I often come back from a trip and wish for the flavors of vacation. Food and travel go hand in hand in my book. As I try new flavors on the road, I get inspired to experiment in my kitchen when I get home. Sometimes, I really miss access to certain foods I come to love on my adventures, but often, these products are available by mail (thanks, Amazon!) These are some of my favorite flavor discoveries from my travels.
Several years ago my husband and I had the chance to spend five sun-filled days in Maui with some of our dearest friends. We made many memories that week: watching humpback whales breach the surface of the sea, snorkeling with sea turtles, exploring the moon-like peak of a volcano, and savoring my first loquat (a sweet orange fruit I’ve not found since my trip.) A small but indelible memory is a delightful surprise we encountered on our Hawaiian Airlines flight, when the crew served little cups of Pass-O-Guava Nectar (known locally as POG) I'd never heard of this juice, a delicious combination of passion fruit, orange, and guava. I'm so used to bare-bones flights with few perks that this small cup of sweet, refreshing hospitality made me very happy. It was love at first sip! We bought plenty of POG during our trip. We mixed most of it with rum to create POG cocktails that we called POGtails. I can't find POG often on grocery shelves in the Boston area, but thankfully Amazon has my back. POGtails for everyone!
I won't lie. The first time I tried Turkish delight, I hated it. The rose-flavored jelly that my schoolmate let me sample while we were studying abroad in London was not my thing. At. All. For years, I thought of Turkish delight as a weird-textured, rose-flavored candy. But taste buds change. Or at least sometimes you learn your first impressions aren't 100 percent right. I had the good fortune to get a great deal to Italy via Istanbul on Turkish Air. The airline was served plenty of decent food and drinks on our nine-hour journey to Istanbul from Boston. Near the end of our flight, the crew passed out Turkish delight. I gave it another chance, and I'm happy that I did. This candy was sweet, slightly chewy, and covered in crunchy pistachios. Not a floral note to it at all. It was delicious! And "lucky" for me, I had a five-hour layover in Istanbul (cheap flight, you know) where tons of Turkish delight candies were on sample in the duty-free shop. I discovered that not all Turkish delight is rose-flavored. The pistachio was awesome, and I bought boxes of this newly treasured candy to bring home to everyone I knew. Those boxes are long gone, but it's under ten bucks on Amazon.
For some reason, I decided that the end of November would be a great time for my husband and me to visit Great Britain, including several days in Edinburgh. When I planned this, I did not consider the very short days (it gets dark starting at about 4:00 p.m. that time of year) and the wet, dreary weather. One especially drizzly day, we came back to our comfy hotel room in Edinburgh for a spot of tea to warm up; our hotel offered quite a nice in-room tea set with electric kettle and assortment of teas (one of my favorite British hotel perks!). Included in this tea set were two Tunnock's wafer biscuits, which were the absolute perfect afternoon treat. These biscuits were light and crispy, covered in milk chocolate, and filled with caramel! During our stay, I found a store and stocked up on several dozen of these sweets, which did not last very long once we got home. Luckily, I've found these at Cost Plus World Market and on Amazon (of course!). Now I always have a stash on hand to remind me of our awesome (though dark and rainy) days in Scotland.
People think I'm nuts when I tell them that grocery shopping is one of my favorite activities when I visit a new country. If I'm staying anywhere for a week, I probably venture into a grocery store three to five times. Grocery stores offer a way to eat for cheap when traveling on a budget, but I also simply enjoy exploring the unique products available outside of my own city. Then I dream about how I would use these new-to-me products in my kitchen at home. On a recent trip to St. Martin, I found Bonne Maman raspberry tartlets on one of my grocery store excursions. I was already a big fan of Bonne Maman jam which you can find everywhere in the States, so a snack from the "good mom" grabbed my attention. I quickly added them to my cart. These little tartlets are definitely a cut above the packaged cookies found in the U.S. The tart shells were buttery and slightly crumbly, and the jam added the perfect amount of sweetness. We brought a box home, but it didn't last very long. When the last crumbs were gone, I headed to Amazon and was happy to find these sweets available (with Prime, no less.) Though they are an expensive import, as a rare splurge, these tartlets are worth it.
- Buy Bonne Maman raspberry tartlets on Amazon
- Get flight deals to St. Martin
- Explore hotels in St. Martin
You can't travel to Costa Rica without visiting a coffee plantation, right? Well, at least I couldn't when I was there 10 years ago for my honeymoon. We were lucky to tour Doka Estate coffee, not far from San Jose, which was a fun adventure that offered an interesting look at old and new ways of harvesting the Costa Rican coffee crop. We were also able to taste tons of super-fresh and flavorful coffee while we were there. We did stop ourselves before we got too jittery! I bought some coffee for my dad, who easily drinks a pot of coffee a day. He loved it so much that he called Doka Estate to get more delivered to his doorstep! Fortunately, it's now available on Amazon for our daily caffeine fix.
I first discovered Colombo spices on a trip to the French Caribbean island of Martinique. Recently, Norwegian Air started offering super-competitive prices for seasonal, direct flights to Martinique from the East Coast. My family and I often travel to the Caribbean in the winter. We like to discover new islands when we can. The inexpensive flights offered us a chance to explore an island that most Americans never think about (though the discount fares are probably changing that). Martinique was a constant source of culinary inspiration from its many rhum distilleries to its French bakeries. Colombo is a French Caribbean curry served everywhere in Martinique, and I couldn't get enough of it during our trip. I happily plunked down a few euros to bring a bag of the spice mixture home with me. Now, whenever I'm missing the islands, my colombo seasoning -- combined with chicken, veggies, and coconut milk -- takes me back to the French Caribbean. And when I need more, I can buy it online! Phew!
I've never been a fan of mustard. Something about the neon yellow color and strong flavor always turned me off. Then I traveled to Germany for Oktoberfest in Munich. Before my visit, I brushed up on the language (beer, pretzel ... the basics). Little did I know I should have learned the word for mustard: senf. Germans do it right with a milder, whole-grain mustard that's far more appealing than the bright yellow condiment most popular in the States. I especially liked the sweet mustard and brought a tube of it home with me after my trip. I am now more open to mustards within my own grocery stores. But for a taste of the real stuff, I can get a tube of senf sent to my doorstep.
Kerry Sainato helps manage Airfarewatchdog by day, plays chef at night in her own kitchen, and travels as often as possible. She shares her culinary creations and travel adventures on Instagram. Follow her @cookwithkerrydotcom.