It’s no longer enough to travel to distant lands to see the sights, now tourists want to smell and feel and taste what makes a place unique. There are many reasons for this, not least of which is that our memories and emotions are tied to and sparked by our senses.
The smell of ripening tomatoes reminds us of distant, lazy summers when the most pressing problem was whose turn it was to swing in the hammock.
That song that just came on the radio? Summer of 1995 and concerts on a hillside while the sun went down.
Biting into a peach while its juice runs down our chin takes us back to climbing trees in the neighbour’s yard and being convinced we’d pulled a fast one on him.
The flavours and scents of the past keep our experiences alive and it’s a big reason why culinary tourism has taken off and become one of the major factors when travellers select destinations. It’s not uncommon to overhear people talk of “food culture” and all this means is that visitors will eat well.
Travelocity.ca published its 2015 list of regional culinary trends to watch—this year and next—and hosted an intimate dinner at Rasa in downtown Toronto, along with global food trendologist Christine Couvelier, to introduce people to the top five culinary destinations. On the list and on the evening’s menu were Los Angeles, California; Montreal, Quebec; Chicago, Illinois; London, England; and Lima, Peru. We sampled food from the different areas along with cocktails and wines to complement the flavours. None of us went home hungry, and we all left wanting to experience more of each destination.
Travelocity: Food Trends Around the World
Los Angeles, California: Thanks to a climate that allows for year-round seasonal food, farmer’s markets in and around L.A. always offer a huge selection of fresh produce and that makes its way to the menus visitors can choose from. But maybe the biggest trend coming our of L.A. is communal dining. Large tables are set up and these invite diners to share their meals with friends or strangers and enjoy more than simply a great meal, they get to share their experience.
Montreal, Québec: The focus this year and into 2016 in Montreal is the pride of traditions and food makes up a big part of the city’s tradition. Between smoked meats, arguably the best bagels anywhere, a selection of cheese big enough to make cheese makers blush, and some of the best restaurants in the world—Joe Beef made it onto the “100 Best Restaurants in the World” list—Montréal is proud to woo its visitors with food.
Chicago, Illinois: Food lovers love Chicago because the city loves to put out a good spread, no matter what restaurant diners choose. Besides its gourmet donuts and deep-dish pizza, the trend in Chicago is the combo of sweet and heat. We tasted a 5 spice pork belly dish that showcased this trend and it was subtle and interesting and delicious!
London, England: There was a time when food in London was the subject of jokes about deep-fried foods, bad teeth, and loads of sugar, but those days are long gone. London is now one of the best culinary destinations in the world. Its cultural diversity plays a huge role in this standing, and one the of the hot trends is allowing vegetables to be the star of the show. Chef Yotam Ottolenghi is one of the frontrunners of this trend and has made showcasing vegetables the inspiration for many of the dishes he serves at his London restaurants.
Lima, Peru: It’s all about chocolate in Lima. Sure, culinary travellers will never taste a better ceviche than here, and yes, with 3000 varieties of potatoes it’s a given Peruvians can create delicious and original dishes, but this year Lima is exploring the origin and terroir of chocolate. Tourists can visit museums, boutiques, and restaurants dedicated to chocolate. What’s not to love about that?
I tasted food from all five destinations and at each course I declared, “This one is my favourite!” Along with other dishes we tasted mini charred corn muffins, smoked meat toast, truffle gnudi (probably my absolute favourite), wagyu ribs, and a chocolate dessert that almost made me cry. I’m sure that were I to eat these dishes in their hometowns, the memories would stay with me a long time.
So, where should we head to first? At least 75% of travellers from Canada booking vacations consider food when selecting a destination. Are you one of them?