Europe is a magical place full of incredible sights, smells and delectable flavours. It is also a great place for a road trip because of its open borders, great roads and easy distances. I grew up in Europe eating its incredible food and I admit that the food is one of the things I miss the most about it. Combining my love of the European cuisine and the idea of a road trip, I have come up with a food-finding trip to tease the taste buds. Journey with me through this wonderful continent as I give you my top ten tasty European foods starting in The Netherlands.
Synonymous with windmills and tulips; canals and progressive laws, The Netherlands is a beautiful place to visit. I should know - I lived there for five years and my mother is Dutch. The obvious choice for Dutch food would be cheese - after all, the town of Gouda produces the world-famous and oh-so-delicious Gouda cheese (Not pronounced 'Gooda' as so many like to call it. You have to get the phlegm going to pronounce it like a real Dutch person.) However, I am going to focus on two other Dutch delights starting with my favourite:
Oh my goodness! Talk about melt in your mouth. These little delights are like mini air-puffed pancakes covered in melted butter and icing sugar. You can find these Dutch delicacies almost anywhere but my favourite place to enjoy them is at the 'Markthal' in Rotterdam - a huge indoor market full of fantastic food stalls, bars and stalls selling all kinds of trinkets. The atmosphere coupled with the mouth-watering smells wafting throughout make for a wonderful place to soak in everything Dutch.
2. Frietjes Speciaal met Kroketten
One of the wonderful things to enjoy in The Netherlands are the many street stalls scattered throughout the country where you can enjoy such delights as smoked Herring or Eel and 'Oliebollen' - a type of fried doughnut covered in icing sugar sold especially during New Years. My favourite treat at the street stalls, however, has to be french fries (frietjes) covered in special sauce: mayonnaise, (curry) ketchup and onions together with 'Kroketten' - a type of bread-crumbed fried roll stuffed with ground meat or fish filling. Delicious when eaten steaming and fresh from the food stall on a cold winter's day.
From the land of tulips, it is a short drive across the border to beautiful Belgium where waffles reign supreme. I can't get enough of Belgian waffles... I mean, who can? Especially drizzled with chocolate and a healthy scooping of cream on top! But I want to tell you about something else that will flow down your throat and get you in the Christmas spirit.
Although technically a German delicacy, the Belgians know how to serve up some truly gorgeous Glühwein! Imagine the snow falling outside, Christmas lights glistening at four o'clock in the afternoon when the daylight has already kissed the world goodbye for the day, and a cup of steaming mulled wine in your hands, spiced delicately for your drinking pleasure and warming you up from the inside out. Nibble on a Belgian chocolate with it and you'll soon be floating off to a special place!
Chase the Glühwein down into its homeland of Germany and you might find yourself driving through the spectacular Black Forest - home of the famous dessert that is next on my European food trip:
4. Black Forest Gateaux
Black Forest Gateaux (cake) is best eaten in the Black Forest itself where it is sold in all the cafes tucked under the mystical shade of towering trees in the spectacular mountainous region bordering France. Chocolate and cream and juicy cherries... is there anything better? I don't think so.
Before we cut across into fabulous France, let's take a tour through Switzerland with its awe-inspiring Alps stretching up into the skies. I cannot adequately describe the awesomeness that is the Swiss Alps. My all-time favourite skiing holiday growing up was at the Matterhorn in Switzerland with its pristine ski slopes and mouthwatering food to warm you up after a long day in the snow. There was this one cafe at the top of one of the ski slopes in particular that I could not get enough of, specializing in all things cheese! There are so many ridiculously good cheese dishes but I have painfully whittled it down to these two:
Stomping into the cafe and plonking down into the chair after wearing yourself out skiing all day, there is nothing quite like the magic of Raclette. The waiter walks over to your table with a huge wheel of cheese, steaming and dripping - melted in front of the fire - and proceeds to scrape off the scrumptious melted cheese onto your plate to be eaten with small baked potatoes and onion. I can't even begin to explain how amazing it is. You just need to try it yourself because any words I try to use won't do this dish justice.
6. Cheese Fondue
Of course, I cannot leave Switzerland without partaking of the famous Fondue - a mixture of Swiss cheeses melted in a pot into a golden liquid goodness. Imagine sitting with friends around the pot beside the fire, skewering chunks of fresh bread to dip into the cheese and washing it all down with a shot of schnapps to set a little merry fire burning in your belly. Ah, Switzerland - you will ever be one of my favourites.
We can continue our European drive along the scenic Alps and into France which is just bulging with fancy foods and fantastic French cuisine. How to choose? France is, after all, world famous for its cuisine. You can choose pretty much anything French and have a winner. I spent one amazing summer, though, in the South of France, in the countryside, and after the freezing snow of the Swiss Alps, it's time to delve into something a little sunny. What better way than to hit country France with its rustic charm and this chunky goodness:
7. Fresh baked Baguette with Brie
The moan of delight that slips out can't be helped as you bite into the chunky baguette still warm from the oven. Crunchy crust and soft bread fills your mouth as the overwhelming taste of French Brie explodes in your mouth. From Swiss cheese to French cheese, it's so hard to choose a favourite, especially whilst on a picnic in Southern France with a bottle of French wine to wash it down. Mercí, France, for your perfectionism when it comes to food.
After all that cheese it's time for something sweet. What better way to accomplish this than to head up to Paris and stop off at a bakery for some incredibly munchable melt-in-your-mouth Macaroons. Stroll along the Champs Elysees, take in the sights of the world famous Arc De Triomphe and Eiffel Tower, enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city after the majesties of the Alps and the countryside while munching on Macaroons. What a dream. Finish it off with a coffee as you sit in a cafe overlooking the River Seine and you truly can't go wrong.
After saying "Au Revoir" to France, we head into Spain - that spectacular country of colour and culture. There are just so many places to choose from. Shall we head for Madrid, the Capital, or Barcelona where art and architecture dazzle the senses and where we can be wowed by the likes of Gaudí and Salvador Dalí? By all means, take time to tour these incredible cities and when you're done, head into Central Spain, to the city of Toledo to enjoy a treat that has been in my dreams since childhood:
9. Turrón De Yema
My mouth is watering just thinking of it. Getting back into the Christmas spirit you just can't ignore the tastiest treat in Spain: Turrón De Yema. Made from egg yolks and sugar, this rich dessert will set your taste buds to singing. Enjoyed within the ancient walled city of Toledo amongst the many monuments, you won't be sorry that you stopped there.
Our final destination on this tasty trip must be the remarkable nation of Portugal where Europe finally kisses the Atlantic Ocean. Full of rich history and amazing maritime architecture, Portugal makes for a perfect end to our travels, especially when you can settle down and sip on a glass of rich Port. Of course, I have the perfect treat to nibble on whilst sipping on that Port:
10. Pastéis De Nata
What a perfect way to end a delicious journey through Europe's fine foods. These custard pastries fill your mouth with rich sweetness along with the crunch of the flaky pastry. Chased down your throat by authentic Portuguese Port whilst sitting in the coastal city of Porto at a seaside cafe as the sun sinks into the Atlantic Ocean - this is what dreams are made of.
And as the sun sets on our journey it doesn't mean that your European adventure must end. Indeed, we haven't even touched the marvels of Eastern Europe yet. Europe is a vast and varied continent full of surprises and sights to enchant the soul, not to mention the endless supply of sensational foods to satisfy your taste buds. I hope reading this has whet your appetite for fine food and fun adventure. So what are you waiting for? Hire a car, get on the road and discover the lovely lands of Europe for yourself.