Eat Rio Food Tour (Rio Day 5)

One of our favorite things to do while traveling recently is to take a food tour of some sort while in a city. We’ve found it’s an amazing way to really get to know both the food and the culture of a city. It’s usually more intimate than a city wide sight seeing tour and you get a great insight into the local food scene from a local guide. In Rio, we easily narrowed in on the Eat Rio Food Tours. Every review we read was outstanding and it was an easy choice for the four of us to include the food tour on one of our free days in the city. We booked super early (like a couple months ahead) due to the Olympics and were glad when they had availability on two of our possible days we listed. The tour started around 10am and the meeting location in Lapa was within walking distance from our AirBnb.

We were extremely excited by the time the tour came around after having been in Rio for four days and not finding a lot of exciting places to eat or food to try. Unfortunately, as we learned on the tour local Rio de Janeiro food isn’t all that exciting. It really does feature a lot of meat and per kilo restaurants that we saw everywhere, but luckily we did learn that the cuisine in the rest of the country was a bit more exciting. The tour took us to a variety of restaurants and places that let us sample different regional specialties, which we all thought was fantastic since a tour of only local Rio food would consist of meat and more meat. Our guide, Angela, is originally from Australia, but has been living in Brazil for many years after marrying a local Brazilian. She offered fascinating insight into transitioning from a country with a lot of diverse food options, to a city with a more narrow interest in culinary tastes.

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Belgian Cuisine

Like I stated in my Amsterdam/Dutch food wrap up, I didn’t know much about Belgian cuisine other than it featuring beer and chocolate to some extent. Spending a few days in Belgium isn’t enough to learn all there is to know about the food scene, we did learn it’s a unique mix of food culture. We didn’t get to try many of the more popular traditional Belgian main courses due to a variety of other choices we made which I will explain as I go. This just gives us a better reason to come back and try those traditional dishes.

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The Brussels Journey: Chocolate and Beer Tour (EuroTrip Day 4)

How can you go to Brussels and not partake in a chocolate and beer tasting tour? I had stumbled across a chocolate only tasting tour on another travel blog and upon looking more into it more, I came across the Brussels Journey chocolate and beer tasting tour. After reading the glowing reviews on Trip Advisor and browsing the website, we booked the tour for our first afternoon in Brussels. It was an incredibly informative and fun afternoon spent sampling chocolate and beer. You also get a mini walking tour of the city between the tasting places and our guide pointed out a lot of things we wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. He also pointed out decent places to eat amidst the more touristy geared restaurants.

We especially liked that the tour focused solely on the lesser known chocolatiers in Brussels. We didn’t visit the household names of Godiva and Neuhaus, but the smaller shops that are still primarily located in Brussels. Our first stop was Chocopolis. The Chocopolis store location was very near our hotel and close to the Galeries Royales St. Hubert. The store opened in 2006 and is unique in that they produce their chocolates inside their store location eliminating transportation of the produced chocolates. Unfortunately when we were there, they weren’t actively producing any chocolates. It was still neat however to see the set up of how they make the chocolates. At Chocopolis, we tried just one chocolate truffle (or praline as they are known in Belgium), a 66% dark chocolate with chili flavor inside. While it wasn’t my favorite chocolate of the tour as I’m not a big chili fan, it was a good introduction to Belgian chocolate and Brian especially enjoyed this one.

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Dutch Cuisine

I’m going to do a separate post for Amsterdam and Belgium cuisine as they are quite different even though we hit both places on the same trip. Before deciding to visit Amsterdam, I really didn’t know much about Dutch cuisine. It’s not something commonly eaten or advertised in the States, so I was intrigued to learn about it.

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Albert Cuyp Market (EuroTrip Day 2)

The Albert Cuyp Market is located in the De Pijp district of Amsterdam. We made the short walk to the famous street market for lunch after spending the morning visiting the Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk museum. The Albert Cuyp Market has been around since 1905, but has expanded to included over 200 stalls with multiple restaurants lining the street and surrounding area making it the largest street market in Europe. You can find everything from spices, bread, and local Dutch snacks to clothes, shoes, and souvenirs.

We first walked the length of Albert Cuypstreet then made our way back stopping at the stalls that caught our eye (and armed with the knowledge of which were can’t miss stalls). Our first food stop was at Chris Kip where we tried some chicken kebabs of sorts with satay (peanut sauce). They were warm and delicious on a windy afternoon. The place was pretty busy but we were able to snag one of the stand up tables to enjoy our chicken.

