People who like food are foodies. People who like to travel are travelers. We like both–so that makes us Foodie Travelers.

We’re often asked how we pick destinations. The immediate answer out of our lips is “for the food!” (Well, there is that bit about the car museums, but that’s another story 😉.)

No matter where we go, we’ve got to eat. And we both love everything about food–shopping for it, cooking it, and (of course!) eating it. Despite having gotten rid of almost all of our possessions, we still have our kitchen stuff in storage. Seriously—my All Clad pots are sitting in a cousin’s basement, and I visit them about once a year.

When we travel in the U.S. we’ve developed a “go bag” of essential cooking items–a small Le Crouset Dutch oven, a set of good quality knives, and Michael’s beloved barbecue tongs. Overseas we have no cooking tools with us (can you imagine trying to schlep a set of cooking knives onto a RyanAir flight??? 😳). But we have done our share of “kitchen enhancements” at various Airbnb apartments over the years.

Even if we’re not cooking we’re seeking out the best local flavors a destination has to offer. Often this is not the fanciest restaurant in town, but at an out-of-the way food truck, like those that make Sonoran Hot Dogs in Tucson, Arizona. Or perhaps a small cafe in a nondescript shopping center at the edge of town. And when it is a “proper” restaurant, we like to know it has been around for a while, and won’t change cuisine/owners/names/etc. with whatever food craze happens to come along. Which is why we love Hostaria Costanza in Rome; we’ve been visiting this tried-and-true favorite for 30 years, and never been disappointed.

So check out our Foodie Travelers category, you’ll find some well-known spots, along with some surprises. But we guarantee they’ll all be tasty!

I’m an avowed tea lover, and finding a tea shop in London is always a special treat. The city is great place to shop for tea. Every time I visit, (when I’m not visiting my favorite free things to do in London ),I search out spots were I can find old favorites or a new special blend.

Here are my preferred tea shops in London. Some are super sophisticated, and I always learn something new while there. Other tea shops are cosy spots where I can browse to my heart’s content while sniffing delicate aromas. There’s even one shop that is a total no-nonsense purveyor–nothing fancy, but the prices are terrific! If you’re looking for where to buy tea in London, check out the places below. (Note: these shops are ONLY available in London. There are some fine shops that have stores elsewhere, but that’s not the focus of this article. 😊)

Best Specialist Tea Shops London

interior of London Tea Exchange, teapots on display, cannisters of tea on shelves
Shelves filled with canisters of specialty tea at London Tea Exchange

Serious tea drinkers seek out London’s specialist tea shops when looking for that perfect variety or tea blend. These are the shops where you’ll be able to learn exactly where a tea is sourced. You’ll learn whether it’s a designated region of a country or a specific tea estate, or even which harvest during the year (such as spring/fall or 1st or 2nd flush). Teas are almost always sold loose, by the gram (or, depending on the status of Brexit, the ounce 😉).

Specialist tea shops in London are also very skilled at explaining how to brew different varieties of tea. For example, some teas require boiled water, while others use water that’s not quiiiiite boiling (some tender varieties get bitter with boiling water). Brewing time and whether the tea is suitable for multiple infusions are also useful bits of information. You will have an option to sniff the aroma of the dried leaves, and, in some cases, they will brew up a sample for you to try.

London Tea Exchange: Exclusive and Elegant

Tea cup and glass pot at London Tea Exchange
Order a pot of any tea for sale at London Tea Exchange-a great way to try something new!

This is my go-to spot when I’m looking for something super-special. London Tea Exchange is arguably the best specialist tea shop in London. They carry teas from all the world’s major growing regions, as well as a few teas from some more obscure locations, such as the Himalayas. The quality is top-notch. If you’re looking for an Indian single estate Darjeeling or a dark pearl oolong from Taiwan, this is the place.

On my last visit I was fortunate to meet Sheikh Aliur Rahman, who is London Tea Exchange’s Chief Executive. He does all the buying, traveling to the world’s tea-growing regions to personally select the teas that are carried in the shop. Sheikh Aliur explained that for many of the teas he actually requests leaves that are only grown on certain places on the plant. For example, the fresh, young leaves at the tips of branches are smaller and more delicate than larger leaves lower down on the plant. Now, that’s specialized!

Don’t just take my word for it; London Tea Exchange makes speciality blends for some pretty impressive clients. Members of the Twinings family (yep, that Twinings family . . . see below), purchase some more exotic blends here. And London Tea Exchange created a blend for certain members of the Royal Family. (???WHO???) They would not specify which Royal, however they did share that the Prince’s Trust has held some events in conjunction with London Tea Exchange. I’ll leave it to you to connect the dots . . .

Selecting tea at London Tea Exchange

Loose tea being weighed at London Tea exchange

The shop is located on Brick Lane, and is one of the cool things to do in Shoreditch. Browse the shelves, and the experienced staff will make suggestions based on your preferences. Or better yet, have a seat in their recently expanded tea room and order up a pot, along with a slice of cake to accompany it. This is an excellent way to determine if you’d like to take some of the tea home with you. Tell one of the staff what type of tea you like. They will then scour the 300+ varieties and return with 3 or 4 similar teas for you to consider, before brewing up your selection. It’s a fun shopping experience, an education in tea, and a lovely, relaxing interlude all in one. Whether you live in London or are just visiting, 50g of excellent, hand-selected tea is a special treat to take home.

What we love: The spectacular selection of ultra high-quality teas, the knowledgeable staff, and the opportunity to purchase a pot to sample before you buy.

Drawbacks: Only a small selection of teas in tea bags. But if you’re here for a single-estate Assam, you’re probably buying loose tea anyway 😉

The Tea House: Tea shop Covent Garden

If you’re looking for a tea shop in Covent Garden, this is the place. This friendly spot has been offering an excellent selection of loose teas for almost 40 years. The Tea House carries about 200 types of tea, including black, green, and herbal blends. Plus they also carry some more obscure varieties, such as white, yellow and pu-errh. The cosy shop is made for browsing.

Selecting tea at The Tea House

Loose teas are organized by variety on custom-made shelves around the shop. Little nooks contain pre-measured house-packs of tea, so you can just “grab and go” if you know what you’re seeking. However, each tea section also has a small, capped glass canister filled with the tea beside it. This gives you a chance to sniff a sample of each tea you’re considering before purchase. I find this particularly useful when considering herbal/fruity blends.

The Tea House’s location, on pedestrian-only Neal St., is right in the thick of Covent Garden shopping, and near to the West End theatre district. If you’re visiting London on vacation, chances are you’ll be in the neighborhood and can stop in for a souvenir to take home!

What we love: The wide selection, and the ability to sniff the samples to your heart’s content.

Drawbacks: Tastings, if offered, are limited to a particular blend they are featuring. The shop is small and can get pretty crowded during busy shopping days.

Twinings Flagship Store, 216 Strand: Historic and Authentic

Twinings tea shop london
Twinings Flagship Store, 216 Strand, London-it’s really narrow!

If you love tea and its’ history, this shop is a must-visit. As tea drinkers, we’ve probably all sipped Twinings at some point in our lives. This shop, a short walk down The Strand from London’s West End, is a tiny capsule of the history of tea in London. Established in 1706 it’s the oldest tea shop in London. And it really is TINY: the shop is so narrow you can stretch your arms across from one wall to the other! (So you can forget any ideas about a massive “flagship” with huge displays and aisles and aisles of products. That’s just “not done” here 😉)

The Twinings Museum London

Tucked away in the back of the Twinings Flagship Store is a small museum commemorating the history of tea. It’s really just a couple of glass-fronted display cases, but it’s interesting nonetheless. (And to be fair, Twinings calls it a “Tea Exhibition.”) There you’ll find historic packages of Twinings tea from the past 300-ish years. There is also historic teaware on display, including teapots, tea caddies, infusers and the like. It’s a fun and interesting diversion amidst your shopping for tea.

Display of historic teas and tea artifacts at Twinings exhibition
Some of the historic tea artifacts on display at the Twinings “exhibition” in the back of the flagship store

As you might expect from a “flagship” store, the entire Twinings range of teas is available for purchase here, including mostly black, green and herbal varieties. The front of the shop (the part that’s really narrow) is devoted to popular blends, which is mostly pre-packaged bagged teas. There are small canisters on the shelves for you to sniff those varieties. But there’s more in the back near the tea “exhibition” . . .

Selecting tea at Twinings Flagship Store

Attention, loose tea lovers: don’t discount this shop based on the pre-packaged offerings up front. Intrepid tea drinkers know to make their way to the back of the shop, where they keep “the good stuff.” Back here, the space opens up. (It’s about twice as wide as the front, so still not huge, but definitely more spacious.)

Specialty teas brewed in pots at Twinings tasting bar
Twinings tasting bar awaits with specially brewed teas

One wall along the back is devoted to a “tasting bar,” while the opposite wall holds a selection of about 30 specialty loose teas and blends. At any given time the staff will be brewing up 4-5 of these specialty blends. So you can “belly up to the bar” and sample a few. The staff are knowledgeable and will educate you about the teas origins, flavor notes and brewing recommendations. If the tea you’re interested in isn’t one of the brewed varieties, the staff will brew up a small pot for you and add it to the tasting bar. Which is how I got to try a High Grown UVA from Sri Lanka.

