Europe’s top 10 local flavours and where to find them

Drool alert! This collection of Europe’s finest local
flavours may cause involuntary dribbling, mouth-watering, snacking or other
forms of food related indulgence. Proceed at your own risk.


Belgian Waffles
© Jacques Renier/Public Domain

Waffles in Antwerp, Belgium

The Belgian waffle is nothing short of legendary on the
foodie circuit of Northern Europe, and today the winding cobblestone alleyways
of Brussels are always packed to the brim with American travellers discovering
these light and fluffy, thick-cut squares of spongey pastry that put their counterparts
across the Pond to shame. However, the best place to sample these sweet treats
is actually away from the country’s capital, between the historic streets and
bustling portside districts of Antwerp, where joints like Desire de Lille and the Van Hecke Waffle House tout decades
of experience in crafting the perfect desert.

Woodfired pizza oven at Pizzeria Sorbillo, Naples
Wood fired pizza oven at Pizzeria Sorbillo, Naples | © Glen MacLarty/WikiCommons

Pizza in Naples, Italy

It is thought that pizza was first invented in Naples sometime
in the 18th century, when certain innovative chefs started adding
dollops of passata and buffalo mozzarella to the mix of old Roman recipes for
salted flatbreads dressed in olive oil and thyme. Today, this sprawling
town in the shadow of Vesuvius is bursting with oodles of earthy Italian trattorias, hidden holes-in-the-wall touting cheese-packed pies and tomato-topped slices. There’s even a dedicated
association to monitor the production of real, authentic Neapolitan pizza
across the globe! The rules for choosing where to eat: Make sure it’s laden
with locals and there’s a wood-fired oven roaring inside, and if in doubt, head
over to Di Matteo on Via dei
Tribunali, or L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele.

Oktoberfest | © uk:Користувач:Gutsul/GNU

Beer in Munich, Germany

You haven’t tried beer if you haven’t tried a Munich
beer, or so goes the popular mantra of Oktoberfest veterans the world over. And
to a certain extent it’s true, because the frothy cacophony of Bavarian brews
that (over)flows into Southern Germany’s largest city in late September is
fermented meticulously in-line with ancient traditions and standards;
so much so that it simply can’t be served if it doesn’t hit the mark. Be sure
to explore the legendary Hirschgarten,
the largest beer garden on the planet, and the famous Hofbräuhaus too, where tried-and-tested labels
from the Bavarian Big Six rub shoulders with steamy bratwurst and sauerkraut
salads to boot.

Belgian chocolate shop
Belgian chocolate shop | © Jessica Gardner/Flickr

Chocolate in Brussels, Belgium

As soon as cocoa began flooding into Europe from the New World
during the Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th
centuries, Belgian connoisseurs began concerning themselves with creating the
finest chocolates known to man. Fast forward a couple of centuries and it’s
clear that they did a fantastic job of it, with more than 2,000 individual chocolatiers currently working their finesse in the Low Country land. In the capital, Brussels, bespoke
confectioners like La Belgique
Gourmande and Wittamer offer up a
range of sweet-tooth staples that’s worthy of Diagon Alley. There’s even
a museum dedicated to chronicling the history
of this much-loved cocoa indulgence!

Giant seafood Paella cooked on the Catalonian National Day
Giant seafood Paella cooked on the Catalonian National Day| © John Dalton/GNU

Paella in Valencia, Spain

A fresh and flavoursome medley of regional rice and Mediterranean
seafood, European farmland vegetables and earthy North African spices, the Valencian paella
is not just a longstanding symbol of Spain’s third-largest city, but also a taste-bud-tingling
amalgam of divergent culinary traditions; from the folksy fare of the Moroccan Moors, to the
ancient practices of the Roman kitchen. Debate has raged for centuries about
where the best place to sample this Spanish treat is, and will no doubt continue
on for many more, but generally speaking it’s a good idea to order ahead (as
the dish can sometimes take hours to prepare) and opt for somewhere with plenty
of history, like La Pepica over on Playa
de la Malvarosa.

Bæjarins bestu
Bæjarins bestu |© Jóhann Heiðar Árnason/GNU

Hot dogs in Reykjavik, Iceland

Forget New York and the Upper East Side, and leave Frankfurt
to its frankfurters, because the world’s real hot dog king is Reykjavik,
Iceland! Since the early 20th century, this charming little capital
of painted timber homes and snow-dusted streets has played host to the Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur chain of concession stands,
which roughly translates to ‘The Best Hot Dogs in Town’. This one
does exactly what it says on the tin—throwing up classic sausage sandwiches
packed with fried onions, peppery mustard and a dousing of French remoulade!

A view of the Piedmont region
A view of the Piedmont region| © Piedmont Properties/WikiCommons

Wine in the Langhe Valley, Italy

Touting some of Italy’s finest white and red wine labels and
a handsome backcountry of rolling hills, sweeping vineyards and rustic
red-tiled hamlets to match, the UNESCO-attested climes of the Langhe Valley are
an epicurean’s dream-come-true. Famous tipples to emerge from this land on the
edge of the regal Piedmont region of the North include aged Barbaresco and rosy
Barolo (both made from the Nebbiolo grape), a name which has attained the deserving
epithet of the ‘King of Wines’. To indulge your palate, head for the
picturesque red-brick wisp of a town, Alba, where there are oodles of cellar
doors between the gothic frontispieces and nearby, the Renato
Ratti Wine Museum too.

Bread, sausage, steak, cheese, egg...
Bread, sausage, steak, cheese, egg… | © Filipe Fortes/WikiCommons

Francesinha in Porto, Portugal

There’s nothing dainty or gourmet about Porto’s
culinary claim to fame, which makes this one a welcome break from many of the
other delicacies on this list. Indeed, Francesinha—a booming, stacked sandwich with
layer upon layer of melted cheese, cut chipolata sausages, crusted ham slices,
steaks and other meaty treats besides—is a hearty meal of epic proportions,
served up with a generous pile of French fries and doused in a trademark sauce.
If you’re looking for the finest that Portugal’s northern city has to offer,
then check out Café
Santiago, or the Cufra Grill by the

Goulash in Budapest, Hungary

The hearty Hungarian goulash came to life sometime in the 9th
century, when herdsmen and farmers of central Europe’s hinterland
discovered a way of curing meat with sunlight to preserve it for future
cooking. The product was a filling, simple and rustic dish laden with necessary
proteins and fats and bursting at the brim with tough and chewy meat slices.
Today though, the goulash served in joints like Megyeri Csárda Tavern and Kiado
Kocsma in central Budapest is more like a soup, infused with the unforgettable
aromas of smoked paprika and healthy dashes of local vegetables.

The valleys of central Istria, close to Livade
The valleys of central Istria | © Joseph Richard Francis

Truffles in Istria, Croatia

Forget French Périgord, Istria is the place to go for
truffles these days, with oodles of
fantastic eateries now popping up between the old Italian streets of
hilltop Motovun and the cobblestone alleys of pretty Rovinj. Their menus tout everything
from truffle-infused tagliatelle to scrambled egg with a truffle top, while
nearby producers of Istrian olive oil sprinkle flakes of truffle in their storage
casks and Giancarlo Zigante
(the man famed for finding the largest truffle on the planet back in 1999),
sells truffle pate, pickled truffles and truffle-based catering supplies from
his base in the charming inland valley village of Livade.

By Joseph Richard Francis