Albert Cuyp Market

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Chinese Cuisine

As I did after I finished my posts from Iceland, I am doing a food wrap up of sorts for Beijing and Xi’an. Authentic Chinese cuisine is very different than what is served in American style Chinese restaurants. We knew it would be very different, but we were surprised just how different the food was. We rarely came across anything that our version of Chinese food even resembled. One thing we also learned is that Chinese cuisine varies greatly based on the area within China. Beijing is considered northern China and thus has a very different traditional cuisine compared to cities in the Southern part of the country. Xi’an food is more of a mix of multiple cultures due to it’s location at the start/end of the historic Silk Road.

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Peking Duck at Siji Minfu (China Day 7)

If you are a foodie (and honestly, even if you aren’t), the one thing you MUST eat while in Beijing is Peking duck. It’s probably the most famous dish that Beijing is known for. There are countless restaurants serving up the famous dish, but before I get into that, I will give you a bit of history on the dish.

Most historians estimate that the introduction of roasting duck dates back to the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and that the idea came from Europeans. While the Chinese didn’t have the abundance of geese like the Europeans, they did have plenty of ducks which made a fine substitute. Though there is some debate that it goes back even further to the 400’s when the capital was in Jinling. There is evidence that people roasted duck often in that area during that time period and that when the Yuan Dynasty moved the capital to Beijing, they took the tradition of roasting duck with them and from there Beijing refined the technique. It was traditionally only served to the Royal Family until 1861 and 1864 when the restaurants Bianyifang (using the older oven roasting technique) and Quanjude (using the newer hanging duck technique) opened.

I researched quite a bit for our Peking Duck dinner as I wanted to make sure we visited one of the top places for it. We were only going to eat Peking Duck once in Beijing, so I wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to be a wasted trip. Everywhere you walk in Beijing, you will see duck being advertised, but only in select restaurants (though you still have plenty to chose from) will do the entire tableside preparation. The restaurant names that I kept coming across as the best depending on the source were: LiQun, Quanjude, Made in China, Da Dong, and Siji Minfu (in no particular order).

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Hutong Food Tour (China Day 6)

A recurring theme on our China trip, was eating food. We did a food tour in Xi’an, ate our hearts out in Muslim Street in Xi’an, a cooking class in Beijing, and now a hutong food tour in Beijing. We booked our tour through Viator, but we were given a business card by our tour guide (who actually owns the company) at the end. She runs Discover Beijing Tours if you want to book directly or book one of her many other tours. Our guide Qing, was amazing. She added so much to this tour, that while we may have enjoyed the food more on the Xi’an tour, we preferred this one. But more on that in a minute.

After arriving back in Beijing in the early morning after our overnight train ride from Xi’an, we took a taxi to our hotel. This time around in Beijing we were staying at the Beijing Raffles Hotel. It is located extremely close to the Forbidden City and Wangfujing Street is just around the corner. A metro stop is located on the corner as well. Brian had been wanting to stay in a Raffles for a long time and Beijing provided our opportunity to splurge just a little and stay there. Though splurging on a 5 star hotel in Beijing isn’t nearly as costly as in the US, Europe, or other countries. + Read More

Lost Plate Food Tour (China Day 4)

The Lost Plate food tour we did while in Xi’an was one of the unexpected highlights of our time in China. We had already booked a food tour in Beijing, so when I stumbled on the Xi’an food tour I initially didn’t look into it. But after thinking about it and reading such rave reviews, we opted to do a food tour in both cities. Our Beijing food tour would be done upon our return to the city. In the end, I’m so glad that we did both. They were very different, as you will see when I post about the Beijing one.

The Lost Plate food tour included complimentary pickup (within the city walls I believe) and started at 6pm. We had one other couple on the tour the night we went and they were actually staying at a hotel within the same complex as we were which made for easy pick up for both couples. We traveled around town via private tuk-tuk and were allowed to drink unlimited beer and soda.

Lost Plate Food Tour

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Garden at Lama Temple Cooking Class (China Day 3)

On all of our travels, we have talked about attending a cooking class but had just never gotten around to it. While I can’t cook anything save grilled cheese and waffles (eaten separately of course), Brian is quite the chef. It’s why at home we eat in more than eating out and why we usually are okay with spending more on eating out on vacation than most as we don’t do it at home often. But all that changed during a cooking class at Garden at Lama Temple. Well not everything as I still can’t really cook, but I can make a decently looking dumpling at least. I found the cooking class online via Trip Advisor.

She offers cooking classes during lunch and dinner on odd number days only, though I don’t think the lunchtime option is offered year round. We chose the dinner cooking class which started at 5pm and lasted slightly over 3 hours. We made several types of dumplings (both a meat and a vegetarian option) as well as having the dumplings cooked in several ways (steamed, boiled, and pan fried). We also made some noodles. We met Joyce at the coffee shop near the subway stop (close to Lama Temple) which is close to her cooking school. Her kitchen is located back in a hutong and on the walk there she offered some insight into the hutong culture and how it is changing.

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