Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Forage for lunch?

How to forage for lunch: cook's guide to hunting & gathering

What’s the best thing to take with you on a rural food-gathering trip? Well, obviously, it’s an award-winning chef keen to return to nature, and preferably one in possession of a little bit of wilderness to return to.

Fortunately, such a man exists and, counter-intuitively, can be found in central London. He’s Adam Byatt, Essex-born chef proprietor of much-lauded Trinity on Clapham Common, Bistro Union and, latterly, Upstairs at Trinity. Read more on the Telegraph website here.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Porto & the Douro Valley - Part 1

“In this region, known simply as ‘behind the mountains’ (or ‘Trás Montanha’ in Portuguese) the women are said to look like men, and the men like werewolves”, Catarina, our guide from Porto, explained as our bus struggled up a hill and into said mountains, before it would descend into the Douro Valley on the other side.  “But they make excellent wine; and even better port”, Catarina continued with a cheeky smile. Ample compensation she seemed to infer.

The drive from Porto was very scenic, and apparently the train ride is even more spectacular. The roads climbs gently from the coast through verdant green vegetation and at about 900m starts to wind back down. At this point the geology changes too, with the rocks changing from predominantly granite to predominantly shale. This is the key to Douro’s way of life and means as it means vines can penetrate deeper to find water and hence produces a unique environment for grape growing, and in particular for growing touriga nacional, the primary grape used for producing port wines. It is forbidden in Douro to irrigate vines other than right after planting as they are required to search deep beneath the ground and the porous shale for water, and the harder the search, ultimately the better the grapes. It is also home to many citrus trees.

The Douro Valley is the only source for port grapes and its dry climate of searing summer temperatures and cold winters is perfect for growing touriga nacional grapes, the primary grape used in port production. Rose plants are commonly planted beside the vines in the Douro Valley as they act as an early warning system for diseases that affect the vine, as the symptoms of many of the diseases and bugs that affect the vines are apparent earlier in roses than in the vines themselves. The fermentation of the port is stopped by adding a neutral grape spirit, often referred to as brandy - but not particularly similar to brandy meant for consumption - which fortifies the wine. The wine is then stored, usually in French or American oak for the vintages, or in bottles for more regular years. For this ageing process the Douro Valley’s climate is generally unsuitable (though some do it by storing wines deep inside the mountain where it is cooler and temperatures are more consistent). Porto, however, is better suited with its humid, consistent temperatures and so most quality port is aged in Porto or its twin city on the Southern bank of the Douro river, Villa Nova de Gaia.

We visited a number of vineyards and port wineries on our four day visit of Porto and the Douro Valley, and it was interesting to see both the consistency of tradition but also how technology is being embraced by some producers, for example in the use of robots to crush grapes, though the robots are designed to imitate the process of humans crushing grapes, so for example is very important that the robots do not crush the seeds which add acidity to the port and result in a lower quality wine.  

Other wineries, for example that of Quinta De Pacheca, near Regua town in the Douro Valley, and dating back to the 17th Century, rely only on traditional foot crushed grapes and are determined to keep the old traditions alive.  In September when the grapes have been harvested each of the ten granite tanks at Quinta da Pacheca are filled with 14,000 kilos of grapes and 14 men. The men always move to a beat, with music often being provided by a live accordionist. They move firstly in uniform lines, up and down, for about an hour and half, then keeping a consistent rhythm but with less structure to their direction they move at will through the tank.  

The Douro Valley is also home to non-port wines and this is a development that is expanding and higher quality wines have been coming out of this region for some time now. Wineries such as Quinta Novo Nossa Senhora do Carmo, near Pinhão, have pioneered this and have moved away from the production of port in favour of regular wines and its reputation is growing fast. The vineyard and hotel are stunningly set above the Douro river with excellent views across the valley in all directions, and the welcome is warm and genuine.  Definitely one to come back to.

- David

Monday, 17 December 2012

Christmas Recipes from Mexico! 

Everyone loves Christmas, it's a time to get together and enjoy time with family and loved ones, and to celebrate the end of the year with good food and wine. But let's admit it, while the Turkey's a treat, brussel sprouts and Christmas pudding aren't always everyone's favourite. Wouldn't you like to end the year with something a little different...


Christmas is big in Mexico, and the food is rich, warming and just that little bit exotic. Curl up by the fire with a chili and cinnamon hot chocolate after some tasty Mexican tamales. Swap mulled wine for ponche, a traditional Christmas punch, or make your deserts a little lighter by trying a classic Mexican alternative. 

