been characterized by eat, drink, sleep, work a little bit, eat, drink, sleep. They munch on snacks throughout the day (tapas, pinxtos) with intervals of big meals. The food is different from the Mediterranean sea to the Pyrenees. 

Paella, churros and chocolate, gazpacho and anything from the Basque region (pinxto bars to Michelin starred restaurants)  show how much the Spanish love good food.It ranges from the Medieval Jamon Iberica  to the insane molecular gastronomy of Feran Adria and his followers.

The food is timeless and modern.

It’s impossible to write a short list of Turkish food. It is a combination of Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisine and any other conquering nations. It was a big surprise to me that Turkey turned out to be one of my favorite countries to eat in. Turkish food is about the freshest ingredients and technique. There are meze – small dishes that start the meal based on seasons and locale.

Some of my favorite foods are pide (boat shaped flatbread with fillings), pastirma (ancestor of pastrami), borek (small filled pastries),kabob, hummus, eggplant cooked many different ways, any dessert made from semolina, fresh halvah, pomegranate juice, fish cooked with olive oil and lemon, simit (Turkish bagels), ayram (drink made with yogurt ice and salt), fresh cheese ( beyaz peynir) and honey, kofta (meatballs), (mincemeat pizza) and just about anything  I have eaten in Turkey

I’m not even a huge fan of lamb but in Turkey it is delicious.

 The food in Israel is reason enough to visit the country. Israel is a young country, but its food goes back thousands of years. The cuisine is a melting pot of North Africa, Mediterranean, Eastern Europe and its Middle Eastern neighbors.

It is healthy and delicious. There is freshly made hummus with hot pita bread, falafel (made from fava beans or chick peas), tahini, schwarma, kebob, shakshouka, salads, and labneh,(yogurt cheese.)

The food tastes so much fresher than anything that I’ve eaten at home.  Israeli breakfast is one of the best things about Israel. It is usually served buffet style with an array of European, Israeli and Mediterranean dishes.- They are the biggest breakfast buffets I have ever seen.

This is the country that gave us pizza and cappuccino. Italy’s simple comfort food  has become the food of every country. Each region has specialties that they are very proud of. The best pizza is found in Naples and Spaghetti Bolognese does come from Bologna.  Parma ham and Parmesan cheese come from Parma. Olive oil is the only real Italian condiment.Wine and coffee vie for being the national drink. Freshness of Ingredients is very important to the Italians.. Dining in Italy is always a delight for your taste buds. 

 Olive Oil is the most Greek of all the Greek food.  A Greek salad is very simple with feta, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and olives. It will never taste the same  way here. I have it every day in Greece and it is always amazing. Greeks do it better. There are many high quality ingredients to choose from in Greece that we don’t seem to be able to recreate here. I have spent a few summers here and figs, honey, olives, lamb, seafood, fava beans, tiropita (cheese pastry), tzatziki  (yogurt dip) Avgolemono soup  (lemon chicken soup) and baklava are always delicious. 

I love seafood and except for Iceland, no one in Europe eats more of it, than the people of Portugal. If you love tuna and sea bass, this is the place. The national dish is bacalhau – dried, salted cod. The Portuguese have been obsessed with it since the early 16th century.  Sardines, mackerel, lobsters, shrimp, oysters and crabs are plentiful. The ‘arroz de marisco” is a delicious seafood rice.

Other national dishes are “cozido à portuguesa,” a thick stew of vegetables with various kinds of meat, “leitão assado” Roast suckling pig and tripe with beans. young Portuguese chefs are making a name for themselves with their more modern approach to the classics.  Pasteis de nata is my favorite dessert – Small custard tarts with cinnamon are found all over Portugal The most original recipe comes from Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon a pastelaria that dates back to 1837. I was lucky enough to go there.

Portuguese cheeses are delicious and should be more well-known and for a small country, they  produce a number of varieties of very good wine. 

Mexico is a go to country for delicious cuisine. There are  moles, tacos, tamales, enchiladas, guacamole, tostadas, flan and Mexican chocolate.

Lime and salt go with everything. 

You will not get bored with the food in this country. It is a fiesta in your mouth. 

Cambodian food is delicious and often overlooked but should not be. Insects are always on the menu in Cambodia. Beef with red tree ants should not be missed.

