Looking for foodie road trips across Europe? Want to know the best road journeys through America? Here are the best foodie road trips to take this year.
Flanked by the Italian port cities of Trieste and Venice to the north and Croatia’s beaches to the south, Slovenia’s coastline is, at just 28 miles, a neglected treasure. But this little seashore flaunts a surprisingly eclectic mix of culinary influences, where northern Italian and Croatian dishes morph into brilliantly off-key versions of the originals.
Here you’ll find thick fusi pasta, yellow with egg yolks and rich with butter and truffles; melt-in-your-mouth Boskarin stew tossed through fat gnocchi or piled onto oozy polenta; dry-cured Karst ham; pungent sheep’s cheeses; and an unending supply of fresh fish. For the latter, head a few miles out of Koper – the largest coastal town – to Gostilna Trattoria Norma, a family-run taverna serving exceptionally fresh shellfish, including razor clams, scallops and king prawn-stuffed ravioli doused in Istrian olive oil, all paired with crisp wines from their generations-old vineyard. A little more up-market, Restaurant OKUS in Koper is a must-try, in particular for its overnight Venetian-style fish stew. Skip dessert for ice cream at Sladoledarna, a local institution with flavours that range from apricot and lavender to coffee and stout.
Further down the coast, stop at the colourful fishing village of Piran before heading to Rizibiz in neighbouring Portorož (try the truffle tasting menu). Istrian Bistro is an equally popular spot for a bottle and a bite, its ingredients supplied by a handful of small-scale local producers. One such producer is the Butul family farmstead. Set in an oasis of olive, pomegranate and fig trees, beehives and vines, it offers B&B accommodation as well as meals. Everything here is made from scratch: the breakfast spread includes three-day fermented bread, home-preserved anchovies, tangy pickled aubergines, thick honey, and fig jams. Keen ambassadors of a slow Mediterranean way of life, the Butuls are a genuine representation of Istrian Slovenia.
São Miguel, Azores
A Portuguese outpost, flung into the Atlantic, the Azores archipelago has fermented its own food culture, and each island has independent tastes. Not least main hub São Miguel – the ‘green island’ – which offers some of the Azores’ most dramatic volcanic scenery and some of its best produce: tender beef, grilled with roast garlic and sautéed peppers; cozido (meat stew); small-yet-sweet Azorean pineapples; sea-salty lapas (limpets) grilled with cumin; and fluffy, muffin-like bolo lêvedo bread.
Stay in capital Ponta Delgada, where the marina-front Azor Hotel has a rooftop bar where you can drink Azorean wine and scan for passing whales, and a restaurant that majors on local flavours – limpet rice, pork rinds, pineapple strudel. Grab breakfast at Louvre Michaelense, founded as a grocery store in 1904 and now a hip spot for pastries.
With a quick stop at the Augusto Arruda pineapple plantation, to tour the greenhouses and buy ananás liqueur, follow the south coast to Vila Franca do Campo to try traditional queijadas (cheese tarts) created by the town’s nuns in the 17th century. Lunch on cozido in Furnas, where this hearty concoction of pork ribs, pig ears, blood sausage and yam is simmered in volcanic hot springs for eight hours. Drive cross-island to the north coast for a cuppa at Gorreana, home of Europe’s oldest tea plantation, which has cultivated organic teas since 1883. Then head on to Porto Formoso, where family-run Quinta dos Sabores serves intimate farm-to-table dinners.
Continue west along the coast to the affluent plateau-top town of Ribeira Grande, with its charming old centre. Find coffee and artisanal truffles at O Chocolatinho and great sushi by the sea at Santa Barbara. In São Miguel’s far west is Sete Cidades, a protected landscape of blue-green crater lakes. It’s also home to Quinta da Queiró, where a handful of barns has been converted into apartments and a teahouse lays on sweetmeats, liqueurs and other regional produce.
Ponta Delgada’s marina-front Azor Hotel has a rooftop bar where you can drink Azorean wine and scan for passing whales
In northerly Asturias, mountain and sea collide in beautiful, belly-filling fashion. Attractive fishing villages spill over with hake, monkfish, lobster and crab, and prickly sea urchins can be plucked right off the rocks. Inland, where rare-breed livestock roam alpine pastures, farmers are fuelled by pantrucu and sabadiego sausages, and by fabada asturiana – a rich stew of white beans, pork shoulder, bacon and black pudding.
