Peru Scenery

Trends in Food: Peruvian Cuisine

By Taste Vacations No Comments

Food trends may come and go, but we feel that one of this year’s biggest trends, Peruvian cuisine, is here to stay.  It’s no wonder given that Peru has some of the richest ecosystems and most fertile soil in the world (they yield over 2,000 varieties of potatoes!) that they would be recognized for having some of the most innovative and delectable dishes around.

Peruvian CuisineIn addition to Peru’s amazing ecology, the cuisine is also significantly influenced by the country’s history.  One of the most well-known Peruvian dishes is, of course, the guinea pig.  Guinea pigs are thought to have first been domesticated in 2000 BC in the region now known as Peru and Bolivia. Furthermore, Ancient Incans also had a steady diet of potatoes, seafood, and maize until the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 1500s.  The Spanish introduced chicken, pork, and lamb and demanded that the Incans begin growing European crops such as wheat, barley, beans, and carrots.  Over the years, Peruvian cuisine continued to evolve, mixing in other cultures’ ingredients from countries such as Africa, Polynesia, China, and Japan.

Today’s chefs add a whimsical and fun flare to the traditional Peruvian cuisine. For instance, Gastón Acurio, Peru’s most well-known chef and owner of Astrid y Gastón, Latin America’s #1 restaurant, serves a Peking Guinea Pig. The menu reads “Tired of being rejected by the world, the guinea pig decides to disguise itself as a Peking duck, dressed with rocoto and purple corn crêpe. It got a standing ovation from everyone.” Chefs like Acurio, and countless others, are the reason why Peruvian cuisine has come into the spotlight of the world’s foodie stage. With the complex flavors and ability to continually evolve, Peruvian cuisine doesn’t seem like just another flash in the pan.

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Taste Vacations offers a Peru Food Tour (October 12 – 19, 2015) that dines at Astrid y Gaston. Guests on this trip will also enjoy exploring the town of Pisco (the birthplace of the delicious liquor), learn how to cook the perfect ceviche on the Peruvian coast, and participate in a Pachamanca, a traditional Andean underground barbeque.

Frosty Cold Beer

Cheers to Great American Beers! 4th of July Beer Recommendations

By Beer, Taste Vacations No Comments

Happy soon-to-be 4th of July! Most of us celebrate America’s Independence Day by heading to a BBQ, enjoying time with friends and family, and watching exhilarating fireworks displays. And typically the drink of choice for the day is a nice, refreshing beer.  To help you pick out some righteous brews, we’ve provided some great American beer recommendations below:

Oskar Blues Brewing

 

 

 

Mama’s Lil’ Yellow Pils by Oskar Blues is a light, crisp sessional pilsner that goes great with a hot summer day.  It starts with a bready flavor and ends with a nice crisp finish accompanied by a light mouthfeel.

 

 

Rogue Ales

 

 

Dead Guy Ale by Rogue Ales & Spirits  is a well-balanced beer with a touch of floral sweetness and a bit of hoppy bitterness. The World Beer Championship Judges describe it as “Deep reddish amber hue. Generous toasty malt aromas and earthy hops follow through on a moderately full-bodied palate with fruity accents and a long spicy hop finish. A delicious hybrid style with bock-like maltiness but ale-like hopping.”

 

 

sierra-nevada-logo

 

Summerfest by Sierra Nevada is a nice delicate, yet complex, summer lager that seems like the perfect “drinking outside” kind of beer.  It’s malty with a kick of citrus and a clean mouthfeel.

 

 

Shock Top Beer

 

 

Shock Top Belgian White by Anheuser-Busch is a medium-bodied Belgian-style wheat ale that’s been brewed with orange, lemon, lime and coriander.  A refreshing American beer to have on hand while flipping some burgers on the grill.

 

 

 

 

Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales

 

 

60 minute IPA by Dogfish Head is on the lighter side for an IPA which makes it is a tasty beer to sip while lounging poolside.  It has a complex malt taste that is nicely balanced.

 

 

 

Taste Vacations’ sister company, Zephyr Adventures, is the organizer of the annual Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference.  This year’s conference will be held in Asheville, NC July 17 – 19, 2015.

