Foodie Travel Tips From Garden of the Gods Club’s Executive Chef
One of the best ways to experience another culture is by enjoying its unique cuisine. Today we have the pleasure of speaking with Garden of the Gods Club Executive Chef Steve Weber about his tips for safely experiencing a variety of foods while traveling abroad. In addition to living in Belgium for 15 years and Germany for four years, Chef Steve has traveled to 27 countries, primarily in Europe and the Middle East. We invite you to follow along with our conversation below.
Garden of the Gods Club (GGC): When it comes to eating while traveling abroad, what are some key words of advice that travelers should keep in mind?
Chef Steve (CS): When I was living and traveling abroad, I always made an effort to avoid areas where I didn’t “feel” safe. I think that’s something you should always keep in mind. Probably one of the best ways to find great eateries is to take note of places where the local people eat. Also, it’s a great idea to eat when the local people eat and stay away from the places that aren’t as occupied. If a place isn’t very busy during peak hours, there’s a good chance that the food isn’t up to par.
GGC: What is your advice for avoiding food-borne illness while traveling abroad?
CS: This is a difficult question to answer because the food standards are different in every country. People generally develop immunities to the foods and practices in their area. One trick that I’ve always used, particularly if you’re visiting a local eatery in a small town, is to check out the restroom in the establishment. Generally, if the restroom isn’t well cared for, then I don’t want to know what the kitchen looks like!
GGC: What are some of your favorite foods from countries that you’ve visited?
CS: There are definitely some incredible foods out there! Prague does comfort food very well, with delicious braised and stewed foods. Hungary has good comfort food as well. Nobody in the world can top Belgian French fries! The combination of their soil, climate, and the way they prepare their fries can’t be duplicated. Belgian beer and truffles are also incredible. Because I can get Belgian chocolate, I’m pretty good at replicating those truffles. Greek food is wonderful. The shish kebabs, grilled meats, olive oil, and bright, fresh veggies picked straight from the garden make their food very “happy!” They [the Greeks] are very happy in the way they prepare and enjoy their food. I also like traditional French food, but unlike the Greeks, the French are much more serious about their food.
GGC: What are some of your favorite herbs and spices from other countries?
CS: I enjoy the saffron from Turkey; it’s much more affordable than the saffron from Spain. I also like some of the aromatic spices from the Middle East. Although we [Americans] traditionally use spices like cinnamon, cloves, and allspice in desserts, they can also go well with meat and rice dishes when used sparingly. The herb fenugreek tastes great in mashed potatoes. With the wide variety of fresh herbs, the need for dried herbs isn’t as great. Pretty much any herbs that you would purchase in Europe you can find still growing, and you would literally buy it in the pot.
GGC: For the coffee lovers out there, what are some of your favorite coffees from abroad?
CS: The Italians know how to make espresso the “right” way. Espresso doesn’t have to be bitter when it’s created with the right beans and the right pressure on the beans. My all-time favorite coffee, however, is the German coffee Jacobs Krönung. It’s made with an Ethiopian bean that is processed by the Germans. You can actually find this coffee at Wimberger’s Old World Bakery and Deli in Colorado Springs.
The world of food is a very wide one! Even if you’re not planning an international trip any time soon, consider venturing out and trying a new recipe or eatery from another culture. Here at Garden of the Gods Club, Members have opportunities to experience various world cuisines at themed buffets, such as Italian Night each Wednesday. To learn more about membership, please visit our website, www.gardenofthegodsclub.com.
If you will be traveling abroad this year, we hope that you find Chef Steve’s expert tips helpful. Do you have any tips for enjoying international cuisines? If so, please share them in the comment box below.