The Best Global Eats
(note: this post was updated in 2019)
Many of my followers have asked what we ate and what we liked on our Round the World trip, so I thought I’d write a quick blog about the food we came across, which included Stockholm, Oslo, Bergen, Amsterdam, Rome, Athens, Moscow, Beijing, Los Angeles, San Diego, Tijuana, and Salt Lake City. Here’s my list of the best vegetarian food in the world.
Tackling Gluten-Free Vegetarian
I choose to eat a gluten-free vegetarian diet. Yet, my first incident with how silly gluten-free vegetarian is to the rest of the world came true when I tried to reserve special meals on our flights. They had gluten-free and they had veggie, but not both. So, right off the bat, I decided to throw out gluten-free and baseline with vegetarian meals. My Aeroflot service rep even laughed at me when he asked why I didn’t like bread, thus proving the silliness point ad naseum.
Non-GMO Everywhere Else
One of the reasons I eat gluten-free is that I’m convinced that the American food system is tainted will all kinds of nastiness, including genetically-modified grains, and wheat is the biggest culprit. Europe doesn’t allow GMO foods, in general, so I felt I was pretty safe allowing gluten back in. Yet, if I had tried to stick to gluten-free, I simply would have starved.
Fruits and veggies in Europe are absolutely delicious. Their textures and ripeness are true off-the-vine variety, and combined with a nice cheese and hunk of bread, I could make great meals. When we finally got to Athens, I was eating the most amazing eggplant and tomato combos that melted in my mouth and drizzled off my chin. Add a piece of feta and some olive oil and I was in heaven!
Pastries in Norway
Least us not forget the fabulous European pastries. Whereas I generally avoid sweets particularly in the morning, I couldn’t pass up the yumminess from the local bakeries. Not only were the bakeries everywhere, but the treats melted in our mouths. In Bergen, Norway, after a long day and late night doing Norway in an Nutshell, we found a bakery the next morning that simply stands out as the best baked goods I’ve ever eaten in my life. My pastry was a flaky multi-layer top and bottom filled with full-fat whipped cream, a layer of custard, and topped with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar. I will remember that treat for as long as I live.
Mozzarella in Rome
We had a four-hour layover in Rome, which was not enough time to get into the city. It was enough time to get to Funicimo, where we had a chance to walk the fishing pier. The locals displayed their catch, which I’m sure is what made up my daughter’s calamari a few hours later. She’s 11, but she said it was the best calamari she’s ever eaten. I passed on the fish and had my two favorite foods together in one dish-a caprese salad of mozzarella and tomato. The addition of fresh basil and fresh olive oil put this dish over the top, ranking it as the number one item I ate during our entire trip.
Eggplant, Almonds, Yogurt in Greece
I loved Athens’ food. It was the place most easiest for me to find tasty veggie fare. Hummus, eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes filled every meal, and I ate like a king. Yet, I have to say the street-side vendors who sold nuts and such were the best. Almonds are my most favorite all-time food, and I was delighted to find a vendor selling seasoned almonds from his cart. Also gracing his cart were locally-grown pistachios, a second favorite, and hand-made cheetos.
Do Not Miss this Yogurt Store
Prior to our trip, my daughter had a homework assignment to plan an international trip. As part of her homework assignment, she featured Greece. She also had to plan meals and balance the daily budget. In her research, she uncovered a fresh Greek yogurt store, Fresko, near the Acropolis. We found it, and we were delighted, They had three types of fresh Greek yogurt–light, creamy, extra creamy–and you could pick your toppings. These included local honey, peaches, raspberries, and various nuts. We indulged, and we named this stop the best treat of the whole trip.
Chocolate in Russia
We stayed eight very long days in Moscow. Although Moscow is very interesting with lots of super cool cultural sites, the food is uninspiring, kinda like the people themselves (sorry Moscovites.) We did enjoy some delicious borscht, which I am inspired to make at home. My husband claims he ate some good lamb, and we did find some amazing caviar at very cheap prices, but other than those few things, we couldn’t wait to move on.
But wait, before leaving Moscow, I insisted on trying some Russian chocolate and I found my all-time most favorite chocolate ever, Babaevsky. It’s dark chocolate with a touch of orange and added almonds. Ohmygod, I thought I had gone to heaven. Trust me, it was Russia’s saving grace!
Great Veggie Fare in China
Our next stop in Beijing–where we’ve all heard about crazy Chinese food and eaten gringo versions of bad Chinese food–was actually where we had the most adventures and the best food. Of course being vegetarian and gluten-free in China is a piece of gluten-free cake! The taste adventure started in our hotel when Marriott brought us our welcome gifts of dried plums. A nice chewy treat with a subtle sweetness, they reminded me of a good brownie, actually. Throughout our stay, we had several combinations of rice, noodles and veggies. The worst combo was at the tourist-trap “Jade Factory,” and the best was the top floor of the Yashow Market where the locals ate. No surprise, right?
Steve, my hubby, adventured much more than I did. He tried scorpion–tastes like chicken; snake–rubbery chicken; sea urchin–the grossest baby poop ever. The Night Market, a tourist trap put together by the Chinese government featured the top 30 regional delicacies, and it was fun to look at it all. The spiders were exciting, but the octopus tentacles creeping over the side of the tables was a bit unnerving.
The Best Donut in the World
Finally, when we landed in Los Angeles, we headed straight for Mexican food, and didn’t eat anything else until we landed in Denver three days later. Mexican seafood for dinner, Mexican bakery for breakfast, street tacos in Tijuana (always my favorite of any food–Steve enjoyed the chicarones). Yet, as our last hurrah before leaving San Diego, I had to stop at my favorite bakery in the whole-wide world (and I feel I can legitimately say that now), and eat my beloved chocolate old-fashioned donuts at VG Donuts in Cardiff by the Sea.
A taste adventure we had–thanks to a sense of openness, adventure, and an ability to laugh, we enjoyed some of the world’s cuisine. And me, I got to find the best vegetarian food in the world.