What's the best way to learn about a place? Its cuisine

What’s the Best Way to Learn About a Place? Its Cuisine

By Food, Taste Vacations No Comments

You can learn a lot about a culture  just by looking at its cuisine. Food not only tells you what meats, vegetables, and spices are naturally available in an area, but it also can reveal interesting details about a culture’s customs and history. For instance, you can learn about migratory patterns of different cultures and various trade routes that have made their way through a specific region by the meals that are being prepared there. Take a look at Peruvian cuisine.  It not only has distinct flavors that can only be found in Peru, but it also has prominent culinary influences from Africa and Spain. Many Peruvian dishes are an intricate fusion of all three.

Environmental factors have a large impact on cuisine. The amount of rain, sunlight, and heat an area receives in a year will significantly impact what vegetables and fruits will grow there.  For instance, grapevines prefer a temperate climate, with warm, dry summers and mild winters. Winters of sustained cold will kill grapevines and areas with high humidity promote vine disease. This is why wine is very much a part of French, Italian, and Argentine cultures where the climates align well with optimal wine grape environments. It’s not to say that you cannot grow grapes in tropical regions or regions with very harsh winters, but it typically is not a part of the traditional culture of those areas.

Religion may have the biggest impact on a culture’s cuisine. Buddhism considers all living beings to be sacred, therefore cultures where Buddhism is the prominent religion, the cuisine tends to be vegetarian- or vegan-focused.  In Islam, food preparation must follow specific practices such as ritual slaughtering procedures for meats, fasting during the month of Ramadan, refraining from ingesting pork and intoxicating liquor. And in Judaism, there are strict rules about what is considered kosher, meaning suitable or pure enough for consumption. Because of these various religious practices, a culture’s cuisine can be very much influenced by the prevalent religion.

We love to visit local farms to learn about how food is produced, to talk to the farmers, ranchers, and producers to understand their perspective, and to taste the local flavors directly at the source. Trying the local cuisines can be one of the best ways to learn about different cultures, and frankly, it is half the fun of traveling to new places!

Farm to Fork Sacramento

Savoring the Growing Sacramento Farm to Fork Movement

By Food No Comments

Last month, we had the pleasure of interacting with over 250 foodies at the annual International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) in Sacramento. In addition to running food, wine, and beer tours, Taste Vacations is involved in organizing the IFBC, along with Zephyr Conferences and Foodista.

For the previous three years, IFBC had been hosted in Seattle but made the jump to Sacramento this year because of its growing Farm to Fork reputation. Farm to Fork is actually not a new concept, but rather a return to a more traditional way of getting food on our plates. It is a social movement which promotes serving local food at restaurants and grocery stores, which has been acquired directly from the producer. These producers not only include traditional farms but ranches, wineries, breweries, fisheries, or other types of food producers that are not strictly seen as “farms”.

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Jenny and Kris - Spain Food & Wine Tour Taste Vacation

Tasty Bites Chat: Spain Food & Wine Tour

By Food, Taste Vacations, Wine No Comments

We created Taste Vacations to celebrate the food, wine, and beer in premier vacation destinations around the globe. The unique food and drink experiences we instill into each tour ensures your vacation is interesting, educational, inspiring, and fun.  To help provide some more details about our upcoming Spain Food & Wine Tour, recently hosted a 30-minute Q&A session with Jenny Siddall, our local Rioja guide, and Kris Keys, our tour operations manager who organized the tour.

In case you missed it, we’ve provided the recording below.  If you have any questions about our Spain Food & Wine Tour, please feel free to leave them in the comments below or reach out via our Contact Us form.

How to do a proper tapas crawl

How to Do a Proper Tapas Crawl

By Food, Taste Vacations No Comments

As many people know, tapas are popular Spanish dining style made up of a variety of hot and cold dishes that combine to make a full meal. In Spain, it is not uncommon to gather a group of friends together and go out on a tapas bar crawl, much like a regular bar crawl, where you visit several tapas bars in one night, ordering a different dish and drink at each one.

Taste Vacations’ guide, Jenny Siddall, is a Brit living in the beautiful wine region of Rioja, Spain.  She’s not only an expert in wine, but she can also tell you how to organize your own proper tapas crawl. Check out her tips below:

Stand and eat at the bar. 
The general rule is to have one tapa and one drink and then to move on to the next bar. Tapas is not a seated, comfortable affair but rather a mobile feast!

Be adventurous.
A tapas crawl is a great way to try different wines and tasty morsels, so don’t be timid! It’s a perfect time to try a dish you’ve never had before.

Ask your server what their specialty is. 
Each tapas bar has its own speciality, whether that be Jamón Iberico, wild mushrooms, stuffed peppers, anchovies or seafood.  Some tapas are freshly cooked for you and others are displayed on the bar top.

A good team strategy is essential. 
Nominate someone to be the banker. This person will order and pay while the rest of the team helps pass out the drinks and looks for an open spot a the bar to eat your tapas.  Typically, you will pay after you have finished eating.  How the barman remembers what you have had is the biggest mystery to me! You may want to ask if you can pay right after you’ve ordered to make it simpler and so that you can leave whenever you’ve finished your tapa.

Not only are tapas crawls a great way to try new things, but they are also a fun way to experience the Spanish culture and nightlife. ¡Buen provecho!

Join us on the Spain Food & Wine Tour



Who Makes It Best? A Ceviche Comparison

By Food No Comments

The origin of ceviche has been much debated. Though most historians would agree that the seafood salad dish is from Peru, rather than Ecuador, it is unclear how it came about in the land of the Incas. One theory suggests that the Spanish brought it over along with their European citrus fruits like limes. Another theory is that Polynesian travelers brought over their tradition of marinating fish in citrus fruit juices in pre-Columbian times. And yet another suggests that ceviche was invented for a great Incan emperor so that he could still eat fresh fish while living in Cuzco by having it marinated in juices before being carried via relay runners to his throne.

Regardless of where it originated, it has certainly spread throughout Latin America picking up little variations depending on the most popular seafood in the local area and other culinary customs. Each country, of course, claims to have the best ceviche.

Peruvian Ceviche consists of fresh fish placed in Peruvian lemon juice (highly acidic green lemons) for only a few minutes and served with onions, garlic, and Peruvian chillies. It is often served with sweet potato or plantain chips.

Ecuadorian Ceviche is typically made with a tangy tomato sauce with lime and salt and often includes shrimp as the main type of seafood. It is usually served in a bowl with toasted corn kernels or plantain chips.

Costa Rica Ceviche is composed of fresh seafood, bell peppers, onions, vinegar, and lime juice and often includes white sea bass as the main type of seafood.

Mexican Ceviche can be served “wet” or “dry” where the “dry” is just the contents drained of the excess juices. It usually consists mainly of shrimp and tilapia and is typically served with tortilla chips or inside tacos.

There are, of course, other variations of ceviche that can be found just about anywhere fresh fish and seafood are caught directly from the water. Though there is no clear winner as to which country has the best ceviche, we try to make it a habit to taste test this delicious dish whenever we have the chance.