NOTE: Twinings holds a tasting class several times a week, where you’ll learn all about tea and taste several varieties. It’s £38 per person (about $48 US). Check the Tea Masterclass Experience more details.

What we love: The history of this shop, along with the tea exhibition, just oozes “Ye Olde London-town.” And the tasting bar in the back is a great way to try unfamiliar varieites.

Drawbacks: The shops tiny size literally makes it a “squeeze” during busy times. Specialty teas are only available in 125g sizes, which is a bit large/expensive if you’re experimenting with something new.

Where to buy tea in London: old favorites

London has been a tea-drinker’s town for centuries, and there are plenty of places to purchase good quality tea. Following are some tried-and-true spots for picking up supplies for your favorite cuppa:

Harrods: Venerable and Trusted

Shelves of tea at Harrods food hall
A limited selection of specialty teas on the shelves at Harrods Food Hall

The massive Knightsbridge department store may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think “tea shop.” And purchasing tea may be the first thing you think of when shopping at Harrods. But the venerable retailer carries a respectable selection of loose and bagged teas, many of which are their own proprietary blends.

Selecting tea at Harrods

The tea department is contained in The Roastery & Bake Hall section of Harrods renowned Food Hall. While they carry several well-known brands of tea, such as Kusmi, I would focus on teas you can only buy here. Many of their signature blends, which are labelled by number–No. 15, No 49, etc. are available in either bags or decorative tins. Most of these are black tea blends of Indian varieties, such as Darjeeling, Assam and Nigris, along with some Sri Lankan and Kenyan mixed in. My sister and her family are devotees of No. 49, and stock up on it every time they’re in town!

Harrods also offers 15-20 single estate loose teas, which are packaged to order. For something really fun and unique, spend some time with Angelo Tantillo. Designated as Harrods “Tea Tailor,” he will query you about your flavor preferences and craft a bespoke (such a charming British word!) tea just for you. How personalized is that?!

What we love: Getting a custom-made (okay, “bespoke”) tea is fun, and Harrods traditional blends are reliable and tasty standards. Plus the Harrods Food Hall is an experience unto itself.

Drawbacks: While there are good selections from India, teas from China and Taiwan are under-represented. During the holidays this store is JAM-PACKED, don’t count on a leisurely, personalized shopping experience then.

Algerian Coffee Stores: “Old School” and Great Value

A vintage photo of Algerian Coffee Stores–it still looks the same! (photo courtesy Algerian Coffee Stores)

I know, I know, Algerian Coffee Stores doesn’t sound much like a tea shop. But trust me on this one–they carry a lot of tea. In fact, they actually have more varieties of tea (over 120!) than coffee (about 80). Go figure.

Algerian Coffee Stores has been providing tea and coffee to Londoners at this SoHo location for over 130 years. (Despite the plural “Stores” in the name there is only a single location. The term “stores” in this case refers to “provisions,” and not multiple shop locations. The atmosphere is very different from virtually any other tea shop. It’s a real “old school” kind of place. The shop is a small, cramped room, complete with old-time-y wooden shelves (probably original to the building) stuffed to the gills with tea and coffee paraphernalia. If you love a retro, “old world” vibe, this is the place for you.

Selecting Tea at Algerian Coffee Stores

Don’t be deterred by the “no-nonsense” atmosphere (or the name), the tea at Algerian Coffee Stores is good quality . . . and good value!

All the loose teas are kept behind the counter, and most of them are pre-packed on site in 125g bags (about 4 ounces). Tell a knowledgeable shop attendant what you’d like, and they will fetch it for you. Note: They do a brisk business; when it’s your turn at the counter, be ready with your selection, or they’ll move on. I generally prefer sampling my tea before I purchase. And I also like to buy new varieties in smaller quantity until I’m sure I like it. However, at Algerian Coffee Stores the throughput is high (ensuring freshness), and the prices are terrific. In this case I don’t mind taking a chance on something new. On my last visit I got 125g of Keemun Mao Feng for about £8 (about $10 US)—about half of what it costs elsewhere. And the quality was excellent.

What we love: The excellent prices—probably the best I’ve seen anywhere in Europe OR North America!—and the wonderful old-world market atmosphere. And if you feel like crossing over to “the dark side (coffee)” they have a great selection of that as well!

Drawbacks: Cramped quarters and no chance to sniff or taste your selections before buying. But at these prices, who cares?

Looking for more in London? American visitors will love visiting the Benjamin Franklin house (the only one still standing!), or the quirky (and somewhat sad) tomb of Benedict Arnold. For more quirky sights, explore these 7 Rather Odd Hidden Sights in London.

Changes in Longitude Larissa & Michael Milne at Arctic Circle

We’re Larissa and Michael, your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive updates and valuable travel tips subscribe to our free travel newsletter here.

From extravagant high teas to cosy cafes with scones and jam, we explored them all in search of the the best afternoon tea in Edinburgh. Read on for our recommendations.

It’s no secret that baked goods put us in our “happy place.” And if there was ever a (sort of) meal where baked goods are the star performers, it’s afternoon tea. Therefore it was a delight to sample some of the Edinburg’s best afternoon teas during our extended stay in the city.

Afternoon tea in Edinburgh can mean different things. It can be a gloves-on, pinky out affair with delicate pastry and finger sandwiches. Or it can be simpler mid-afternoon break with a traditional cream tea: a pot of tea and a scone with butter and jam or cream. (If you’ve read our post about finding the best scones in Edinburgh, you know we take our tea time seriously!) It’s even possible to have afternoon tea on a double-decker bus! Whatever your preference, you can to spend an enjoyable hour in the afternoon at any one of these spots.

Afternoon tea, Edinburgh: best spots for high tea

When it comes to high tea, Edinburgh has got more than it’s fair share of spots for a three-tiered extravaganza (often with optional champagne!). Certainly most major hotels have something on offer, no surprise there. We’ve sought out some spots that might not be that obvious, but still offer that great “special event” feel . . . in all price ranges.

Elegant high tea at the Colonnades in EdinburghIf you’re looking for a swanky, special-event-type-of-tea, this is the place. The Signet Library is an elegant early 19th century building owned by a prestigious Scottish legal society known as The Writers of the Signet. The majority of the building is private, but its lower library, “the Colonnades,” is open for lunch and afternoon tea. Nibble delicate sandwiches, cakes and freshly baked scones served on silver stands amid a hushed setting just off the Royal Mile. Great selection of teas, including the Colonnades’ own Signet Blend. Booking ahead recommended.

What we love: The beautiful setting and ultra-high-quality food.

Drawbacks: The price. At £38 (approx. $48 US) per person, it’s an expensive afternoon. We think the 2- or 3-course lunch, at £24 or £30 respectively, is a better value.

Elegant tea in a historic setting at the Grand CafeThe Grand Cafe offers a traditional afternoon tea with an old-world feel. Both the cafe and the hotel are located just off the Royal Mile in the former headquarters of The Scotsman newspaper. The soaring ceiling and marble-bedecked columns of the cafe began life as the Advertising & Notices department of The Scotsman. It’s easy to imagine a copy boy running through the room shouting “stop the presses!” At £21.95 (approx. $28 US) per person, it’s a good-value indulgence. There are options for enhancing your tea with a glass of Prosecco or Champagne as well. It’s a good idea to make reservations.

What we love: The Grand Cafe also offers a Children’s Tea, with treats geared to a more youthful palate, for £9.95 (approx. $12.50 US); great for traveling families.

Drawbacks: The genteel atmosphere can get a little boisterous as the adjacent bar fills up for early evening drinks.

  • House of Fraser/Jenners Department Store

High tea EdinburghThe cafe in this venerable old Edinburgh department store offers up a respectably traditional afternoon tea. The service is more casual than most three-tiered afternoon teas: you order at the counter and the food is brought to your table. But we can forgive that small service lapse due to the price. At £12.95 (approx. $16.25 US) it’s an excellent value. Don’t have a big appetite? Jenners also offers a simple cream tea for even less. [NOTE: During the month of August, in conjunction with the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe Festival, Jenners offers a special “Tea with Mr. Jenner” event for £29 (approx. $36.50 US). It’s super-swanky, held in the shop’s historic boardroom, and includes tales of the legendary retailers’ history. Reservations mandatory.]

What we love: The view. Located on the 3rd floor above Princes Street, the cafe offers a spectacular view of Edinburgh Castle and the Old Town.

Drawbacks: The savory sandwiches are a bit mundane (tuna, egg salad, etc.). But the scones and pastries are excellent–and isn’t that really why you’re out for afternoon tea anyway? 😉

best afternoon tea EdinburghEataket sells teas and tea-making accessories at a cluster of shops throughout Edinburgh, so you know their tea is top-notch. Their Tea Room on Frederick Street in the city’s New Town is a cozy, casual spot where you can sample their brews accompanied by the traditional afternoon tea accoutrements. For £15.95 (approx. $20 US) you get a choice of sandwich, a scone with cream and jam, and a selection of mini-pastries along with your tea.