Tarantula and deep-fried scorpion are not my thing but you see a lot of people eating them. 

Fish amok is a fish mousse with fresh coconut milk, Khmer  spices, turmeric, garlic and ginger,

It is served in a banana leaf and is my favorite lunch with fresh coconut juice served in the coconut.

Khmer beef salad, Khmer noodles,  Khmer curry, fried crab and grilled squid are a must try in Cambodia. There is always rice. Try the pork and rice which is only served for breakfast. 

Street food is the attraction in Thailand. The complex  combination of spices and flavors  can  make your favorite dish be spicy, sour, salty, sweet, chewy, crunchy and slippery. With influences from China, Malaysia, Indonesia, ,Myanmar and a royal culinary tradition, Thai cuisine is the best of many worlds.. Thai coffee with condensed milk and mango with sticky  rice is my favorite dessert. The various curries, soups,  noodle dishes, rice and salads encompass the unique flavors of Thailand.

The food in Viet Nam is insanely good.Traditional Vietnamese food is all about the balance of fresh ingredients, intense flavors, and ease of cooking and preparation.

.Many of the dishes have  a rich history and represent a regional specialty.

The most famous street food is pho which is a bit different in the North and South.  It is rice noodles and slices of beef cooked in   a beef bone broth with complex flavors. It is the most popular food for breakfast and lunch.

Banh Mi is my favorite street food. This sandwich can also be traced back to the French colonial period, even through the roots of the name; Banh is pronounced similarly to the French word for bread, pain.Today the typical Vietnamese banh mi consists of mayonnaise, pate, sliced ham and pork, pickled vegetables, coriander, and hot sauce.

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Memories of Greece

“When you set out on your journey to Ithaca, pray that the road is long, full of adventure and full of knowledge.” — Constantine

Memories of Greece

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Greece is the most special place for me. When I was eighteen, I did the Europe tour with my friends  and Greece was the country I connected with.  I went back any summer that I could afford to after that until I was married. I never carried a camera when I was I young. I thought it made me look like a tourist. I  was there again recently as well.   I’ve never written anything about it. I thought I would start off by listing a jumble of memories old and new and see what happens. Maybe it will jog your memory of your travels.

Athens Landing in Athens first time at three in the morning with nowhere to go , meeting some new friends and sleeping at their apt in Kolonaki,  Acropolis –  when you could still walk around everywhere.,  Olympic Airlines,  baklava ,   private cars with handmade  taxi  signs,  something is always on strike in Athens,  cats,  Thodorakis  concert  at the outdoor amphitheatre on Mt Lycabettus,  getting lost on the way down,   Delphi on the hottest day ever, amazing feta cheese, drachmas, Nine Muses in Glifada,  the Archaological Museum,  trying to get the soldiers  guarding the tomb of the unknown soldier to talk to us or laugh (you have no idea how many years I did this), sleeping every afternoon because everything closes from 12-5,  watching the tourists throw plates in the restaurants in the  Plaka,  lamburgers,   Cat Stevens, bouzouki places ,   more cats,  worry beads, Voulagmeni,  Monastiraki Flea Market,  Parko restaurant ,  best hair dry ever,  Port of Piraeus – no better feeling than taking the hydrofoil (flying dolphin) or ferry to any Greek Island.  Happy.

Santorini – sunset over a volcano, black sand beaches,  red sand beach,   tavernas  on the beach, How many bikinis can I wear in a summer? Walking up and down a mountain every day and night from the house we were staying at in heels,   fresh bread with butter and honey and kafe megalo ,  a few hours later having  fresh-baked  tiropita (fried buttered phylo dough stuffed with cheese and egg) ,   Akrotiri   ( famous Minoan ruins)  , throwing up in front of the tour buses (all my drinking stories end up like this),  dancing all night at the two discos on the island, eating fried sardines  with bones in them for lunch in Megalohori after wine tasting at the vineyards , motorbiking  everywhere,  fishing early in the morning and bringing the fish to a restaurant to cook for us in Oia,   coffee in town watching the tourists come up  to Thira from the cruise boats on the donkeys, tired of eating lamb every day, ( Greek islands had  only Greek food back then. It was pre cell phones.) Amazing.

