One of my favorite things to do while traveling is trying exotic and unique dishes traditional to the area I am visiting . I love that first encounter with a foreign dish, the unexpected and captivating flavors and those one of a kind culinary experiences that will create a fascinating memory for the rest of my life.
To share some of my experiences, I ‘ve created a list of 5 unique dishes that mesmerized my palate while traveling in Europe. Even though these dishes are not for the faint of heart, I invited you to give them a try on your next trip and expect the unexpected.
1. Beef Tartare in Paris, France
The first and only time I’ve tried Beef Tartare was in Paris at Les Deux Magots located in the Saint Germain quarter of the 6th arrodissement. Les Deux Magots café is a world famous destination for many tourists due to the fact that it is the place where several well known artists and intellectuals such as Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and Julia Child, among others, used to hangout.
When I ordered the beef tartar, the waiter very politely reminded me that the dish consisted of raw beef, just in case I didn’t know what I was ordering (I guess this happens often). I know the texture and look of raw meat are not very inviting at first, but once you get over the appearance, I promise you the punch of flavor you will experience is worth a try. I am happy I tried this dish here, not just because it was delicious but also because of the historical significance of the restaurant. If Beef Tartare is ever offered at any reputable restaurant I am visiting, I’ll have it again for sure.
2. Fast Food in Amsterdam, Netherlands
While in Amsterdam we visited one fast food establishment on the Damrak that has been on TV several times called FEBO. This place has a counter that offers hamburgers, fries and drinks, but the main attraction is the food being displayed at the automats. The mechanism is simple, money is inserted in the machine and you get to pick items such as krokets, burguers and all kind of snacks filled with a creamy and cheesy content. The fun part comes when you get to pick a kroket with a mysterious filling, so it is like blind tasting it. I know these snacks are not for all, yet my husband and I came back a couple of times to try different items. At times we were confused with the flavors, but for some strange reason we couldn’t stop eating them.
3. A Bouchon meal in Lyon, France
Bouchon are traditional meals specific to Lyon and have been a staple of the Lyonesse cuisine since the 17th century. They are hearty and heavy, made with ingredients that normally get passed by fancy restaurants such as liver hearts, calves feet, ground fish, etc. and meant to be a meal to recover after a long day of work in a factory or out on the fields.
We had dinner at Le Petit Glouton on Rue Saint Jean. We started with a chicken liver salad, which is a dish I have never seen in any other menu. The dish depicted in the picture above is called Quenelle de Brochet and can be described as a fish mousse cake on a creamy sauce. This meal was rich and full of surprising flavors and textures, it was definitely an experience that will be hard to replicate unless we come back to Lyon.
4. Pickled Herring in Marken, Netherlands
While visiting Marken in the Netherlands, we came across a food stand by the pier that offered fresh seafood from the area with herring being on display. We had seen Andrew Zimmern on TV trying different versions of herring, and always wondered about the taste so we couldn’t let this opportunity pass without trying it. The fish came with pickles and onions and it tasted so fresh like it had been just pulled out of the ocean. Even though it was salty, it had some sweet notes with the onion and the pickles which added spice and complemented the flavors. It was definitely a great experience for the memory book.
5. Anchovies in Vernazza, Italy
Anchovies are a local specialty of the Cinque Terre region where expert fishermen still use traditional fishing techniques to catch them. In this region, anchovies are eaten fresh and prepared in many different ways. We had the “Misto di acciughe delle 5 terre” in Vernazza at the Ristorante Belforte, which translates to “mix of anchovies of the Cinque Terre”. They were fresh, salty and sweet with different tones of flavors determined by the variety of spices and techniques used to cook them. They are definitely a treat and a explosion of flavor to your taste buds. If you ever find yourself visiting the Cinque Terre just give this dish a try, you will find it easily on most menus. So if you are looking for a fancy dinner with a great view, Ristorante Belforte is the place to be.