What we love: For £8.95 (approx $11.25 US) Eataket offers a “High Tea,” which is a mini-version of their Afternoon Tea. (A half-sandwich, scone, and one pastry, plus tea.) This is a great value, and terrific for lighter appetites.

Drawbacks: While the tea was excellent, and the sandwiches and pastries tasty, we found the scones uninspired.

Afternoon tea, Edinburgh: best spots for cream tea

Ah, the simplicity of a cream tea! Edinburgh has more than its fair share of spots that offer a scone with a cuppa. Most cream teas in Edinburgh offer an option of either butter or cream (whipped or clotted) along with jam to top your scone. We’ve rounded up a few where the scones are a worth a special trip.

Blueberry scone, cream tea EdinburghThis cafe/gallery in the New Town is beautifully decorated with an ever-changing display of original art, managing to feel homey and sophisticated at the same time. Co-owner Stuart Allan bakes the best scones in Edinburgh—and you have a choice 6 varieties fresh-baked daily (4 sweet, 2 savory). They’re massive (about 4″ around), buttery, crumbly . . . and Stuart warms them to order. No need for the fancy stuff with a scone this good! (Although Stuart also bakes a selection of cakes daily if you’re seeking something sweeter.)

What we love: The blueberry scone, chock-full of fresh berries. Also, the cheese or sun-dried tomato & herb scones, which are served with butter and an onion jam or pickle, which make a great savory tea.

Drawbacks: Bon Papillon is closed on Mondays & Tuesdays. But I guess Stuart and his partner Ingrid Nilsson are entitled to some time off!

We almost missed this tiny cafe, run by Tom and Elaine Courtney tucked into the Royal Mile just west of the Museum of Edinburgh. But then we saw Elaine’s delectable scones displayed in the window, and knew we had to try them. Our eyes did not deceive us; they were crisp on the outside, crumbly and tender on the inside. We were particularly taken with their triangular shape, which gave them lots of crunchy bits.

What we love: The strawberry scones, which are plain sweet scones filled with strawberry jam, fresh whipped cream AND fresh strawberries. A real summer treat.

Drawbacks: The cafe only has about 12 seats, so you might not get a table during busy periods.

Cream tea in Edinburgh at Mimi's BakehouseMimi’s is an Edinburgh mini-chain, with 4 locations in the city, two of which are right in the Old Town and handy for visitors. In addition to rib-sticking sandwiches (called “sarnies”), Mimi’s bakes some hefty cakes and traybakes (bar cookies), plus whopping scones. The cafe offers both an afternoon tea (and a unique “beforenoon tea”), which includes a selection of all three. But the portions are so large, we opted to stick with the cream tea version, simply enjoying our scone.

What we love: The cafe on Market Street, just opposite the south exit of the train station, is a quiet oasis in the midst of the Royal Mile frenzy.

Drawbacks: The scones are popular and often sold out by noon or 1pm (according to the cafe worker we spoke to). This makes having an afternoon cream tea difficult. So, um, maybe they should make a few more?

Afternoon tea, Edinburgh: fun and unusual spots

Sometimes the atmosphere is half the fun! Below are two unique afternoon teas in Edinburgh, based on some quirky locations:

Best afternoon tea EdinburghOn top of being a great way to multi-task when visiting a city, this afternoon tea/bus tour is just plain FUN! Climb on board a vintage double-decker bus, sip tea/coffee and nibble on tasty treats while the vintage Routemaster bus drives by all the major sights in Edinburgh. During the 90-minute experience you’ll taste a selection of sandwiches and mini-quiches, pastries, and (we’re still not sure how they managed this one), freshly baked scones.

What we love: This beats any plain old bus tour, hands down. And it’s a great way to experience a lot of Edinburgh in a short period of time.

Drawbacks: The bus doesn’t drive particularly quickly, but it is a moving vehicle. So it might not be a good choice for clumsy sorts.😯

NOTE: This tea must be reserved in advance. Click here to book the Edinburgh Afternoon Tea Bus Tour on Viator. (This is an affiliate link, which means we earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you.)

  • Royal Yacht Britannia Afternoon Tea

Tea with the Queen? Not exactly, but this may be as close as most of us will ever get. The Royal Yacht Britannia, the former yacht of the British royal family, is open to visitors in Edinburg’s port of Leith. The Royal Deck Tea Room serves tea, cakes and light meals where the royal family once entertained. You can simply order a pot of tea with a scone for about £8 (about $10 US) or give yourself the royal treatment with the “Cream Tea special for one,” which adds a sandwich, slice of cake and a glass of sparkling wine to your tea and scone. Veddy posh!

What we love: Having tea on the yacht where Princess Diana spent her honeymoon is pretty awesome.

Drawbacks: The Royal Deck Tea Room is only open to those who have purchased a ticket to visit the yacht (approx. $20 US). But it’s a pretty fascinating self-guided tour—you can read about my visit to Royal Yacht Britannia here.

Want to enjoy more of the area? Explore the gorgeous New Town neighborhood in search of sites the 44 Scotland Street novels. Climb on board a Concorde at The National Museum of Flight, just outside of Edinburgh. Or go farther afield and take a Scotland road trip to see film locations for the movie Local Hero. You’ll find charming villages and one of the most beautiful beaches anywhere.

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afternoon tea Edinburgh

Changes in Longitude Larissa & Michael Milne at Arctic Circle

We’re Larissa and Michael, your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive updates and valuable travel tips subscribe to our free travel newsletter here.

best scones in Edinburgh

We went on a quest to find the best scones in Edinburgh, and found them at a charming cafe in the New Town.

When you think of a food that defines Edinburgh, scones top the list. Well, some people may think of haggis, but really, the less said about that, the better 😉. (However if you must, check out our Haggis Taste Test.) But back to the scones. They are an Edinburgh institution. You can find them just about anywhere; virtually every cafe, tea shop or coffee house will have them on the menu, and markets carry prepackaged versions. Noted Edinburgh author Alexander McCall Smith even dedicated a title of one beloved 44 Scotland Street novels to them (The Unbearable Lightness of Scones.)Crumbly texture of good scones

Scones in Edinburgh are a good news/bad news scenario. Yes, you can find them everywhere—that’s the good news. But that’s also the bad news . . . it turns out there are some real clunkers out there. But for you, dear reader, we did the research. We explored the city in search of the best scones in Edinburgh, and finally found the hands-down winner!

What makes a good scone?

Best scones in Edinburgh-great crumbly texture

First, texture. If a scone has the proper texture, everything else—aroma, appearance, and, most importantly, TASTE—naturally follows. A good scone should be slightly firm on the outside, with a delicate crispy crust (it shouldn’t be spongy or squishy—this isn’t a yeast roll). Inside, it should be tender and crumbly, with what bakers would call a “crumb.” Create that texture and you’re onto a winner.

Second, the best ingredients. A good scone must be made with . . .butter. Anything less and you haven’t given your poor scone a fighting chance.

Armed with these two requirements, we purchased scones from bakeries and supermarkets, popped into coffee shops and cafes, and even stuck out our pinky at a few afternoon teas. We had some fair scones, a few lousy hockey pucks, and even a few good ones. But then we found the best scones in Edinburgh, and everything else paled in comparison.

The best scones in Edinburgh

Bon Papillon cafe and galleryLadies and gentlemen, I introduce you to Bon Papillon, an art gallery/framing shop and cafe on Howe Street, home of Edinburgh’s best scones! Bon Papillon is run by business and life partners Ingrid Nilsson and Stuart Allan. Ingrid is the artist and oversees the gallery; many of the works on the walls are hers. Stuart, a professional chef, is in charge of the cafe—and the scones.

Stuart makes his scones by hand (no mixer!) daily. Even before tasting one of these beauties I knew it was going to be a winner. It was a feast for the senses. Lifting it, I could feel the slightly firm crust, and upon breaking it open I was rewarded with a gorgeous crumb texture and a delicate butter aroma . . . aaaahhhh. The rich brown exterior gave way to a golden yellow inside, further testament to the buttery goodness within.

best scones in Edinburgh

My mouth was already watering by the time I had my first taste, and my fingers, eyes and nose hadn’t let my tongue down—this scone was delicious! The crust provided just a tiny bit of crunch, the interior was crumbly and moist (without being chewy or gummy-a sure sign of overmixing), and the taste was buttery and slightly sweet. All this deliciousness and I hadn’t even added any of the jam or freshly whipped cream provided on the plate! [Full disclosure, the whipped cream did NOT got to waste.]

I was a happy girl, we had found a winner! Michael announced he’d be purchasing 2 or 3 more to takeaway—a sure sign that he loved them as well (he hadn’t finished most of the scones we tried elsewhere.)