 Mykonos –  Every  day in Mykonos with Eva and  George,  Nine Muses,  Remezzo,  , Pierros,  more  friends  from Athens ,  staying out all night , Paradise Beach ,  Super Paradise Beach, sitting in the town with our new  drag queen friends and entertaining the cruise boats,  shopping in the cool boutiques, (I needed new clothes by then) ,  tube tops, retsina and ouzo –yasas,  2am (the summer of the curfew), Mykonos Harbor, Beatles  “Don’t say goodnight”, Love.

Paros –  White rocky beaches , peace after the craziness of Mykonos,  fresh fish, Greek salad and tzaziki, planning our future., swimming in the clear blue sea, movie theatre (outside), how tan can I actually get?  Romantic.

Thessaloniki – Riding horses on the beach at George’s beach  house outside of Salonika,   walking on the beach to get anywhere, (town, clubs restaurants), going to market and getting fresh food  every day,  playing house,  Greek music festival  (Opa!), sailing every day, boats are a lot of work,  more new friends,   Greek coffee  or Nescafe,  drinking retsina on the beach,(tastes like turpentine)  ouzo shots, more Greek words, promises.  Spectacular.

Helkidiki  –  Jewish holidays at temple with Mendy’s family,  the women sit upstairs,  the service is in Greek and Hebrew –I am completely lost, picking lemons off a tree and smelling them when I fainted from fasting, , watching a Greek funeral as they marched through the streets to transport the casket from the home to the church and then to the grave site. I see a friend and join  wearing short shorts and wedges. One of the old women ( always in black)  gives me her shawl to wrap around me..  She alternates between crying and pointing out where everyone in the procession lives.  I am strangely moved by this old woman and this whole experience.  My friends are  stunned to see me walk by in a funeral procession. They join.  Surprising.

Spetses – mosquitos –It is the green island, we kill them with perfume, Reading Nikos Kazantzakis on a beach ,  Avgolemono soup for a cold( egg lemon chicken soup),  horse and carriages, boat races,  , Greek and British tourists,   Peaceful both times.

Hydra – First time in Hydra  – no cars only donkeys, rocks instead of beaches, second time in Hydra –  many bars and clubbing, third time in Hydra – I finally have the money to shop –cute stores!.   Very Different.

 Aegina –  We fall asleep and  our bicycle boat  ends up in the open sea . We are rescued  by a yacht. We dont attach the rope well (we are city girls)  and we turn over. My friends lose  all their money. I don’t because  my sportsac bag turns out to  be waterproof and  floats and I hang on. (why do we have all our money on the beach? There are no atms then and we are young and apparently stupid) I  drift close enough to the yacht to get on. My friends end up in a small fishing boat with several octopi. They look really angry at me –  I am drinking water and they don’t have any.  I am in shock. I almost drowned, For the rest of the summer Mendy tells the story in broken Greek and English to someone every day.  ‘We did not know the sea,” she  begins.   second time in Aegina –I don’t go in the water. I know that sea.   Scary.

Samos –  Having  fresh caught Calamari, that had hung on a clothes line, waking up to drunk Germans throwing up every night outside, playing with  Eva’s family on the beach,    ferry to Kusadasi Turkey ,   taken away by the police upon re-entering Samos because they thought I was smuggling drugs ( I was really seasick and nauseous and I needed a coke, I forgot to go through customs first  and walked into the store which was before customs.  –.  Eva spends a long time telling them I am another stupid American and they let me go.  Dumb.

Naxos –  taking a ferry in Greece after not being there for so long, Walking on the most beautiful soft sand beach in Naxos, grilled  fresh caught calamari as much as possible., beautiful villas, beautiful sunsets, old friends.  Wonderful.

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Poros – Walking down to the town, back on a hydrofoil in Piraeus,  No Americans,  Having an amazing Greek salad with Eva on Poros 25 years later and realizing that it never tasted as good in the US,  watching Greek families  on the beach ( It was a Greek vacation area) Greek yogurt,  boat to concert in outdoor theatre.,  dinners with Eva’s family, rocky beaches, clean water,  gold bracelets,  kids running all over, another summer  and I am in Greece. Lesson learned.

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Memories last longer than photographs.

Calo taxiti and fly safe,

JAZ

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