Culinary Adventures: A Global Guide
Well-traveled foodies have tasted Russia’s best caviar and France’s finest foie gras. Go beyond the traditional culinary epicenters and explore our around-the-world guide to great global delicacies.
Small plates inspired by the bounty of the Mediterranean. Updated takes on ancient cooking in China. Delicate, spiced pastries in Dubai. There may be no better way to discover the world than by sampling its varied culinary offerings. This year, The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay is paying homage to some of the world’s best food with retreats that offer guests a chance to join acclaimed global cuisine chefs in the kitchen and at the dining table. For an even deeper dive into global gastronomies, consider a culinary pilgrimage to these foodie destinations to survey their most iconic dishes.
Must-try: Modern Sichuan in Chengdu, China
While dim sum has long held court as the quintessential Chinese cuisine, there are delights to be found in a plethora of places across the vast country. One of China’s four major styles of cooking, Sichuan cuisine dates back to the Qin and Han dynasties (221 B.C.–220 A.D.), and is known for its spicy and heavily seasoned flavors. Today, chefs in Chengdu are putting a fresh spin on the ancient cuisine by combining traditional flavor profiles with modern cooking techniques. Multi-course tasting menus on par with Europe’s fine dining institutions have become the norm but be prepared for heat — the spice is still all Sichuan.
Where to dine: Chef Lan Guijin delights diners with delicate renditions of classic Sichuan cuisine at Yu Zhi Lan. Don’t miss his signature golden thread noodles, hand-cut and made from duck yolks.
Must-try: Mediterranean Tapas in Barcelona
Spanish small plates are nothing new to the culinary scene, but Barcelona’s fresh-from-the-sea specialties often get overlooked in favor of favorites from Madrid and Basque country. While essentials like pintxos and paella are must-tries, neither of them are truly authentically Catalonian. Opt instead for local delicacies like grilled squid, pickled anchovies, blood sausages and aromatic cheeses paired with artisan vermouth and Spanish wines — or simply order any seasonal specialty that’s on offer. No matter which plates you choose, do it in true Barcelona style by skipping the table and cozying up to the standing-room only bar instead.
Where to dine: Bar Thonet Grill Room in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter was one of the first vermouth bars in the city, dating back to 1902. Today, you’ll find small plates like marinated mackerel and grilled octopus served alongside the house vermouth.
Must-try: Indigenous Influences in Tucson, Arizona
There’s a lot to discover in Tucson, which has quietly become a favorite destination of foodies since recently being named a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy. While tacos and other Sonoran specialties are certainly on the menu, the city is also home to a rich culinary legacy that has developed from a culturally layered history, a variety of heritage ingredients and a continuity of traditional techniques. Perhaps the most travel-worthy menu items are the modern dishes made with native ingredients that chefs across the city are dreaming up, like vegetable sopes made from native dent corn masa, and nopales French fries, where cactus pads take the place of potatoes and avocado crema is served instead of ketchup.
Where to dine: At Downtown Kitchen and Cocktails, James Beard-award winning chef Janos Wilder infuses salads with pickled cholla cactus and makes syrups from Saguaro blossoms.
Must try: Okonomiyaki in Osaka, Japan
The elaborate, precisely prepared kaiseki meals of Kyoto and Tokyo receive much of Japan’s culinary attention, but travelers would be remiss to overlook Osaka’s food scene. The city has a special relationship with food that it is unofficially referred to as the “kitchen of Japan.” And though Osaka is home to many Michelin-starred restaurants, its approach to food is decidedly down-to-earth — the food culture is centered on home cooking. The name of Osaka’s signature dish, okonomiyaki, means “cook what you like,” and chefs in this Japanese metropolis take that to heart. The savory pancakes are comprised of cabbage and your choice of meat, seafood or vegetables, combined in an egg batter and seared on a teppan. From there, diners can choose whether to top them with bonito flakes, ao-nori sea greens or Japanese Worcestershire-style sauce.
Where to dine: For a sublime culinary experience, reserve one of the 12 seats at the three-Michelin-starred Koryu restaurant. For a more casual yet festive evening out, head to the lively Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi districts, where vendors vie for best okonomiyaki honors.
Must-try: Creole Cuisine in New Orleans
The result of influences from the many nationalities who have settled the city over the years, Creole food has its roots in French, English, African and Spanish cooking — and the result is uniquely New Orleans. Often conflated with its more rustic Cajun counterpart, Creole cooking is set apart by its more aristocratic history that allowed for a wider variety of ingredients and more refined techniques. While many restaurants today serve a fusion of Creole and Cajun cuisine, some dishes are strictly Creole, including bananas Foster, pain perdu and shrimp Creole, which is shrimp cooked in a sauce of tomatoes, peppers, celery, onion and garlic.
Where to dine: Known as much for its onsite Mardi Gras Museum as it is for its fare, Arnaud’s is a New Orleans institution that has been serving classic Creole cuisine just steps off of Bourbon Street for more than 100 years.
Must try: Sweet treats in Dubai
A blend of Asian and Middle Eastern influences have led to some creative culinary fusions in the City of Gold. Pastries like knafeh, chebab and samboosa are the perfect accompaniments to Arabic coffee and tea. Bakeries across the city serve warbat (flaky filo dough stuffed with creamy filling, drizzled with simple syrup and a sprinkling of pistachios) and ma’mool, cookies filled with sweet dates, ground pistachios and chopped walnuts. The traditional luqaimat, a cardamom- and saffron-flavored dumpling dipped in date molasses and sprinkled with sesame seeds, is a local favorite.
Where to dine: HEIK Knafeh Culture is known for its namesake pastries; kanfeh bites are served with a variety of syrups, with flavors ranging from orange blossom to lavender.