The towns you will find the best food in the world

There is great pleasure in the jolt of recognition that arrives when travelling and you spot a road sign pointing the way to Gorgonzola or Jarlsberg, Boskoop or Evian. Some destinations are so associated with their famous produce that we don't realise they're actual geographic places worthy of a visit. The combination is made in tourist heaven. Porto doesn't just allow cellar-door visits to sample port but is a lovely Portuguese riverside town of tumbling, pastel-shaded architecture. Darjeeling is synonymous with tea but is also a pleasant colonial hill town in the embrace of Himalayan landscapes. Brie is a northern French region of ancient towns and Somme battlefields as well as scrumptious cheese.

True, sometimes you have to be wary on the taste trail. Disappointment will ensue in Stilton, a Cambridgeshire village that doesn't produce blue cheese. Battenberg cake, though named for a German town, is an English creation. Baked Alaska was invented in New York and is called Norwegian omelette in French, and what the Austrians call a Viennese schnitzel is more familiar to Italians as a Milanese cutlet. 

Still, here are some top towns firmly associated with famous foods and drinks, supplying not only an insight into their production but plenty of other attractions too.


THE PLACE Small, prosperous Parma sits between Milan and Bologna in the food-heritage-dense Emilia-Romagna region ( and has an impressive architectural heritage and rich associations with composer Giuseppe Verdi.

THE FOOD Quality, original Parma ham ( comes from pork leg cured in salt, with a concentrated, sweet flavour and distinctive aroma. It has Protected Designation of Origin status from the European Union as a traditional specialty.

TASTE IT Tuck in at Degusteria Romani ( beneath hanging hams. Beyond town, visit the cellars of cured-meat producer Antica Corte Pallavicina (, with a wine and tasting plate of aged culatello ham afterwards.

ANYTHING ELSE? The town's cathedral and baptistery ( and Farnese Theatre are Renaissance masterpieces. Parma also gives its name to parmesan (, with factory visits highlighting its manufacture. 



THE PLACE Tequila is a World Heritage town some 60 kilometres from Guadalajara in western central Mexico, surrounded by red-earth volcanic hills.


THE DRINK This slightly herbal alcohol has been distilled from the blue agave plant since the 17th century, with laws now stating where it can be produced. Mexicans drink it neat, not with lime or salt. 

TASTE IT Head out along the Tequila Trail linking haciendas that produce tequila. Some have tasting rooms, others provide tours that explain the agave-growing and tequila-making process. Meet professional tasters at the distillery in suave Mondo Cuervo (, which also offers blending classes.

ANYTHING ELSE? Archaeological sites and opal mines. An amusing way to explore the valley is on the Tequila Express train ( as mariachi bands strum.



THE PLACE Roquefort-sur-Soulzon village sits beneath a giant rocky outcrop riddled with caves – where the cheese is matured – in south-west France's Aveyron mountains.

THE FOOD Roquefort ( blue cheese is made from raw sheep's milk, and has a crumbly texture, mild sweet flavour and strong tanginess from its veins of green mould.

TASTE IT Only seven companies produce roquefort. Several do tours. The most comprehensive is at Roquefort Societe (, whose one-hour tour includes an introductory film, cave visit and a tasting finale. Adjacent restaurant La Cave des Saveurs uses roquefort in many dishes.

ANYTHING ELSE? Hike up the escarpment on the alarmingly named Sentier des Échelles or "ladder path". The surrounding Aveyron region is riddled with valleys, dilapidated castles and some of France's most beautiful villages.



THE PLACE Longjing ("Dragon Well") is a village and tea-growing region 10 kilometres from Hangzhou city across famously scenic West Lake.

THE DRINK  One of China's top-quality, aromatic green teas, longjing  has a subtle taste and little bitterness and is pale yellow-green when brewed. It's traditionally served in a Yixing clay teapot.

TASTE IT Walk through the Longjing countryside to admire the tea plantations and visit the Chinese Tea Museum. Growers often sell cups of tea from their houses – it doesn't get fresher. In Hangzhou, island-located Hupanju is a contemporary recreation of a classical teahouse serving certified longjing teas with lake views.

ANYTHING ELSE? West Lake is lined with pavilions, promenades and temples. The spectacular sound-and-light show Enduring Memories (, created by acclaimed movie director Zhang Yimou, is wonderful.



THE PLACE Dijon is the capital of Burgundy, once an illustrious, semi-autonomous historic dukedom and now a winegrowing region of eastern France.

THE FOOD Dijon mustard-making started in the Middle Ages. The French-style mustard contains white wine rather than vinegar and has a sharp, tangy taste.

TASTE IT Boutique Maille (, opened in 1845, is the beautiful original store of the famous Maille brand. It has a "mustard sommelier" to guide you through unusual mustards flavoured with apricot, blue cheese, fig or gingerbread. Head south to Beaune to visit a factory: Moutarderie Fallot ( has a museum, tour and tastings.