Here are some tasty Mexican recipes you can try this Christmas...

Did you know that in Mexico, 'La Posadas', or the events which build up to Christmas Eve are just as important to Mexicans as Christmas itself. Each night from the 16th December to 24th December Mexicans perform a ceremony known as the 'Posada' which is led by children. The celebrations culminate with a firework celebration on Christmas Eve and the traditional 'Mass of the Rooster'. 

And don't forget Mexican pinata (left) which is filled with sweets!

You can read about Mexican Christmas traditions in more detail here

Want to learn how to cook Mexican food with the help of our local experts? Here is the link to our Mexican food tour, 'Flavours of Oaxaca'.

In the meantime, a very Happy Christmas here from Trip Feast! 


Thursday, 13 September 2012

Philippines food in pictures

One of Asia's lesser known cuisine's, the Philippines', is captured by the BBC in this beautiful gallery of food images. Click here to view the gallery. To read about Philippines attempts to bring more spotlight to its cuisine click here. To experience first-hand the food and culture of the Philippines on our Taste of the Philippines tour click here

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Top 10 foods to try before you die!

Sampling the local cuisine can help you make friends, understand the history, politics or religion of the place you're visiting and provide a lasting memory of your trip. Food and travel go hand in hand, and there's no better way to delve deep into a destination than to try its most famous dishes.
No matter where you go around the world, every culture puts its own spin on food, whether they're serving a slightly different version of a familiar favorite or a strange (to you) dish sure to challenge even the most adventurous eater.
From China's famous Peking duck to good old US barbecue, here are ten iconic dishes from around the world that every traveler should try at least once!
Check them all out here.

And to taste some of the best check out our Malaysia food tour (seafood curry laksa), our South India food tour (masala dosa), our China food tour (Peking duck) and our Thailand food tours (Som tam/green papaya salad). Enjoy!

Turkish Airlines Food Named No. 1

A panel of international travelers has spoken and named Turkish Airlines' cuisine the best in-flight food, beating out 18 other airlines around the world. The survey, coordinated by flight comparison site Skyscanner, asked passengers to judge airline food based on presentation and taste. Turkish Airlines menu, which includes such dishes as Turkish meatballs, stuffed eggplant, caprese salad, and walnut pear tart, took first place with a score of 86%. Read more

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Colombia Coffee Region

Day 1: Coffee Region - Pereira

It was a morning flight from Bogota to Pereira, one of the three major towns in Colombia's verdant coffee region. As the plane approached Pereira all I could see was mile-upon-mile of lush green mountains. We were greeted at the airport and whisked away to our hacienda where we were served the freshest Colombian fruit juice (passionfruit is widespread here and with good reason extremely popular).

After a filling lunch and some energetic dancing from some Colombian dancers, we moved on to the wonderful Hacienda Venecia, where the owner, Juan, gave us an extremely informative and interesting tour of his vast coffee plantation. There is a real science to coffee cultivation and he explained the challenges of unpredictable climate and trading in the international market. Starting from seedlings and the careful nurturing of the coffee plant, once the first leaves start to appear, the plant is shifted to the main plantation where it is nurtured until the coffee beans bear fruit. Only once the beans turn from green to red are they picked by hand.

Colombia is known the world over for the finest washed Arabica coffee, and the soil and climate lends the bean a sweet flavour. Juan then went on to show us the complex machinery used to 'wash' the beans. After washing, the beans have a green tinge and are then stored in large coffee sacks ready to be sold in the international market. Due to the ever-growing demand for coffee and the prices that can be fetched for raw beans, Colombia exports its best beans, which are then roasted abroad and sold in supermarkets and drank in huge volumes in coffee shops around the world.

Juan also showed us how the roasting process is carried out using a small roasting machine. In just 7 minutes, these green beans took on a deep brown colour, expanded in size, giving off the most delightful aroma. He then served us cafe tinto (black coffee) which tasted sublime. It was easily the smoothest cup of coffee I remember having in a long time. and the slightly sweet undertones also came through.

Just spending a few hours in Juan's company, I felt humbled by the hard work and dedication these coffee farmers put into cultivating the finest coffee beans. There is no doubt coffee is vital for Colombia and is one of its major exports. Numerous livelihoods depend on coffee production and all those involved take great pride in it. Having tasted real Colombian coffee, I can't see myself drinking coffee from anywhere else!