Eating healthy is great and all, but one of the simple pleasures most of us enjoy when we travel are those decadent, not-so-great for us foods that many times define the culinary experience for us. From poutine to bunny chow, the world is full of delicious and calorie-laden foods, including these – some of my most favorite from my recent travels.
House Burger at the Chuckwagon Cafe in Alberta – It’s safe to say that I’ve had one or two burgers in my lifetime. It may also be safe to say that it’s my favorite, go-to meal. Judge away, I don’t care – I know what I like and don’t like. I’ve eaten some great burgers and some truly awful ones, but it is with all honesty when I say that the burger I had at the Chuckwagon Cafe in Alberta, Canada was amongst the best I’ve ever had. Tucked away in a tiny town along the Cowboy Trail, the small restaurant is retro without knowing that it’s retro. Walking in you get the feeling that nothing has ever changed inside, and that’s just fine. The burger in question is routinely named one of the best in the country and film crews from around the world have descended on the tiny hamlet of Turner Valley, Alberta just to sample this legendary bite. The toppings are great and I loved the cheese blend, but the real magic is the unique flavor of the beef; I’ve never had anything quite like it. A big part of the reason is that the meat all comes from the owner’s personal ranch. A true example of farm to plate, the meat is always fresh, never frozen and treated with kid gloves inside the Cafe itself. The result is the intensely flavorful burger and honestly, one of the best meals I’ve ever enjoyed traveling.
Sour Cherry Strudel in Croatia – While many visitors to Croatia’s beautiful coastal regions immediately see the strong Italian influence in Croatian cuisine, the distinct culinary traditions inland are sometimes ignored. The sour cherry strudel is one of these authentically Croatian dishes that many people miss. Cherries are an important fruit in Croatia, in fact what we know as Maraschino cherry originated from how cherries are treated in Croatia, the local variant though is the Marasca cherry. Used in everything from liqueurs to desserts, cherries can be found when in season sold by the bushel in markets around the country. In Croatia one of the most popular cherry based deserts is the strudel, which I was lucky enough to see made while eating at a restaurant in the heart of the Plešivica wine region. Making this tasty pastry is an art form, passed from one generation to the next and the result is tarty perfection. You’ll find it served in a lot of restaurants, but be sure to visit eateries like Karlo for the freshly made version.
Bacon Sarnie in London – Otherwise called a sandwich, I found this nibble of bacon perfection while on an amazing food tour with the walking tour company Eating London. The sandwich in question, the bacon sarnie, is found at the East London institution St. John Bread & Wine. Known primarily for excellent nose-tail cuisine, their brunch-time specialty bacon sandwich is award-winning and with good reason. The chefs at St. John’s have spent countless hours experimenting with different types of bacon and styles of cooking but have finally discovered what may be the best bacon fry-up in the world. Using specialty Gloucester Old Spot pigs whose meat is then smoked, the chefs delicately pile on the bacon between two slices of perfectly toasted bread for the most outrageously decadent and delicious bite you may ever enjoy. Yes, it’s that good.
Currywurst in Berlin – A Berlin staple, currywurst is like most great street food: deceptively simple and borne of pure necessity. The clinical definition of currywurst is: a German fast food dish consisting of steamed, then fried pork sausage cut into slices and seasoned with curry ketchup. Fries are many times included. My first currywurst experience was pure guilty food perfection. It was tasty with a spiciness that was more for flavor than heat, which I appreciated. The layering of fries and sauces along with the sausage of course meant it was a hearty dish, the hallmark of well-done street food in my honest opinion. I finished off the portion within just a few minutes, content with a smile as large as a Cheshire cat.
Chocolate Flight at the Hershey Story Museum – I find myself recommending this activity to a lot of people; for whatever reason I just really enjoyed it. Located in downtown Hershey, the Hershey Story is a museum dedicated to sharing the history of Milton Hershey and his legacy over time. The Museum’s cafe, Café Zooka, offers something a little unusual – a chocolate flight. For $10 per person (or free with certain hotel packages) guests are presented with a variety of chocolate drinks made from cocoa in places as diverse as Sao Thome and Tanzania. The drinks are meant to show guests the differences that regions provide in taste, as well as the taste differences between varying cocoa percentages. Some were bitter while a few were downright delicious. My partner and I had a great time experimenting with the chocolates and learning more about them in the process. My only complaint is that the flight is currently set up as a do-it-yourself activity. I’d love to see them set up a wine tasting style room where an expert could lead visitors through the process of tasting the chocolates. It’d be a much more fun and engaging experience.
What are some of your favorite guilty pleasure foods?