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Apr 13, 2011 07:07 PM

Favorite places you've lived outside the USA?

Purely from a food perspective...

Where did you most enjoy day-to-day food life outside the USA? And when did you live there?

Where would you most like to live (and eat) outside the USA if you could move there right now?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

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  1. The time we lived in Belgium in the late 60's. The food was varied between the Flemish influence in the northwestern part and the French influenced cuisine in the southeastern part of Belgium. Brussels was the confluence of these cuisines and therefore it was a mecca of wonderful restaurants. Coming home after work, I always stopped at our favorite bakery and picked up a fresh loaf of bread. I also had a case of Stella delivered to the house once a week. Bread, fresh butter, Gouda cheese and a Stella caused me to gain weight but boy was it good. The food in Liege was different in some ways than Brussels because it was so close to the Arden hills and forests for fresh berries, mushrooms and wild game. We loved it!

    If I had the chance today and could afford it, I would move to Paris and enjoy the wonderful food opportunities in France. Having spent many times in Paris and the rest of France, there is still so much to taste and drink in France. I guess you could consider me a francophile in my tastes.

    4 Replies
    1. re: igorm

      I spent some time in the southern (Francophone) half of Belgium in the 80s. The food and beer were wonderful. Shopping in the weekly markets for fresh meats and vegetables were great. I still can recall the smell of the fresh gaufres in the streets. But I agree Paris would be the best of everything.

      1. re: igorm

        Live in France 3-4 months a year, the food is a major reason for that. Lived in Tokyo for three months a few years back, Tsukiji, the fish market was a big part of that choice as well.

        1. re: igorm

          Was Stella different back in the 60s? I have been wondering this for sometime... now I finally have someone to ask :)
          We went to Brussels last May and had absolutely amazing food, beer, and chocolate. Definitely an amazing food country. I absolutely adore Belgium beer, but not Stella (at least not the stuff the sell in the US; I didn't try it over there). It just seems so generic and mass produced... not like any of the other Belgium beers I have had.
          So I have been wondering if Stella used to be better and if they "sold out" to be more appealing to the British and Americans...

          1. re: lrealml

            I still drink it now and it tastes the same to me as in late 60's, still good!

          1. re: babette feasts

            I hav'nt had the pleasure of getting a visa to go there but i have heard it is a foodie's paradise.

            1. re: igorm

              I lived there (in the PRCB) from 1974 to 1987 with 2 years in Taipei during that time. Both fabulous places to live for food with the advantage Taipei for the full range of Chinese cuisines available...

          2. Right now I live in Northeast China. I don't know if it's my favorite place I've lived outside the USA from a food perspective, but what I do like is that by living here I've had to learn how to cook my favorite foods without the shortcuts we Americans are so used to (Powders, cans, jars, etc..)

            Also here in China I've had a chance to eat dogs, bugs, reptiles, amphibians, offal, all the types of things that make people back home (Berkeley/Greater S.F. Bay Area) cringe.

            Also, my Russian significant other has taught me how to make pickles and sauerkraut as well as a myriad of Russian comfort foods.

            I lived in Madrid for a year, but I found the food in Madrid wasn't as good as it was in other cities I visited like Toledo, Pamplona, Granada...

            I took a three week vacation in Northern Portugal and I'd say that was the best food I've had. Along the coast from Figueroa do Foz to Porto up the Duero River valley... almost everywhere I went had unbelievably fresh food, crisp, smooth wine. It was especially nice because I was on a budget, but I felt like I was really enjoying good stuff from bifanas to BBQ'ed sardines to a bean dish much like cocido madrilleana all of it great.

            23 Replies
            1. re: misterkot

              I'll venture a guess that you'll find plenty of people in Berkeley/Greater S.F. Bay Area who are more than willing to eat offal. Dogs? Probably not so much. Well, pit bulls maybe.

              1. re: linguafood

                I have never been to Berkeley, but I would be willing to bet that the residents on Berkeley would be much more likely to eat Sweetbreads than Tripe.

