Virtual travel experiences for foodies
Take part in an online Japanese tea ceremony, rustle up fresh pasta using a YouTube video or enjoy a Swedish woodland feast from your armchair with these virtual travel experiences for foodies
Sweden – for a virtual wild food adventure
Wander through woodlands with Michelin-starred chef Jacob Holmström, crouching down in the undergrowth as he prepares a forest broth with poached perch and broiled herb butter. Holmström is one of four chefs who have created a series of menus for Swedien's Edible Country project, highlighting the abundance of foraged food in the country's backyard – all 100 million acres of it.
A DIY gourmet dining initiative, the original concept was that travellers could book a seat at a rustic outdoor table in one of 23 remote locations then cook dishes with ingredients they’ve sourced themselves from the surroundings (think smoked char, chanterelles, juniper berries and wood sorrel followed by acorn and hazelnut crumbs, with fruit and berry compote); a foraging guide and chef were optional extras. Until travel restrictions are lifted, however, you can go for a virtual woodland feast instead by watching the project’s films online – or, if you substitute some of the more local ingredients for those found in your own backyard, you can cook up a foraged Swedish feast at home using the recipes on the website.
Champagne – for a virtual wine tour
Soar over bucolic vineyards, watch grape-pickers at work, journey into the chalk-carved cellars where millions of bottles are aged then sweep down the Avenue de Champagne in Epernay where you'll find the headquarters of prestigious champagne houses such as Mercier and Moet et Chandon. All from the comfort of home, since this virtual tour of the Champagne region and its wineries is available online; if you have a pair of Google Cardboard goggles or virtual reality headset you can experience it in 3D.
If it leaves you wanting to expand your knowledge, the Comité Champagne, which represents 16,000 growers and 340 champagne houses, also offers a free online course, the MOOC, for budding wine enthusiasts. This outlines the champagne making process, the terroir, history and economy of the region and runs through tasting notes.
Italy – for a home-style cooking experience
Catapult yourself into the rustic kitchens of Italy's Pasta Grannies and celebrate the legacy of the country’s wonderful home cooks by subscribing to author and filmmaker Vicky Bennison's YouTube channel (follow the link from the Pasta Grannies website).
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Cook along with Paula Volgger in the South Tyrol, for instance, as she makes traditional canederli, or bread dumplings, on a wood-fired stove in her 400 year-old farmhouse or 'maso' in the mountains (the recipe is included in the text below the video). Or immerse yourself in Rina's Piemonte as she shows you how to make tajarin or tagliolini with porcini, a classic dish from the Asti region where her family have milled organic stone-ground flour for more than 50 years. For other ideas on recreating an Italian culinary experience at home check out our guide to Italian cookbooks.
Oregon – for a virtual food trail
It might not be quite the same as hitting the rural roads of this fertile corner of north-west America in real life but taking a virtual roadtrip along one of Oregon's self-guided Food Trails via Travel Oregon's YouTube channel is the next best thing.
The Great Umpqua Food Trail, for instance, introduces you to the producers who farm on the banks of the Umpqua river in southern Oregon. Along the way you’ll meet winemakers such as Stephen Reustle of Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards, delve into the world of olive oil producer Elaine Smith and stroll through the orchards of fourth-generation fruit farmer, Mark Brosi. There are 70 stops along the trail; if the video leaves you wanting to explore the region’s food producers in more depth you’ll also find an interactive map and more information here.
We also recommend checking out Oregon’s North Coast Food Trail. This leads viewers through 60 foodie pitstops along an 85-mile stretch of coast from Cannon Beach to Lincoln City with chef Bob Neroni as your guide; highlights along the way include bakeries, distilleries and a crab cook-up on the beach.
Mauritius – for tropical flavours
If it’s a taste of the tropics you’re after, sit back and enjoy a virtual escape to the community-focused, Slow Food-inspired resort SALT in Mauritius. A series of videos on the resort’s website introduces you to the inspiring people – the “SALT Shakers” – behind the concept and takes you to some of their favourite foodie experiences around the Indian Ocean island. Executive Chef, Dave Minten, for example, takes viewers to the local market to shop for mango and tamarind, shares his favourite street food eats – rotis – and explains how local fishermen free-dive for sea urchins in the sea. If this leaves you hungry to find out more you can extend your virtual travel experience by reading our feature about the resort, and the island, here.
