What amazing dishes have you discovered on your travels? Which meals remind you of being on holiday? For me, food is a huge part of the travel experience and my most memorable holidays have been where I’ve tasted something unexpected in a distinctive setting. I was asked to come up with my three favourite courses encountered on my trips and to take part in Celebrity Cruise’s #tasteoftravel competition. They’ve just been voted Ocean Cruise Line of the Year in the 2014 Food and Travel Awards and to celebrate, they organised a competition to win a European cruise and voucher to a Great British Chef’ restaurant, for which I was one of the runners up.
Starter: A Dive into the Deep – Villa Crespi, Italy
Yes that really is the name of this dish! It’s a unique combination of raw and cooked Mediterranean fish and it tastes even better than it looks. The prawns were incredibly fresh and were complemented by fresh mint and tarragon to give a dish bursting with flavour. Chef Antonino Cannavaccioulo has 2 Michelin stars and it’s not hard to see why. The Villa Crespi is like nowhere else I’ve visited, a stunning Ottoman style luxury hotel and a member of Relais & Chateaux. We loved the location next to Lake Orta, one of the most beautiful parts of Piedmont.
We were celebrating our first wedding anniversary which made the occasion even more special. I don’t think that you can go wrong when eating out in Italy, whether a local pizzeria or a gourmet restaurant, everyone takes such a pride in their cooking and wants to share it with others.
Main Course: Plentiful Picanha at Porcao – Rio, Brazil
If you’ve not heard of picanha, it’s worth getting hold of some. It’s a particular cut of beef rump cap, and pronounced “pee-con-ya”. to You can find it in many larger supermarkets and it’s great cooked with onions and cherry tomatoes. In Brazil, there are some fantastic churrascarias (steakhouses) and Porcao is one of the best in Rio. The concept is great fun, they give you a coaster with a green and a red side – if you keep the green one turned up, the waiters keep coming round until you turn it over to the red side. It’s wise not to eat beforehand as they’ll bring you chicken, sausage, sirloin, filet mignon and of course the delicious picanha. The beef is skewered and cooked over flaming charcoal in its fat which seals in the flavour, and the fat is then trimmed off before serving. The setting overlooking Sugarloaf Mountain and the sea made this a truly memorable experience. I’d also recommend if you are in Brazil, to check out the “suco” (juice) bars. They are on every street corner and you can try every exotic juice imaginable, including many that you only find in the Amazon.
Dessert: Willy Wonka would love Wittamer – Brussels, Belgium
I’m a bit of a chocolate fiend but my Swiss husband outdoes me – everywhere we go, he makes a point of seeking out the best places for it. In Brussels we were spoilt for choice, Place du Grand Sablon is a pretty square with two of the best chocolatiers in Belgium: Pierre Marcolini and Wittamer. The latter not only has a shop but also a chocolate cafe where you can taste this unforgettable dessert. Using the very best chocolate from Madagascar, it contrasts white and dark chocolate mousse with a caramel ice cream and delicate vanilla sauce. There are some amazing places to eat and drink in Brussels.
Brussels itself is well worth a visit for the Atomium, the infamous Mannequin Pis and of course, for fans of Tintin. Bon appetit!