For Semana Santa, or Easter break, I packed a small bag and made my way to the mainland for a little adventure where planes, trains, and cars would take me to some of the most incredible foodie destinations I’ve experienced thus far. While pictures and carefully packaged words can only go so far to truly capture the experience, I will try to do the countries and the food justice by detailing a few tidbits from my recent travels. Bon appetit!
While Belgium is known for their chocolate, beer, and waffles (don’t worry, I’ll get to those), it came as a surprise that their fries, or pommes frites, are also world-famous. As if the first three treats wouldn’t be enough to want to make anyone travel here, the fries in and of themselves would make me want to come back. We started our culinary journey at Georgette’s Fries (conveniently not far from Delirium Bar, which I will also get to). While our quest didn’t end here, these fries—with Georgette’s sauce and a curry ketchup sauce (they have a ton to choose from)—were by far the best ones we tried. The thing that makes Belgian fries so good is that they deep-fry them in beef fat so they have a slight beefy flavor. I mean, freshly hot, crispy fries and meat…what is there not to love?
If you want to take it up a notch, Belgium is also known for their oysters and fries which are just as good, and a perfect option for dinner (I mean, no one will judge if you solely have fries for dinner.... #yolo and all, but oysters are always tasty too.)
Now, onto dessert. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Belgium has some of the best chocolate in the world, and you better believe I did my fair share of taste testing just to make sure. I wasn’t afraid to do some damage in this department, trying some from chocolatiers like Neuhaus, Galler, Leonidas, and my personal favorite (if not a little overpriced) Mary. (Note: Neuhaus is said to have invented the praline, so be sure to stop here for one or two…or more.)
If you’re still looking for a bit of a sugar rush, fear not, Belgian waffles are available around almost every corner near the Grand Place and the Manneken Pis (both tourist attractions in the area) that are sure to satisfy your waffle craving. You can choose from fruit and whipped cream, to chocolate and nuts, to cookie crumbles and caramel. We started at Leonidas (near the Manneken Pis) and topped it with Nutella and bananas, and let me tell you, it did not disappoint. We tried another waffle the next day, this time with cookies and whipped cream and caramel, near the Grand Place at a place called Churros and Waffles which was everything and more. As if this wasn’t sufficient taste testing in the waffle department, I took my travels to Bruges in a small outdoor market in one of the main plazas. I opted for a fresh waffle from one of the stands which was hot and crispy in all the right places and had little caramelized sugar crystals, called pearl sugar, inside. I’m still dreaming about these.
Of course, then there’s the beer. A trip to Brussels wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Delirium, a bar holding the world record for the most beer offered at over 3,000 different selections. The bar is busy, and not a bad place to test out your palate.
And what better way to combine the two great forces of Belgium—beer and chocolate? Combine the two. I mean, when in Rome (or Bruges), right? So in case you were unaware like me, chocolate beer is a thing, and I figured I might as well give it a go. While it’s a strong 11% and kind of gimmicky, I’m not going to lie, I actually kind of liked it (it’s called The Chocolate Kiss in case you want to try it out).
And while my last Belgian foodie adventure isn’t quite typical, I feel like I need to give it a shout-out because it was so cute and delicious. While I was wandering around Bruges (which is such a cute town by the way; if you are in Brussels definitely make a trip here for the day – definitely worth it), I stumbled across a cute café called Li O Lait. A little bit off the beaten path, it’s more of a locals place with great teas and coffees and soups and sandwiches to choose from. They have local papers sitting on the tables, good music, and a cozy atmosphere inside.
Prague, Czech Republic
We didn’t get far our first day before stumbling across the little outdoor food markets in Wenceslas Square. Let me put it this way: we didn’t stop dreaming about this street food for the rest of the trip. Amazing doesn’t even begin to describe. Spicy sausages, savory meat and potato dishes, hot mulled wine, and Kürtőskalács, a sweet bread swirled around in a spiral and coated in cinnamon sugar. One of my favorites was the Halušky se zelím a uzeným, potato dumpling dish with smoked pork and sauerkraut/cabbage.
One quick note about Prague open markets: Avoid buying in the Old Town. While it’s fun to walk around, the street vendors are not only overpriced, but they will also overcharge you here as well (which we learned from our tour guide just a little bit too late). Prague is really inexpensive, so it’s not a serious inconvenience, but just a heads-up.
We had a second round of potato-y dishes (because, again, #yolo) at U Medvídku which was a hit with everyone. This is another popular spot among locals and tourists alike, and the potato dumplings and potato pancakes are both great choices here. We also tried Budweiser Budvar—the original Budweiser beer. Now, before you go judging hard, this is actually a completely different beer from the one that you know in the states. Budweiser Budvar is brewed in the Czech Republic, and it was the American company (that we all know of) who tried to duplicate this beer—not very well, I might add—and started the company we all know as Budweiser.
