Europe is an amazing symbiosis of Old-World Glory with ritzy modernization. On one hand, you will find urbanized cities with quality gentrifications, while on the country side you will find small towns and communities lost in swathes of vast vineyards of France and Italy, in the steep hills of the Bavarian Mountain Ranges and in the open valleys of the Balkans. These small towns are frozen in space and time and offer a unique glimpse of the world we left behind. Europe is a mélange of astonishing topographies that has a huge impact on its culture, most notably its agriculture and food habits. In this article, we will explore the vastness of Europe through its food and wine destinations.
The contemporary food scene of Europe is about exploring the different corners of its rich history with a dash of modern creativity. From Polish Pierogis to German wursts, to Italian pasta, to Swiss chocolates, Europe has many specialties in its food section. Go towards the Mediterranean and you will be greeted by fresh salads, nutty oils, and lots of visual appeals. The Northern and Central part of Europe specializes in meat dishes, crafted with complex herbs and spices.
· Sybillini Mountains, Italy– The countryside of Sybillini Mountains is a microcosm of all that Italy has to offer. Explore its bucolic valley filled with small towns like Castelluccio and Piano Piccolo. You can get your hands on authentic local produce like cured pork delicacies, mountain honey, black truffles and an amazing variety of sheep-milk cheese. A number of small cafes and bars also create amazingly smoke flavored pizzas, untouched from any kind of modern cooking appliance.
· San Sebastián, Spain – This city is notorious in the realm of serious foodies and is often considered as the world capital of gastronomy. The city has its roots deep down in the Basque culture and has the most Michelin star restaurants per capita in the world. Try out hundreds of specialties in the town’s unique Pintxos bars, serving exclusive gourmet dishes along with the best drinks in Europe. It also attracts different culinary students from across the world and even hosts a Gastronomy Congress each year. You will also find a perennial and perpetual flow of celebrations and festivals, all centered around food.
· Athens – Greece is about breezy, romantic sunsets with a year-long balmy Mediterranean sun. The local cuisine is studded with fresh fruits, dry nuts, fish and mutton and lots of healthy flavorful oils. History, along with geography has a tremendous impact on the local food style, which evolved out of European and Middle-Eastern influence. Check out some of the city’s favorites like Gyro (a pitta wrapped meat roll), Souvlaki (grilled meat), kebabs (charred meat), Saganaki or Sfougata (deep fried cheese balls) and honey glazed Feta Me Meli, a very popular wheat-based dessert. You will also find some of the best salads of the world.
Historically, the alcohol scene of Europe was divided into zones. France, Italy and Spain specialized in wine, while Germany and the Czech Republic were known for its beer productions. Whiskey and Irish Scotch were Britain’s favorite drinks while towards Russia the preference shifted towards vodka and other hard drinks. Other unique drinks like the akvavit of Scandinavia, absinthe of Prague and fruit-based brandies like French eau de vie, Balkan Rakia, German Schnapps etc. evolved in certain pockets. Budapest lies at the center of this massive alcohol scene of Europe and has smoothly amalgamated niche aspects of each culture. It is the de-facto alcohol capital of Europe, at least in terms of its amazing variety. But Europe’s association with wine is ethereal. If you are want to explore the wine scene of Europe, you have to head to these two destinations, without fail.
· Tuscany– Tuscany has an ineffable charm to it. It hosts the world’s most celebrated vineyards and gastronomy centers. Here food and wine are treated like an art and you will be amazed at the passion of locals for good food. The rustic landscape offers a number of vineyard tours designed to explain the beauty of viticulture from the start to the end. On your way, score as much wine as you can carry because you will find some of the most sought-after produce in the world like the Cabernet franc, Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay, Vin Santo, Super Tuscans, Merlot, Syrah, and Pinot noir, among many other varieties.
· Slovenia– Many conventional tourists ignore this Mediterranean country of the Balkans, but those that do never forget its beauty. The agricultural asset of the country is its smooth and rolling vineyards, that produce one of Europe’s finest wines. In fact, viticulture existed in Slovenia long before it became popular in France and Italy during the medieval era. The Goriška Brda region is often considered east Europe’s Tuscany and grows its classic Rebula white wine and Merlot-Cabernet blends. The valley’s idyllic landscape is probably the most epic place in Europe to taste some local-made wine. Go towards the end of September, when the grapes are harvested and you can find a lot of local tours of the vineyards.