Emilia-Romagna, Italy – A region in Northern Italy, Emilia-Romagna is home to long-standing culinary destinations like Modena, Parma, and Bologna with the 2016 number one restaurant in the world, Osteria Francescana gaining world-wide acclaim in Modena. Chef Massimo Bottura weaves rich local tradition, a love of art and poetry, and top-notch ingredients into his approach of contemporary Italian cuisine. While Osteria Francescana is tops on many lists as one of the best restaurants in the world, reservations are highly sought and difficult to secure. If you’re traveling to the region and unable to afford a trip or get reservations to Osteria, don’t fret because there are countless other options for food lovers to eat, tour, and learn as they explore Emilia-Romagna. In western Emilian provinces like Parma and Modena, diners can sample some of Italy’s most renowned foods like Parmigiano-Reggiano, fresh pasta, gelato, and balsamic vinegar to name a few. You can even tour a Parmigiano-Reggiano dairy and see how this world-famous cheese is made. In the eastern ‘Romagna’ provinces, travelers can enjoy breathtaking mountaintop views in San Marino, bountiful vineyards with delicious red wines in Ravenna, and gorgeous sunsets along the coast in Rimini.
San Sebastian, Spain – Spain has long been known as a global destination for food lovers. With a great deal of focus on regional cuisine, the amazing seafood found in coastal communities, the Black Iberian pigs from Central and Southern Spain, and a unique dining tradition like tapas, the country is an ideal destination for food lovers. One of the best cities to visit if you’re a self-proclaimed foodie is San Sebastian in the very Northern part of Spain and right on the border of France. This coastal town is commonly referred to as Donostia and along with a section in Southwestern France used to be its own country, Basque. If traveling to San Sebastian, you’ll find its residents speak Basque as well as Spanish and what are commonly referred to as tapas in the rest of the country are called pintxos (pron. ‘pin-chos’). You can wander the busy streets of Old Town and pop into a pintxo bar every other door where you’ll find a bar lined from one end to the other with miniature artistic food creations. And yes, everything is edible. Just order a beer, glass of cava, or glass of red (non-alcoholic beverages also available) from the bar and tell them what food you would like. If it’s an item that needs to be heated, they will do so for you, but a great deal of the items available are delicious served room temperature. If you seek the best of the best in San Sebastian, you’ll find three Michelin-starred restaurants with the highest decoration of three stars. Akellare, Arzak, Martín Berasategui all earned the honor and are considered some of the best in the entire country.
Houston, Texas – Situated in close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, Houston has become a true melting pot of cultures from around the world. Large populations of immigrants from places like Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Japan, India, Pakistan, and Mexico just to name a few have collided with the creole influences of the region and, of course, the Texas barbecue as well. And with very affordable commercial and residential rent along with no state income tax, the conditions are ideal for a burgeoning food scene. This confluence of cultures has led to a fusion of tastes unlike any other in the United States and perhaps the world. Recently featured on celebrity chef David Chang’s Netflix show Ugly Delicious, the city of Houston’s lesser known food scene is fast becoming less of a secret. A food category that stands out as uniquely Houston is being dubbed as Viet-Cajun, a combination of Vietnamese and Cajun influences. And the most popular dish to spawn from this collision of cultures is the Viet-Cajun crawfish boil which you can find at Vietnamese restaurants all over the city. The big difference in a Viet-Cajun boil as opposed to a classic Cajun boil is in the spices used and a finishing touch with a mouth-watering butter sauce. If crawfish aren’t your thing, you’ll also find great BBQ, fried chicken, fresh seafood, and so much more scattered around the city.
Mendoza, Argentina – Cooking meats over flame or open coals is a technique used by every region of the earth since the discovery of fire. The Argentinians have mastered the craft in the form of what they call parilla, literally translated to “grill.” Mendoza is a very meat-centric city when it comes to its cuisine, but the region still has great produce and while vegetarian fare used to be virtually non-existent, more and more establishments are recognizing the need for accommodating all types of diners. Whether you are a carnivore, omnivore, or herbivore, you’ll find great food in Mendoza. And with great food often comes great wine and Argentina has no shortage of amazing wine. With an ideal climate for popular wine varietals such as Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Tempranillo, Argentina has catapulted itself into the top five of wine producers in the world. While you certainly don’t have to drink wine with every meal, you’ll find a great deal of the best restaurants in Mendoza offering a stellar collection to choose from. For example, you can dine at Azafran that doesn’t actually have a wine list, because it would be too darn long. Instead, diners choose a bottle from their seemingly endless amount of bottles kept in their cellar/store and enjoy a meal of high quality meats, fish, and delicious cheeses. Another must visit establishment on your Mendoza trip is 1884 by Francis Mallmann. Easily one of the most famous chefs in Argentina, Mallmann’s restaurant will probably be the priciest on your list, but it is absolutely worth it with clay oven and open fire cooking, meticulously trained servers, and first-class dining room ambiance.