Friends on a patio

Private Tours – Vacationing Your Way

By Beer, Food, Taste Vacations, Wine No Comments

Have you ever spent long hours researching the perfect vacation only to find out that the listed tour dates have passed, it doesn’t fit into your schedule or the trip is sold out? Skip the hassle and consider booking a private tour. It’s not hard to fall in love with traveling exclusively with your family or friends, selecting the perfect destination and choosing exactly when you’d like to go. And one of the best parts is that you don’t have to plan the entire trip yourself.  Working with a trip coordinator, you can decide on the general trip criteria and they’ll take care of the details of booking hotels, making dinner reservations, and securing activities.Chile & Argentina - Allan Wright

Private tours can also be a perfect way to celebrate a number of life’s milestones like birthdays, anniversaries, or retirement.  We’ve also seen them successfully used as a way to motivate a team at work by creating a business incentive trip for top performers.

All of our Taste Vacations trips can be booked as private tours – and we won’t charge you extra just because it isn’t part of our public group tours, unless you request additional customized options. We also don’t require you to have large groups in order to book a private tour, with a majority of our trips only requiring a minimum of 4 people.

Sonoma County Wine Tour: Minimum 4
Tuscany Food & Wine Tour: Minimum 4
Basque Country & Rioja (Spain) Food & Wine Tour: Minimum 4
Washington Wine Tour: Minimum 4
Peru Food Tour: Minimum 4
Chile & Argentina Wine Tour: Minimum 6
Belgium Beer Tour: Minimum 6
Kentucky Bourbon Tour: Minimum 8
Napa Wine Tour: Minimum 8

So what are you waiting for? Join us on a Taste Vacations private tour today.

 

 

Puglia Food Market

Best Food Region You’ve Ever Been To – A Taste Vacations Team Dish

By Food, Taste Vacations No Comments

Our team here at Taste Vacations has traveled all over, sampling some of the best (and on the flip side, probably some of the worst) food the world has to offer.  For this month’s Taste Vacations Team Dish, we wanted to know “What’s the best food region you’ve ever been to?”

Here’s what the team had to say:

Kerry Dopler Kerry Dopler

Kerala India, the city – Kochi, the restaurant -Dal Roti, the dish – Fish Molee. Aromas engage your senses as your boat harbors in the port, locals and tourist’s alike flock to one alley every day around noon, they stay well past sunset often mingling in line to help the time pass as your stomach growls. Smile after smile leaves the door, reminding you that it is worth the wait. And it was, every day. We extended our stay in Kochi to three weeks not because we loved the city or because the daily activities were so abundant and fun but because it was the best food I have ever had in my life. I will return one day hopefully with nothing more in mind than growing old and fat, but ever so happy.

Sarah Wolcott Sarah Wolcott

I am absolutely enthralled with Oregon’s food scene, currently.  And not just because I am an Oregonian!  Keep Portland Weird is the motto of the city and this transcribes just a little bit to the food scene.  It’s not a weird food scene but, rather, a food scene that pushes boundaries and encourages experimentation.  

We are so fortunate to have access to an amazing breadth of food products in the pacific NW and the chefs in Portland utilize the fresh bounty of the sea, produce from the Willamette Valley and southern Oregon and ranches in Eastern Oregon to their fullest advantage.  Salmon and steelhead from the rivers and the Pacific ocean during spring and fall. Cherries from the Gorge in early summer. Fresh blueberries, blackberries and filberts (aka hazelnuts) fill plates in the late summer.  

Dungeness crab that is such a sweet, sweet delicacy.  Grand taco trucks.  Hops from the Willamette Valley (and Yakima Valley in WA) go into our craft beer.  Pinot noir grapes plucked from some of the best pinot producing vineyards in the world.   Hipsters in skinny jeans and with tailored mustaches.  Ranchers with dirty boots and skin tanned by hours working in the hot eastern Oregon desert.  Salty commercial fisherman whose ocean hauls make me smile the most.  

The restaurants in Oregon (and not just in Portland) are thriving with creativity and access to amazing food products.  

Allan Wright headshot larger Allan Wright

I absolutely love the cuisine of Italy and could eat Italian food every day for the rest of my life. But in terms of cuisine that knocks your socks off, I feel the French produce meals that jump out as outstanding. It really doesn’t matter whether you are in Paris or an outlying region, it just depends on the restaurant, the chef, and what you order. I have been guiding our sister company, Zephyr Adventures’, Provence Biking, Wine, & Food tour frequently in recent years and so this region stands out to me now for its excellent cuisine using fresh ingredients. Plus, being down south in France, I get some of the Mediterranean garlic and olive oil-based dishes I love in Italy.

