Food is a special part of travel for me. It helps shape our experiences. Wander with me as I share some of my favorite foods from around the world.
Welcome to Wander Stories, a podcast bringing you stories from destinations around the world or across the street.
In Wander Stories, we go behind the scenes to share some of the wow moments we discover as we travel. My husband and I sometimes find the best stories as we travel the US in our fifth-wheel trailer. Other times, we might discover stories as we jet off to other locales. No matter the source or where we go, we love bringing you Wander Stories to help inspire your own travels. Pull up a chair, grab a glass of bubbles or your favorite beverage, and listen to this episode of Wander Stories.
Listen online here or on your favorite podcast network or read below for the full script.
My Favorite Food From Around the World
Food is such a part of my travels. When my husband, Bill, and I travel, we often plan our day around the restaurants we want to visit. That has given us some remarkable meals. I love Anthony Bourdain’s comment that “food, culture, people, and landscape are all absolutely inseparable.” That has indeed been the case for me.
My Love of Food in the Early Days
I always loved good food; even as a kid, I enjoyed complex flavors. As I grew up and we moved from VA to Colorado, an entirely new world of food opened up for me. Bill and I met in Steamboat Springs, CO, and one of my all-time favorite bites was the house potato at Pine Grove Restaurant—what is today Ore House at the Pine Grove. I’ve tried to replicate this potato many times and never come close. It’s twice-baked and has a cheese sauce. The one served today is similar to what was served in 1979, but not quite the same. And trust me, I know what the original tasted like because Bill and I blew all the money he earned his senior year of high school going out at least 2 or 3 nights a week to Pine Grove. He knew how to create a great impression!
Another early favorite, also in Colorado, was the scones at Sleepy Cat Ranch, a guest ranch that used to be near Meeker, CO. This was a classic old log lodge, and they served some great steaks. But the scones were amazing. These were not really scones—not British scones, anyway. They were delightful deep-fried rolls served with butter and honey.
My Favorite Food in Germany
As Bill and I ventured out, we began to appreciate food wherever we went. This really blossomed during the time we lived in Germany in the early 1980s. I arrived in Germany when I was two months pregnant and discovered Ziguenerschnitzel, which translates to something politically incorrect—“gypsy schnitzel.” Ziguener Schnitzel is a beautiful thin pork cutlet that is breaded and fried. It’s served with a lovely tomato sauce with mushrooms, onion, red and green peppers, and wine. I ate this all the time while I was pregnant. When I return to Germany, I always have to get Zuguener Schnitzel. It’s still good, but it never tastes as good as when I ate it while I was pregnant in 1983 and early 1984.
In Germany, we lived in the tiny village of Moetsch, near the Air Force base in Bitburg, close to the Luxembourg border. There was a little restaurant up the road from our house called Edelweiss, located just before driving onto the base. The Americans all referred to it as “The Corner Store.” We used to gather there after work or – because Bill and I were going to college in the evenings – after we got out of class. They had delicious schnitzel, great Riesling wine, Bitburger beer, and the best pickled cucumbers ever. Many happy memories surround that restaurant and the food we shared with friends at the corner store.
My Most Memorable Meals
I recently told someone there are meals I can remember decades later. They found that astounding. And, I admit, that’s quite a statement for the food that still resonates with me.
Keller Plage Offered Some of My Favorite Foods
One of the most vivid was a beautiful appetizer platter I enjoyed at Keller Plage (or Keller Beach) in Antibes in the South of France in April 2005. We dined on the beach… beautiful tables in shades of pale yellow and blue with bright yellow umbrellas while we watched the ships come and go in the water just a few steps away.
So, the setting was magical, but the food matched that setting. They served a glass plate with nine little compartments, each filled with a delightful bite. Fresh langoustines. Mellon with prosciutto. Fresh asparagus. An heirloom tomato with homemade ricotta cheese. Smoked salmon. Fois Gras.
I took my husband back to the area 15 years later because of the food I enjoyed there, and we were not disappointed.
My Best Food Memory at Spago Las Vegas
Another memorable meal I shared with my husband was at Spago Las Vegas. At the time, Executive Chef Eric Klein personally delivered each course to us. Chef Klein is now the Vice President of Culinary and Partner at Wolfgang Puck Catering. But that night, he set out to wow us with a beautiful tasting menu. His flavors were amazing, and he took such pride as he walked each course out to us, sat down with us, and described the dishes. The highlight for both of us was the chef’s ricotta gnocchi. So simple, but sublime. These hand-rolled homemade ricotta gnocchi were served in a black truffle butter sauce. I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I took that first bite. I will never forget that meal.
Truffles are One of My Favorite Foods
And that leads me to truffles. Not the chocolate kind. The fungi variety. I had a truffle-themed dinner while traveling in the South of France, near St. Tropez. I’ve long forgotten the restaurant’s name, but it was truffle season, so the chef featured truffles in each course. One of my favorites was the mushroom and truffle soup. The rich flavors were transformative. I fell in love with truffles that night. Not truffle oil. Truffles. Fresh ones. Preferably black truffles, although white truffles do have a nice flavor. When used correctly, truffles bring out a deep, earthy flavor that takes me back to the south of France every time.
