I am asked, most often, by friends and relatives, about the best food countries I have visited. MSN’s The Manual has listed their favorites, by continent. I will share theirs, then add my favorites.
Italy and France always dominate most surveys and food writer’s choices. I first developed a fondness for some French food back in the 70s. I had a girlfriend who studied at the Sorbonne in France. She knew her French food better than anyone I have ever known. My two favorite dishes are escargot, and Duck l’orange. Close behind are steak frites. And the wine is good and affordable.
I have not been back to Italy for decades, perhaps because of my past, bad memories, and the most difficult time in my life. I learned my Father died while I was in Zurich/Rome and could not get home in time for his funeral. It was the saddest and loneliest period of my life. I would welcome a cycling trip to Tuscany or Sicily.
But since I cycle now, I would probably give Italy another try. Besides several visits to Paris, including the French Open this past May, I have enjoyed other regions such as Bordeaux, and Champagne. Loire and Burgundy would be next on my list.
You probably wonder why I did not mention one of my new favorites, Greece. The food everywhere in Greece is very good, but not great. My favorites are sea bass, lamb, fried cheese, and olive oil. My Greek “brothers” always make sure I get the best food, and bottomless glasses of house wine (very good), and mastika (moonshine). Yamas!!!
However, the best dessert I have ever enjoyed was in Belgrade, Serbia at the famous Hotel Moskva. The cake is the world famous Moskva Shnit. The Shnit is a fruit cake (not like your grandmother’s Christmas fruitcake), made with the finest and top-secret homemade cream, and is served around the world. The Hotel also has a special wine that is served with the cake in what I would call a perfect pairing!
Argentina and Brazil are rated highest, and I would not dispute this, based on my experience. But the only requirement is you must be a red meat eater. The beef is outstanding through both of these countries, as well as other South American counties I have visited, including Chile, Peru, and Ecuador. The beer is also very good in South America, thanks to the large German influence created by copper mining. German immigrants came to mine copper and other metals, creating a strong German culture in many countries.
And despite lots of suggestions, avoid the cuy or guinea pig. It is very greasy and gamey. But the beef and red wine combination (mostly Malbecs) rates at the top in most South American countries, from big cities to tiny villages. The meat emporiums in Rio and Buenos Aires were great experiences, and also good value (never go away hungry!).
Mr. Mike and I hit a famous meat emporium in Buenos Aires, after learning the tango. Essentially, it is a food orgy of bottomless cuts of beef (our choice), and endless mottles of Malbec. I have yet to see so many cuts of meat on one grill.
But if think of finding Chilean seabass here, you are sadly mistaken. Lately, farm raised seabass is available. But during our journey in Chile (from top to bottom), we were continually told it is endangered. And that all the seabass exported to the US is illegal. Local fisherman will catch and sell seabass illegally, just to provide for their families and pay for their boats.
I find it difficult to combine all of Asia in one culinary discussion, since Japan seems to be distinct from SE Asian food. So, I will invoke editorial license, and make Japan a separate “country” just for its unique cuisine and style.
As you might expect, Thailand and Singapore top the list, displacing Vietnam at the top of most foodie charts. Thailand and Vietnam are much more affordable places to visit. While to food in Singapore is famous for its hawker stalls, the comparable stalls in Thailand and Vietnam are just as enjoyable, and much less expensive. I would give an edge to Singapore for noodles only.
We have dined everywhere from fine dining (The Normandie at the famous Oriental Hotel) to the lunch counters at the grocery store. Our most memorable meal was at a huge fish emporium in Bangkok. We selected out fish and sides, before being seated at our table. The chef comes out to discuss the preparation and style of cooking for our recently purchased “sea to table” selections. We enjoyed some cocktails and wine before the food arrived.
SE Asia is a place where it is really difficult to get a bad meal. Everything is fresh, due to a shortage of refrigeration. Animals were slaughtered that morning, fish were caught that day, and veggies were harvested in the early morning. What’s not to like, even in the hinterlands of the hill countries or roadside stalls.
That said, my favorite place to eat in all of SE Asia is on the island of Penang. Fresh seafood is outstanding, plentiful, inexpensive, and expertly prepared. The local desserts are as inventive as anywhere in the world. And my friends, Jason and Chun, always take us to the most creative places.
My mother country has great food, whether sushi, Michelin starred restaurants, noodles, or inventive cuisine. Japan has more Michelin star restaurants than any country in the world. And most of them are open for lunch, when meals are infinitely more affordable. Even the neighborhood 7-11 has sushi as well as hot food in vending machines, including teriyaki, tonkatsu, donburi, and ramen. My only complaint is breakfast, since a typical Japanese breakfast is a bit too healthy for me. I generally choose a noodle place for lunch, and sushi for dinner. Another favorite of mine is shabu shabu. BY now you know the big department store secret? Just arrive in the late afternoon, and all remaining desserts are sold at half price or less!!!!
They do not mention Africa, so I will add Cape Town and Barry the V to my list. Besides being a great friend to me and Mr. Mike, he changed our perception of Africa and the food scene in Cape Town. Whether we did home barbecues, or dined at restaurants in greater Cape Twon, he opened out eyes to food in Africa.
But I must make quick mention of the safari food, since we went on several safaris. Again, the food is heavily meat oriented, always fresh, and include much of the wild game that we observed during the day. My favorite was the wild boar.
Favorite in the entire world
The article states Mexican food is most popular among millennials. Would you believe 44% of us purchase Mexican food at retail outlets? And fully 66% say Mexico has the best food in Middle America. The foodie area includes not only Mexico, but the better part of the southwest (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California).
It is difficult, nearly impossible to choose my favorite meal or country. If I were forced to choose, I would pick Chinese food. Some great places to have Chinese food are Hong Kong, Vancouver, San Francisco, and Bangkok.