Lima, Peru – Peru is one the most biologically and climatically diverse countries in the world and its cuisine is a true reflection of that diversity. As the largest city in Peru and one of the largest in all of South America, Lima presents a very good representation of the biological, climatic, and cultural diversity of the country’s cuisine. The word “fusion” gets thrown around a lot when referring to cuisine, and food enthusiasts will often cringe when they hear the term. Fusion is the intersection of two or more traditional types of cuisine to something more contemporary. Lima has true fusion styles like criollo, chifa, and chifa yion and they don’t at all seem contrived. With a large influx of East Asian immigrants to the country in the late 19th and 20th Centuries, Chinese ingredients mixed with the local ingredients of Peru and a true original in fusion cuisine was born in Chifa. If visiting Lima, you shouldn’t have any problems finding Chifa on menus throughout the city. Another must try while in Lima is a dish made with marinated raw seafood called ceviche. Generally a mild, white fish is used along with lots of lime juice, diced red onion, tomato, cilantro, serrano chiles, and other fresh ingredients. Lima does this dish arguably better than anywhere else in the world.
New York City, New York – Long known as one of the primary cultural hubs of the United States, New York City represents countries and cultures from all across the globe. More than 200 languages are spoken in New York City and more than 3 million of its residents are foreign-born. And with a culturally diverse population comes a culturally diverse food scene. According to some estimates, there are 24,000 eating establishments in New York City. Keep in mind, not all are good and some are just downright bad, so if you’re making a food-focused trip to New York City, be sure to do some research. Consider your ideal budget, your preferred types of cuisine, and where you’ll be staying in New York before making the trip. For example, you’ll find much different offerings and price points in downtown Manhattan as opposed to Bushwick, Brooklyn. Regardless of where you focus on for your food journey through New York City, you’ll find countless delicious options. Obviously, grabbing a slice from a place like Ivana’s Pizzeria in the Bronx or a pastrami sandwich at world famous Katz’s Delicatessen are both must dos, but there is much more to discover in New York’s deep culinary scene. Other iconic spots to visit would be places like Peter Luger, Keens Steakhouse, The Rainbow Room, and Delmonico’s. And relative newcomers to the scene like Momofuku, Hanoi House, Aldea, Mu Ramen, and Roberta’s are all great options as well.
Copenhagen, Denmark – As the home to Noma, the best restaurant in the world four times in the last seven years, the city of Copenhagen is no stranger to refined cuisine. And while the reputation and prestige of Noma may loom large over the region’s culinary identity, it doesn’t occupy all of the space in the arena of food in that region of the world. Copenhagen has a little bit of everything for the food lover. You’ll find authentic Italian food at establishments like Mother and Tony’s or great Indian cuisine at the well-established Guru. The city also features great brew pubs, taco spots, and burger joints if you’re trying to eat around the city on a bit more of a budget. Of course, the city has more traditional Scandinavian fare for those seeking a more immersive experience. Schonnemann’s has been around since the late 19th century and is a restaurant only open during the day for lunch. The award-winning eatery offers diners specialty items like smorrebrod (open-faced sandwiches), pickled herring, and of course lots of schnapps and beer. Other great options for more regional cuisine are places like Bodil, Restaurant Amalie, and Marv & Ben to name a few.
Paris, France – French cuisine has had profound influence on cooking technique for so many chefs around the world and continues to be a trailblazer on the world stage of gastronomy. As the most popular tourist destination in the country, Paris is a thriving and continuously evolving food-centered city. Steeped in tradition, standards, and principles, French cuisine has weathered trends and fads amidst popular gastronomical movements over the years. While the city’s chefs do their best to adapt and take what they need from culinary trends, they remain true to their principles and continue the long standing stellar reputation of France on the world stage of gastronomy. Some new and exciting restaurants blazing a path as the new generation of Parisian cuisine are places like Septime, Sylvestre, Saturne, Dersou, La Scène, Les Fables de la Fontaine.
Tokyo, Japan – Japan’s capital city is considered by many to be the world’s greatest food city. With a mind-blowing 234 Michelin-starred restaurants, it dwarfs the closest competition in the aforementioned Paris, with 94 restaurants bestowed with the honor. And to think the majority of the Michelin-starred restaurants would be kaiseki, sushi, or teppanyaki would be a mistake. Many of the restaurants chosen by Michelin are European, with at least 50 serving up French-inspired cuisine. Tokyo is a very large city and some estimates suggest the city contains 160,000 eateries. As the world capital of gastronomy, Tokyo has something for everyone on any budget. Visitors can go with a more lavish approach and visit one of the 12 three-starred restaurants or duck into a counter service ramen shop or experience the best sushi in the world, or perhaps enjoy a little of all of the tastes of Tokyo.
Stellenbosch, South Africa – In what is known as South Africa’s wine country and aptly named the Cape Winelands municipality lies the town of Stellenbosch. The town houses one of the largest universities in the country and has a population of about 150,000, making it the largest community in Cape Winelands. With breathtaking scenery and the country’s most prolific wine production, the region has also become a hub for top-notch dining establishments. There’s a youthful vibrancy to Stellenbosch with visitors wandering the charming dutch-inspired streets after a day of wine tasting. And with some advance planning, it’s possible to enjoy a memorable experience at one or more of the best restaurants in Stellenbosch. Some of the best places to grab a reservation for a meal are Rust en Vrede, Delaire Graff Restaurant, Restaurant Jardine, and Spek & Bone among many others.