Sultana scones at Bon Papillon in EdinburghStuart with a tray of his freshly baked sultana scones

Scones at Bon Papillon

Unlike many cafes and tea shops that only offer one, or maybe two, varieties, Stuart Allan makes multiple flavors. He bakes them fresh each day, typically making 6 varieties: 4 sweet and 2 savory. (The savory versions are a delicious accompaniment to the salads or homemade soups for lunch.) We shared a blueberry scone on our first visit (there would be many more trips before we left Edinburgh); the seasonal specialty was bursting with fresh fruit. On the other hand, the “standards,” such as plain, sultana, and cheese are available every day. Stuart makes other flavors, like a savory scone with herbs and sun dried tomatoes or a sweet raspberry scone, according to seasonality or his creative whim.pretty cafe and art gallery

Bon Papillon’s scones are large, about 4 inches in diameter, and an excellent value. At £3 each, they make a delicious snack or light meal. Stuart and Ingrid serve sweet scones with strawberry jam and either butter or whipped cream; savory scones come with butter and a carmelized onion jam or savory pickle. The cafe also offers house made salads and soups, along with a large selection of teas and espresso drinks.

If you are traveling to Edinburgh, I recommend visiting Bon Papillon for a cream tea or light meal (with a scone!). Enjoy your scone amid artistic beauty, and you may even decide to take home some of Ingrid’s work. It will be a beautiful way to remember the day you tasted the best scone in Edinburgh.Gallery at Bon Papillon

Bon Papillon is located at 15 Howe Street, Edinburgh EH3 6TE

They are open Wed-Sun, 9am to 5pm (Closed Monday & Tuesday) 

Blueberry scone, cream tea Edinburgh

After you’ve fortified yourself with Stuart’s scones, consider visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia, or checking out the National Museum of Flight. Or explore the neighborhood of the 44 Scotland Street novels.

Changes in Longitude Larissa & Michael Milne at Arctic CircleWe’re Larissa and Michael, your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive updates and valuable travel tips subscribe to our travel newsletter here.

When we think of places for the best pizza in the world our thoughts normally drift to New York or Italy. But the town of Old Forge, Pennsylvania claims that it is the “Pizza Capital of the World.” Those are pretty big words for such a small town. We just had to check this out so here is our review of Old Forge pizza.

Old Forge is in northeast Pennsylvania (known to locals as NEPA), only five miles from Scranton of the TV show The Office fame. With a population of only around 8,000 supporting 14 pizzerias, it may well be the “Pizza per Capita” capital of the world, but “Pizza Capital?” So off to Old Forge we went to see, and taste, for ourselves.

Old Forge Pennsylvania NEPA pizza capital of the world sign

Review of Old Forge pizza

Old Forge-style pizza is baked in rectangular metal trays. It’s distinguished by the blend of cheeses, they vary at each establishment, that can be a combination of mozzarella, parmesan, romano, American and … what? Did they just say American? This we had to check out. So follow along as we push ourselves to taste Old Forge pizza at four places in one day.

Arcaro & Genell Restaurant

Arcaro and Genell Old Forge style pizza

We started our pilgrimage at Arcaro & Genell. Settled into puffy vinyl booths, with Frank Sinatra playing on the radio, we felt like we had appeared in the 1950s-era restaurant from the movie Big Night. Since we were newbies, the cheerful Amanda was our guide to the ways of Old Forge-style pizza.

A whole pizza is not called a pie but a tray, and individual slices are called cuts. It comes in traditional red and a white. The white pizza at most places is actually a double crust pizza made by folding the dough over the topping. Are you with me so far?

Arcaro and Genell pizza Old Forge NEPA

We selected the classic red pizza with original crust (not the thinner variation) and a single crust white topped with fresh tomato, garlic and onion. Arcaro’s proudly proclaims that they were selected as a Top 10 pizza in America. The rating was done by USA TODAY back in 1983 but it’s still pretty impressive.

The sauce on the red tray had the classic Old Forge taste, a bit oniony and a bit sweet. The pans are brushed with olive oil, making the crust crispy on the bottom rising to a chewiness directly beneath the sauce. The cheese was a blend that we guessed was Mozzarella, American and Cheddar; but Amanda would not reveal state secrets.

Arcaro and Genell pizza crust NEPA pizza Old Forge

The single-crust white was garnished with fresh tomatoes, raw onions, and a pesto type blend of minced garlic and dried basil. Both pizzas met with our immediate approval. The cheese blend is not traditional, but seemed to work.

Revello’s Pizza

Revellos Old Forge Pizza NEPA

Thinking of the day ahead, we tried not to fill up and walked across the street to Revello’s. You know you’re in Northeast Pennsylvania when the pizzerias also offer pierogies, a staple in these Polish and Italian former mining towns.

Revellos old forge pizza red and white NEPA

Revello’s was once a mainstay of Old Forge pizza, but we were disappointed. The crust tasted like a toasted version of Wonder Bread and the cheese seemed to be 100% American. It reminded us of snacks we made in the toaster oven as teenagers.

Mary Lou’s Pizza

Mary Lous Old Forge Pizza

We moved on to Mary Lou’s, tucked into a residential in a nondescript tan stucco building a few blocks off Main Street. As soon as we got out of the car and breathed in the garlic-scented aromas, we knew we were onto something. Mary Lou, a sweet grandmother of eight, ably assisted by grandson Joe, was certainly the cutest of the bakers we met.

Mary Lous Old Forge NEPA pizza

Her pizza education started early in life when her mother taught her the family recipes. A steady stream of customers picking up pre-ordered trays was a testament to her pizza’s popularity. The crispy crust is lighter than the others; the sauce, the best of the day, a perfect blend of onions and sweet tomato.

Elio G’s Old Forge Pizza

We were pretty full at this point, but as we were driving out of town we made one last stop at Elio G’s to watch Elio and Tom work through the dinner rush. For Old Forge pizza historians, Elio’s is a must-see destination. Elio mentioned that his grandmother, Nonni Ghigiarelli, invented Old Forge-style pizza in 1926. She made it for card players at the bar that she and her husband owned. It was an instant hit.

Elios Old Forge pizza NEPA copy

Elio is as crusty as his pizza which makes for an entertaining wait. He uses only the best ingredients including the sweetest of onions. Cheese blends are heavily guarded but it seems that Elio uses only mozzarella and sharp provolone. The chunky tomato sauce was heavily laden with black pepper

Elios Old Forge pizza

Elios white pizza is a blend of cheese and freshly cooked spinach topped with an intense blend of herbs; we tasted black pepper, rosemary, salt and maybe oregano. The herbs sprinkled on top made it taste like stuffed focaccia. Speaking of stuffed, we were pretty stuffed ourselves at this point and had to call it a day.

In Old Forge, pizza is a comfort food to celebrate both life and to mark its passing. At Elio G’s, a woman who looked remarkably like Paula Deen, stopped in to pick up five trays for a surprise 40th birthday party for her daughter.

At Mary Lou’s, a doctor who grew up in the area, was back in town to visit his father in hospice care nearby. The entire family was gathered in support of his father whose death was imminent. He said, “I was raised on that pizza It feels like home to me.”

At times like these, those who grew up in Old Forge gather around a tray of their wonderfully idiosyncratic pizza to provide support for each other. I recommend visiting Old Forge to witness a true slice, no, make that cut, of Americana.

You might be interested in our pizza tasting on six continents to find the best pizza in the world.

Here are even more reviews of Old Forge pizza on Yelp.

28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Hawaii has long been associated with growing three foods—pineapples, sugar, and macadamia nuts—but they are now cheaper to grow in other parts of the world and aren’t as prevalent in the 50th state as the once were. On a recent trip to Hawaii we found a growing farm-to-table movement along with some unique foods (sushi Spam anyone?) we haven’t seen elsewhere. Here is our food lover’s guide to the Big Island of Hawaii:

Book a Food or Coffee Tour on the Big Island.

Hilo Farmer’s Market, Hilo

Hilo farmers market

The underrated town of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii is one of our favorite spots. It was marked for resort development in the 1960s but never really took off, giving a small town vibe in this gateway to Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. The Hilo Farmers Market is open seven days a week offering a variety of exotic produce, crafts, clothing and prepared food like King Laulau Poi and Mister D’s Grill Wagon (BBQ on a stick).

Hawaiian Vanilla Company, Paauilo

Hawaiian Vanilla Company orchard

The Hawaiian Vanilla Company on the Big Island of Hawaii is owned by Jim and Tracy Redekoff. After growing up on Oahu in a family “who can be traced back to grass shacks,” Jim and his family moved to this plot of land overlooking the turquoise waters of the Pacific to raise their kids on a farm.

Guests tour the “Vanillery,” where the fussy flowers are coaxed into blooming (for a single day per year, and only four hours at that), a prelude to producing the long skinny bean that is one of the world’s most expensive spices.  For full-on immersion, reserve a place at the “Vanilla Experience Luncheon,” where the tour and presentation are spiced up with a vanilla-inspired meal.

Sputnik Donuts, Hilo

Sputnik Donuts Hilo hawaii

The buttermilk donut at Sputnik Ralf’s in Hilo made our list of the top dozen donuts in America for the Huffington Post. We miss them already.

Hilo Coffee Mill, Mountain View

Hawaii Hilo Coffee Mill Jeanette Baysa photo by Milne copy

Jeanette Baysa, a former banker from San Francisco, moved to Hilo to open a café in 1992. She couldn’t find Hawaiian coffee to serve; there was no one to roast the local beans so she undertook the task herself and opened the Hilo Coffee Mill on the eastern slope of the Big Island near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Jeanette promotes locally grown coffee from areas other than the well-known Kona.  Visitors can sample local blends (including a quirky but surprisingly tasty pineapple coffee) and explore the 24-acre farm.

