Jun 22, 2012 1:43:43 AM
Food wonderlands: where gourmet fantasies come true
Imagine a dreamy world of candy apples, whirling spices and chocolate fountains… Step into a delicious reality with these 10 fantastic food wonderlands.
You can pretend you’re on the tour to learn about the company’s socially responsible business practices (use only natural ingredients, buy them from local family farms). But let’s face it: you’re really at this factory in Vermont for the dreamy ice-cream samples swirled with fudge chunks, toffee bars, brownie batter and chocolate chip-cookie dough. Would it not be the world’s greatest job to ensure quality control of the 55-gallon (208L) fudge tank or proper blending of the peanut-butter-filled pretzels into their vanilla malt base? Ice-cream fanatics have been known to weep onsite.
Fit for hungry tsars, this grand 1901 Moscow food hall drips with crystal chandeliers and Art Nouveau stained-glass windows, with plenty of gold and marble tossed in for good measure. The edibles and drinkables are even more opulent. Beluga caviar and champagne? Check. Smoked salmon and vodka? Yep. Siberian meat dumplings and cognac? Got it. Salamis, cheeses and more vodka? Here. And what about dessert, say jam-filled gingerbread and Belgian chocolates? Yeliseyevsky has it all.
Paseo de la Princesa, Puerto Rico
Energetic kids, amorous couples and old men clacking dominoes get their fill along this San Juan promenade that runs beneath moss-draped walls. Food carts with coloured awnings proffer candy apples, cotton candy and other sugar-fuelled sweets to young ones, while older gents sip rich coffee and chomp golden-fried, seafood-stuffed yucca dough at outdoor tables. Cold drinks are the paseo’s specialty, with folks trying to beat the heat by gulping fruit-sweetened shaved ice, pineapple-juice-and-coconut-milk piña coladas (sans rum) and maví, a tree-bark cider served frosty from wooden barrels.
Yes, it’s geared mostly to youngsters with its animated films of singing Hershey Bars and Reese’s Cups wearing top hats. That doesn’t mean adults won’t have ample opportunity to act like kids in the candy shop. Chocolate World is, after all, a Pennsylvanian tribute to the making of some of America’s finest sweets – crisp wafery Kit Kats, tooth-destroying caramel Milk Duds, cool tingling Peppermint Patties and roast-peanut-infused Nutrageous bars. The pièce de résistance for chocoholics: gaping at shelves of 5lb (2.3kg) Hershey Bars in the onsite chocolate emporium.
Mercado de la Merced, Mexico
Those who elbow through this cramped, four-block span of marketplace in Mexico City are rewarded with tastes from all over the country. Traditional eats include dark and chewy cactus paddles (aka nopales), normally gobbled raw or cooked in stew; fresh white cheese; and an array of atomically hot chillies – all of which vendors generously offer samples. In addition to explosive flavours, multi-hued piñatas and bright wool blankets dangling from the stalls ignite the Mercado into a festival of colours.
The scent tickles your nose as soon as you enter this Hamburg establishment. It’s sweet, peppery, astringent and licoricey all at once. As you step over creaking floorboards and approach the individual burlap bags scattered throughout the warehouse, the aromas begin to focus. First marjoram, mint and nutmeg, then cinnamon, sage and fennel. The olfactory paradise continues, with 50 different spices to sniff along with exhibits explaining five centuries of spice history. The aphrodisiac spices (hello, cloves and coriander!) make for particularly good inhaling.
The smell is, er, not so fresh, but the flurry of commerce, led off by the 5:30am Tokyo tuna auction, is a sight to behold. Heaps of big fat slippery blackfin, bluefin, bigeye and longtail tuna, some weighing 300kg, lie on rows of ice alongside poisonous blowfish, scallops and sea cucumbers. Motorised carts whiz down the aisles, workers scurry around with clipboards and seafood-stuffed cartons, band saws hack through the giant tuna, and the slicing, scaling and sectioning of fish carries on apace. Once you’ve seen it, go eat it at the sushi bars along the market’s edges.
Chandni Chowk, India
Get ready to graze through the sweets and savouries of this 350-year-old bazaar in Delhi, attached to the Red Fort of Mughal Emperor Shahjahan. Crunch into a buttery, pistachioed sohan halwa dessert, then mix it up in the ol’ taste buds by downing a cone of spicy fried potato sticks. Vendors sell mounds of masalas (spice mixes), tubs of paneer (fresh cheese), towers of mangoes and bins of candied fruits. Thirsty from bargaining over the din? Quench with a thandai, a milk, sugar, almond, cardamom and crushed ice concoction. When you’re ready to bust, wave down a rickshaw to wheel you home.
It’s a teeny building in the tiny Wisconsin town of Mt Horeb (that’s OK, no one else has heard of it either), but it packs more mustard than you can shake a ballpark’s worth of hot dogs at – 4600 jars, to be exact. There’s horseradish mustard that’ll singe your nose hair, orange rind and espresso mustard that’ll wake up your corned beef sandwich and sweet, bubbly champagne mustard that’ll make your pork chop giggle. Antique tins and other items of great mustard historical importance line the shelves. ‘Condiment counselors’ spread samples at the back mustard bar.
Got a thing for food and travel? Then you’ll love Lonely Planet’s A Moveable Feast.