What to Eat in the Mediterranean: A Culinary Immersion

Sponsored by Silversea Cruises by Denise Caiazzo

Travelers today increasingly seek out authentic culinary experiences. Photo: Shutterstock

Tantalizing tastes, world-class wine, classic historical sites, iconic backdrops of the tranquil sea and picturesque cities … what more could any traveler ask for? The Mediterranean is one of the most sought-after locales for sophisticated foodies who love to travel. And culinary travel continues to grow as a profitable niche for travel advisors.

Travelers today increasingly seek out authentic culinary experiences. They want to go beyond restaurant lists and celebrity chefs, to experiences that are more varied, more three-dimensional, immersive and real. The desire is not just to eat well during their travels, but to really learn about a region or culture through its food and traditions.

“The approach I’ve always taken, as a food and travel writer, is to apply an endless curiosity and adventurous appetite to deep-dive explorations of the ingredients, cuisine and rituals of the countries and communities we visit,” said Adam Sachs, an award-winning journalist and former editor-in-chief at a leading culinary magazine. “There’s no better — or more enjoyable — way to engage and understand the world than through the flavors and stories of its food and wine culture, and the people and personalities behind it.”

Culinary travelers want to connect to the local culture they’re visiting through food, and learn something. They want to return home with exciting stories, and maybe a new recipe or culinary tip, to share with their family and friends.

Europe, of course, is a top region for culinary travel, with its diversity and depth of cultures. Italy, Greece, Spain, and Portugal are tried-and-true destinations. Here are some of the best places to go to sample the tastes of the Med.

1. In Malta, Italy, try the pastizzi (a small filo pastry filled with either cheese, chicken or mushy peas). There is also top-notch seafood, such as the traditional dishes that include octopus in garlic, and lampuki (fish) pie.

2. Sicilian cuisine, in places like Cefalu, include scrumptious antipasti dishes with freshly cut salami, arancini (deep-fried rice balls stuffed with meat and parmesan), and frittura di paranza (deep-fried fresh seafood). For dessert, gelato.

3. In Croatia, sample the exotic black risotto (made with cuttlefish or squid, olive oil, garlic, red wine, and squid ink), boškarin (oxen served as a carpaccio, in pasta, or in a stew), brodetto (fisherman’s stew in a tomato base), the Istrian ham, and top it off with Istria’s signature Malvazija and Teran wines.

4. On Crete, in Greece, everything is fresh and locally procured. Put fish caught the same day, wild artichokes, grapes, and apricots on your list to sample; as well as the organically grown Cretan wine.

5. Throughout Greece, there are the always-loved specialty dishes like moussaka (minced beef with sweet eggplant and creamy bechamel sauce), spanakopita (spinach pie with feta cheese, butter and oil baked to crispy perfection), saganaki (fried cheese), dolmadakia (stuffed grape leaves), and tomatokeftedes (Santorini tomato fritters) ; and of course, for dessert, the baklava, kataifi, loukoumades, and the ellinikos (Greek coffee).

6. In Spain, tapas is king. Sample to your heart’s content with to-die-for dishes like: pulpo a la gallega (a traditional Galician octopus dish), Iberico ham (the region’s specialty), la bomba (potato croquettes sandwiched with aioli and a citrus tomato sauce) – the list of small plates is endless; and Cava, Spain’s famous sparkling wine.

7. Porto, Portugal, offers up superb cuisine, such as tripas à moda do Porto (an iconic tripe dish); ameijoas à bulhão pato (clams coated with a sauce composed of olive oil, garlic, cilantro, and white wine), bacalhau à Gomes de Sá (a casserole of bacalhau, potatoes, eggs, olives, olive oil and onion), and francesinha (made with bread, wet-cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage like chipolata, steak or roast meat, and covered with melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce).

“There are great food stories everywhere you look,” said Sachs. “Our job is to help unlock these stories by shining a light on the dishes, rituals, producers, and traditions that define the food culture of a place.”

One way that travel advisors can deliver the true immersion experiences their foodie clients are seeking is through culinary-focused cruises. They visit multiple destinations in one trip; and include enriching and personal experiences, such as chef-accompanied foraging trips, excursions to local markets or farms or wineries, farm-to-table meals, onboard culinary-focused lectures, wine tastings, and cooking lessons led by world-renowned chefs or local culinary experts … all while exploring culturally rich regions of the world from the comfort of a luxury vessel.

FROM THE SPONSOR: As Silversea’s legacy of luxury continues, so does our dedication to excellence, innovation and expansion of product offerings. We are proud to introduce S.A.L.T (Sea and Land Taste), our newest culinary program. S.A.L.T. is set to revolutionize culinary travel for the cruise line’s guests, when it launches with the new ship, Silver Moon, in August 2020. The pioneering concept will enable travelers to use food to dive deep into the world’s richest cultures, to truly understand the soul of a destination.

Taking guests on a journey of culinary discovery, Silver Moon will showcase an entire ecosystem around the food cultures of the world through the S.A.L.T. program. The ship’s guests will dine on fine cuisine in eight restaurants plus the S.A.L.T. Kitchen — a space entirely dedicated to the authentic flavors of sailed destinations. The S.A.L.T. Kitchen will offer an ever-changing menu and a regionally inspired wine list to enable diners to form meaningful connections with local cultures. In the S.A.L.T. Bar, which will adjoin the S.A.L.T. Kitchen, guests will enjoy regional drinks to better engage with destinations. Silver Moon’s S.A.L.T. Lab is where guests will deep-dive into regional food cultures under the tutelage of expert local chefs and industry authorities. Silversea’s guests will learn about local ingredients and artisanal techniques, through insightful workshops, tastings, and demonstrations.

Sail on the Silver Moon to go beyond your food horizons with S.A.L.T. or explore another of our 900 destinations across seven continents. For more information, visit www.silversea.com.

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