Hamakua Mushrooms, Laupahoehoe

Hawaii Hamakua Mushrooms

The sunny hillside spot along Hawaii’s northeast shoreline seems an unusual choice to grow mushrooms. But Hamakua Mushrooms are cultivated organically via a proprietary Japanese bottle method in incubation rooms that are naturally lit by the sun. As co-owner Janice Stang says, “We are enlightened mushroom growers.”

Almost the entire harvest of alli, pioppini, gray oyster and abalone varieties are sold locally. The Stangas also offer other “fungal in the jungle” goodies; be sure to try some of their mushroom brownies (which we have to admit, sound like something that was gobbled up by dazed hippies at Woodstock).

Kuaiwi Farm, Captain Cook

Hawaii Kona coffee beans

Thoughts of the 60s were definitely on our mind as we drove up a bumpy, unpaved road to the geodesic-domed Kuaiwi Farm, where Una Greenaway and Leon Rosner have been organic farming for almost four decades. Una describes herself and Leon as “a couple of old hippies who came to live off the land.”

Una packs a lot into their five acres above the Kona Coast. Call in advance to arrange a two-hour tour, where she shows off her 100-year-old coffee trees, avocados, cacao, bananas and whatever else happens to be fruiting or flowering and will brew up a pot of her “Old Kona Coffee” to taste along with house-made chocolate and macadamia butter.

Hawaiian Shave Ice

Mauna Kea Snow, Hilo

Mauna Kea snow Hilo Hawaii

We’ve seen Hawaiian shave ice stands all over the world so were glad to finally try them in their native location. Quite frankly, any dessert that’s bigger than my head qualifies as a favorite. Mauna Kea Snow on the Hilo waterfront is a combination cafe/Hawaiian clothing store that cranks out delicious shaved ice. I have to admit I chickened out and this is a small. (Note: Even though the ice is shaved, it’s still called Hawaiian shave ice.

Scandinavian Shave Ice

Scandis hawaii shave ice big island hawaii

Okay, I don’t quite get the name of this place in Kailua-Kona on the west coast; it does serve Hawaiian shave ice after all. Known by locals as Scandi’s, it’s been in business for over 20 years. Not only do they taste great, the workers put on quite a show in this happy place. Make sure to get sweetened condensed milk poured over it.

Click here to book a Food/Coffee Tour on the Big Island.

Like it? Share it . . .Pin it!Savor the unique local flavors of the Big Island of Hawaii

We stayed at the Castle Hilo Hawaiian Hotel which has a cool retro 60s vibe.

Also check out our food lover’s guide to Oahu.

28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

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Besides being a surfer’s paradise, Oahu also offers many unexpected tasty treats. Here’s our food lover’s guide to Oahu with some of our favorites.

Click here for Food Tours of Oahu.

Garlic Shrimp Food Trucks of Oahu

Giovanni's shrimp truck oahu hawaii hot dog


The north coast of Oahu is festooned with trucks serving a local favorite: garlic shrimp. Visitors driving along the Kamehameha Highway to watch a surfing competition on the pounding waves of the North Shore will be hard-pressed not to stop once the heady aroma of sauteed garlic fills their car.

The shrimp are sauteed in a lemon/olive oil/butter/garlic sauce with chunks of caramelized garlic and are quite simply, outstanding. Success breeds competition and there now several other shrimp trucks in the area, several of which we also tried, but we enjoyed Giovanni’s Original White Shrimp Truck the most. If you’re not in the mood for shrimp try their hot dogs, which may be the best we’ve ever tasted. Or read our full review of Giovanni’s hot dogs.

Madre Chocolate

Foodie Hawaii madre chocolate

Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. where cacao beans thrive. Nat Bletter is a co-founder and “Chocolate Flavormeister” of Madre Chocolate, Oahu’s first bean-to-bar chocolate maker. He says, “We’re trying to turn the windward coast of Oahu into the Napa Valley of chocolate.”

In the historic Chinatown section of Honolulu, Madre offers classes and chocolate tastings that would be right at home in any popular winery. The comparison is apt; the first thing a visitor notices upon stepping into the shop is the musty, vinegary aroma of cacao beans permeating the air, similar to that encountered in wine caves.

Nat teaches how to extract raw chocolate’s unique qualities. We sipped raw cacao pulp, which was milky and tangy, evocative of crushed lychees. During the one-hour class visitors savor beans from various regions and follow their evolution from a fruit to the beloved superfood that it’s become today.

Take a Chocolate making class in Oahu.

Butter Mochi

Foods of Hawaii Oahu butter mochi

Butter mochi is baked custard with a twist that is a popular dessert in Hawaii. Checking out the ingredients–Mochiko sweet rice flour, sugar, coconut milk, Carnation cream, vanilla butter and eggs–it’s easy to see why.

Leonard’s Bakery Malasadas, Honolulu

Leonards Malasadas Honolulu Hawaii

Hawaii boasts two spots that made our list of best dozen donuts in America for the Huffington Post. Perhaps we should move there. Malasadas are fried balls of dough that originate from Portugal, just like the original owners of Leonard’s Bakery in Honolulu. Here they fill them with your choice of custard, chocolate or coconut cream then coat them with sugar, cinnamon sugar or li hing, a sweet and sour dried plum powder. You’ll wait about 10 minutes for your donuts since they are made to order. The wait is most definitely worth it.

Spam Musubi (Spam sushi)

Spam Musubi Hawaii
Spam Musubi Hawaii

Well, we couldn’t write about foods of Hawaii without mentioning Spam, could we? The popular canned meat was introduced to Hawaii during World War II and has never left. One of Barrack Obama’s favorite treats from growing up in Hawaii is Spam musubi. (Proof alone that he’s from there.) Take a slice of Spam, place a chunk of seasoned rice on it wrap it all up with a noir seaweed bow and there you have it. It’s irresistibly salty and fatty, the two prerequisites for any popular snack food.

Dole Pineapple Whip

Dole Plantation Oahu Hawaii

Yeah it’s touristy, but when driving back from the North Shore of Oahu with all that garlic shrimp flavor rolling around your taste buds it’s hard to resist the siren call of the Dole Plantation signs for its favorite treat, Dole Whip. It’s basically a cone of soft-serve “ice cream” with pineapple sherbet but hits the spot on a hot day.

Interested in booking your own food tour? Check out these Oahu Food Tours with Viator!

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Exploring the local food culture on Oahu, Hawaii; from bakeries in Honolulu to shrimp trucks on the north shore

We stayed at the VIVE Hotel at Waikiki in Honolulu.

Here’s our story on foods on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Changes in Longitude Larissa & Michael Milne at Arctic Circle

We’re Larissa and Michael, your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive updates and valuable travel tips subscribe to our free travel newsletter here.

When we arrived in Romania much of what we knew about the country was its role as an elusive nation behind the Iron Curtain during our childhood. What we found surprised us. A vibrant nation with a beautiful countryside that is rapidly putting the past behind it. Another surprise, the 3rd fastest Internet in the world and by far the fastest we have seen in our travels to over 70 countries. But as usual we start with food and having a sweet tooth, we soon found ourselves tasting Romanian pastries on a daily basis.

Romanian papanasi

Papanași (papanosh) are little tater tot sized donuts (or bigger at some places) topped with sour cream and cherry jam. It’s the first donut treat I’ve met (and I’ve met many) that you eat with a spoon.

Romanian pastries

Carpathian Mountain Cream Cake with sour cherry jam at the Fronius Residence, a 16th-century inn located in the walled medieval village of Sighisoara.

PastryinRomania (1)Caciula lui Guguta is a pile of rolled up pancakes stuffed with wild cherries and topped with vanilla whipped cream and grated chocolate. Despite the fact that Larissa ordered something else she ended up eating half of my dessert. We found this version at La Placinte, a mini-chain of restaurants with several locations in Bucharest and a few other Romanian towns.

Bucharest pastry layer cake

According to the menu this is “Honey sponge cake impregnated with creamy nuts and sour cream.”  Something may have been lost in translation but I did feel stuffed and like I had eaten for two afterwards.

romanian pastry rulada swiss roll

I think these are actually Swiss Rolls (the Yodels of my youth) but they sound more exotic as “rulada.” How can vanilla cake twirled around chocolate icing then rolled in nuts be bad?

*** Hungry now? Check Amazon for Romanian cookbooks ***

And now for something completely different . . .

I haven’t yet mentioned what an incredible travel value Romania is. Here’s an example. The delicious meal below of spicy goulash, Romanian potatoes and sauteed carrots in the posh Restaurant Transilvania in Brasov was $4.50. Most of the pastries above were about $3.

Romanian goulash

 

Brasov4Cardinals

The breakfast above was included with our $58 per night room (including tax) at the high-end 4 Cardinal’s Hotel in Brasov. We found Romania to be a great place for food and to stretch a European travel budget. In future posts we’ll talk about surprising Bucharest and the medieval villages we visited on our road trip through the Transylvania section of Romania.

Please let us know if you have any questions about travel to Romania.

