Culinary journeys give my clients a feast of local flavor. I always incorporate favorite restaurants, street food vendors and cooking classes if of interest in my European travel itineraries.
One of my favorite ways to experience culinary travel is wine tasting. So many countries offer fabulous wine roads and fun small wineries to enjoy a taste of the grape.
While Napa Valley is the US comparison for wine travel, European wine tasting is very different and offers a great new experience.
Foodie Festivals are also notable ways to a divine culinary experience and I like to make sure I offer this fun way to really taste the country your are visiting!
Make sure you include cuisine in your travel plans, it is such a natural combination and immerses you in the culture of the country you’re visiting in a such a delicious way!
Europe’s political capital offers much more than Art Nouveau architecture or impressive art collections-what I focus on (always!) is the culinary offerings in this most beautiful of places in France. Did you know that Belgium invented moules frites (mussels & french fries) and you won’t find better mussels in the world-gently cooked in white wine and garlic broth (my mouth is watering, is yours?). This is also the place to get your fries fix, served in cones and dipped in mayonnaise, all washed own with one of the 500 different varieties of beer. Not to mention chocolate!. Beyond these great culinary feasts, this destination has Michelin-starred gourmet cuisine for those so inclined. Brusselicious! kicks off in 2012 with culinary events scheduled throughout the year. Just next to the Grand Place, one of the prettiest squares in Europe, you will find the beautiful Hotel Amigo. Having hosted dignitaries and stars and the award winning Italian restaurant, the Bar Amigo, a great gathering place.
Take a seat at one of the many “sidewalk” cafes in the Galleries Royales Saint-Hubert and order a cafe creme before the crowds arrive. Rain or shine, the covered shopping arcade is a sublime spot, surrounded by luxury boutiques, for a cup of coffee (the original Neuhaus chocolate shop is located here). Enjoy the cast-iron columns and glass-paneled roof of the Galeries. Next, stroll up the Place Royale to the Magritte Museum which opened in 2009 to much fanfare. The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium renovated one of its buildings, powering it with green electricity and transforming it into a cutting-edge temple to Magritte, the world’s most celebrated surrealist and Belgium’s native son. Follow a chronological journey through some 200 works by this mater. TIP: Pick up the Brussels Card for city exploration and you will get free admission to 30-plus museums and free use of public transportation.
Stave off your hunger with a sugary pick-me-up at Laurent Gerbaud’s chocolate shop. After all, Belgium is the world’s chocolate capital and its citizens consume an average of six kilograms (over 12 pounds to us). Even the pickiest of chocoholics will be drooling over Gerbaud’s artisanal creations.
Now its off for lunch to the trendy Chatelain neighborhood, perhaps eating at La Quincaillerie, a lively brasserie housed in a former iron monger’s shop complete with brass fixtures and an enormous rail-station clock. The fabulous oyster bar here is not to be missed, as are the seafood specialties and gourmet classics, such as honey-glazed duck.
Comic book fan? Check out Brussels’ Belgian Comic Strip Center. It is fun to see Belgium’s beloved comic-strip hero, Tintin, with Snowly the dog. But the building alone is worth it, a masterpiece in glass and steel created by architect Horta who championed the Art Nouveau style at the turn of the 20th century.
OK, the day is winding down, it is about 6 PM and Sante’ – aperitif hour/ Forego wine for one of Belgium’s famous beers. A rich brewing tradition with hundreds of diverse varieties, each served in its own unique glass to maximize the flavor. Try a pale ale made by the Trappist monks.
Dinner attracts a fashionable and fun crowd at the Belga Queen, a restaurant that occupies a landmark 18th-century building with stained glass ceiling and a Cigar Lounge Bar in the former bank vault. The cuisine highlights the best of Belgium, even the Arabica coffee beans are roasted locally.
As always, I can give you the culinary additions to your European travel plans that will take your vacation up to the next level and guarantee your vacation memories will be most vivid for a long time.