                1. re: DougRisk

                  We can all make assumptions based on nothing. Not that it serves any purpose.

                  1. re: linguafood

                    Yes, it is an assumption. No, it is not base on nothing.

                    However, it was not meant as a put down of the people of Berkeley (if they are eating any offal, good for them), but more a comment on what has happened in the West over the last 50 years.

                    1. re: DougRisk

                      in San Francisco, we have a number of restaurants that focus on offal or at least have it on offer regularly, and I'm sure there are places in Berkeley too, and that Berkeley-ites make it out to San Francisco quite often. Besides, you're forgetting our Latino & Asian populations.....

                      1. re: mariacarmen

                        Cosentino, in SF, I am quite familiar with...though, only from an outsiders POV.

                        However, when I make off-hand comments about offal, or almost any other food, I am rarely referring to them from a restaurant perspective...much more from the, "what do people want to eat at home".

                        And things like, well, Tripe are almost completely gone from the traditional America table. (There was a time when Tripe and Trotters was as common as Liver and Onions...which leads down another tangent).

                        So, while my comment was off-hand, I would be curious to know how common it is for someone in Berkeley to go to the Butcher/Market and get Tripe to bring home and stew up with some tomatoes (or in some other classic American preparation)

                        1. re: DougRisk

                          well, as i said, our Asian and Latino communities IN BERKELEY probably shop and cook just as you describe - not all of them, certainly, but i know it happens. If you're talking white Americans, probably not as much offal cooking going on at home on a regular basis - probably more something you'd "experiment" with, or go to a restaurant for (Incanto = Cosentino's restaurant, but there are others that do a head-to-tail menu.)

                          1. re: mariacarmen

                            Tripe was on Chez Panisse menus occasionally waaaaay back in the day.

                            1. re: mariacarmen

                              I wasn't referring to White Americans, and, you don't need to yell.

                              But, like I said, "...or in some other classic American preparation...". Granted, I am proud of anyone who eats Offal, but, I am still saddened to see that Tripe (and Trotters) are almost completely gone from the traditional American Home Table.

                              1. re: DougRisk

                                I eat tripe regularly and I cook it. Maybe where you live it's not common.

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  I eat tripe all the time. And saying that you eat it does not address the point that I was making at all.

                                  It was a very simple point, and never meant to offend anyone, nor should it have. And that point is this:

                                  Tripe is longer a common ingredient on the traditional American home dinner table. And that is a shame.

                                  That was all I was saying.

                                  1. re: DougRisk

                                    Was tripe ever "a common ingredient on the traditional American home dinner table"? I'm 64 and never had it growing up in the South. How long ago are we talking about. I wasn't offended. Just trying to clarify.

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      (Philadelphia) Pepper Pot was popular in many parts of the country. It was said that you could find a woman on a corner serving it from a pot almost anywhere in any major city.

                                      George Washington, once, said it was his favorite dish. Tripe (and Tripe and Trotters) remained in almost all popular "Book of Receipts" (i.e. Cookbooks) well into the 20th century. However, I would not know which version of, say, the Joy of Cooking where references to it declined or disappeared all together.

                                      1. re: DougRisk

                                        >>(Philadelphia) Pepper Pot was popular in many parts of the country. It was said that you could find a woman on a corner serving it from a pot almost anywhere in any major city.<<

                                        I've been in LA all my life - nothing even remotely like that here - must have been before my time. With a strong Latino population though, menudo must by our version of Pepper Pot - but only on weekends.

                                      2. re: c oliver

                                        "I wasn't offended."

                                        I am curious. You said, "I eat tripe regularly and I cook it. Maybe where you live it's not common."

                                        So, it is commonly prepared in a Traditional American manner in your town? Or, just in your house?

                                        Because, that was the point that I had made a few times.

                                        1. re: DougRisk

                                          I've only used it in Latino and Asian dishes so I wasn't considering that "Traditional American." I just looked in my 1943 edition of Joy and she had five tripe recipes: broiled, fried, piquante, Spanish and stewed. Twelve recipes for sweetbreads but only three for pigs' feet. Just to add some perspective.

