Let your taste buds be your guide to explore new destinations this year and learn from the locals while enjoying delicious new experiences.
There’s no doubt food is driving travel growth. According to the World Food Travel Association’s Food Travel Monitor 80 per cent of leisure travellers had been motivated to visit a particular destination because of a ‘culinary activity or attraction’ while recent research carried out for Tourism Australia shows that ‘great food, wine and local cuisine’ is ranked third (at 38 per cent), ahead of world class beauty and natural environments, as a deciding factor to choose a destination.
Here are 8 top picks for great foodie getaways to do this year…
Cooking with Critters, Los Angeles, USA
So you think you have an adventurous palate? If yet another food and wine excursion doesn’t quite tempt your taste buds then a Cooking with Critters class might just pique your jaded palate. Host Aly Moore studied public health at Yale University which sparked her interest in finding new ways to address the challenges of sustainably and nutritiously feeding a growing population and that led to her starting website Bugible.com to support the expanding insect agriculture industry.
Moore’s mission is to take eating bugs from the ‘yuck’ factor still commonly portrayed on shows such as I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here to a ‘wow’ factor and Bugible has not only earned a cult following on Instagram Moore has launched Eat Bugs Events to host educational and hands-on workshops such as Bug & Wine Pairings, Bug Dinners and Bug Cooking Classes. Moore’s story has had worldwide media coverage and she is in demand as a speaker on why we should eat bugs.
Now, through Airbnb’s cooking experiences, Moore provides an introduction to cooking with bugs and demonstrating how easy it is to fit insects into an everyday diet with recipes like Cricket Powder Pancakes, Mealworm Mini-Pizzas, Termite-Stuffed Tomatoes and more. Kids, too, will love this one. Search Cooking with Critters on Airbnb.
Taste Cultural Food Tours, Sydney, NSW
Lesley Unsworth founded social enterprise Taste Cultural Food Tours in Sydney nearly five years ago to build connections across cultures, she says, and in the process refugees are trained as tour guides to develop new skills while visitors are treated to authentic flavours and stories from diverse communities. “You can take a trip around the world in the western suburbs of Sydney,” says Unsworth, who co-ordinates tours from Chinatown in the city to suburbs including Bankstown, Cabramatta and Merrylands.
Parastoo Bahrami, 23, arrived in Australia more than six years ago escaping from war in Afghanistan and is a guide on the newest tour on the program, the Taste of Afghanistan, Syria and Persia (Iran) in Merrylands.
The tour begins with a Syrian breakfast and over the course of three to four hours includes specialties such as grilled meat kebabs, kiymali pide, ‘mantu’ (dumplings) and sweets, all introduced by local business owners who are recreating traditional recipes from their homelands.
Bahrami admits she was once afraid to tell people she was an asylum seeker but as a tour guide has found confidence to share her story. Patrick Young guides tours in Cabramatta and says he leads the tour as if he was taking his family to dinner.
“We may look to the world like a food tour company,” says Unsworth, “but at the heart of what we are doing is trying to tell a story about ourselves as a multicultural nation.”
The Merrylands tour starts in Railway Terrace across the road from the station. The train journey to Merrylands from Town Hall in the city is about 45 minutes.
Vegan Adventure in India
The Golden Triangle of India is considered to be one of the hottest attractions in the world for vegan travellers but this is a feast of flavours for anyone who doesn’t mind a bit of spice in their diet. Over eight days this journey travels through Delhi, Jaipur and Agra with stops to see iconic sights such as the Amber Fort and Taj Mahal, as well as taste and create some authentic local vegan cuisine, while learning from the locals.
Highlights include a Rajasthani feast while staying in the heritage hotel Castle Kanota, touring through historic Old Delhi (on a rickshaw) to taste vegan cuisine in hidden backstreets and learning how to make authentic Indian meals in a cooking class led by local experts. This is one of Intrepid Travel’s newest tours so it’s hands-on and immersive, using local transport and connecting with the local community in group sizes up to 12. Departures from 3 April 2020.
Tali Wiru, Uluru, Northern Territory
Tali Wiru means ‘beautiful dune’ in the local Anangu language and encapsulates the magic of dining under the desert sky. Set in the open air, diners are assured of magnificent views of Uluru and the distant domes of Kata Tjuta as the sun goes down.
Tali Wiru is an annual event providing four-course dinners for only 20 guests at a time from April to October, each dish infused with native herbs and spices and showcasing local produce. Previous menus have included treats such as yabbie caviar on a cuttlefish crumpet, kangaroo and quandong pie, pressed wallaby and Davidson plum, toothfish with bush grains and more as part of Ayers Rock Resort’s Bush Tucker Journeys program.
Alternatively, Sounds of Silence dinners operate year-round from a viewing platform offering a different vantage point of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and expert commentary on the Milky Way visible in the clear night sky. Dinner is a bush-tucker inspired buffet likely to include kangaroo, crocodile and barramundi with desserts flavoured with desert lime, lemon myrtle and wattleseed.
