No, not Paris because of its Michelin stars. Or Naples because of pizza and Eat, Pray, Love. Europe’s ultimate foodie destinations are not the famous places, nor the places so easily accessible by commercial flights.
Food is about exploration. Fresh flavours, unique styles, upcoming chefs, local produce and creativity. It’s about discovering with all your senses and journeying into something completely new.
You can find an Italian restaurant almost anywhere. And that Italian restaurant will probably be called “authentic,” even though it also sells burgers. Plus, Italy isn’t one cuisine, it’s many. You can eat Italian anywhere, but to eat Piedmont gastronomy you need to explore Piedmont. That’s what all Europe’s ultimate foodie destinations have in common – you can’t experience them somewhere else.
1. The Basque Country
It’s not just fine creative cuisine. Have you heard about pintxos? In Basque bars you’ll find these gourmet bites of delight. The bars compete to create the best taste combination in one bite. It’s otherworldly, but very informal. These are just an everyday snack you take with your beer – that’s how good Basque is for food.
What’s widely considered Spanish cuisine is a mix of cuisines from across Spain. Like paella from Valencia, tapas from Andalusia and Iberico ham from Western Spain. Basque cuisine doesn’t even make it into this mix, because nowhere else has either the quality of local product or abundance of innovative chefs.
Italy has dozens of cuisines, not just one. Pizza, that’s from Naples. Emilia Romagna is an amazing foodie destination, home to balsamic, mortadella, parmigiano and prosciutto di Parma. The region’s capital is Bologna so guess where the American word “bolognese” comes from?
For the best Italian food region there are only two true contenders.
Do you know about Piedmont? Emilia Romagna is a singular creation. Piedmont is the creative combination of surrounding influences: France, Switzerland, Lombardy, mountains, coastline and vineyards.
There’s the basic produce, like Castelmagno and Robiola di Roccaverano cheeses, and the world’s most prized truffle. We know where you can go hunting for this white truffle in Alba, a town that hosts a world-famous truffle fair from October to December each year. Piedmontese beef is widely considered the leanest and finest in Southern Europe. You can drink Barolo in Barolo and Barbaresco in Barbaresco.
Piedmont also has Europe’s largest rice fields so where do you go for the best ever risotto? Also consider panissa, a traditional variant that didn’t leave Piedmont. Piedmont invented the espresso machine, which of course you can now find everywhere. Good luck trying to find vitello tonnato outside Piedmont – it’s a cold starter of boiled veal with a sauce of tuna, anchovies, eggs and capers. Believe us, it’s pure umami.
Piedmont dessert is an improvement from neighbouring France. They took the crème caramel, then added rum, cacao and amaretti biscuits (bunet). They made tarts by replacing regular flour with ground hazelnut flour (torta di nocciole). Piedmont even invented Nutella, which makes sense considering Piedmont has the world’s sweetest and finest hazelnuts.
Brittany rules for fresh, traditional seafood. The best fresh oysters come from Brittany and you can eat them freshly plucked from the sea. With one shuck a Breton can tell you exactly where on the Brittany coast the oyster comes from – the flavour variety is astonishing. You haven’t experienced sardines until you’ve tried them in Brittany. Here the tinned sardines are seriously creative and gourmet. They have vintages, like wines, with the best tins getting better over time.
Europe’s best scallops? Yep, that’s Brittany as well, where they are served in a buttery cream sauce. Steamed mussels are so freshly available they’re a cheap, everyday food in Brittany (like pizza in Naples, risotto in Piedmont, salmon in Norway). We like the richness of mussels cooked in a creamy sauce made from local cider.
It’s hard to go five minutes without seeing another creperie and you can just imagine the quality of hotel breakfasts in this region. Go super traditional by trying a Breton galette complête, a buckwheat pancake filled with local ham, cheese and a softly fried egg.
Accompany your crepe with cider. This is not a wine region, it’s where some of the world’s best apple cider is produced. It’s rich in antioxidants, vitamins, mineral salts and…alcohol. That’s how healthy Brittany gastronomy is – even the alcoholic drinks are genuinely good for your physical health.
Make me a Foodie Holiday
Travelling to Europe’s Ultimate Foodie Destinations
Unfortunately there are no direct flights to Basque from Prague or any city in Central or Eastern Europe. Nor to Piedmont or Brittany. So to reach these destinations there’s a long layover, in Madrid, Milan or Paris. But you can travel by private jet for the weekend.
We are foodies. Maybe if you see our current physique you might think we’re Europe’s ultimate foodies. So when creating our season of weekend private jet trips, we had to include Europe’s ultimate three foodie destinations.