Start in medieval Oviedo, capital of Asturias. Buy a box of Moscovitas from Rialto, which has been baking the almond-chocolate biscuits for more than 80 years. Then head north to the coast: Asturias has 200-odd beaches, but remains pleasingly undeveloped. Stop in Gijón to shop for almond-praline Gijonesa cake and gorgeously packaged sardines at La Gijonesa. Pause in Lastres to see fishing nets being made the traditional way. In the harbour town of Ribadesella, visit a sidrería, where expert escanciadores pour Asturian cider from up high to aerate the brew. At Sidrería la Guia, order fresh mussels or Galician octopus.
After pretty seaside Llanes, turn inland. It’s amid the mountains that you’ll find Asturias’s 40-odd cheeses, from nutty Gamonéu to creamy Afuega’l Pitu and potent blue Cabrales, which is aged in caves. Some queserías offer tours – try Francisco Bada. The Sidrería Casa Niembro, in Asiego, is owned by the family who run the town’s Ruta’l Quesu y la Sidra tour; its menu features local produce including Cabrales, tortos (maize pancakes) and cod croquettes.
With the Picos de Europa range to your left, head west, via Cangas de Onís. Two delightful spots to stay lie hereabouts. La Casona de Con is an old hamlet converted into a countryside retreat, while Posada del Valle is a family-run farmstead set amid organic orchards and pastures that supply the restaurant. Book a table at Michelin-starred Corral del Indianu, in nearby Arriondas, for inventive dishes such as a modern take on fabada.
En route back to Oviedo, stop in Redes Natural Park, a Biosphere Reserve protecting the Cantabrian Mountains and producers of the intense Casín cheese.
Posada del Valle is a family-run farmstead set amid organic orchards and pastures that supply the restaurant
A scenic hop-skip north of Glasgow lies a loch-pocked region oft overlooked by those dashing for the Highlands. Slow down to eat your way around Argyll, where the fish is fresh and abundant, and a foodie revolution is underway.
Following the Clyde north, aim for Helensburgh, the riverside Victorian resort that’s fast gaining a reputation as a gastronomic hub. Opened in 2017, neighbourhood bistro Sugar Boat is the sort of place you always hope to stumble upon – from its open kitchen comes seasonal, local produce at reasonable prices; try the thick, saffron-infused bouillabaisse. The grass-fed, well-aged Aberdeen Angus beef at Cattle & Creel is an excellent alternative. Finish with chocolates from CocoaMo – master chocolatier Ruth Hinks uses ethically sourced cacao, foraged ingredients and local inspiration to create ever-changing flavours.
Next, curl round onto the Cowal Peninsula, ignoring (for now) Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, to discover Argyll’s secret coast. Here, looking over Loch Fyne, sits Inver, an inconspicuous crofter’s cottage that’s producing some of the most highly rated food in the country. Chef Pam – who worked at Copenhagen’s Noma – creates modern Scottish miracles, from pig’s head with pickled greengages to ginger-hot whipkull (Shetland custard). Stay overnight in one of Inver’s bothies to make the most of the natural wines and own-recipe Fyne Ales.
Further north, via Loch Awe and Loch Etive, is Oban, Scotland’s ‘Seafood Capital’. Opened in 2018, Etive has added to the port’s high-class offering, with an estimable whisky list and innovative use of local produce. Return to Glasgow via Loch Lomond. Martin Wishart’s restaurant – and the rest of Cameron House Hotel – is set to re-open in autumn, following a post-fire restoration. In the meantime, stop off instead at Tarbet’s Skipness Seafood Cabin where seafood – creel-caught langoustine, salmon from Skipness Smokehouse, Loch Fyne oysters – is served no-frills and super-fresh. Finish at Auchentullich Farm Shop, a family dairy farm that’s branched out into homemade ice cream.
Stay overnight in one of Inver’s bothies to make the most of the natural wines and own-recipe Fyne Ales
Exploring the food scene in mountainous Transylvania isn’t about finding hot new chefs using foam and blowtorches. This is a rural region where you’re as likely to eat in a local home as a restaurant; where ingredients are fresh and organic; where dishes – paprika-y goulash, olive oil soaked aubergines – are simple and delicious.
