As someone who loves to cook food that sets both my mind and my taste buds on fire, I love bringing ideas and ingredients back from far flung locations. And, for me, the best way to learn about the local foods and food culture when traveling is to listen, ask questions, and be fully engaged on food tours and in the local food markets.
Formal food tours are often great ways to get to know an area through the eyes of a local. I like to take these tours on the second day (of a 3-5 day trip) in town. By the second day of a trip I’ve generally seen enough to have questions the guide can answer, and will have formed a few impressions of the area. Any earlier and my guide’s wealth of knowledge may be largely wasted. Any later and I may not have time to put their advice to use (hunting down a particular ingredient, market, cheese maker, butcher, or restaurant).
Whether it’s a big, crowded, open air local market – stalls overflowing (with local produce, meats, cheese, and sweets), a small urban market that locals visit on their way home, or a neighborhood bakery that bakes loaves for all of the local families, if you are polite, and genuinely curious, the people will often tell you what they eat, why it’s important to them, and how they make it.
In these entries I try to focus on local independent tours and markets, but will write about supermarkets and chain stores if they have something significant to offer. Be warned that markets are very changeable, so these entries may change their hours, or selections frequently. I try to keep up, and update things, but if it comes down to writing updates, or giving you new content, I’ll spend my time bringing you something new. I assume that if you are a curious cook, you’ll do some sleuthing on your own before you go.
To be honest, when others are checking Trip Advisor for restaurant advice, I’m scanning it for local markets and frequently appearing dishes and ingredients. And my questions for the host of my BnB tend not to be “where’s the beach”, but “where can I buy these spices, or that cheese, or a bottle of good local wine”.