Now that the Field of Light will remain indefinitely a visit to the installation created with 50,000 lights can be combined with a Sounds of Silence dinner from Ayers Rock Resort.
Turalla Truffle Hunt, Bungendore, NSW
Six-year-old Jack Russell terrier Frizbee is a second-generation truffle hunter and visitors are not disappointed when they follow him into the orchard with owner Damian Robinson in the middle of winter to sniff out the prized delicacy, which can command prices up to $3 a gram.
Robinson is passionate about their flavour (a lot of truffle dishes fail, he says, because people use too little) and he cooks up a storm on his Hunt and Cook Adventures.
On these tours guests can linger longer over lunch, tuck into a dish such as Robinson’s personal favourite, a truffle gnocchi, or a Truffle Scallop Nest and share stories on all things truffle. He even has the antidote to the chill winter air serving shots of his own truffle-infused vodka.
The season is short, from June to August, but there’s an abundance of truffle tasting, chef’s dinners, cooking classes and more during the annual Truffle Festival in Canberra and the surrounding district. Events book out fast so look out for the event program.
Midnight Food Tour by Tuk Tuk, Bangkok, Thailand
New York may be known as the city that never sleeps but in Bangkok it seems the locals never stop eating with street food still firing up late into the night. Actually, the last tour of the night on this program hosted by Bangkok Food Tours ends at midnight, but even an early departure from 6pm is full of night-time buzz.
The tour takes off with a guide and a mini convoy of chauffeured tuk tuks around Bangkok’s Old City stopping at backstreet restaurants to taste traditional dishes such as spicy raw papaya salad, deep-fried crispy catfish meat with spicy sauce, a local favourite – chicken with crispy noodle and runny egg (and get a sneak peek at it being cooked over a charcoal burner and woks in the alley behind the restaurant) – and pad thai as it’s been made for 40 years and still as popular as ever (skipping the queue to get in).
There are a couple of stops along the way to pick up some street food snacks like dried squid and grilled pork marinated in sweetened condensed milk, to pause between courses for a peaceful wander around the grounds of Wat Pho, and for a drink break at a rooftop bar for a cool local beer while enjoying views of Wat Arun and the river sparkling with night lights.
Melbourne isn’t the only city in Victoria with trams, laneways and good food. The historic city of Bendigo may not be on your radar as a foodie destination but just months ago it became the first Australian city to be declared a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, joining a list that includes Hyderabad in India and Parma in Italy.
The rich concentration of food and wine in the region, the connection to heritage and culture, a flair for creativity and a commitment to sustainability were all factors in its addition to the list, ensuring the road to Bendigo, less than two hours drive north of Melbourne, will become more travelled.
The city’s heritage dates back to Gold Rush days, reflected now in impressive architecture, public sculptures, fountains and gardens, but the gold flowing in town today is more likely to come from the local craft brews which can be sampled in a concentrated dose at the Bendigo Craft Beer and Cider Festival in March and the city-wide pub crawl Bendigo on the Hop in August.
In town, heritage halls, banks and factories have been re-invented as restaurants and wine bars, while laneways are home to a thriving café culture and creative street art.
A walking tour of the city will uncover both. Plot a course that includes stops at Ghosty Toasty, hidden inside a camera shop, and boasting concoctions with names like Bruce Brie, Richard Gruyere, Salami L. Jackson, Vin Cheezel and more; Indulge Fine Belgian Chocolates, hand-made using ingredients including a local shiraz; the cake trolley at the Basement (in the restored Masonic Hall that dates back to 1874); and dinner at Masons (which also serves Indigenous teas sourced from the local Dja Dja Wurrung clan).
But while there’s plenty to whet an appetite in Bendigo it’s not just about the destination, it’s also about the journey and a drive from Melbourne should allow for stops at Daylesford, Trentham and Kyneton for more foodie gems, and to visit any of more than 60 cellar doors open in the Greater Bendigo region. Contact the Visitor Information Centre in Bendigo for maps and guides (such as cycle trails around the wineries).
Make Takoyaki, Tokyo, Japan
Young mum Yumi backpacked all over the world as a student and says she’s never forgotten the amazing food she had during her travels but she wished she had learned how to make those dishes so she could make them herself when she got home. That experience inspired her to create her own Japanese cooking class for travellers visiting Japan, available on Airbnb Experiences, making ‘takoyaki’, a popular ball-shaped snack often seen at festivals and as street food in Japan.
Called ‘Making Japanese Street Food with Mom’ Yumi’s class is one of hundreds that are now part of Cooking, a special category on Airbnb Experiences, hosted by families, farmers, pastry cooks and more, teaching traditional recipes and sharing stories in intimate settings across 75 countries. And look out for the Airbnb cookbook, planned for publication later in 2020.