If I were going to list my passions in life, then chances are that food and travel would be top. In either order. In this unusual time of lockdown, I’m still indulging in one, if not the other. Over-indulging, some might say. The fasteners on my jeans would definitely say.
May’s Travel Link Up theme is “travelling by plate”, which led me to think of some of my favourite meals and dining experiences, home and abroad. In no particular order, let’s delve into a menu of memories.
Think of a country with an amazing cuisine and chances are you’ll think of Italy. Which is why it has two entries that come to mind when I think about food and travel. It was our final night in Florence, and we were trying to find the piazza where we’d eaten on our first night. After going round and round in circles, we decide to eat at one of the restaurants at Piazza di San Firenze. There seem to be no vacant tables on the terrace at Osteria De’Peccatori, but we are beckoned over by a beaming waiter who magics up a table for two out of nowhere.
I can’t remember what we ate, only that the food was excellent, the wine was even better and the hospitality couldn’t have been more warm and welcoming. Not just because all the waiters look as if they have been waiting tables for at least sixty years. Best of all, the two meals, wine, beer and limoncelli come to just 35,00 euro – a bargain.
Our local resort was very much of the “full English Breakfast” and “2 cocktails for 5 euro” mould. Bingo and karaoke. Sports bars and europop. So we grabbed authentic lunches when we could when we were out and about discovering the real Tenerife. In Garachicho, after exploring the natural swimming pools that had formed off the coast, we headed through the small town.
There was little showy about the tiny Bodegon Plaza-Casa Juan restaurant on Calla Francisco Martinez de Fuentes. In fact, it felt like we were being seated in someone’s front room. We ordered five or six small dishes, a mixture of meat and seafood, with the ubiquitous patatas bravas. And it felt like the food kept on coming, and the sangria kept flowing. Definitely a hidden gem that’s worth seeking out.
On a beautiful, balmy September evening in New England, Mr Fletche and I headed from our hotel in Stowe to Lake Champlain in Burlington. It had been a restful day. For me anyway. Mr Fletche had been battling with a dodgy tummy so it had been a day of sticking close to a bathroom. After successfully keeping a late lunch inside, we decided dinner should be of the ice cream variety. And in Vermont, ice cream means Ben & Jerry’s. And Burlington is it’s home.
We get in line at the Ben & Jerry’s location on Church Street. Mr Fletche has Cherry Garcia, I opt for Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl. It takes approximately two minutes for the brown ice cream to drip all the way down my cream top. And all the way around my face. And on my hands. I look like a particularly unruly child. It’s totally worth walking around in a stained top for.
There’s little doubt that our dining options are limited as we drive into deepest darkest rural Croatia for a farmhouse stay at Agrotourism Kalpic. We’re greeted by cats, dogs and chickens, and a smiling host who explains that a home-cooked meal is available for 20 euro apiece. We gratefully take her up on the offer. And this is by far our favourite meal of our 2 week Croatian road trip. Served al fresco under a clear star-filled sky, the food is amazing. A bruschetta starter. Grilled meats and potatoes cooked under a traditional Croatian bell. A luscious white chocolate and cherry dessert. The wine is locally produced, and we have homemade schnapps to complete the meal. We continue drinking wine long after the meal has finished.
Even independent travellers enjoy chilling out with a package all-inclusive holiday every once in a while. And in 2014 we headed to the Riu Tequila in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. Everything was excellent, as you’d expect from a Riu, but we soon tired of the same four walls and buffet food. So one late afternoon, as it cooled down to a manageable 30°C or so after a hot and sweaty day, we strolled down to town. Spoiler alert, a 3km walk in this heat isn’t pleasant.
So it was with relief that we crashed down at the first beach bar we found. A simple table-and-chairs-on-the-sand set-up. The name escapes me, but I know that the first beer went down surprisingly quickly. So much so that we thought it only polite to order a second, with a platter of nachos on the side. Never has a plate of nachos, fully loaded with guacamole, sour cream, salsa and jalapenos ever tasted so good. Perfect fuel for the 3km walk back.
If you fancy a Mexican visit, here are my 6 Reasons to Visit Playa Del Carmen.
And it’s back to Italy for my final choice. We ate incredible seafood, wonderful pizzas and drank amazing local wine. But out of all our Italian meals, it is a simple picnic lunch at the Cinque Terre town of Manarola that makes me smile. After a morning clambering up the steps to Corniglia, we are ready for lunch by the time we disembark the train at Manarola.
The beautifully elegant al fresco ristorantes can’t tempt us but the delicious smell of warm focaccia coming from Pizzeria La Cambusa does. We buy two focaccia, and two of the biggest bottles of Birra Morretti I’ve ever seen. We do as the locals do, and find a place on the rocks overlooking the crystal blue waters to dine. No Michelin-starred restaurant could have provided a better meal for us that day.