Reno Walsh Reno Walsh

Oaxaca, Mexico is one of my favorite places in the world. Not only is the food outstanding but the people are so kind and the culture is authentic. I’ve been to this part of Mexico and specifically Oaxaca City several times over the years, including one time when I first experienced La Noche de Rabanaos, the Night of the Radishes. During this event, people from throughout the countryside arrive in the city’s zocalo (town center or square) to exhibit their elaborate carvings of oversized radishes.

The last time I visited was for my honeymoon. My wife and I took a private cooking class during our time in the city. It started with a shopping trip to one of the city’s many farmers markets. Walking through the market is an experience on its own with so many unique things to see, touch, smell, taste and hear. Back at the home of the chef  we spent the day with (who is now a friend), we learned the secrets to Oaxaca’s molé, although we have never been able to duplicate it since.

We also made fresh Squash Blossom soup and fresh tamales using a recipe that had been passed down for generations in our chef’s family. That meal is something we often remember fondly. In fact, thinking about any meal in Oaxaca makes my mouth water. With so much of the food being produced in the surrounding countryside, almost everything you order is fresh and local. Something we learned during the most recent visit was the fact that dried peppers are considered a spice, so it’s okay to bring these back to the United States. Their peppers are unique and are a key ingredient in several of our favorite recipes. And, one can never return from this region of the world without some of Oaxaca’s authentic chocolate and maybe a bottle of Oaxaca’s delicious Mezcal. !Buen Provecho!

How to Convert Someone Into A Kentucky Bourbon Enthusiast in One Taste

By Spirits No Comments

I hadn’t been to Kentucky since 1971 when I drove cross-country (during those halcyon days of my youth) in a ’61 VW Van with four of my college chums. While I was there I tasted Kentucky bourbon for the very first time. Here is what I remember: I thought I was going to die.

I coughed, I gasped for air, my eyes burned red and ran with tears. It wasn’t a fun experience at all. I was quite the novice when it came to alcoholic beverages.

Fast forward to last year.  In April, I flew to Louisville for eight days to put the final touches on our Taste Vacations Kentucky Bourbon tour. I had a very busy schedule in front of me meeting our business associates, restaurants, distilleries, and chefs. On day one, I met one of our local partners at his office. We exchanged a few pleasantries and then he told me that before we get started on our day of activities, we were going to do a little bourbon tasting together… it was nine o’clock in the morning.

He wanted to introduce a novice like me to the wonders of Kentucky bourbon. So without further ado and with a twinkle in his eye, he lined up four bourbon glasses in front of us. Next he went into his (locked) liquor cabinet and brought over four different bottles of bourbon. He then poured 1 oz. shots into each glass.

It was a progressive tasting, meaning I started with the lightest style bourbon progressing my way up the bourbon complexity chain to experience more and more flavor profiles.

I can’t remember having tasted Bourbon since that 1971 experience. I clutched the glass with trepidation, held it to my nose and, inhaled the aromas of the drink. Hmmm…it smelled quite good. Good start. Next, I took a small sip, closed my eyes, and swished it around my mouth letting the liquid gold dance on my tongue for a few seconds before swallowing it. This was my first taste of a premium bourbon: Makers 46.

And my opinion about bourbon changed in about a nanosecond.

This drink was really very smooth, nothing like I remembered at all. The OMG finish had flavors of vanilla, caramel, honey and butterscotch. I sadly realized how much of a good thing I had missed over the years. But wait … it gets better!

I still had three more bourbons to taste. I was definitely up for the challenge. The next three were:

  • Woodford Reserve
  • Blanton’s Single Barrel
  • A 17 Year Old Buffalo Trace Eagle Rare “Antique” 

Each bourbon was uniquely different and I’m not even sure which one I liked the best. I’m certainly going to have to do more “research” in the future.

The following eight days were spent meeting some of the most hospitable people on the planet. “Southern Hospitality” is for real. I also saw the best of the best the Kentucky Bourbon Trail has to offer and was able to arrange visits for our tour that are generally not open to the public, making our Taste Vacation to Kentucky a very special and memorable trip.