*** Hungry now? Check Amazon for Romanian cookbooks ***
We’re global nomads who have been traveling the world since 2011 seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Memphis, Tennessee is justly known for its dry-rubbed barbecue ribs. But that’s all right, after driving 500 miles to get to the birthplace of rock-and-roll I was there to see Elvis stuff so I thought, “What would Elvis eat?” Among other things, Elvis loved his banana pudding but he also had a sandwich named after him.

“The Elvis” is a griddle-fried concoction of peanut butter and sliced banana on white bread. Sometimes he would surrender to temptation and add bacon to it. In his mind it sure beat a hot dog, or a hound dog too for that matter.

If you ask me, the best place to try an “Elvis” is at Rockabilly’s Diner right across Elvis Presley Boulevard from Graceland. Despite the crowds I was first in line when I placed my order. I asked if they could add just a little bit of bacon but alas, the “Elvis” at Graceland is served baconless.

The sandwich was pretty good, the warmed peanut butter melting into the creamy banana. It even got my taste buds all shook up. Any day now I imagine a chain of Elvis-themed restaurants will open up and start serving it.

Suspicious minds might have noticed that there are 12 Elvis song titles in this post. Can you spot them? It’s now or never.

Elvis Presley rocky statue

Here are the top Elvis items on Amazon.

We’re global nomads who have been traveling the world since 2011 seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

The north coast of Oahu is festooned with trucks serving a local favorite: garlic shrimp. Visitors driving along the Kamehameha Highway to watch a surfing competition among the pounding waves of the North Shore will be hard-pressed not to stop once the heady aroma of sauteed garlic fills their car. Read more

We’ve been crisscrossing  the United States for the last three years and visited all 50 states to seek out the best donuts in America. Here’s our ranking of the best dozen donuts of the many, many, way too many, that we tasted, with a bonus added to make it a baker’s dozen. And just to be clear, there are no bacon donuts on this list. As old-school donut hounds, we’re patiently waiting for that trend to end.

The best donuts in America

Jelly Donut, Frangelli’s Bakery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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The donuts at Frangelli’s look plain until you realize those are just the shells. When you order your donut they slide it onto a nozzle attached to a Rube Goldberg type contraption and pump it full of jelly. They you have your choice of rolling it in powdered or crystal sugar. Heaven in a donut.

Squared Donut a la Mode, Marie’s Do-Nut Shop, Sacramento, California

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Marie’s opens at 11 p.m. and closes at 4 p.m. so it’s perfect for night owls, and isn’t after midnight the best time to eat a donut anyway? They’ll fill any donut with whipped topping (it’s not cream but still very good). Our fave is the square donut with its flaky layers filled with creme. It tastes like apple pie a la mode.

Dirty Wu, Pip’s Original Donuts, Portland, Oregon

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Picking the best donut in Portland is always controversial. While there is a much more famous place with lines of tourists snaking down the street, we prefer Pip’s for its fried-to-order addictive donuts. The Dirty Wu is covered with cinnamon, locally-made honey, pink Himalayan sea salt and then drizzled with Nutella. They are small, so don’t worry about polishing off a dozen or so. One suggestion to Pip’s, get a web site already so we can drool over these lovelies.

Glazed Old Fashioned, The Kobuk, Anchorage, Alaska

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It’s easy to walk by this gift shop in downtown Alaska without noticing the small sign that states “Coffee and Donuts.” Follow your nose to the back of the shop where the crew is frying up small batches of old-fashioned donuts then lovingly glazing them. Well at least it seemed lovingly to me. Even the polar bear on the back wall couldn’t resist.

The Fat Elvis, Pink Box Doughnuts, Las Vegas, Nevada

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In tribute to the King’s favorite sandwich, Pink Box offers a peanut butter filled donut, topped with chocolate icing and a caramelized banana chip for that southern flair. We’re finding Fat Elvis donuts taking off across America, but Las Vegas seems the perfect place to try one.

Buttermilk, Sputnik Rolf’s, Hilo, Hawaii

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It takes a real expert to make a crispy donut in Hilo, one of the wettest cities in America. But at Rolf’s they turn our perfectly crisp buttermilk donuts with just the right amount of sweet glaze for the climate. A sign on the window refers to omiyage, a Japanese term for souvenirs from your travels. We doubt any of these would last the flight home before getting devoured.

Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Bull’s Eye Frosting, Rise Biscuits and Donuts, Durham, North Carolina

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The owners of Rise crisscrossed the country visiting top donut shops before opening. Evidence of their journey is the collection of t-shirts hanging from the walls. Their in-season strawberry frosting is sublime.

Devil’s Food, Bill’s Donut Shop, Centerville, Ohio

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The dense Devil’s food donut at Bill’s is just begging to be dunked in chocolate.

Raspberry Cheesecake, Bay Country Bakery, Cambridge, Maryland

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Is it a slice of cheesecake or is it a donut? How about both at this popular spot on the way to the beach.

Chocolate Glazed, Mrs. Murphy’s, Southwick, Massachusetts

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Mrs. Murphy sure knows her chocolate donuts. And since this as close as we get to Boston on this list you may as well try the excellent Boston Cream Donuts while you’re here.

Valrhona Chocolate, Doughnut Plant, New York, New York

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Opened in 1994, for better or worse (we’re looking at you bacon donuts) the Doughnut Plant was behind America’s donut renaissance of the last two decades. However, they upped the quality level of the humble donut while staying true to their core mission.

Glazed, Round Rock Donuts, Round Rock, Texas

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Being an avowed cake donut person, Michael was skeptical at first of all the acclaim earned by Round Rock. But one bite of their famous glazed “Round Rock” donut made him a believer. If you want a yeasty glazed donut with some bite to it, this is the one to judge them by.

Baker’s dozen bonus pick:

Malasada, Leonard’s Malasadas, Honolulu, Hawaii

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For such a small state Hawaii manages to take up two places on this list. Malasadas are fried balls of dough that originate from Portugal, just like the owners of this bakery. At Leonard’s they are filled with your choice of custard, chocolate or coconut cream then coated with sugar, cinnamon sugar or li hing, a sweet and sour dried plum powder. You’ll wait about 10 minutes for your donuts since they are made to order. The wait is most definitely worth it.

Let’s face it, we can’t write about donuts without creating some controversy. So which ones do you agree with and what favorites did we leave out in your area?
 

28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

A restaurant is a favorite if it earns repeat visits. By that definition one of our top restaurants in Rome is Hostaria Costanza. We’ve been to Rome several times and on each visit we visit this small spot tucked away in a corner off the Campo dei Fiori. There are trendier places with more contemporary menus but Costanza keeps drawing us back.

The setting itself is pretty spectacular. Costanza is built into a surviving portico of the ancient Teatro di Pompeo. Vaulted stone ceilings that are two millenia old arch above the tables. If that’s not enough history for you, it’s also the spot where Brutus literally stabbed Julius Caesar in the back during the Ides of March in 44 B.C.

Costanza restaurant rome

The moody lighting helps recreate the atmosphere of ancient Rome.

But the setting, eerily romantic as it is, isn’t what keeps bringing us back. It’s the food, a classic take on Roman cuisine. Upon entering the restaurant  it could easily be mistaken for a delicatessen. That’s because the foyer serves the double duty of storing much of the food while at the same time showcasing the freshness of the ingredients.

Experienced diners examine the food displays out front before venturing into the dining room. It reveals a sneak peek at the day’s specials that is far more evocative than any chalkboard description. In true Roman fashion, this anteroom also houses the antipasti table.  Grilled vegetables, seasoned olives and sliced cheeses nestle temptingly on individual dishes waiting for one of the servers to pluck them out to create a customized antipasto for each diner.

Top restaurants in rome Hostaria Costanza

Select your antipasti from the tables out front.

We credit Costanza with introducing our tastebuds to the joy of truffles. On our first visit we ordered cannelloni con funghi e tartufi as an appetizer, completely unprepared for the taste sensation that was to come; a rich earthy, nutty, creamy flavor. Suddenly we got it: this was why people rummaged through the woods or went to specialty food shops and paid exorbitant sums for tartufi. These cannelloni immediately made it onto our “Culinary Greatest Hits” list.

Top restaurants in rome Hostaria Costanza

Cannelloni with mushrooms and truffles.

Our recent visit lived up to our expectations.  The atmosphere of a perennial favorite was confirmed by the diners at the next table, two dapper Italian businessmen along with a distinguished looking priest. There was no way they were going to waste their palate on a mediocre restaurant.

This time we took advantage of artichoke season to order an appetizer of carciofi alla Giudea, the classic Roman dish that originated in the old Jewish quarter of the city. Deep-fried until crispy and golden and garnished with salt and pepper, these beauties put potato chips to shame.

Hostaria Costanza rigatoni with sausage

Rigatoni with sausages and truffles in a light cream sauce.

Naturally for our pasta course we simply had to have truffles.  The day’s special was rigatoni con salsice e tartufi, sausage and truffles in a light cream sauce.  It was rich, but delicately balanced with not too much of any one ingredient.  The cannelloni were made with fresh crespelle, or crepes. The flavors immediately took us back to our first visit, the way biting into a warm homemade chocolate chip cookie takes us back to childhood.