ANYTHING ELSE? A medieval town centre, Gothic churches, great restaurants and famous surrounding vineyards. The Musée des Beaux-Arts ( is one of France's best provincial art galleries.



THE PLACE Daiquiri is a village and mine near Santiago de Cuba in south-east Cuba. The drink named after it was likely invented by an American mining engineer.

THE DRINK One of the great classic cocktails, it combines rum, lime juice and sugar. Aromatic Santiago de Cuba rum (reputedly Fidel Castro's favourite) is sweet, with hints of tobacco and vanilla.

TASTE IT The original 1868 former Bacardi rum distillery has a tasting bar and shop. The Museum of Rum offers a tipple for staying awake over the machinery displays; you can also repair to its bar for a daiquiri.

ANYTHING ELSE? Santiago de Cuba sits on a lovely bay defended by Spanish-era fortifications, now World Heritage listed. Its architecture is a  collision of Spanish, French and Afro-Caribbean influences.



THE PLACE  Flower-decorated Gruyeres, in western Switzerland a half-hour north of Montreux, is one of Europe's best-preserved fortified, medieval villages.

THE FOOD Gruyere ( is a grainy, yellow, hard-rind cheese salted in brine and cured for months in dark, humid conditions. Its creamy, nutty flavour becomes stronger and saltier with age.

TASTE IT Fromagerie d'Alpage ( provides a traditional cheese-making demonstration in a 1686 mountain chalet. Have a cheese-and-wine tasting on the terrace afterwards. Tuck into fondue at Auberge de la Halle (, made from melted gruyere and vacherin cheeses – and sprinkled with truffle for that luxe feel.

ANYTHING ELSE? Compact Chateau de Gruyeres ( has splendid outlooks over lush dairy country. The Sentier des Fromageries ( is a two-hour hike through gorgeous countryside.



THE PLACE A mountainous, forested region of south-west Germany between the Rhine River and Swiss border.

THE FOOD A cake made from layers of chocolate sponge, whipped cream and black cherries, and topped with cream, cherries and shaved chocolate. In Germany, kirsch is mandated as part of the recipe. It is this cherry spirit from the Black Forest the gives the cake – which might have originated elsewhere – its name.

TASTE IT Every cafe has its version, but Cafe Schafer ( in the quaint village of Triberg claims the "original" recipe. Historic Cafe Konig in Baden-Baden has a fabulous upmarket version.

ANYTHING ELSE? Enjoy gorgeous scenery along innumerable hiking trails. The grand, Victorian-era spa town of Baden-Baden (, medieval Freiburg ( and amusement park Europa Park ( are among many pleasures.



THE PLACE A mid-sized city and manufacturing centre close to Kyoto and Osaka on the Inland Sea in central Japan, and an important historical international port.

THE FOOD Kobe beef ( is a lean, sweet, flavourful meat with abundant fat marbling that almost literally melts in your mouth, since it has a low melting temperature. It is produced from pedigree Tajima cattle within Hyogo Prefecture.

TASTE IT Kobe provides your best chance of getting certified beef; internationally, most Kobe is imitation. Websites and list restaurants serving certified Kobe beef, eaten grilled, teppanyaki-style, in a hotpot (sukiyaki), or sliced and boiled in broth (shabu shabu).

ANYTHING ELSE? Hot-spring spas, Nunobiki Herb Garden and the Victorian-era Kitano foreign-settlement district, plus a compact Chinatown and the harbour foreshores.



THE PLACE A charming town of gabled brick houses afloat on canals 22 kilometres from Amsterdam, which became rich on Renaissance maritime trade. 

THE FOOD Edam cheese is made across the Netherlands but traditionally exported from Edam. The pale yellow, semi-hard cheese is sold in rounds protected by an orange (or when exported, red) wax rind. It has a mild flavour and little odour.

TASTE IT Kaaswaag is a 1777 weigh house with a cheese display and tastings. Out in the countryside, Alida Farm ( has demonstrations of cheese-making; the farm produces edam, gouda and sheep's cheeses.

ANYTHING ELSE? Stop by Edams Museum ( for a look at a 16th-century Dutch house. During its summer Wednesday Cheese Market (, edam cheese is auctioned  by men in traditional costumes and straw hats.



THE PLACE The Pennsylvanian town synonymous with American chocolate is just east of the state capital Harrisburg.

THE FOOD The precursor of the Hershey Company ( was founded in 1894 and produces  its own products and many under licence. Its most famous is the Hershey's Kiss, which might be filled with caramel, almonds or cherry. 