Savoie – for cheese lovers
We said at the beginning of the year that cheese tourism was going to be big this year but until travel restrictions are lifted you’ll have to get your hit online instead. Start by watching the clutch of short films about artisan cheese-makers in France and Switzerland that have been created by raw milk cheese specialists Mons Cheesemonger. The films take you through the process, from cow to curd to ageing cave but if that sounds a little technical the films are anything but.
Escape to the wild Alpine scenery as Jean-Jaques cuts summer grass laced with wild chives, white clover and daisies to make hay for the cows. Or sit back and let jangling cowbells transport you to the upper valleys of the Vanoise National Park, in the Savoie region of France, where Catherine Richard produces Bleu de Termignon cheese by hand after milking her cows in a 400 year-old parlour. For the full 360 experience why not order some delicious cheeses from Mons’ online shop and taste while you watch? Just bear in mind that many of these cheeses are produced in very small quantities so not all of them will be in stock.
East & South Africa – for conservation-minded foodies
Safari is the Swahili word for journey – something we're not able to embark on at the moment. However ecotourism and conservation operator Singita, which has 15 lodges and camps across Africa, has just launched its first cookery book Singita: Our Food Journey. Showcasing traditional and contemporary African dishes, the book offers a flavour of the safari experience at home.
Pour yourself a sundowner as you whip up Tanzanian futari, a sweet potato, butternut and coconut stew, or South African classics such as malva pudding or Zambezi beer-battered bream, inspired by the catch of the day from Lake Malilangwe. It’s an investment (the book costs £65) but proceeds go towards supporting the Singita Community Culinary School in South Africa and Tanzania and the coffee table-style tome is full of stories of the people behind the recipes such as poacher turned pastry chef Peter Andrew.
To get yourself in the mood before you start cooking, go on a virtual game drive or take a behind-the-scenes tour of the culinary school and some of the talented young chefs who have been supported by it.
Greece – for virtual holiday food vibes
We challenge anyone who read our recent feature on Pelion not to want to start immediately planning a trip to this foodie corner of Greece. While that’s impossible in person at the moment, you can wallow in a whistlestop tour of the Pelion Peninsula with Greentraveller's immersive film of the region. Fly over rocky coastline tumbling into turquoise sea, watch a circle of women in traditional dress dance in a village square to celebrate the annual chestnut harvest and see fishermen hauling in their nets in the drowsy sunshine. You can almost smell the aroma of sizzling meatballs and taste pastries being drizzled with honey. Wander past a family eating under the trees, toast the day with a shot of ouzo and virtually browse tubs of shiny olives glinting on market stalls.
Melbourne – for a virtual market tour
In our foodie guide to Melbourne we raved about the city’s Queen Victoria market, a landmark spot that opened in 1878 and, sprawling over seven acres, is the largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere. At the moment the market is still open and traders are following social distancing measures but, unless you’re a local buying essential food supplies, the recommended way to get your fix of all its lovely produce for now is by taking a virtual visit via the market’s YouTube channel.
Sit back and enjoy a guided tour with the help of one of the market’s own guides, Sarah Cornish, and local chef, Daniel Wilson. You'll meet Lucas, who can schuck up to a dozen oysters in a minute, watch fishmongers expertly filleting fish, discover how butcher Max has made enough sausages to string them around the world seven times and drool over various street food stalls (not least the steaming hot, jam-oozing doughnuts). Other films on the channel focus on sustainability (think refillable wine bottles and compostable coffee cups) and diversity (the market is home to everything from multi-cultural streetfood stalls to grocers selling the culturally-specific fruit and veg their cooking calls for).
Japan – for a virtual slice of culinary culture
Kneel on the floor and imagine yourself in Japan with the help of Live Japan’s virtual tea ceremony. A 360-degree real-time experience, the film will give you ten minutes of Zen-like relaxation while also introducing you to the intricacies of the traditional tea ceremony.
Stay in Japan (albeit remotely) by watching Ikigai, one of a series of short films created by the Japanese National Tourism Organisation for its #FallingInLoveWithJapan campaign. The dream-like montage takes you free-diving with the Ama, women who fish for abalone and sea urchins; others cover a modern-day fishmarket and restaurant kitchens where chefs prepare sushi and sashimi. Weaving in geisha, temple trails and modern cityscapes the films beautifully convey the many faces of modern-day Japan.
Words by Lucy Gillmore
Photographs by Tina Stafrén, Comité Champagne, Getty, Visit Tillamook Coast, Singita and Clare Hargreaves
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