There are those who travel for art. There are those who travel for natural beauty. There are those who travel for architecture, for history, for sport and even for music. And then, of course, there are those who travel for the simple love of extremely good food.
This is, after all, about far more than mere sustenance, far more than just filling up. A country's cuisine is its culture, its identity. Sharing a meal when you're travelling is all about sharing a way of life: it's family, it's love and it's an expression of something simple and beautiful and pure. And it's always great to have experts on hand to guide you through.
If you love food, and you love to experience a new country through its cuisine, then read on, because there's good news: the world is your oyster. It's also your bowl of pho, your baguette with cheese, your empanada, your pippies in XO sauce, and your bratwurst. Bon appetite.
VIETNAM & CAMBODIA
WHY WE LOVE THEM Plenty of Australians are already familiar with the fresh, clean flavours of Indochina, but that knowledge still doesn't prepare you for the sensation that is this sumptuous cuisine in its home environment. From pho, the world-famous Vietnamese noodle soup, to Hoi An-style dumplings, "banh mi", or pork rolls served on crusty baguettes, herbaceous salads, and the seafood-heavy stir-fries of the Mekong Delta, Vietnam and Cambodia have so much to offer travellers in the way of gastronomy.
DON'T MISS Though there's plenty of good food to eat anywhere you turn in Vietnam and Cambodia, one of the best ways to truly understand the cuisine is by taking a cooking class with Red Bridge Cooking School in the old city of Hoi An. Here you'll take a tour of the local market before heading back to the kitchen and learning to prepare the town's specialties from the experts.
INSIDER TIP Celebrity chef Luke Nguyen is APT's official ambassador in Vietnam and Cambodia. Luke has not only shaped a range of culinary experiences for all itineraries, but he'll be personally escorting selected tours in 2017.
WHY WE LOVE IT Chinese cuisine was once so tragically misunderstood – beef and black bean, or sweet and sour pork, anyone? – but is now enjoying a deserved place in the spotlight. There's so much to love about the real food of China, so much variety from province to province, so many complex, exotic flavours that have been refined over thousands of years of history. From the famed Peking duck to Shanghai-style xiao long bao dumplings, a trip to China truly is a moveable feast.
DON'T MISS Though Chinese cuisine is reliably good throughout the country, eating it can be a little daunting at first. Many restaurants don't have English menus. Many dishes are unfamiliar. That's where doing a tour – perhaps a river cruise on the Yangtze, or coach tour of the cities – can come in handy, where all of the food is taken care of by an onboard chef, or pointed out to you by an experienced guide.
INSIDER TIP Another benefit of travelling on a group tour is access to areas you wouldn't normally be able to visit. For example, APT guests enjoy a freshly prepared lunch on a quiet section of the Great Wall – an amazing experience.
WHY WE LOVE IT The food of France requires little in the way of introduction. This is the home of croissants and pains au chocolat, of baguettes and the world's best cheese, of steak frites, of macarons, of tarte tartin and crème brulee – you know you're going to love it before you even arrive. There is more to the cuisine in this amazing country, however, than you might realise, with plenty of regional specialties and seasonal produce to discover as you make your way around.
DON'T MISS The best way to appreciate France's gastronomic culture is to visit the purveyors of its finest food, to learn the trade and meet the characters behind the cuisine. That might be a caviar farm in Libourne, a winery in Avignon, or an olive mill in Saint Remy-de-Provence.
INSIDER TIP Paul Bocuse is one of France's most famous chefs, a specialist in fine-dining cuisine, and APT guests get to eat dinner at his restaurant, L'Abbaye de Collonges, on the 15-day Rhine, Rhone and Moselle tour.
WHY WE LOVE IT There's a beautiful no-fuss nature to German cuisine. There's great food on offer here, don't get us wrong: from traditional bratwurst and schnitzel to dense, hearty bread, high-quality cheese and fantastic wine from the Rhine and Rhone valleys. However, it's not taken too seriously. Most of the best German produce is available from local street markets, or devoured in friendly, welcoming restaurants with a glass of wine or one of the country's famous beers.
DON'T MISS The ancient city of Cologne is one of Germany's gastronomic hubs, a place of great architectural beauty as well as delicious cuisine. Hit the streets in Cologne to sample the city's best eats: there are plenty of snacks on offer, plus the chance to try local Kolsch beer. Regensburg, too, is a city with excellent cuisine: however, particularly at the Michelin-starred Storstad restaurant, it's on the more fine-dining end of the scale.
INSIDER TIP Namedy Castle, a beautiful royal escape near the Rhine River, is one of Germany's classic properties, and APT guests have the opportunity to dine here, sampling the region's best food, accompanied by a classic piano recital.
WHY WE LOVE IT This huge and diverse continent is gradually gaining the recognition it deserves on the world food scene, in particular the cuisines of Peru, Brazil and Argentina. To eat in South America is to stare deep into your host country's history, a rich mix of Old World and New: in Argentina there's the legacy of the Basque immigrants, with their obsession with meat and fire; in Peru it's a mix of indigenous ingredients cooked using techniques from the Spanish, the Chinese and Japanese; while in Brazil, Portuguese and African flavours are seamlessly melded.
DON'T MISS Peru has become an unlikely hub of celebrity chefs who are known the world over, with names like Gaston Acurio and Virgilio Martinez leading the way. The pair use native ingredients from across this amazing country, taking recognisable dishes such as ceviche to a fine-dining level.
INSIDER TIP Don't miss the chance to sample organic Peruvian chocolate at the "Bean to Bar" chocolate workshops in Arequipa, Peru. South America is well known for its chocolate, and this is some of its best.
EUROPE RIVER CRUISING
WHY WE LOVE IT Europe is a truly incredible continent, where the entire culture can change from village to village, between settlements that are sometimes only a few kilometres apart: the language is different, the architecture is different, and the food is different. As a traveller it can make finding the local specialties a daunting prospect – and that's where river cruising comes in. About a river ship on a European waterway, all of the best local cuisine is served on board, adapted to your location, cooked by professional chefs whose styles range from traditional fine-dining to more casual cuisine.
DON'T MISS When the weather is good, there's nothing better than doing as the Europeans do and dining alfresco. Aboard most APT river ships, the Sun Deck is open each lunchtime – weather permitting – to enjoy your midday meal in the great outdoors, taking in the scenery while dining on local cuisine.
INSIDER TIP Though there's often the option to dine in town if you're staying somewhere more than one night, the APT cruise line is the only one inducted into La Chaine des Rotisseurs, the oldest wine and food society in the world, so there's no need to leave the ship if you don't feel like it.
STEFAN SCHMITZ, CHEF
Working aboard at APT river ship, chef Stefan Schmitz is constantly being exposed to new, exotic cuisines; however, he says his favourite style of food will always be his own. "Each country has a variety of specialties," Stefan says. "But I always prefer the food that I grew up with – that means for the me it's German cuisine." Stefan has been a chef for 30 years, and has worked for APT for the last three. The cuisine of France, he says, has had a strong influence on the food he prepares for APT guests, particularly recipes from the food-obsessed city of Lyon. However, when it comes to making dinner for himself, it's still German food all the way. "Cooking a simple stew can make me happy," he says. "Right now I would like to have a beef stew with spaetzle [German egg noodles] and a salad."
This article is produced in association with APT. Indulge in a host of delightful culinary experiences and the finest local flavours on an unforgettable luxury journey with APT. For more information visit www.aptouring.com.au/traveller, call 1300 290 669 or contact your local travel agent.