The uni town of Cluj-Napoca is a good starting point, and a shot of civilisation before heading into deepest bear-roamed Transylvania. Consider a raw/veggie dinner at hip Samsara before dishes swerve meat-wards. Head south, stopping at a vineyard – the Transylvanian terroir and climate is perfect for white wines. Jidevi sits in the Târnave region, where viticulture dates back to 600 BC; the vineyard produces wines from a range of grapes including the dry, fresh Romanian variety, fetească regală.
Continue towards the tiny Saxon village of Copșa Mare, where original, pastel-hued houses have been converted into guest accommodation. Breakfasts comprise honey, yogurt, fresh bread and apple juice from nearby Mălâncrav, where Prince Charles has an estate. Detour to Moşna to meet Willy Schuster, who campaigns for peasant farmers and hosts lunches on his organic farm. The walled old town of Sighișoara, alleged birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, is close. Here, amid the Dracula-themed tat and cobbled alleys, look for restaurants serving Romanian specialities: sarmale (pork-stuffed cabbage rolls), barbecued mititei (skinless sausages) and ciorbă (sour soup). Located in a 16th-century townhouse, Casa Krauss serves truly Transylvanian dishes such as tocăniţă din ardeal – pork neck seasoned with cumin and tarragon, topped with pastry. It has guestrooms too, featuring canopied beds and frescoed walls.
A little south, the village of Saschiz is home to a chapter of the Slow Food movement. Here you can see traditional Transylvanian food culture in action: small gardens full of vegetables (eaten fresh or pickled); vines draped over every courtyard; sourdough bread baked in outdoor ovens; sheep’s milk churned into cheese by the shepherd; and chickens ranging free. Join a courtyard dinner, and raise a shot of pálinka, the potent home-distilled fruit brandy that accompanies every meal.
The Hudson Valley, New York State
30 minutes by train from New York’s Grand Central Station, the city of Yonkers is where Manhattanites flock at the weekend to escape the mayhem (and to fill up on beer and crunchy fried sprouts at Yonkers Brewing Co). It’s a green spot, with forests, farmland and quaint towns, sweeping waterways and vineyards. Beneath the sleepy façade, however, the region is home to a hive of entrepreneurial activity. Sprout Creek Farm, for example, makes award-winning cheese – Doe re mi is a creamy, fresh goat’s cheese while margi has a buttery sweetness, like brie. Try earthy green garlic soup with manila clams at their restaurant, with a glass of rkatsiteli (like a chenin blanc, and the first grape planted in New York State).
Stay over at Hotel Tivoli in sleepy Tivoli, a cluster of pretty, pastel-painted clapboard houses 30 minutes north of Hyde Park. Owned by artists Brice and Helen Marden, the hotel is a colourful, eclectic little place with contemporary artworks on the walls and the farm-to-table Corner Restaurant. Devon Gilroy’s Mediterranean-inspired menus feature a knockout fresh mackerel escabeche with periwinkle broth and tear-and-share Moroccan bread.
North again, the town of Hudson in Columbia County, two hours by train from New York, has long been on antique-hunters’ radars. However, since a bunch of Brooklyn hipsters decamped here recently it’s also seriously upped its gourmet game. Among said hipsters is chef Zak Pelaccio, who opened Fish & Game in an old blacksmith’s forge. Studying the menu, mint julep in hand, you pick tapas-style, or order a whole aged spit-roast duck or steamed black bass for the table. The garganelli is exceptional: pungent pork ragù and hand-rolled penne.
Also in Hudson is Grazin’, an original 1940s burger joint with a modern outlook on fast food. Not just field-to-plate, Grazin’s sign brags ‘Farm-to-Table-Direct’. All the meat served here comes from owner Dan Gibson’s nearby farm, his herd of grass-fed Black Angus cattle producing fantastic burgers.
Find more places to eat and drink in Hudson Valley here…
The Hudson Valley is a green spot, with forests, farmland and quaint towns, sweeping waterways and vineyards
Sylt is the largest island in the North Frisian archipelago and, at its widest, is eight miles long (but only 320 metres across in places, where you can see the sea on both sides of the road). It’s famous for its wild, white sand, a continuous stretch fringed with towering grass- and wildflower-sown dunes.