Unlike the American version, the Czech one is worth a try. Although it’s available and may sound tempting, I would recommend (from personal experience) steering away from the beer ice-cream.
Again, while it’s not a typical Prague foodie destination, we happened to stumble across a cute café a little off the beaten path, a local’s spot with only a menu in Czech. The place was called Atmospheras, and we ordered the pancakes and potato cream soup (which were both great here) and sipped cafe con leches from inside the cozy cafe while we watched the snow fall outside.
Once again, the key to a great foodie adventure is street food, and a lesson learned easily in Budapest. As far as food goes, Budapest is fairly similar to Prague. You can also find the spiral cinnamon-sugar-coated sweet bread, Kürtőskalács, and good meat and potato deliciousness.
Similar to Prague, Budapest had an open air market with roasted veggies, goulash soup, chocolates and pastries, mulled wine, and more. We tried Langos, deep-fried dough with garlic, sour cream, and cheese which was anything but healthy but damn was it good.
Another cute place for a midday snack is Piknik Pavilon, near the Fisherman’s Bastion (also worth a visit). We tried the goulash soup and another meat and potato soup topped with sour cream, both which were awesome. Although a little touristy, it has quaint outdoor seating and the place is surrounded with bunches of flowers and cute plants.
But if you take nothing else away from this post, take away this: If you are in Budapest, go to Meat & Sauce. We were told that the owner used to have a high-end restaurant and when he got bored of it, started the small sandwich shop, which is now rated one of the top places to eat in Budapest. And man, is it worth it. So worth it, in fact, that we went there twice in one day (#noshame #sorrynotsorry). It’s quick, inexpensive, and so delicious. With a menu that offers sandwiches like roasted pork with orange red curry sauce and coriander, or roasted duck leg with pickled cucumber, basil and feta cream, you are sure to find something that catches your eye. You can find their menu here.
Copenhagen, wow. I could not have asked for a better way to end my culinary travels. I was visiting my friend who is from Copenhagen, so it was nice to have a personal guide to show me the best of the best in town.
Copenhagen, which I was (until recently) unaware, has been named as the Scandinavian city with the most Michelin-starred restaurants. Not to mention that Copenhagen’s very own “Noma” Restaurant has been named as the world’s best restaurant four out of the past five years. Needless to say, it was a perfect place to end my foodie travels.
To begin with, we started in the meat-packing district, a popular haven for drinks and food. We decided on Paté Paté for dinner. Wow, just wow. They suggest ordering three different dishes (all fairly small) which was perfect for us since we wanted to try just about everything on the menu. I decided to go with a squid dish, risotto, and a pork dish, and with a little white wine, I couldn’t have been happier.
If you’re looking for typical Danish food, go to Toldbod Bodega; you won’t be disappointed. We tried the pickled herring with dill on rye (my personal favorite), liver paté (or “leverpostej” in Danish) on rye, and fried fish rolled in rye wheat with remoulade sauce. We also tried a Tuborg Classic (a standard Danish beer) as well as a snaps shot to top off my locals’ experience.
Since I was in Denmark, it was only natural that I try a danish pastry. We went to Brød (“Bread”), and I can honestly say it was the best danish pastry I’ve ever had in my life. Next door is conveniently a cute coffee shop (one among many in Copenhagen) called Enghave Kaffe. However, be forewarned: all the tables display signs about no tablets or computers, so come prepared with a friend and a real conversation, or a good book.
Another great place for a coffee/brunch is Union Kitchen, which not only has great food but is close to the Amalienborg, the residence of the Danish royal family; we happened to see the Queen’s Guards march by as we drank our coffees. A couple doors down, you will also find another bakery called Emmery’s where the Crown Prince is known to visit on occasion.
And of course, no great foodie destination is complete without street food. If you are in Copenhagen, definitely make a trip to Papirøen, an area that used to be where the newspapers stored paper for their newspapers, now turned into a fun and lively hipster area with street food, drinks, and a small flea market. Think Gourmet food trucks with some thrift shopping on the side. It’s not too far from the hippy haven Christiania, so if you’re looking to head in that direction, this is a good place to stop before for lunch.
As far as bars go, Copenhagen is in no short supply. We tried to go to Mikkeller which is a popular bar, but it was closing when we arrived so we opted for another smaller bar that functions as a café by day, Den Navnløse (“Bar Without a Name”) which is fairly self explanatory. It’s small and cosy, more a café-feel than a bar, but good to sit and catch up with friends over a typical Danish beer, AZ Ale No. 16.
All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better Spring Break. From sauerkraut and potatoes, to fried cheese-smothered bread, to Nutella covered waffles, over four countries I can definitely say I ate my way through them all and I don’t regret a single thing. Not to mention making a dent in a foodie’s list of top destinations.
If you have any other recommendations, feel free to write them in the comments section below!