The Ultimate Food Lover’s Bucket List Slideshow
November 11, 2011
With more Michelin stars than Paris (it currently has the most in the world, actually), Tokyo has proved itself to be an ultimate gastronome destination. Wagyu beef, savory tofu dishes, sweet and salty soy-based meals, noodle soups, lean grilled meats, and, of course, exceptionally fresh seafood-turned-sushi make up the vibrant (and tradition-filled) culinary landscape of this bustling city.
Eat: Street foods are more than worth the trip, but spring for Michelin-starred sushi at Ginza Harutaka. Hit the Tsukiji Fish Market for the full experience, and dine at a 100-year-old sake brewery, Tofuya Ukai.
Sleep: Get into the Tokyo scene at Design Hotel's Park Hotel Tokyo, where cutting-edge technology meets welcoming design.
New York, N.Y.
Just reading those words summon Frank Sinatra's smoky voice and images of yellow cabs whisking fashionable denizens to the newest, chicest spots. New York's high-low cuisine is virtually unmatched, with bagels, pizza, and deli sandwiches as equally argued about as the city's haute cuisine. French, Italian, Greek, Japanese, and Chinese foods are well represented by the city's diverse melting-pot culture.
The rolling vineyards of Chianti and rugged cliffs of the Tuscan coast make up one of the most iconic food destinations. The region is known for flavors like local olive oil on crispy schiacciata (flatbread), wild porcini mushrooms, artichokes cooked every way, fresh tomatoes in juicy panzanella, local cheeses like raviggiolo, famed bistecca alla fiorentina, and some of the world's most celebrated wines.
Eat: Taste samples at Dario Cecchini's (pictured) butcher shop in Chianti (he also has a meat-happy restaurant called Solo Ciccia), carciofi fritti from Trattoria Sostanza il Troia in Florence, and porta via paninis from I Fratellini.
Sleep: Stay at the Lungarno in Florence for unbridled luxury, book a private villa in Chianti through an agency like Beautiful Places or Carpe Diem, or sneak into JK Place in Florence for a sleek, boutique stay.
Napa Valley and Sonoma, Calif.
California's premier wine regions boast lush vineyards and a bright blue coastline. The wines and flavors are oft-imitated and craved, from buttery white wines, earthy red wines, and fresh seafood to locally produced cheeses and farmers' market fruits and vegetables. Mexican flavors, too, like fresh fish tacos and hearty tamales have infiltrated Californian cuisine.
Eat: Try the bar at Cyrus in Healdsburg for a French Laundry-like meal without the set menu. Brassica in St. Helena, Jarvis Winery, and Joseph Phelps Vineyards are must-stops, as are the gorgeous grounds of Chateau St. Jean winery in Sonoma.
The City of Light will always be a food lover's destination, melding flavors and legendary wines from across France. With perfect chocolates, flaky croissants, precious macarons, fresh and light fish in buttery sauces, succulent goat cheese, fall-off-the-bone meats, herb-y terrines, and roasted root vegetables, French cuisine in Paris can be as decadent or light as you desire. Grand, palatial, and Michelin-starred restaurants coexist with newly opened hole-in-the-wall eateries.
Eat: Suffer through worthwhile lines at the effortlessly romantic and world-renowned patisserie Ladurée, experience the classic brasserie style of Benoit, and find a cocktail under the dim red lights of Le China.
Sleep: L'Hôtel is the choice boutique hotel with rich dcor and history Oscar Wilde once called it home. The artsier hotel of choice is Hôtel Particulier Montmartre, with its calming, lush back garden.
The tastes of Barcelona precede it. We all know that dinner doesn't start until (at least) 9 p.m., and images of meaty tapas dishes, steaming plates of paella, plump anchovies with pa amb tomquet (tomato-rubbed bread), and fresh and flavorful seafood are conjured instantly. From a glimpse of Gaudís whimsies to the last sip of cava, Barcelona is a multi-sensorial trip, showcasing ingredients like succulent mushrooms, rich eggs, and herbed aïoli.
Eat: Line up with the rest of them for lunch at La Cova Fumada for freshly grilled seafood; dine on clever combinations made by an Adriá-trained chef at Dos Palillos; and if nothing else, make your way through the iconic La Boqueria Market.
Montreal is such an easy-to-love city, with unique culinary distinctions like being the birthplace of poutine (fries with cheese curds and gravy) and serving Montreal-style (smaller, sweeter) bagels. The natural bounty of Canada mixes with the charmed city life of Montreal, with classic and nouveau French flavors. Hearty dishes get diners through cold Canadian winters, like fondue with melted local cheese and stuffed pied de cochon (pig's foot).