The Landhaus Stricker is a quaint and cosy Relais & Chateaux hotel in the island’s distinctive cottage style. Try the seven-course tasting menu at the Michelin-starred restaurant, including lukewarm gorgonzola foam served with sweet beetroot, fig confit, wild herbs and sauternes vinaigrette. Kiosks nearby sell the island’s famous fish sandwich, a crunchy roll filled with matjes – marinated herring with onion.
Sansibar, a legendary beachside bistro, is a sprawling wooden shack with rustic tables and a huge covered deck. It’s a prime sunset spot for a cocktail or cold beer. Try the local seafood platter of matjes, sweet beetroot, salmon with sour cream and dill, and brown shrimp.
In Rantum, just a little further on at the narrowest point of the island, is Hafenkiosk 24, a tiny makeshift café and smokery. Inside are trays of butterfish, salmon and eels hanging from hooks. On the marina there’s also a whisky distillery Sylter Trading and, around the harbour, a Fairtrade coffee roaster, Kaffeerösterei Sylt, with a contemporary café. Here, sacks of beans sit in one corner while piles of cakes line the counter (including Frisian torte, made from puff pastry, cream and plum jam).
There’s no shortage of seafood joints on the island and, on the revamped harbour, there’s one of many branches of Gosch, a maritime-themed restaurant chain that’s now nationwide, along with a fish market selling anything from matjes rolls to fish soup.
List is where you’ll find the latest venture from another of the island’s top chefs. Alexandro Pape had a Michelin star. Now he’s gone back to basics, producing sea salt (sylter-meersalz.de). In August 2016 he opened a microbrewery in the same building. You can take a tour and stock up on artisan jars of salt and beer in the sleek shop, before heading to Keitum to his new low-key eatery Brot & Bier. The open sandwiches – shrimp and egg on rye – are piled artistically high.
Check out our full road trip in Sylt here…
Sylt is famous for its wild, white sand, a continuous stretch fringed with towering grass- and wildflower-sown dunes
Uzès is surrounded by truffle plantations and hosts a truffle festival every January, while confectionary giant Haribo opened Le Musée du Bonbon here in 1996. Today, spindly liquorice plants line the entrance to the museum and even the air outside is laced with a sugary sweetness. Your ticket comes with a bag of sweets to suck as you wander from room to room. Pressing a button releases a puff of vanilla, cacao or liquorice into the air.
This less well-known corner of France (the Gard) is just 40 minutes from Avignon, where you can jump off the Eurostar as it hurtles on to Marseilles. The area has no fewer than a dozen AOP/AOC and five PGI products that have gained protection, including beef and rice from the Camargue, olives, olive oil and strawberries from Nîmes, sweet onions from the Cévennes and Pélardon goat’s cheese.
Today, Uzès is a honeypot, but until about 50 years ago it was a rundown little town. The French government designated it a ville d’art et d’histoire and helped to restore the ruined buildings. Parisian restaurateurs and hoteliers soon began to trickle down opening chic b&bs such as L’Artemise, an old mas (farmhouse) a short walk out of town, its rooms splashed with contemporary art.
Spend a night at La Maison d’Uzès, where the restaurant (all parquet floors and vibrant velvet chairs) has a Michelin star and its chef, Christophe Ducros, celebrates the Gard’s local produce. An eight-course tasting menu includes a dish of local asparagus with slithers of kumquat and salty caviar with an orange vinaigrette was light and zesty.
The nearby Place aux Herbes is crowded with stalls piled high with local asparagus and strawberries. Graze on local Picholine olives and Pélardon goat’s cheese, sampling artisanal olive oils and stocking up on pungent tapenades and garlic confit, a tub of addictively fragrant white spheres. Join the queue at boulangerie Fougasse d’Uzès for fougasse, the local speciality, a hot flaky focaccia-style bread, filled with anchovies and olives.
More places to stop off in Uzès here…
Today, Uzès is a honeypot, but until about 50 years ago it was a rundown little town.
The Fleurieu peninsula, Australia
The Fleurieu has a Mediterranean climate, laid-back vibe, wild, windswept beaches, swathes of silvery olive groves, a clutch of field-to-fork eateries and farmers’ markets along with more than 70 boutique wineries.
