The dish on great dishes
Michelle Palma considers herself fortunate to have enjoyed Italian food in the country in which that popular cuisine originated.
“My first love has always been for Italian cuisine!” says Palma, president of Uniworld Canada. “I was very fortunate to sail with my husband and two teenage sons on one of our multi-generational sailings on the S.S. La Venezia last year and the food was always so fresh, with local ingredients sourced from the famous Rialto Market in Venice.
“In fact, one of the excursions that we offer on our Gems of Northern Italy itinerary includes spending a Saturday morning at the Rialto Market for one of our “Do as the Locals Do” experiences, where we go in small groups to the market and the chef meets up with us and hand picks the freshly caught seafood that will be used in the preparation of dinner onboard the ship that night. We walked throughout the stalls of fresh fruits and vegetables alongside the locals before heading off to enjoy a glass of prosecco in a local café and heading back to the ship for lunch. This is such a unique experience and one that our guests always really enjoy.”
Palma is pleased that Uniworld is happy to accommodate her eating choices and others who share her food lifestyle.
“Every year at our Global Conference in Dusseldorf, our incredible team of chefs prepare a special meal onboard one night that features many of the new dishes that will be introduced fleet-wide in the upcoming season,” she reports. “As a vegetarian and aspiring vegan, I was very excited to sample a few of the brand new vegan dishes that have been created for our daily menus onboard all of our European ships! These new vegan options were so delicious that several colleagues chose to order these dishes as well,” says Palma, who’s proud that Uniworld offer daily vegetarian and vegan menu options.
Palma is also quick to praise Asian cuisines, citing the “delicious spices and flavours” they offer.
Those working in the travel industry should be grateful for the exposure to the different cuisines it provides, she states.
“One of the greatest gifts we have being in this industry is that we are able to travel the globe and experience so many different cultures and unique dining experiences,” Palma continues. “It enables us to step out of our comfort zone and embrace cultural traditions we would never otherwise have the opportunity to experience.”
Daniel Fraser says restaurant reservations aren’t a requirement for those seeking some great food while in Thailand.
Fraser oversees the Bangkok-based Smiling Albino tour company, which sends clients throughout the Asian nation, and so is very familiar with it, including dining options.
“The tastiest food in Thailand is without a doubt streetfood,” he reports. “As true fans of Thai food who have eaten at every type of place from five-star hotels to no-star food stalls that even Google Maps couldn’t find, we refer to ourselves as unofficial experts on the subject. As we traverse a city on our bespoke travel experiences, we cover all types of food scenes. From the upscale culinary journeys to the basic-yet-undeniably delicious.
“The beauty of Bangkok is that even in the city’s central business district and downtown, street food is abundant. Locals and foreigners alike can be found sitting streetside enjoying a tasty variant of one of Thailand’s thousands of dishes. When guests express a desire to have their entire evening revolve around street food, there’s only one place to end up – Chinatown. Also known as Yaowarat, it’s a long street absolutely stuffed with food. barbecued pork, steaming noodles, rice porridge, sticky desserts doused in iced milk, hot kettles of ginger tea, and heaping plates of curried crab are just some of the dishes that spring to mind – and that’s just on the main road! Yaowarat is also home to dozens of little streets that wind away into old, crowded neighborhoods where you can find even more exceptional treats.
Some tourists might be nervous about eating street food in Thailand, but Fraser says they needn’t be.
“Bangkok’s epic street food scene shouldn’t be missed,” he says. “We may be biased here, but we think Thai food is some of the world’s best. Street food in Thailand is a symphony of aromas executed by grilling, boiling, frying and roasting exotic vegetables, meats and noodles with herbs and spices. Street food has morphed from roadside eateries to cultural staples that have been globally recognized by Michelin and beyond.
“The first rule of Thai street food is: if you see Thais eating there, it’s probably safe. If you see a lot of Thais eating there, it’s probably really good, too. Most street cooks are experienced chefs who do this day-in and day-out, in the same location every day, and the chance of being served bad food is very slim.
“Thais seem to eat nonstop, and some travel miles out of their way to hit their favourite food stall. No matter if you’re jonesing for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or any manner of snack in between, you’ll find something to satisfy you. Some reputations are built on exaggerations, some on lies and others on mere rumour. But thankfully, when it comes to the world-famous reputation Thai street food has, it’s one built on substance: delicious, delectable, and a highlight of any visit to Thailand. One way to ease into street food is on a hosted night out with Smiling Albino. Our signature Headlights Adventure is the ultimate night out hunting down some of the best food Bangkok has to offer. We adventure through narrow alleyways of Bangkok’s historic neighbourhoods and discover local haunts while sampling a myriad of street snacks and local dishes. Guests will sample essential favorites like glutinous rice noodle spicy soups, bamboo shoot noodle wraps, lotus and sesame dumplings in ginger tea, as well as a range of delectables ranging from grilled duck, egg noodles, spicy salads… and that’s just the beginning!”