TASTE IT An unusual Hershey's Kiss flavour is an orange-and-black version containing spiced pumpkin. There's also a pumpkin version of the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Some Hershey dark chocolate bars contain pomegranate or cranberries. Children can do chocolate tastings at the Hershey Story Museum (

ANYTHING ELSE? Hersheypark ( has 13 rollercoasters and many other entertainments. You can take rides, learn about chocolate-making and create your own chocolate bar at Hershey Chocolate World Attraction (



THE PLACE San Pellegrino Therme sits in the Italian pre-Alps near Bergamo in Lombardy. Natural springs at Val Brembana supply the water.

THE DRINK San Pellegrino ( is a sparkling mineral water enriched with calcium and magnesium, with a slightly bitter and salty taste. It's said to match best with full-bodied red wines.

TASTE IT The water appears on posh restaurants tables across the world, but here you can swim in it. At QC Therme ( wellness centre it's heated to 36 degrees and fills swimming pools, tubs with a view, waterfalls, showers and steam baths.

ANYTHING ELSE? San Pellegrino Therme is an alpine health retreat with some notable (but neglected) belle epoque and art nouveau architecture. There is good hiking and biking in the surrounding valley.



THE PLACE Frankfurt-am-Main is one of Germany's largest cities and a world financial capital. It's located in central Germany on the pretty Main River.

THE FOOD The frankfurter is a smoked pork sausage scalded – but never boiled – in hot water and eaten with bread, horseradish and mustard, or sometimes potato salad. In Germany, it must be made in the vicinity of the city to be legally called a Frankfurter Wurstchen.

TASTE IT The riverside Sachsenhausen district has lively taverns offering traditional regional food accompanied by apple wine, including rustic Atschel (, where frankfurters are served with mash and sauerkraut.

ANYTHING ELSE? Medieval Romerberg Square and Goethe House ( are Frankfurt's main attractions, along with the top-quality museums of the riverside Museum Bank, one of Europe's premier art precincts.



Sometimes the names of foods get lost in translation or have origins quite simply invented. Here are five treats with an identity crisis.

MONGOLIAN BARBECUE This popular meat-and-vegetable stir fry, cooked up on a flat metal griddle, is barely a barbecue and certainly not Mongolian. It was invented in 1950s Taiwan and likely inspired by teppanyaki grilling, as Taiwan was under the rule (and culinary influence) of Japan between 1895 and 1945.

SWISS ROLL This rolled-up sponge cake filled with jam or cream (and occasionally fruit) has uncertain origins but is probably from central Europe. The name was first recorded in Britain in 1871. In Switzerland, it's called a roulade. Hong Kong's British influences have given it an especial liking for Swiss rolls, often mango or chocolate flavoured.

BOMBAY DUCK The popular dried, salted and strong-smelling fish is no duck and is caught and eaten in many parts of India, not just Bombay (now Mumbai) as an accompaniment to curries. The origins of its strange name are unknown but may derive from the fish's name in Marathi, bombil.

DANISH PASTRY These tempting treats are called wienerbrod or "Vienna bread" by the Danish, rightly pointing to the Austrian origin of this style of multilayered pastry. They're thought to have been introduced to Denmark in the 1850s by Austrian pastry chefs. One of their variations, the seemingly so-French croissant, also has Austrian origins.

JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE This root vegetable and member of the sunflower family is native to North America and is neither an artichoke nor has anything to do with Jerusalem. Its name may well be a garbled misunderstanding of the Italian girasole or sunflower. In the past they've also been called French potatoes and Canadian truffles.


Hear are five fine drinks named after geographic locations, and the best bars in which to enjoy them.

LONG ISLAND ICED TEA This heady cocktail mixes vodka, tequila, rum, orange liqueur and gin with a dash of cola. It was supposedly first created in 1972 at the now-closed Oak Beach Inn nightclub on Long Island near New York. Locals have just voted Mercato Kitchen as the place serving the best Iced Tea cocktail on Long Island. See

PISCO SOUR Chile and Peru have pavlova-like arguments over who claims the pisco brandy base to which citrus juice is added (plus egg whites and bitters in Peru) for the classic South American cocktail. The cocktail itself is a 1920s Lima invention. Knock it back (as Hemingway did) at Gran Hotel Bolivar's wood-panelled bar. See

PILSNER BEER This type of pale lager with its distinct hoppy flavour was first produced in the Czech town of Plzen (or Pilsen in German) in 1842. Take a tour of the Pilsner Urquell Brewery to see the beer getting brewed and bottled, with a tasting afterwards in the historic cellars amid giant wooden barrels. See

SINGAPORE SLING You ought to quaff this cocktail of gin, cherry brandy and pineapple, orange and lime juices in the place it was invented: the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. The colonial-era watering hole is currently being renovated, however, so you'll have to be content with the Billiard Room until next year. See

BLUE CURACAO This liqueur made from laraha (citrus fruit) peel, to which spices and artificial colouring are added, is named for an island in the Netherlands Antilles. The best spot for a Curacao-based cocktail on the Caribbean island is Avila's Blue Bar, where it's accompanied by live jazz. See