We hope there are more visits to Rome in our future along with the requisite visit to Hostaria Costanza.

Click the link to read about our soggy day hunting for truffles in Italy.
We’re your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Cincinnati chili is one of those things you either get it or you don’t. Among national food critics it’s developed a love it or hate it reputation that brings out the snark. As with many regional food favorites, it helps to have grown up there. But I didn’t and I still like it, if I eat it at the right place. Whenever we visit family there I ask my brother-in-law John, where is the best Cincinnati chili?

Camp Washington CHili interior (800x544)

Cincinnati chili is redolent with spices not normally found in what most people think of as chili. That’s thanks to its inventors, Tom and John Kiradjieff who, starting in 1922, sprinkled it with cinnamon, cloves, allspice, cumin and chocolate. Not a typical batch of chili. The other thing that makes Cincinnati unique is that it’s served over spaghetti. This being the Midwest it’s not quite the al dente pasta of my Italian-American upbringing in New York but it seems to work.

skyline chili hat (257x350)With regional chili chains like Skyline, Gold Star and Empress ladled all over the Queen City and environs, it’s easy to find a bowl of the hometown brew in ordinary strip shopping centers. (And surprisingly enough, you can also find it on the west coast of Florida, where many Cincinnatians retire.) If you want to start a heated debate, just ask a local which is their favorite chili parlor. The man to the left doesn’t just wear his love for Skyline Chili on his sleeve, he also wears it on his hat.

camp washington chili mural (210x350)When you’re in Cincinnati you should trek a bit farther into the heart of the city and grab a booth at Camp Washington Chili. It’s easy to find right below a building-sized mural of the peripatetic George Washington dressed, for some reason unknown to me, as a courtesan. I’m guessing he once camped here, bestowing his name on the humble neighborhood that has become a foodie destination.

With its homemade quality, the chili served at Camp Washington is several notches above the chains. To do it right get a 5 Way, which is chili, spaghetti, beans, onions and cheese. If you’re watching your carbs, or just really want more meat, you can skip the spaghetti and have them ladle it over hot dogs; these are called Coneys. Named after Coney Island but definitely something you won’t find at its namesake neighborhood in Brooklyn.

camp washington chili coneys (800x600)

Somewhere under all that cheese and chili you’ll find a few hot dogs.

Visitor information

Location: 3005 Colerain Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45225

Phone: (513) 541-0061

Hours: 24/6, closed Sundays

Web site: www.CampWashingtonChili.com

Side trip to Toledo

Rudys hot dog chili cheeseburger Toledo Ohio (800x653)

Ohioans must love chili. We made it to Rudy’s hot dogs in Toledo (a family tradition since 1920) to try their famous chili. The outstanding chili was different than in Cincinnati with more traditional spices. I tried it on the Rudy Burger (cheap at $2.20) which I have to admit, is a tremendous amount of meat for one sandwich. Since the chili was so good I think next time I stop in I’ll order the chili on its own. For more information go to: Rudy’s Hot Dogs.

We’re global nomads who have been traveling the world since 2011 seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Guest post ~ Florence is well known for its museums and historical attractions like Michelangelo’s David. But amid the vibrant streets near the Duomo stands a building which no visitor should miss. It hosts a real temple of food: the Mercato Centrale (Central Market). Eating at the Florence Central Market is something no visitor should pass up.

Central Market Building

The circa 1874 Central Market building, with its ornate cast iron and glass architecture, is an attraction itself, but many people don’t look beyond all the culinary delights to notice it. Amid all the hustle and bustle the entrances are hard to find, just look behind the peddlers.

florence mercato centrale

The Market

The food market is at the ground floor. Here you’ll find the largest possible variety of food in Florence. One section is dedicated to fruit and vegetables, with some typical products you can find only here. During winter, the king of vegetables in Florence is the cavolo nero (black cabbage), master ingredient for the ribollita, the most famous Florentine recipe: it’s a soup based on stale bread, cannellini beans and, of course, black cabbage. (See link to ribollita recipe below.)

eating at the florence central market

You’ll be amazed at the garlands made of garlic and onion: here it’s not just a matter of quality, the presentation of the food is very important. There is also a shop dedicated to exotic fruit and vegetables, especially from South America.

Garlands of garlic and onion (750x565)

Another section is for fish shops and butchers, the latter each specialize in a particular kind of meat: chicken for example, or beef, with the Chianina (a type of cattle typical of Tuscany) which is the meat used for the famous bistecca alla fiorentina. If you’re wondering what all that white spongy meat on display is, it’s tripe (the stomach of the cow). It’s an acquired taste for foreigners but Italians love it.

salumi and cheese florence mercato centrale

Among the other specialty foods at the central market are sundried tomatoes, mushrooms and pasta in fantastical shapes. There is a fresh pasta shop and several bakeries, but the shops that attract more attention are the ones selling salumi (not to confuse with salami, which is just a kind of salumi) and cheese. Some of them also make panini.

salumi (750x537)

Prices are very reasonable, in some cases you save on supermarket prices, unless you want to buy something very hard to find elsewhere. For a traveler in Florence who plans an excursion or a picnic, or just wants to prepare a quick lunch, this is the place to find something tasty.

The temple of food on the second floor

After a complete restoration in April 2014, the second floor, which once hosted the fruit and vegetables section, was reopened with a new function: a temple of dining. This part of the Central Market, which stays open from 10 am to midnight, including Sundays, is an amazing place where you can eat any kind of typical Italian food. It’s a huge hall, with cafés in the center serving drinks, tables all around and specialized restaurants on the sides.

eating at florence central market food hall
How does it work? You just pick your preferred food (cheese, meat, pasta, pizza, fish and many more), go to the chosen restaurant, order, and they will prepare your food in front of you. Then join your friends at the table of your choice. It’s perfect for a group, where everybody wants to eat something different. Prices are very reasonable, while quality is excellent: in particular, I like pizza at the Central Market.

wood bruinng pizza florence central market

Pizza is not a typical Tuscan recipe, and I have to admit that, in general, you won’t eat the best pizza in Florence, but at the Central Market you will actually taste a great pizza, made with natural yeast, the best flours and high quality tomatoes and mozzarella.

dry porcini mushrooms

Florence Central Market Visitor Information:

The ground floor of the market is open Monday-Friday from 7:00 AM to 2:00 PM and Saturday (not in the Summer months) from 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The second floor is open everyday from 10:00 AM to 12:00 AM.
Check out the Florence Central Market website for the latest information on activities there.

If you’re in the mood for some Italian food now, here’s a recipe for ribollita, also known as peasant stew it’s the perfect antidote to a cold winter day.

2015 1 21 Florence andrea pic (300x300)Guest writer Andrea Pecchi is a freelance tourist guide in Florence and runs Your Florence Contact, a blog about art and history. When not guiding tourists, he enjoys writing about his own city and promoting Florence as a destination for travelers. You can follow Andrea on Facebook and Twitter.

Satay grilling over coals made of coconut shells . . . fresh fish wrapped in banana leaves . . . fragrant coconut rice . . . these are some of the tastes of our recent visit to Bali.  The island’s cuisine relies heavily on its abundant fish and produce, using techniques that are similar to its parent country of Indonesia.  Somewhere along the way, however, a spice or a fruit or a special touch manages to make it uniquely Balinese.  The minced meats for satays are mixed with shredded coconut.  Three varieties of fresh ginger are used to prepare a basic curry blend.  Tiny limes the size of marbles give a salad a refreshing tang.  Wash it all down with a Bintang beer and go back for some more tomorrow . . .

Bali food ingredients

Lemongrass, candlenuts, fresh turmeric, galangal, sweet & hot red chillies and shrimp paste are among the ingredients in base gede, the ubiquitous Balinese yellow sauce.

Bali food mushroom soup ingredients

Mushrooms, lemongrass, red chillies, limes, Thai basil and kaffir lime leaves for clear mushroom soup.

Food of Bali

Jukut Urab – A salad of coarsely grated grilled coconut and chopped snake beans tossed with base gede and garnished with crispy shallots.

Bali food chicken sate

Chicken satay is served over flaming hot coals right at the table. A peanut sauce is on the side.

Indonesian rijstaffel

The ultimate in Indonesian food, rijstaffel, which is Dutch for rice table. The multi-course, multi-dish meal is a treat. The Balinese style satay is wrapped around lemongrass stalks.

True Balinese food connoisseurs may have noticed that we left out Kopi Luwak, the famous coffee whose beans are, um, extruded from the working end of a civet cat. Look for an upcoming video with a Kopi Luwak taste test.

Like it? Share it . . . Pin it!Fresh vegetables, succulent curries, the aroma of grilling wafting through the air . . . the foods of Bali make this island paradise even more special

Anchorage’s Town Square Park on West 5th Avenue is a festive place. Particularly during the summer when the waning orange glow of the sun at 11 pm sort of makes it feel like sunrise. Which got me in the mood for breakfast, or was it the dueling smoke wafting my way from the three reindeer sausage vendors that set up camp on the sidewalk?

trying reindeer sausage in alaska

When I first heard about this local delicacy visions of Rudolph danced in my head. Would Santa put me on his naughty list? As someone who was raised in New York all I knew about reindeer was from Christmas stories. Once I found out (spoiler alert) that Santa Claus wasn’t real (end spoiler alert) I just assumed that reindeer weren’t either. I didn’t find out they actually existed until I saw a National Geographic show about them years ago.

anchorage reindeer sausage

Anna working the Husky Dogs stand.

