This past year many of us at GP globe trotted to far-flung corners, and brought back beautiful photos and stories of what we can learn about foreign cuisines.
Katherine Mok, Senior Marketing Manager
Every year I do an Asia trip to help remind me of my heritage and to get inspiration for the year ahead. One of my favorite things to do is to visit the numerous markets — often considered the heart of the community. Here you can find almost anything, ranging from household goods, clothing, fresh produce, meat, fish, rice, and dried and packaged grocery items. Wandering through the market you take in the pungent smells of fresh fish and dried seafood and spices, the vibrant colors of just-picked vegetables and produce, and the sounds of chatter, chopping, and motorbikes passing through. It’s a beautiful, gritty, and energetic place. I think if you want to try to understand a place and its culture, visit the market. You can learn a lot by observing its people and the type of ingredients and items being offered.
Liz Neumark, GP CEO
Cuba has captured our imagination with its ‘frozen in time’ character, complex political past/present, remarkable population, legendary cigars, and artistic riches. From zero internet connectivity to a fully functional iPhone upon landing, Cuba is evolving in so many ways. I have felt its grip on me since my first visit in 2010 and on each subsequent visit, most recently, last month.
The food is simple as access to ingredients is limited. Most of what is served is grown on the island, and the agricultural history reflects decades of political decisions. The net result of those choices is an under-producing agricultural landscape in spite of excellent soil and growing conditions. Due to the jump in tourists in the past year, restaurants and Paladars are often experiencing food shortages. In January, almost every restaurant I ate at had multiple items missing from the menu.
I have had very tasty upscale dishes from inventive chefs in “trendy” restaurants and delicious rice and beans with local caught fish at neighborhood Paladars. Friends ask for restaurant recommendations all the time, though I think the best places are discovered accidentally. A food trip to Cuba is more of a socio-political-agricultural journey and less an eating focused adventure. To expect anything else is to miss the point of why Cuba is so complex, challenging and alluring all at the same time.
Jessica Wincott, Sales Assistant
For only spending 48 hours in Brussels, I managed to get a little taste of everything they are known for. I think the first thing that comes to mind would be Belgium waffles, which I quickly learned are served for breakfast, lunch, dinner & late night snacks in this city. The pictured one consisted of Nutella and pistachios, but many (many many) other options were available. Brussels is also known for the piping hot frites! There is a local purveyor on every corner and they typically serve them in cones with a variety of sauces drizzled over them as an easy treat to walk with. When it comes to a sit down meal, I went with a traditional pork sausage and mashed potatoes. It was a hearty meal, perfect for the weather their, which is typically rainy and cloudy. Finally, you cannot forget about the most important aspect of this city, which is the beer! Belgium is a country with one of the most breweries in the world! Every shop you enter has about 1,000 different varieties of local beer, and they even have a pub with 2,600 local beers on tap! Can’t say I managed to try all of them, but the few I did try were some of the best I ever had.
Carly Katz-Hackman, Wedding Director
With one of our days in Rome dedicated to “living as the Romans do,” David took on the role of tour guide with a mission to wow me. He searched every non-conformist and off-the-grid travel blog he could find, to come up with an itinerary of destinations the tour books would never take us to. Stop numero uno: Romeow, Rome’s first (and currently only) cat café. Consider me sold!
Not only were the cats PRECIOUS, but the food was incredible. Above is the Quinoa and Vegetable Timbal with Beet Broth above. At first, I was like “cool edible rainbow but you burnt my toast,” but then I was like “what is this magical, black spread on my toast that is somehow savory and sweet at the same time?!”
Anyone who makes a habit of travelling to Florence will tell you that you must go to Vivoli for Gelato and none of these people are lying. You really must go. Open since 1929, they’re the oldest Gelateria in Firenze, and per their website, not much has changed since then. They still use all natural ingredients (a base of milk, sugar, and eggs, plus dried fruit, nuts, and cocoa), and their methods for slow-churning the product has consistently set them apart from the competitors for almost a century.
Italians treat pasta a lot different than Americans do: we virtually bathe our noodles in sauce and let the tomatoes, herbs, and spices shine. Not in Italy! The pasta is the star in the homeland, with just enough sauce to almost dye the pasta and highlight the texture and flavor of the house made noodle itself. And this brings me to my favorite meal of the trip (any maybe my life): Swordfish Lasagna from Ai Tre Scalini. Words truly cannot describe this dish – everything about it was seriously PERFECT. Razor thin noodles, flawless balance of flavor and texture, just-right portion size. I can’t go on. You need to just go eat it. GO! Looking at this picture actually bums me out because it reminds me that my favorite meal is a cool 4300 miles away.
Ali Rae-Baum, Sales Assistant
This past October I visited Italy, a place I had called home 10 years ago. I had worked as a barista at a café in Piazza di San Firenze in Florence, where I used to wander through the streets after work, drinking prosecco from the bottle on the Arno and eating one of the three p’s everyday: Pizza, Pasta and Panino. I hadn’t visited Italy since, and this time I had the pleasure of experiencing the city with my little sister who had never been (a major treat!). I was excited to take her not only to my favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurants and panino shops but to explore new restaurants as well, ones which didn't exist way back when, along with the places that I wouldn’t have ever dreamed of going to during my barista days when I was simply being paid euros under the table. Many of my memories of places I have visited or lived have been, like all food lovers, centered around tastes - tastes in the air, tastes on the plate, tastes in a glass of wine. 10 years have passed, but as soon as I think of the pesto from Borgo Antico in Piazza Santo Spirito, I’m there again. The strength of this sensory memory was so strong that after traveling for 14 hours, my sister and I made it our first stop in Florence. We sat where I used to sit, drank a glass of wine and ate. The dish has not changed in 10 years (neither has the plates and possibly the flatware).