Fraser points out that Thai food has built a huge international following.
“Thai food is a hit the world over and a local Thai joint and can be found in most cities around the world. With the sheer variety, it’s easy for every guest to find something that suits their palate. Sweet, savory, salty, fresh, fermented are all words used to describe Thai food. However, the most common aversion to Thai food is the level of heat that suits the locals’ taste buds. The Thai level of spicy isn’t something that all Western palates can withstand though if you’re vocal about asking for mai pet (not spicy) when ordering the local fare you’ll be just fine!”
And the former Calgarian says a new dining adventure always awaits those vacationing in Bangkok.
“No matter how good your local Thai joint is, the best place to find the tastiest, most authentic eats in Bangkok is on the streets,” he states. “There are hundreds of dishes, and dozens of varieties of each one – we’ve been here for 20 years and we have found some of our favorite street hotspots but are also continually finding new places to grab amazing food on the street.
“Our Smiling Albino hosts will always make sure the food matches the guests’ expectations, though when dining on your own, make sure you note the number of chilis or you could be in for a spicy surprise! The most important thing to remember is there’s always a new, amazing dish right around the corner, and the best way to find it is to jump in and start eating.”
Korea Tourism Organization
Ethel Hansen Davey
It’s hardly surprising that Ethel Hansen Davey gives the nod to Mexican food when asked to name her preferred cuisine.
The Toronto-based Uniglobe agent has long had an appreciation for Mexico, visiting it often and enjoying the dining options there.
One dining experience is particularly memorable, she says.
“Having a family dinner with my Mexican friends and their extended family, cooked outdoors on open fires and cooktops,” she recalls. “The simplicity of the food but complexity of flavours, made by loving hands and shared in such an informal way still warms my heart.”
Hansen Davey shifts her sights to Asia for her next preferred cuisine choice, saying Thai food also focuses on fresh local ingredients that are “simply prepared to celebrate the ingredients.”
Hansen Davey says her many travels have led her to develop an appreciation for different cuisines.
“To say that I have been blessed to have been able to travel as I have done as part of my career, would be a gross understatement,” she says. “In choosing Mexican cuisine, I do so because I have travelled to many of the 32 states so I have been fortunate enough to have experienced many local takes on Mexican cuisine.”
Renata Snidr sets her sights south when asked to name an outstanding cuisine.
Snidr, spokeswoman for NARAT, says Peruvian cuisine deserves to be among the most memorable she’s encountered.
“Peru has become renowned through recent years as an-up-and-coming new gastronomic destination, and can hold its own against such culinary powerhouses as Italy and France,” Snidr says. “The increased popularity and influence of Peruvian cuisine can be witnessed in the emergence of often acclaimed restaurants in global hubs, including Canadian cities. There is even a Peruvian hidden restaurant that opened in Toronto recently.”
Snidr says she is fortunate to have had incredible dining experiences as part of her travels and work. “One of my visits to the resort town of Zermatt in Switzerland had me enjoying fondue in a small chalet in the Alps with unforgettable views of the Matterhorn. Another memorable experience was dining at the MAP café in Cusco, Peru. You can indulge in Andean fusion cuisine within the walls of the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art. The restaurant is set inside a glass enclosure made to create an experience of being part of the museum’s exhibit.”
Covid-19 is leading Snidr to explore more of Canada and and she states that “we do have a treasure trove of culinary experiences right here in the country. This summer I was in Quebec City on work but made time to visit a number of establishments that had exquisite French Canadian fare. Quebec City is one of the top cities in North America to dine, on par with San Francisco, in my opinion. One of the memorable meals I have had encountered is at the Aux Anciens Canadiens, serving a variety of exquisitely prepared Canadian wild game dishes. I would also recommend Chic Shack for arguably the best poutine in the province, and prepared wholly different from what you expect.”
Snidr says there’s no question that her travels have influenced her culinary tastes. “Sometimes, you encounter places that are ‘off the map’ so to speak, mainly known through locals. You are opened up to cuisine that is different, and has a net effect of elevating your tastes and life through its exposure,” she notes.
“Some years back I was introduced to delectable street fare in Tokyo travelling in spring. I ended up sampling a variety of street food found down this lane that is right out of a storybook. Blink and you will literally miss the entrance. On all sides you find bustling small lantern adorned restaurants beneath sakura blooms, spilling Japanese music into the street. Though the restaurants here can barely fit six persons they are always at capacity, serving a variety of inspiring fare.”
Meanwhile, Snidr points out that NARAT has a number of global culinary journeys crafted in cooperation with celebrity chefs. “Therefore you could also say my preferences and career sometimes go together,” she states.