Friday, October 26, 2018

Feasting in Europe: Food glorious food means fresh, pretty

Cookie's favorite lamb chops -- served rare -- with asparagus, lentils and a balsamic drizzle. 
Cookie and Keller enjoy a leisurely lunch in Monterosso.

TRAVEL IS FUN for me, and no part of travel is more pleasurable than exploring the gastronomic pleasures of far-away places.
I love watching what the locals order in European restaurants, even asking a fellow diner what that attractive offering on his freshly served plate is.
In Asia, I keep my eye on take-out customers in noodle and dim-sum shops. Fast-food in Asia is tasty and fun to try.
HERE ARE a few tips for dining abroad. My hope is that they will broaden your tastes without flattening your wallet, and make you a bit more adventuresome on the road.
* Use your concierge.  Hotels are proud of this amenity and the concierge is often the most knowledgeable person in the hotel when it comes to good places to dine.  Tell him/her you want to eat in a local favorite, not a tourist trap.
* Consider traveling off-season (before Memorial Day and after Labor Day).  You'll miss the huge crowds and find the restaurants less busy and the staff more accommodating.   In France, Italy and Spain in August, nearly everyone – including chefs, restaurateurs and key suppliers – goes on holidays. Americans also flock to Europe in those three months. You don't want to be there then.
*Always check addresses and  opening-closing hours. If you have your heart set on a particular restaurant, make sure it is open!
A breakfast buffet in Tarragona,
Spain, featured fresh bakery items.
Appetizers arrive shipboard on Celebrity's Century during
a family cruise celebrating the birthday of Ellen Cosgriffe.
* Keep an eye on key dates for religious festivals, public holidays, big  soccer and other sporting events. We also avoid places with televisions -- or you might find your bistro turned into a  World Cup screening room. Go back a street or two from the main drag.
Take a wine tasting now and then, particularly in southern 
Europe.  Then ask the sommelier where he dines out.  
If you see chestnuts, mushrooms and lemon in the street stalls, find
items on the menu featuring those same local ingredients.
*When in Europe, South America, southeast Asia and Australia, we look for terrace restaurants and open-air dining if it's nice.  But particularly in the Far East, check the weather.  Heavy rains and monsoon season can dampen the spirit and who wants soggy noodles?
Look for ingredients in local shops
knowing that those are good bets
for dining later in the day.

*If you're cruising, ask your waiter to recommend your appetizer, entree and dessert.  He knows what the food looks like in the kitchen and what the chefs put their most energy into. 

Don't discount fast food on the road.
We found this tasty wrap in Vietnam. 

With Halloween around the corner, consider a pumpkin
dish -- pie, pudding, cookies.  Look for seasonal fare.

UP NEXT:  While we're in a traveling mood and 
mode, consider taking a youngster of two on a holiday with you.  It needn't be a three-week cruise, but could be a refreshing long weekend, or even an overnight.  We find traveling with kids is eye-opening and endlessly entertaining, and offer a few pointers on making the young part of your life and living to tell happy tales about it.  Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a novel look at travel, the arts, nature and family.
(Left photo: at a snow lodge near Truckee, Calif., with
the Ganner family, Cookie's niece et al from the Bay Area.)   


  1. Like this fun foodie fest. Thanks.

  2. Food is a big part of life, and travel enhances the options. Well done -- and rare lamb chops!!

  3. Always fun to try a new dish on the road... part of the grand adventure....

  4. We think we were on a cruise in Southeast Asia with you two....did you do a reading?

  5. New Jersey TravelersOctober 30, 2018 at 8:37 AM

    You two should be travel agents...thanks for the tops today on the train from Roma!

  6. Mange, mange...your columns make me dream....