My travels over the years, mostly for business, have taken me to lot of places. Finding good places to eat in those places has always been an interesting part of the trip, made easier with the advent of the internet. Here’s an overview of my travels:
- I’ve been to London, England probably 10 or 12 times, with a side-trip for three or four days to Edinburgh, Scotland once (I also did a day-trip to Bristol one time, passing through Bath along the way).
- In Canada, I’ve probably been to Vancouver four or five times. Ottawa, Toronto and Calgary a couple of times each on business, and The Maritimes a couple of times both for business and pleasure.
- Vienna, Austria at least three times on business.
- Amsterdam, The Netherlands, twice on business.
- Germany, I’ve been to three or four times, but just for stopovers on the way to Austria and Switzerland, so my dining there has been pretty much limited to airport venues.
- I went to Geneva, Switzerland on business at the United Nations, and then took a week off for myself to just be a tourist.
- My wife, Cindy, accompanied me on a business trip to London once, and we went over a week early and took the train via the Chunnel to Paris for a week; we then went back to London, where I worked at a convention and she got to be a tourist.
- My one trip to Asia for business had me in Singapore and then Hong Kong, each for a week (I was helping my employer evaluate possible office locations — we ended-up opening a place in Singapore, because the Chinese were going to be taking back Hong Kong in a couple years).
- Mexico, I got there once as a kid with my parents, and went to Panama once on business for a week.
Of all those places, if I could choose only one to go back to, it would be Hong Kong. It felt like Manhattan on steroids — the streets were bustling, and so was the harbor, which I could watch for hours on end. It seemed like every culture possible was there, along with all their various foods. And being a seafood lover, and Hong Kong being on the water, there was plenty of good seafood to be had. While on that trip, though, I did fall in love with the hawker stalls in Singapore — sort of like an outdoor food court, where you can work your way from stall to stall, getting each cook’s specialty, and then sitting down at nearby picnic tables to enjoy your choices, while thinking about what else you might go back for.
Next on my places to return to would be Paris. The food there, even at the simplest sidewalk cafe, seemed to be the best possible. You couldn’t, or at least we couldn’t, find a bad place to eat. Everything was fresh, amazingly prepared, and incredibly tasty. If I was going to make a trip just for food, Paris would probably be at the top of the list. We tried a different place for almost every meal, but unfortunately I have no notes from that trip, but the memories, those are amazing.
In London, I often stayed in the Kensington neighborhood, near the Natural History Museum, so found several restaurants in that area I enjoyed. One was Lundum’s, a Danish restaurant (I don’t think I’ve ever been to any other Danish restaurant), now closed, that was always beautifully decorated at Christmas, and had wonderful food. Another was the best Spanish restaurant I’ve ever been to (still there, apparently), called Cambio De Tercio — their ham croquettes are to die for, and they had some wonderful Spanish wines. Both of those places were/are on Old Brompton Road. I did stay in other parts of London from time to time, Marylebone near Oxford Street a couple times, and just off Tottenham Court Road near the British Museum once or twice (I love the British Museum!) — but I don’t remember any restaurants I particularly enjoyed near either of those locations.
There are two other places I have distinct food memories of:
- Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Before going, I was told be several people I had to experience rijsttafel, which is the Dutch word for “rice table” from their former colony, Indonesia. The rijsttafel I had was a great variety of small dishes, with various combinations of rice, vegetables, meats, and spices, all with a strong southeastern Asia ( it might be analogous to tapas in Spain). The other memory is of the clear, juniper-flavored Dutch national drink, Jenever or genever, which is considered to the immediate ancestor to English gin. Frankly, I thought it tasted pretty much like gin, but perhaps my palate was not refined enough to make any distinction.
- Vienna, Austria. I always visited there in the spring, because that’s when the European Geosciences Union always held their annual meeting. Special dishes there included:
- An incredibly tasty pork shoulder enjoyed with beer outdoors at the Prater, an old-fashioned amusement park in the city.
- Most of the local small restaurants and pubs featured some sort of goulash, a savory stew of beef or pork, often served with dumplings, a version of which came to Vienna from Hungary during the time of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
- There was, of course, Sachertorte — a dense chocolate cake with an apricot jam filling and chocolate icing — which you can still get at the Hotel Sacher, where it was invented.
- And last, but not least, there was Spargelfest, or the asparagus festival. They seem to be especially fond of white asparagus, and it is fixed in many, many ways — soups, salads, side dishes, they’ve got it all.
To be continued… ♦