                                        2. re: c oliver

                                          Most Saturdays,Tripe was simmering on the stove at my neighbor's house when I was growing up. I guess that is where I learned to love the delectable little honeycomed morsels. I think it was very close to the "Trippa alla Romana that I often make now.

                                          1. re: ospreycove

                                            Yeah, I absolutely love the stuff.

                                    2. re: DougRisk

                                      i wasn't yelling. jeez, calm down. don't be afraid of capital letters.

                                      1. re: mariacarmen

                                        I never thought I got all that excited. In fact, I thought that I responded quite reasonably. Also, it is very common for all caps, on the web, to be interpreted as yelling.

                                        However, since you told me to, I will now be calming down.

                                        Better? Good.

                                  2. re: DougRisk

                                    I think it's the laborious prep for stuff like tripe and of course the unfamiliarity with it by the not-so ethnic communities as well. You'll see tripe and offal in general prepared in much of the ethnic communities because:

                                    1) It's a cultural, familiar and nostalagic food item for them.

                                    2) Many ethnic homes are still run by wives - not meaning that they're housewives - many work at least part time - but by culture, they are expected to spend time preparing dishes that take the time and labor as it's part and parcel of their culture.

                                    3) It can be inexpensive, but with the increasing demand for the other parts, I'm sure the prices are bound to rise if they haven't already.

                                    I'd give some time for offal to move into the homes of those pictured as Berkeley-ites. Like tofu, fish sauce and other once-exotic yuck items, once it's accepted at the eatery level, it eventually moves into the homes at large.

                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                      When I made the offal comment, I was referring to my own personal friends and family in the Bay Area. Of course a lot of people eat all kinds of stuff there, MY people aren't eating dog and offal.

                                      1. re: bulavinaka

                                        Hey Bula,
                                        I understand. But, one othe things I was trying to convey is...

                                        "It's a cultural, familiar and nostalagic food item for them."

                                        .. it used to be cultural, familiar and nostalgic for plain old Americans as well.

                        2. I lived in San Jose, Costa Rica in the early '90s and remember being desperate for any type of fresh vegetable. But there was coconut ice cream dipped in dark chocolate, breakfast of eggs with pico de gallo, tortillas, and natilla (sour cream),papaya and milk smoothies, arroz con leche, pozole...

                          I lived outside of Basel, Switzerland in the late nineties and had one of the most incredible food experiences of my life: gorgeous, full-fat blackberry (?) yogurt in a brown glass jar. Plus thin sheets of marzipan covered in dark chocolate. The dairy was incredible.

                          Now I am living in Hong Kong, and I don't know yet what I'll miss when we go. Roasted meats for sure. We had a wonderful Sichuan smoked duck recently that knocked my socks off. Dim sum, but specifically dumplings! But I love buns too. Buns with molten hot egg custard filling. And Chiu Chow food: oyster omelets, braised goose with shallots and vinegar...

                          But I miss bread. I really do. There are bakeries all over here, which have delicious treats. But they don't make *chewy*, crusty deliciousness the way they do in Europe (or even some cities in the US). I think about bread a lot...

                          But incidentally, speaking of Northern Chinese cuisine, I *loved* the street food I had in Beijing. Very earthy, strong flavors. And a Beijing pancake with soy milk is in the running, in my mind for one of the world's most perfect breakfasts...

                          But I am very interested in Portugal, would love to live-and-eat in France too.

                          Any others? Mediterranean countries? India?

                          14 Replies
                          1. re: chloehk

                            I lived in HK about ten years ago (seems impossible that it's been that long!!) and absolutely adored the food. I miss dim sum SO much (sniff sniff, waaaaah), and little dai pai dongs and noodle shops, and char siu, and egg waffles at the night market, and egg tarts, and ham-and-egg rice, and the creperie at the Peak, and Malaysian/Singaporean food, and big bowls of ramen for breakfast, and iced milk tea and and and...

                            1. re: chloehk

                              NOT Guatemala.

