Experience Local Cultures by Palate (Continued)
1) Beer in Munich
Nothing beats a German pilsner, or my favorite, a Weiss bier, which is a rich wheat beer. There are plenty of great outdoor beer gardens in Munich to choose from. If it’s colder outside, the Hofbrauhaus will give you the full-blown German drinking experience, complete with oompah music and pretzels. And if you go during Oktoberfest and aren’t into drunken debauchery, the family tents are a great way to experience the fest.
Just be sure to make reservations months in advance for the tent of your choice. Pro tip: To prost like a pro with a Weiss bier, clank glasses leading with the lower part of the glass.
2) Vinho Verde in Lisbon
Our host in Lisbon gave me a bottle of vinho verde (green wine), which is a light, refreshing wine indigenous to Portugal. Prior to visiting Lisbon, I had never heard of green wine, and learning more about it, green in this case means young. The wine is usually made and consumed less than a year after the grapes are harvested. Another cool thing – most growers train their vines to grow high off the ground so they can grow vegetable crops below as a food source.
Everywhere in Lisbon seemed to serve vinho verde, and I honestly didn’t come across one that I didn’t like (and yes, I actually will waste a glass of wine if I don’t like the way it tastes!). With summer right around the corner, I highly recommend trying vinho verde if your local shops carry it.
3) Maté in Buenos Aires
While every place seems to have their regional beer or wine (I discovered Quilmes in Argentina while watching a Boca Juniors game, along with Malbec, before it got huge in the U.S., during steak dinners), the unique drink in Buenos Aires is maté.
On the way to a barbeque and horse-back riding in the pampas, our guide busted out this gourd-looking bowl with a metal straw in the back of the bus. Since I thought he was drinking an adult beverage, I asked what it was. It wasn’t some boozy concoction, but a drink called maté. Come to find out that maté is usually enjoyed in social situations, so by the time we reached our destination, most of the bus was acquainted with this traditional drink.
The best way to describe it is an earthy, caffeine-infused hot tea, and there’s a specific way to prepare it and drink it. I would call it an acquired taste, but loved bonding with new friends over it!
4) Tea in Osaka
So this seems generic, almost like saying to try sake because it’s big in Japan. However, during a business trip to Osaka, we had a generous per diem to spend on food and drinks each day. And it was a stupid large amount, where we didn’t even spend close to what the allowance was. We made it a challenge to try to use the full per diem on one meal, and discovered an amazing lunchtime tea service at the Ritz Carlton. The food was paired with each tea (I think around 6 courses), which were indescribably amazing.
I have no idea what the teas were, but for the cost of the lunch, I’m pretty sure they were brewed with gold dust and angel tears. The setting was the perfect confluence of modern-day dishes with traditional Japanese tea service.
5) Champagne in France
If you’re near the Champagne region in France (east of Paris), the caves are a must-see, even if you don’t like drinking champagne. The big champagne makers, like Mumm, offer tours of how champagne is made, and the general history behind it, with samples, of course! It was really cool and interesting to learn about this fairly small and unique region in France, with the distinction of calling it’s bubbling wine “champagne”.
Taking some bottles home always makes for great gifts. And if you don’t leave with a few bottles of champagne, there’s always a nearby Cora with a robust wine section; I’ve never been disappointed in a 4 euro bottle!
6) Hot Chocolate in Montreal
Montreal can be pretty frigid to visit in the winter, especially if you’re walking around the city. I did both things, and with a small child in tow. On our first day, we found a cozy looking café to duck into, in order to defrost and re-energize. I ordered the hot chocolate to placate the freezing child, and will never forget the size of the hot chocolate bowl, or how delicious it was! We discovered there are some real chocolatiers in Montreal who take hot chocolate seriously, and not in a Swiss-Miss packet with whipped cream kind of way.
Hot chocolate in Montreal was not only a necessity, but fabulously tasty everywhere we had it. Some places would add their own twist to it, or serve it spiked, but whatever the offering, it was the unsung beverage hero of our trip!
As a bonus in celebration of my birthday week, here’s a Bacardi Rum Cake recipe, passed down a couple of generations in my family and used on a regular basis. You can’t go wrong serving this cake up, especially at work! 😊