Sunday 9 December 2018

A foodie guide to the Mediterranean

Every region has a unique culinary identity; whether it is tapas in Spain, pizza in Naples or cannoli in Sicily, enjoying local cuisine is the best way to get to know a new destination.

The Mediterranean is renowned for its glorious food. Ruby red tomatoes, glossy black olives, the freshest seafood and fragrant herbs are just some of the local produce the region boasts. The food is as spectacular as the landscape and often it’s how you eat it that really makes for an authentic experience.

Pizza is best bought from little street stalls and eaten immediately standing in the closest piazza. Tapas is best enjoyed as you perch on a tall stool in a tiny Spanish bar as a guitarist plays in the corner, while moorish Italian desserts should always be eaten with a smooth, rich espresso made by an expert Italian barista.

The Mediterranean offers a foodie experience like no other. Here are our top foodie suggestions in the region.

Tapas in Costa Brava

The Costa Brava is a stunning coastal outcrop in the Catalan region. The capital, Barcelona, is one of Europe’s most popular foodie destinations and for good reason, too. You can find some of the best tapas in the city, with hundreds of authentic eateries tucked away in the city’s labyrinthine streets.

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In recent years tapas has taken the world by storm, but the culinary concept of sharing small plates of delicious food has been in Spain for centuries. It is thought tapas originated in the southern coastal region of Andalusia, where taverna owners would cover the drinking glasses of their patrons with a small slice of ham, cheese or bread to prevent dust settling in the drink. The complimentary snack served with a sherry or beer soon became common place.

It has since evolved to include a plethora of delicious snacks, including olives, fried squid, chorizo sausage, potatoes with a spicy tomato sauce and padron peppers. Eating in small tapas bars off the beaten track ensures you really will be eating like a local in Barcelona.

Explore holiday destinations for Costa Brava here.

Ratatouille in Cannes

When we think of Cannes, we often think of the glitz and glamour the city has become famous for. Since the 1950’s socialites, royalty, playboys and the Hollywood elite have flocked to this stunning length of coast in the French Riviera.

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Beyond the glossy exterior is a vibrant food scene that makes the most of the region’s plentiful produce and traditional recipes. One of the most popular dishes to eat here is Ratatouille, a rich tomato based stew bursting with Mediterranean vegetables like peppers, aubergines and courgettes. It is often served as an accompaniment with grilled meats or fish, although it is so delicious you could happily devour a plate of this on its own.

This traditional Provençal dish originated in Nice and comes from the French term touiller, which means to stir. What was originally a coarse vegetable stew has become a staple of the region and is best eaten sitting outdoors with a cold glass of rosé, as the sparkling blue Riviera glistens in the distance.

Explore holiday destinations for Cannes and the Cote d'Azur here.

Pizza in Naples

When we think of Italian food, our mind instantly arrives at pizza. However, Italian cuisine is incredibly varied region by region. You can order a pizza anywhere in Italy but you’ll experience the best pizza in the city it originated in Naples.

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Nowadays, you can order almost anything on a pizza but a traditional pizza typically has a few, high quality ingredients. In the late 1800s it is thought a Neapolitan pizza maker, Raffaele Esposito, produced the Pizza Margherita, a hot flatbread topped with red tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil to represent the Italian flag. This simple pizza is both one of the original forms of modern-day pizza and the most popular and is a must-taste in Naples.

The city is full of both street-side pizza stalls, where you can buy them by the slice, as well as eateries where you can settle in with a glass of wine and a whole pizza (just don’t ask for pineapple on top).

Explore holiday destinations for this beautiful Italian region here.

Cannoli in Sicily

Sicily produces many beautiful regional dishes thanks to its abundance of fresh seafood and vegetables. It is famed for pasta dishes such as pasta con le sarde (pasta with sardines) but one of its most popular (and scrumptious) dishes is actually a dessert.

Sicilian cannoli are tubes of deep fried pastry filled with a sweet creamy filling, usually ricotta, and dusted with powdered sugar or crushed nuts. They can be bite-sized or as long as your hand, and there are many different types of filling and toppings - all delicious and all very good with a sharp espresso.

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It is thought cannoli were originally prepared as a part of the Carnevale festival that is celebrated in the region in February, although nowadays the dessert is enjoyed all year around. The Ballarò market in Palermo is a favourite spot for cannoli and there are many specialty Italian pasticceria that produce the authentic dessert.

Explore holiday destinations for the Sicilian region here.

Feeling hungry yet? Explore these foodie hot spots and more with Travel Department, who have been providing exceptional travel experiences for Irish customers for over 20 years. They specialise in fully guided holidays, which include return flights, hotel accommodation, guided transfers, excursions and expert local guides for any activities included in your trip, meaning all you need to worry about is enjoying yourself. Visit TravelDepartment.ie to start planning your trip to these incredible destinations.

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