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Inspire Magazine - Flavours and Foodies

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Inspire Magazine - Flavours and Foodies

story by: Inspire Magazine

New Zealand cuisine has come a long way in the last decade. As more kiwis have travelled, they have brought home exotic tastes that lead to exciting and innovative menus in our cafés and restaurants. So have you ever wondered where the inspiration comes from? Have you asked yourself how different the humble pasta dish is if the Tuscan sun is bathing your table in gentle heat and the Chianti’s full, rich and cheap? Or even whether your local takeaway is doing justice to England’s legendary Fish and Chip supper?

There are lots of experiences to savour in Europe, but for our money one of the most memorable is the food. Wander through a produce market in even the most rustic village in France and you will be blown away by the variety available, and the commitment to presentation excellence displayed by every stallholder. Proud ranks of pristine pears, delicately trimmed leafy vegetables, and practically unlimited versions of the tomato betray the real passion that the growers and cooks have for food. It’s little wonder that with such raw material the prepared meals are so delicious. Right across Europe, from the fishing villages of England to the islands of the Aegean, there’s a dazzling array of taste sensations to be enjoyed. The question is, where do you start?

You could just plunge in, pick a region that interests you and fill your days with sometimes bewildering menus. Or you could get behind the chequered table cloth and follow that delectable truffle all the way from the woods to the plate, and be entranced by the multiple aromas as a local cook brings together the ingredients that you’ll both enjoy on her cottage’s vine-shaded terrace. These are the holiday experiences that an attentive student can relive back in New Zealand, conjuring up authentic dishes that immediately transport you back to...an Andalucian olive grove perhaps? This varied and ancient region of Spain is a prime example of how travel broadens the palate. We all know about Tapas, but what about Puntillitas, delicate morsels of fried baby squid? Parma ham is world famous, but wafers of Andalucian Jamon deserve equal veneration.

The same can be said for Italian cuisine, because if you’ve always believed that there’s more to savour than pasta and pizza, you’re right. Abruzzo is one of Italy’s little-known gastronomic treasures where the robust flavours perfectly match the majestic mountain scenery. Feast on a spicy sausage ragu followed by a rustic pastry of nuts, dried fruit and sheep’s milk ricotta and you’ll wonder why you’ve never tried these delicacies before.

Getting up close and personal with traditional dishes cherished by passionate cooks in the land of origin is also about connection. These are recipes that come to life when you’re sitting in a Greek taverna enjoying an evening meal with a fisherman just returned from Homer’s “Wine-Dark Sea”. Travel to the places behind the names on a restaurant’s menu and you’ll discover that Parmigiano- Reggiano and even Cumberland Sausages become something much richer than simply a taste in the mouth, when you meet the artisans behind them.

If this has been enough to whet your appetite let's consider the options. There are dedicated lovers of local cuisine all over Europe and lots of choices for joining them on the foodie quest to suit you. Whether you're simply happy to sample a real-food experience or you're a talented cook who wants to master cooking skills, there's a tour or experience to suit.

Plus you're going to be enjoying all of this bounty in some of Europe's most scenic destinations. From the quiet hedgerows of England to the majesty of the Acropolis, your days will be filled with an experience that delights all the senses. A gastronomic holiday doesn't have to leave out the usual holiday delights. You're still going to stroll the streets of ancient cities and delight in the monuments to past civilisations, and a village festival will still be an occasion to sit back and enjoy the colour without wondering too hard about the variety of olive you're enjoying.

Cuisine and culture go hand-in-hand, and the local dishes are just a delicious doorway into the heart and soul of vibrant communities. You'll gain a new appreciation of your favourite meals, while your knowledge of wines and the vineyards behind them will become more intimate. You will have started on a journey that never ends - every time you visit a local Italian restaurant, or scan the shelves of a deli you'll see the faces and places behind the food. Now that's a holiday to look forward to.

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