My Love of Soup
That’s not the only soup to make my list of the best flavors. In 2004, my mom and I spent a night at the Jerome Grand Hotel in Jerome, AZ. Jerome is one of the quirkiest mining towns ever, and in a future episode, I’ll talk about the haunted happenings at the hotel.
But, focusing on the food… mom and I arrived just before lunch, so we headed to the Asylum Restaurant—aptly named because the hotel was once an asylum (yes, I told you I have ghost stories). It was October or November, and they were offering a Roasted Butternut Squash Soup that remains on the menu. I’m telling you, if you’re in Arizona, drive to Jerome and have this soup. It’s that good. It has a cinnamon lime crema on top, and that combination of flavors is to die for. Every time I have a bowl of butternut squash soup, I think of that delightful lunch with my mom.
Sometimes Simple Bites are the Best Food When Traveling
Not every dish has to be complicated or complex to be memorable. One of my favorite bites was a simple shrimp appetizer on a recent Viking Ocean Cruise between Rome and Barcelona. The restaurant had this cold shrimp sitting on a cucumber with a delightful, bright vinaigrette. Three shrimp came in the appetizer. One night, I ordered appetizers and got two shrimp dishes because they were so delicious. Simple, fresh flavors, a bit of citrus in the vinaigrette (maybe a yuzu, although I never asked), and fresh, tender, delicate shrimp from the Mediterranean. An exquisite bite.
Another simple bite I recently enjoyed was an amazing carrot hummus at Rex Hill Winery in Newburg, OR. Chef Billy Brownlee grew up on the Gulf Coast but has cooked all over the world. He even regaled us with stories about cooking in the outback at Denali National Park. He prepares meals based on what’s in season and what he gets at the market. The day I visited, he prepared a delightful roasted carrot hummus. He roasted the carrots before preparing the hummus, so the smokiness and the sweetness created a flavor sensation. I could have eaten just that and been happy… but he kept coming with more amazing food.
Food Memories from the Past
Sometimes, when I think about food, it brings a bit of melancholy when I realize I can never again duplicate that experience. One of the most poignant was dining on the most magnificent shrimp at Sugar Cane Maui in the Lahaina Historic District in 2015. Sadly, the entire historic district was destroyed in this summer’s fires. I will forever treasure that afternoon, looking out at the ocean, sipping a mai tai, and eating fresh shrimp.
Some of the Odd Food Experiences
Those have all been amazing food memories, but I would be lying if I said every experience with food has been pleasant. I’ve had my share of food oddities as well. One of my daughter-in-law’s favorite stories is of the mussel cappuccino I had in Palm Springs a decade ago. Yes, it was a cappuccino with mussels in it. The chef cooked the mussels in coffee. He then made a cappuccino but added fish stock and mussels, served it in a cappuccino mug, with some type of cream on the top. It was just wrong. I did brave one bite, but that was more than enough.
I also had an odd experience in France with eating live squid. I was at Les Pêcheurs, a one-Michelin-star restaurant in Juan-les-Pain near Antibes, not far from Cannes. They served live baby squid and a boiling pot of broth at the table. We were to drop the squid into the broth, let it cook briefly, and then eat it whole. It was an interesting experience.
Another food that I simply couldn’t bring myself to eat was stinky tofu in Thailand. While in Thailand, I tried fried crickets—they’re sort of like potato chips—and fried silkworms. But I couldn’t bring myself to try the stinky tofu because the smell made me gag.
Thai Chilis are Not My Favorite Food
I’ll leave you with a funny Thai food story. I love spicy food, but I had been warned about the Thai chilies. They make even the spiciest chiles in the Southwest seem mild. Or so I’d been told. I carefully avoided them until one day, we were eating at a tiny little floating restaurant—it was in one of the canals outside Bangkok. The owners were catching the fish off the side and serving them in the restaurant—delicious food and the biggest shrimp I had ever seen.
Everything was great until I ate what I thought was a green bean. In retrospect, I should have known. Green beans are not used in Thai dishes. But, in my Western brain, I saw it and thought that was what it was. When I bit into it, I realized it was a pepper, and I’m told my entire face turned bright red.
The tears started rolling. Fortunately, the waiter observed this and hurried over with a tall yogurt drink. That helped quell the burning, and after about 10 minutes, once I could feel my tongue again, I could continue my meal, carefully picking out anything that remotely resembled a green bean.
Experience My Favorite Food Around the World
Fortunately, the food mishaps have been less than the food wins during my travels. I would love to hear about some of your memorable food experiences. Be sure to check the episode notes for some links to some of the places I’ve referenced and a few more links to stories of more of my favorite dining experiences.
And we will end with another Anthony Bourdain quote: “Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go.”
We invite you to explore Wander With Wonder for more of our favorite foods from around the world or across the street™.
Eat well and travel often. Remember, you can subscribe to Wander Stories and listen anywhere you get podcasts.
My Favorite Bites Around the World