This post was updated on 8th March, 2016. Please scroll to the end of the article for details.
What better way to experience a different culture, than through invoking the use of as many as four senses — sight, smell, taste and touch? Such is the power of cuisine to invoke curiosity and passion in people of all ages for other individuals or collective groups and, ultimately, to bond with them through their past and present as well as carry this relationship into the future.
From new tourism products such as foraging and cooking with Michelin chefs, to the inscription of a slew of celebrated wine regions as UNESCO World Heritage sites, to simply our clients clamouring to secure reservations at award-winning restaurants or authentic local haunts on their holidays, there’s no denying that food and wine have stamped their dominance on travel in the recent years. Skift’s The Rise of Culinary Tourism report released last February also pointed to an increase in festivals around the world incorporating local food through, for example, pop-up restaurants and food trucks.
Make no mistake; we have arrived at the age of “winning a traveller’s heart through his stomach” and “knowing a city, a dish at a time”.
And as you, the global citizen in contemporary times, are obliged to immerse in the melting pot of world cooking and heartily tuck into the myriad of flavours derived from the bountiful harvests of lands and seas, here are five places that will make your stomach growl in excitement in 2016!
Conquering the likes of Barcelona, Girona and Figueres is but scratching the surface of this extraordinary region. Not many people realise that, of course. Well, 2016 may just be the year Catalonia finally gets the attention it deserves — it’s the European Region of Gastronomy and there’s a slew of events and festivities over the year. Aside from sniffing out the best cavas and wines — there are five wine routes to unravel over 300 wineries representing 12 Designations of Origins — you will be steeped in “oil tourism” with some 40 extra virgin olive oil producers open for visits and tastings; make time also for wolfing down pa amb tomàquet made with rustic Catalan bread, sampling the region’s seasonal produce such as calçots, mushrooms and snails, and checking out the many local markets. And oh, did we mention 50 Michelin-starred restaurants? The best thing about Catalonia: complement the finest gastronomic experiences with jaw-dropping traditions such as castells, enduring artistic legacies and pristine nature; in early spring, you can ski in the morning in the Pyrenees and bask in the Mediterranean sunshine at a Costa Brava beach the same afternoon.
There’s no Noma in 2016, but don’t strike the Danish capital and one of the cornerstones of the new Nordic cuisine movement from your travel diary. While the kitchen of the world’s second-best — some years the best — restaurant whips up a storm in Sydney for guests who managed to book a slot in under 4 minutes on 30th October 2015, a team led by Noma chef Kristian Baumann will prime a new, more casual eatery, 108. It is currently a pop-up in Noma itself, but will operate out of its permanent address down the street from late spring. That’s not all — the impressive Copenhagen Cooking festival, which attracts some 100,000 visitors annually, morphs into the Copenhagen Cooking & Food Festival this August, with plans to add 200 partners and double the level of activity to around 300 events; the soft opening in May of a sizeable new beer and food hall in Nørrebro by popular local brewery To Øl, coinciding with the Copenhagen Beer Celebration, is also toast-worthy, not to mention it will be preceded by the city’s inaugural Cocktail Week. And with the rise of food trucks and pop-up restaurants in shipping containers in the city along with 15 Michelin two- and one-star restaurants, it’s just impolite of foodies not to show up.
Long a premier epicurean address in Asia, Hong Kong has such a diverse range of cuisines and dynamic food scene that eating out is a constant adventure. You could be slurping Cantonese-style congee or savouring a dim sum spread in the morning, munching street snacks along the way, enjoying roast meats and noodles for lunch, washing down toasts with milk tea and fussing over sweet soup desserts before dinner, feasting away in a fine-dining restaurant as the day winds down — and afterwards still tuck into street supper. In short, you’ll be eating all day, every day. The island-territory of just over a thousand square kilometres boasts six restaurants awarded three Michelin stars and over a dozen two-star establishments; the 2016 edition of the Michelin Guide Hong Kong Macau included for the first time a street food section — a nod to the culinary spectrum of these cities. There can only be more vigour this year, despite the onset of ‘Michelin curse’ for some vendors.
Nova Scotia, Canada
You’d be forgiven if you have to urge to check a map right now, for this eastern Canadian province sitting in the North Atlantic Ocean is a secret not many people, even neighbouring Americans, know about. It boasts spectacular coastlines, gorgeous peaks and verdant forests, magnificent UNESCO World Heritage sites, wealth of outdoor pursuits and cultural heritage unfolded vividly by artisans, traditions and festivities. But gastronomy is just as, if not more, delightful. Nova Scotia launched its Good Cheer Trail last year with 100% industry participation and registered nearly 5,000 check-ins via both the physical passports and the app, Tourism Nova Scotia reported. With the opening of more wineries, breweries and distilleries, more partners are expected on board this year. Also launched in 2015 was the unique Dining on the Ocean Floor initiative, where participants tuck into a four-course gourmet meal set directly on the ocean floor at the Bay of Fundy during low tide — after a guided discovery tour of the unique ecosystem. Go, before the crowds find their way here and if you need an extra impetus, note that the drop-dead gorgeous Cabot Cliffs golf course in Cape Breton is slated for full opening in June 2016!
The coveted UNESCO World Heritage status awarded last July may spark increase in tourist arrivals of between 20% and 30%, considered the norm for newly-inscribed destinations, but that’s not the only reason to head to this paradise of bubbles just 45 minutes from Paris by high-speed train. Just as established as its centuries of viticulture and winemaking, are the produce that have brought the region fame as a cradle of French gastronomy. This region in north-eastern France invented the twice-baked Biscuit Rose and the boudin blanc or white sausage, while the Potée Champenoise or La Joute with its rich mix of terroir vegetables and hearty cockerel will surely warm any gourmand; lest you forget, the designated Brie de Meaux cheese is made from unpasteurised milk of cows from the Champagne-Ardenne! Come soak in the charm of ancient vineyard-carpeted hillsides, underground cellars and grand champagne houses that tell the unique story of an industry that grew out of chalky soils and generations of illustrious men and — interestingly — women.
Update on 8th March, 2016: The number of Michelin-starred restaurants in Catalonia has been updated to 50, according to a source from the Catalan Tourist Board. The article originally stated there were 53 Michelin-starred restaurants in the region.