Trying reindeer sausage in Alaska had not been high on my list of things to do. But as I inspected each of the vendors grilling the sausage, heard the crisp snap of the fat sizzling on the griddle and smelled the unquenchable aroma I just had to try one. I sought out Husky Dogs where the perky and upbeat Anna was cooking up a few links under the big red umbrella. The owner of the stand, Martin Boss, was busy stocking up the supplies. Martin operates the stand during the summer when he is not in Georgia with his other gig: he works as a film editor on the hit TV show The Walking Dead.

Reindeer sausage onions (750x563)

He is proud of his reindeer sausage, emphasizing that it is fresh, never frozen. What really makes his reindeer sausage stand out is the grilled onions placed on top. They are caramelized in Coke every 10-15 minutes and really add a sweet touch. The final piece of the puzzle is their housemade “Boss” sauce, a blend of stone-ground mustard, pepper extract and vinegar. It really packs a zing.

husky dogs reindeer sausage alaska

Martin (left) normally deals with zombies which made it easier to work with Michael.

The result? Delicious. I’m not sure I would know that the sausage was made from reindeer as opposed to some other animal but at that point I didn’t care. I just knew that it was crispy, spicy and full of meaty flavor. At 11 PM on a summer night in Anchorage, reindeer sausage really hit the spot.

I hope Santa will understand.

Here’s our video taste test of reindeer sausage.

28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

At 6 a.m. the streets of this Buffalo neighborhood are deserted. Dawn is gradually washing away the film of night, transforming lumpy gray forms into a scattered array of brick houses and the occasional leafy tree. Midway down the block in a lone storefront a soft fluorescence accompanied by the clanging of pans Read more

Yelp and Trip Advisor are our go-to web sites for finding reviews of restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions. They are usually pretty accurate but it’s important to weed out the reviewers whose opinion you shouldn’t trust. Also be aware that Yelp viewers skew younger than TripAdvisor so take that into account when comparing places. Here’s our guide for how to read TripAdvisor and Yelp reviews:

Watch the star ratings: Ratings go from 1 to 5 stars. Ignore the 1 and 5 star reviews. When someone says it’s the worst place they’ve ever been they are so hyperbolic you can’t trust the review. The same goes for those 5 star reviews that seem as if they were written by the hotel or restaurant’s public relations agency. The reviews that contain the best information, both pro and con, are usually in the 2 to 4 star range and are written by discerning, observant travelers.

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Seek reviews from locals: Look closely at the reviews written by locals. Visitors from far-flung locations rave about certain famous cheesesteak places in our hometown of Philadelphia, but Philadelphians tend to say they’re not that good. Local reviewers know what other options are available in their hometown and are less likely to be suckered by a place that relies on the tourist trade.

We love the English but: “Mustn’t grumble” is a common expression in England. But when it comes to reviewing a place we want to hear the bad stuff. The reviews will state where the person lives so if it’s someplace like Melting Cheddarshire, England you can skip the review. A typical English review will read, “The hotel caught fire at 2 AM and we had to be evacuated. But it had been feeling a bit nippy anyway so we appreciated the extra warmth and the firefighters were charming blokes.” So beware. You might want to be careful with Canadians too, they’re just too damn nice to say anything bad.

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Great gluten-free options: People who need to avoid gluten have a serious medical condition but “gluten-free” has morphed into the latest diet fad among foodies.  The latter group is so excited when a restaurant offers gluten-free options that it clouds their judgment of the meal and results in over-the-top enthusiasm for the place.

Great vegan options: See gluten-free above.


I love New York but do they love anything back?
As a native New Yorker I know them pretty well. When I see a review from someone in Manhattan I know to skip it. Although they are sometimes clever in their criticisms, someone who complains that the 800-count sheets only had 767 threads (they know because they counted them) is probably too critical for me.

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I normally don’t like _________ but I loved these: If someone doesn’t normally like, say, pizza, are you really going to trust their judgment when they find a pizza they do like? When I’m looking for a pizzeria I want to hear from true aficionados who know the difference between a good one and cheese-topped cardboard. (Or heaven forbid, Chicago style pizza.)

They only take cash: I’m astonished when I read complaints about cash-only establishments like donut shops where the bill might come to two bucks. But I’ve stood on line behind enough hipsters using a debit card to buy a Red Bull that I shouldn’t be. They’ve become the modern-day equivalent of the little old ladies who still write checks at the supermarket. If someone isn’t responsible enough to walk around with five dollars in their pocket, do you really trust their opinion about anything?

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My kids/grandkids love it: Sorry but I’m not taking restaurant recommendations from a runny-nosed five-year-old. Unless of course I’m taking my runny-nosed five-year-old niece out to eat.

People who have written only one review: There are many reviewers who have only one review on Yelp or Trip Advisor. Typically the review is either so over the top positive it was probably written by a fake identity who is related to the owner, or it is so negative that it is written by a competitor. Be very suspicious of anyone who has taken the time to set up a reviewer account but then only writes one review. Perhaps the place really was so horrible that they just had to take the time to tell the world about it, but be discerning if you read these.

It was AMAZING!!!: The word “amazing” is so over-used these days that it doesn’t really say much beyond, “Hey I didn’t get food poisoning or bed bugs.” When you come across the overuse of this hackneyed term skip the review and find someone who’ll describe the place in more detail.

Meh: If this word is used, usually in the first sentence, stop reading and move on. The person is obviously trying to sound trendy and really has nothing to offer you. See remark about New York above.

What other suggestions can you offer?

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blue crabs at sydney fish market

The other day I read an article that highlighted the 12 worst tourist traps in the world. One of them was a place we were due to visit the following day, the Sydney Fish Market. We thought about not going there but were we really going to let something we had seen online influence us? (Said the two bloggers.)

I was wondering how a simple fish market could be a tourist trap. To do so it would have to meet certain criteria I’ve developed over the years:

1) It strays from its original purpose to sell trinkets, doodads and “arts-and-crap” items that are usually made in China and can be found anywhere in the world.

2) The number of t-shirt stores outnumbers every other kind of merchant (hello Key West).

3) There has to be at least one chain restaurant whose theme has absolutely nothing to do with the destination, preferably located next to a Madame Tussaud’s outpost, and

4) It’s a required stop on the tour bus route, Pier 39 in San Francisco comes to mind.

tusk fish at sydney fish marrket

I’m pleased to report that the Sydney Fish Market met none of these criteria. Half of the market is taken up by wholesalers who sell to retail outlets in the Sydney area. That seems pretty authentic. The remaining retail side was made up of fish vendors and restaurants. There were a few businesses that were not seafood related, but they would help you put together dinner for the evening. These included a baker, a produce market, and a cheese shop; hardly the stuff of tourist trap legend.

The fish stores were incredible. The goods on display were as fine as I have seen in any fish market anywhere, and we had just been at the Pike Place Market in Seattle only a few months earlier. Part of what makes the Sydney Fish Market so intriguing for a Northern Hemisphere person like me is that there were so many types of fish that I had never even seen before, let alone heard of.  In fact, it’s the largest fish market in the Southern Hemisphere and second only to Tokyo’s in the world.  We had read about Barramundi, the most popular fish in Australia but what exactly are Painted Sweetlips, Blue Throat Wrasse or Venus Tusk Fish?

Sydney fish market Swordfish (800x602)

Each fish outlet had a separate sashimi counter where a variety of sushi grade fish was being delicately sliced for discerning customers. What really caught my eye however was a giant swordfish sitting on a table of crushed ice. A sharp filleting knife was impaled into the ice beside a sign that read “Cut to Size.” It looked just like a steamship round-of-beef carving station that is the signature item at hotel buffets.

We’ve mentioned before how we prefer to rent apartments when we travel rather than staying at a hotel. Touring the Sydney Fish Market affirmed that decision. We wanted to buy everything we saw so we could take it back to our flat and cook it. For our first purchase we settled on Barramundi, a seemingly ho-hum choice but we figured we’d start with the most popular one. The next time though we’ll wade deeper into the depths of the fish market for a more exotic species.
By the end of our visit we decided that the Sydney Fish Market is definitely not a tourist trap. Here’s a link for more information about the Sydney Fish Market.
sydney fish market
We do offer one caveat if you go to the market. If you plan on eating there, then do so inside. Outside there are tables and umbrellas overlooking Blackwattle Bay. The dining area is under invasion by so many seagulls and other flying scavengers that sometimes it appears like a scene out of the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds. They quickly swoop down on unsuspecting diners to snatch part of their meal, but that’s not the worst of it.
The umbrellas are covered with so much gray guano that you could probably write your name on them. People dining under umbrellas with bird crap dripping off of them is one of the most disgusting sights we have seen; and it’s got to be some kind of health risk. So while we loved the market and would go back, we ate our food inside and recommend that you do the same.

That said, what tourist traps have sucked you in on your travels?

Interested in food? Click the link for more posts about food.

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