Thai cuisine is full of steaming noodle soups, spicy duck curries, sweet iced coffees, and the tastes of kaffir lime and lemongrass. The endlessly buzzing city of Bangkok offers all that and more, from authentic Thai street stalls to dim sum to transnational Asian cuisines in high-end restaurants.
With Noma in the world's culinary spotlight, Copenhagen has secured a spot on the gastronome's map. Unconventional cooking techniques mixed with unique Scandinavian ingredients make Danish cuisine so fascinating. Elderberries, cloudberries, herring, local cheese, freshly caught seafood, and smørrebrød (simple sandwiches) scratch the surface of local foods, while mouthwatering cakes are at every turn.
Eat: Of course, if you can, book a table at the two-Michelin-starred Noma for a once-in-a-lifetime culinary experience, or go a little more casual but no less delicious at Herman. Authentic and seasonal Danish food can also be found at Els.
Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong is home to a mishmash of flavors that blend incredibly well, particularly with the never-ending buzzy vibe of the city. Street-food markets abound, selling lychees you peel and eat on the street, as do private-member dining rooms where Chinese cuisine is at its most authentic. Soft-shell crabs, noodle soups, steamed dumplings, and dim sum combine with Western techniques and flavors.
Eat: One of the city's top dining spots has long been China Club, for Peking duck on the terrace outside. Taste Tibetan cuisine at Yun Fu and remember the past with British gastropub food at The Pawn.
Charleston is the definition of American Southern charm. White clapboard houses fill tree-lined streets, and flavors of barbecue and honey, biscuits and grits, and seasonal cobblers fill plates. Food is taken incredibly seriously in Charleston, where fresh ingredients become Southern classics like fried green tomatoes, rich chocolate pies, and fresh grilled seafood.
All notions of London lagging behind the rest of Europe when it comes to food should be entirely forgotten by now. This cool, multicultural city brims with high and low cuisine, with molecular gastronomy eateries just down the road from an old-fashioned fish 'n' chips shop. With huge international populations throughout the country, Indian food, Chinese dim sum, and Middle Eastern foods are all well represented here, too.
Eat: One of the most exciting high-end restaurants in London now is Dinner by Heston Blumenthal (of Fat Duck fame). Rub elbows with local gastronomes at the industrial-chic Hix Oyster & Chop House or dine brasserie-style at Notting Hill's Electric Brasserie. Catch a movie at their cinema next door.
Burgundy is the best-known wine region in a country where gastronomy and wine are endlessly important. Every nook in its charming villages and sweeping vineyards is full of flavors like local Dijon mustards, puffy gougéres, boeuf bourguignon, garlicky escargot, cassis, and, of course, hearty red wines.
Eat: Don't miss Les Halles market in Dijon, enter the walled-in winery of Clos Vougeot, and find chefs who trained in Michelin-starred restaurants before opening their laid-back eateryChez Guy & Family.
Skyscrapers meet (litter-free) street markets in the thriving city of Singapore. Local cuisine is a melting pot of Malaysian, Chinese, Eurasian, and Indian foods, which explains denizens' undying obsession with food. Street stalls (and kaya toast) are the true soul of Singaporean cuisine, with traditional and innovative dishes on offer.
Marrakesh may be the expected first stop in Morocco, but Fez is the country's cultural, culinary, and medieval heart. Spiced and meaty tagines, sticky dried fruits, sweet and herb-y couscous, fresh yogurt, and hints of ginger and cinnamon fill the city's streets and restaurants from the medina to the stunning mosques to the ancient, walled-in area.
Eat: Stroll through the Bab Boujeloud arches to find succulent street foods. The Dar Anebar hotel's restaurant has an enticing, enigmatic setting with a local Moroccan menu; and Thami's Restaurant is a well-kept local secret for home-cooked, simple cuisine.
Portland is one of those effortlessly cool and creative places, where everything seems handmade and extra-delicious. The city is known for farmers' market-fresh ingredients and simple cuisine, with an equally strong focus on vegetarian options as on the nose-to-tail trend. The home of strong Stumptown Coffee, Portland's flavors are fresh and international.
Eat: Clyde Common offers a great, informal setting, lip-smacking small plates, and innovative cocktails. Find nose-to-tail done well at Le Pigeon or crunch down on perfect, buttery croissants at Ken's Artisan Bakery.
São Paulo, Brazil
Local cuisine in the buzzing hub of São Paulo varies greatly from what you'd eat in Rio or Bahia. Bauru sandwiches (a hot sandwich filled with tomato, cucumber, four cheeses, and roast beef) are a local specialty, as are mandioca, feijoada (black bean and beef stew), strong local coffee, and of course the national Brazilian liquor: cachaça. The city's huge Japanese population means spectacular sushi, as well.
