Top 5 culinary destinations in the world

by Irina Vishnevskaya, Tastemaker in Residence

When traveling, some people travel to hike, others travel to see museums and others to experience culture. And then there are those who travel to eat- to taste and experience a culture through their taste buds, through shared experiences surrounding meals and at the table. This last kind of travel might just be my absolute favorite. To me, there’s nothing more exciting than tasting flavors I never even knew existed while using eating utensils that feel a little clumsy. My favorite travel ethos is one borrowed from my brother: never eat at places with an English menu. 

While there are definitely delicious and fascinating eats to be had and experienced in every corner of the world, some destinations shine when it comes to the culinary kind of travel. Here are my top picks: 

1. Japan
Hands down the number one place to travel for those who appreciate food and culture. Your mind will be blown on the regular. The Japanese culture’s meticulous, artistic approach to everything is demonstrated throughout its eating culture. Food experiences abound, and even two weeks is too short of a trip to experience all there is to eat. There are the countless corner ramen shops serving up the ultimate comfort food in no frills but signature- Japanese style, early morning sushi at the largest fish market in the world, tea ceremonies that look like a dance and the best, most delicious (and expensive) beef you will ever taste. 

2. Israel
Regardless of where you stand on politics, I’m sure that I can easily convince you that few places in the world compare to Israel in terms of culinary worthiness. Something about the fusion of sun-ripened fresh goodness, classic middle eastern flavors from places like Iraq and Morocco mixed with European traditions brought by immigrants from Western and European countries is just plain delicious. Ever had hummus as an entree? Yes, it makes for a great one. Tahini on everything all of a sudden makes perfect sense and oh yes, let’s not forget fresh from the oven pita and za’atar , the most impressive all-spice there ever was. 

3. Hungary
I am certainly biased having lived in Hungary for nearly 5 years, but I firmly believe Hungarian food is one of the most flavor-intense traditions in Europe. It’s closer in style to North African and Asian flavors with spices like paprika— and it’s really the only European cuisine that actually includes incredibly spicy foods. From the infamous Goulash in its rich goodness, to foie gras that outdoes its French cousin in so many ways and of course the incredible pastries. Anything but healthy or diet friendly, trips to Hungary should always be equipped with loose-fitting clothing and reckless abandon in pursuit of delicious. 

4. New York City
In every way possible, NYC is the world’s main stage for all things food. Here, in one tightly-packed city, you can taste every single kind of food from every corner and crevice of the world; it’s so incredibly efficient. My personal favorites are the quintessential New York bagels, the abundance of new-age Eastern European Jewish immigrant food and of course, some of the best sushi outside of Japan. But really, there’s no way to give the New York City dining culture any sort of justice with a short paragraph. 

5. Italy
Ah Italia. The home of so much passion towards food, wine and all things dolce vita. And rightfully so. Aside from “just” eating, I always encourage clients going to Italy to spend some time in Tuscany to experience the slow life and venture around vineyards or take a cooking class. In fact, there’s even a local man who is a Truffle mushroom hunter, and he offers the opportunity to spend a day Truffle hunting with him in the forest. 

Honorable mentions also go out to Morocco, Thailand, Vietnam, South Africa, Brazil, Uruguay and many, many more.