Feasting on gorgeous food in spectacular surroundings is one of the joys of travel. Jill Starley-Grainger takes you on a tour of the world’s gastronomic gems
Top of the food chain
For foodies with serious dosh, only one ingredient is worth sticking a fork into. The white truffle of Alba, found in Italy’s picturesque Piedmont region, is the most prized in the world and can cost more than gold. Until 5 November, you can enter a bidding war with restaurateurs for a kilo of this rare ingredient at the Alba truffle market and festival, but be prepared to part with thousands of euros (www.fieradeltartufo.org). Too pricey? Sample fresh shavings of this pungent fungus over risotto, salad or bruschetta. Taste it at restaurants and food stalls in the autumn throughout the northern Italy, such as Alba’s Michelin-starred Il Vicoletto.
It may not carry the same status as the white truffle, but the harvest of the humble olive is cause for celebration all over the Med, with particularly colourful festivals in Nyons, Provence (various dates, December to February, www.avignon-et-provence.com). Fancy a cracking good time? The Giant Omelette Celebration (www.giantomelette.org) in Abbeville, Louisiana 4-5 November is the place to taste of a 500-egg omelette.
For a full-on feast, fly to America for Thanksgiving, which is on 23 November this year. Turkey (or tofurkey, if you’re veggie), stuffing, a glut of veg and sweet pumpkin pie are the order of the day. You could feast in New York along the route of the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade, but for more authentic Americana, celebrate in one of the cities who claim to have held the first Thanksgiving – Plymouth, Massachusetts or St Augustine, Florida.
Spice up your New Year celebrations with a trip to Thailand at New Year (www.thailandgrandfestival.com). Food is a big part of their New Year Countdown, and delicious food stalls line the streets selling seasonal Thai cuisine. Shopaholics will want to join in the celebrations in Chiang-Mai, which has some of the best food, and non-food, markets in the country.
Some places attract food-lovers all year-round with a combination of stunning scenery and fabulous restaurants. Famous gastronomic destinations include Lyon, (coat your arteries with sumptuous French fare), San Sebastian (trawl for Spain’s best tapas from bar to bar) and our very own Bray in Berkshire, with several multi-Michelin-starred restaurants in and near the tiny village, including Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck (cauliflower risotto with chocolate jelly, anyone?).
Gourmands the world over flock to one place for the ultimate foodie experience – Kyoto, Japan (www.seejapan.co.uk). With more types of cuisine than fish in the sea, Kyoto is a must for gastronomes, and a visit wouldn’t be complete without a kaiseki-ryori meal. This expensive, multi-course cuisine is considered an art form. Minute dishes created from the freshest ingredients are formed into beautiful shapes and presented with seasonal flowers. A course might consist of lotus root and persimmon garnished with perilla leaf or seared horse mackerel on a layer of wakame seaweed. One of the best places to have kaiseki-ryori is, oddly enough, in your room at a traditional Japanese inn. If you can’t face sleeping on a futon, try the restaurant Nishisaka, Gion Hanami Komichi.