Cape Town, South Africa
This seaside city has a diverse food scene, with Malaysian, Indian, Dutch, Mediterranean, and African flavors throughout. The countryside that surrounds Cape Town produces some of the most acclaimed New World wines, as well. Fresh seafood, local fruits, spicy curries, and sweet chutneys mix with well-represented Italian, French, Japanese, and Portuguese restaurants.
Eat: With a rich history, Aubergine is one of Cape Town's institutions, and Bizerca has racked up awards recently for its cool vibe and dishes like braised pig trotter and Karoo lamb stew. Grab a drink at the effortlessly fun Cape to Cuba on the water.
San Sebastian, Spain
San Sebastian is a picturesque, elegant shoreline city known for bold Basque flavors. Pintxos (Basque tapas) are crusty pieces of bread topped with anything from anchovies and hake to stuffed peppers and cheese, traditional Basque cakes are filled with almond pastry cream and jam, and there are delicious wines produced in the region, known as txakoli.
Eat: Three-Michelin-starred Basque cuisine awaits at Akelarre; find classic, hearty dishes at Fagollago in a 100-year-old farmhouse just outside of town; and taste nouveau Basque creations at two-Michelin-starred Mugaritz.
Sleep: Go boutique with Hotel Astoria 7, which offers modern design in the gastronomic, coastal city or go with the grand and opulent Hotel Maria Cristina with plush gold, white, and red accents throughout.
The artisanal and traditional city of Oaxaca is home to some of Mexico's most mouthwatering and unique tastes, like Mexican chocolates, its seven moles, grasshoppers (called chapulines) seasoned with lime and chile pepper, tlayuda (crunchy tortillas with beans, pork lard, lettuce, meats, and Oaxacan cheese), and tamales. They also produce (and are fond of) mezcal, the intense liquor made from agave plants similar to those used for tequila.
The home of Bollywood, Mumbai is India's major cultural and cosmopolitan hub. Hot chiles and complex curries with basmati rice combine with lamb, goat, crab, and chicken, as well as a variety of boldly flavored vegetarian choices, to make Indian cuisine so accessible and irresistible. India is also known for traditional sweet and sticky desserts and bright, tropical fruits available on street corners and in high-end eateries.
Eat: Spring for great seafood at Trishna, taste Parsi cuisine (fish wrapped in banana leaves, and berry pulao) at the 90-year old Britannia, or find a quick respite from Indian fare at Salt Water Caf in the trendy Bandra neighborhood. Grab a cocktail with a view at Aer.
One of Shanghai's most delicious dishes is imitated and loved the world over the soup dumpling, or xiao long bao. Of course, the lively and skyscraper-lined city has many more flavors to call its own, like light steamed fish, braised pork belly, spiced tofu, hairy crabs, steamed buns, salted meats, fried noodles, and beggar's chicken, which is wrapped in lotus leaves.
Eat: Sample local street fare on Yuyuan Lu or Haining Lu streets, taste the cream of the soup dumpling crop at Din Tai Fung, and fight for one of 15 tables at Jesse Restaurant for their braised pork belly.
Crumbling lobster shacks may be the first thing to come to mind when you think of Portland, Maine (which makes sense), but with wild blueberries; local cheeses, butter, and cream; and flatbreads and tarts cooked in wood-burning ovens, the region is full of bold and fresh flavors.
Eat: Hugo's, alongside Fore Street, put Portland on the gastronomic map, but now there are places like Five Fifty-Five (think house-made ricotta and mussels with cherry peppers) and Two Fat Cats (fresh baked goods like bourbon pecan pie).
Peru is known as much for its stunning mountain vistas as for its culinary prowess. The country is a multi-sensorial experience and Lima might just be the culinary capital of South America. Bright and tangy ceviches, papas rellenas, spit-roasted chicken, alpaca steaks, spicy and fried cuy (guinea pig), the classic Pisco sour, and a traditional salted meat dish called lomo saltado fill plates (and glasses) of Lima's visitors and denizens alike.
Eat: While it's difficult to narrow down the list, Astrid y Gast$ograve;n is one of Lima's most acclaimed and authentic eateries. El Mercado Lima is spot on for ceviche alfresco and Huaca Pucllana invites you to dine amidst the ruins.
Lebanese cuisine in the lively Middle East-meets-Mediterranean waterfront city of Beirut is familiar and hearty, with grilled meats, stuffed vegetables, creamy hummus, cheese-filled pastries, fresh falafel, sticky baklava, and roasted eggplants and cauliflower washed down with strong coffee, minty teas, and Lebanese wine.
Eat: One of Beirut's dining institutions is Caf Gemmayzeh, where mezze are enjoyed with a side of hookah; the intimate Al Falamanki serves inexpensive mezzes that locals flock to, and Centrale Restaurant is a futuristic-cool eatery serving high-end French fare.