Within the peninsula, McLaren Vale is the birthplace of the South Australian wine industry and home to some of the world’s oldest grapevines. McLaren Vale’s d’Arenberg Cube, a dazzling glass and steel structure that has been dubbed ‘Willy Wonka’s wine factory’, materializes out of the vines like a half-finished Rubik’s Cube. Sample wines with names as intoxicating as the vintages: The Anthropocene Epoch, for example, is the company’s first biodynamic wine, all ballsy beetroot and berries. Or try Alpha Box & Dice, one of the new kids on the block, where the wine cellar is a ramshackle old stable strewn with vintage armchairs, a piano, pinball machine and stuffed armadillo.
For lunch in the McLaren Vale, head to Bocca di Lupo. It combines contemporary Australian and Italian cuisine in innovative dishes such as baby beetroots, liquorice sponge, walnut and chocolate. Or eat at Star of Greece, a rickety beach shack teetering on the clifftop at Port Willunga. At The Salopian Inn, chef-owner Karena Armstrong serves contemporary Australian dishes such as soy-braised kangaroo tail with chilli caramel and szechuan salt.
Next, graze your way round Willunga Farmers’ Market. Willunga is a picture-postcard heritage town with just a whiff of the Wild West. Mooch around stalls of organic fruit and vegetables, local honey, charcuterie and cheeses and buy bags of juicy peaches and tiny, crunchy Paradise pears. Little Acre Foods stand has long queues but it is worth the wait for moreish mushroom panini oozing deep, dark mushrooms smeared with melted raclette and gruyère.
After a few days in McLaren Vale, venture south to the tip of the peninsula, jutting into the Southern Ocean. Driving through quaint Port Elliot with its low-slung old buildings, cool beach boutiques, old-fashioned grocery stores and heritage trail, clock the queue snaking out the door of the legendary Port Elliot Bakery, famous for its meat pies.
McLaren Vale’s d’Arenberg Cube, a dazzling glass and steel structure that has been dubbed ‘Willy Wonka’s wine factory’, materializes out of the vines like a half-finished Rubik’s Cube
Le Stanzie farm is the place to start – its field-to-plate farmhouse restaurant produces everything it serves, from homemade ricotta to bread baked in an original stone oven. Inside there’s a cool warren of rooms, where rustic tables are spread with jauntily checked cloths. At a table beside a fireplace the size of a studio flat, the dishes come thick and fast: bowls of beans cooked on an open fire, creamy ricotta, and the local specialty, orecchiette cime di rapa (handmade ear-shaped pasta with bitter turnip tops and pane cotto).
Those in search of modern elegance can check into La Fiermontina, a 17th-century house turned luxury hotel, replete with cutting-edge art. Or into one of several revamped masseria (fortified farmhouses) that pepper the local landscape – places such as Masseria Trapana and newly refurbished B&B Don Totu. Helen Mirren and her filmmaker husband, Taylor Hackford, even own a chic little bar here, the Farmacia Balboa in Tricase.
There’s an 18th-century winery in the village of Scorrano. Giovanni Guarini’s family has been producing wine and olive oil here for 25 generations. The vineyards are organic and in the summer there are tours, tastings and alfresco dinners at the Duca Carlo Guarani winery. Their mandarin oil is a revelation – it’s exquisitely delicate, perfect with pasta, fish and salad.
Luxury villa company The Thinking Traveller offers a range of Think Experiences drawing on their local expertise, such as cheese-making at Le Stanzie and a hands-on course learning how to make pasticciotto, Puglia’s signature pastry, with award-winning chef, Giuseppe Zippo. They also give suggestions on where to eat, including rustic seafood restaurant Osteria del Vico for antipasto dell’ osteria – a moreish medley of fish featuring Gallipoli’s famous red shrimp served crudo with olive oil and crumbled hazelnut, fried mussels with ricotta scianti (strong ricotta) and breadcrumbs. Don’t miss Zippo’s bakery Le Mille Voglie, in the medieval village of Specchia, and its pasticciotto leccese (a short-crust pastry filled with creamy custard).
Those in search of modern elegance can check into one of the several revamped masseria (fortified farmhouses) that pepper the local landscape – places such as newly refurbished B&B Don Totu
Words by Sarah Baxter and Lucy Gillmore
Photographs by Getty