                              Costa Rica must have really changed since the 90's because I was amazed by the variety of produce available not only in the Central Market in San Jose, but even the ordinary suermarket. Here are my photos from a week or so ago. They had so many types of watermelon, including white, that I took a photo in the plain old Safeway type of supermarket.

                              In the photos below, I was focusing on the fruit, but there were lots of vegetables as well.

                              While my forray into San Jose, CR was only for two days, I was thinking if I had to live anywhere in Central America, that would be the place fore me.

                              As to Guatemala, let's say I'm more than ready to come home.

                              I will miss the tortillas immensely. No country Ive ever visited does them better. Also will miss just picked, dead ripe tropical fruit including many I've never heard of before. I'll miss a fruit called chico's a lot. Really nice French bread too. Good seafood and good checken or beef soup.

                              However, the lack of variety of regular produce, espeically tomatoes, is a pain. It is pretty much beets, cabbage, green beans, squash, potatoes, bad corn, onions, radishes, cucumbers, iceburg lettuce and carrots ... though the carrots are the sweetest and tastiest I've ever had.

                              Oh ... and the coffee stinks. Except in tourist areas it is mainly Nescafe. The good stuff gets exported for the most part. German food is pretty good though since the Germans started the coffee plantations and the cuisine has had an impact.

                              A big problem is the unwillingness of people to take a chance with something new. It is sort of like America in the 1950's. Actually, if you want to relive the 1970's without irony, down to the fern bars serving up drinks like white Russians and tequila sunrises ... come to Guatemala.

                              I "lived" in Mexico City a year and I loved it there food-wise, especially the tortas. They were a little limited on wine, but the grub was good. By lived, I mean I worked there Mon-Fri and commuted back for the weekends.

                              Tawain was ok for the 4-5 months I was there, but not really memorable to me. However, at that time I was hugely uneducated about Chinese food, so I might have missed a lot.

                              1. re: rworange

                                Que lastima that most Guatemalans are so impoverished that they don't get to enjoy their own arabica coffee - it is such a pleasant, mild variety, I love it, and it is so cheap by gringo standards- a few bucks for a kilo of great beans.

                                But godforsaken Guatemala is so poor, and is being overrun by narcotraffickers, because the law there is overwhelmed. So, so sad. A disaster in progress. As of last month, Guatemala has the highest murder rate in the world. So sad.

                                1. re: Veggo

                                  The fault with the food isn't the poverty. The 1950's mindsent crosses all classes. There is just a real unwillingness to try anything not in the comfort range. By this time I can spot the restaurants that will close soon. Im willing to start a pool with how long the Egyptian place lasts which is in an Antigua minimual outside of tourist central.

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    I remember too well all the Central American restos that first serve Nescafe and canned milk, and your eyes roll back. But then come the magical fruit plates and a delicious, almost photogenic breakfast. Go figure.

                                  2. re: Veggo

                                    I'm living in Antigua right now and last week I went to a presentation by the Consul General of Guatemala for US Citizens. She told us that the murder rate in Guatemala is the fourth highest in the world and only the second highest in Central America behind Honduras. Almost more shocking to me is that 96% of the murders are never prosecuted so the criminals know they can murder with impunity.

                                    Yes, law enforcement is overwhelmed, but they're overwhelmed because monies have been diverted from law enforcement to the pet projects of those who control the funds; the number of police, corrupt or not, is down more than 35%.

                                    Of even greater concern is that deaths from malnutrition among indigenous children is expected to increase considerably over the next few years as local Mayans continue to be evicted from fertile land and transported to land becoming desertized due to lack of water.

                                    I'm well aware that I'm in a fairly well-to-do area of Guatemala, but the abundance in the mercado not only of fruits and vegetables, but meat, chicken, and--to a lesser extent--fish is almost staggering. And it's not tourists who are shopping there. So there's food. It's just not getting where it's needed.

                                  3. re: rworange

                                    I've only been in Guatemala two weeks so far, but I'm having a very different experience from you. Perhaps it's because I'm doing my produce shopping in Antigua.

                                    I'm finding lovely tomatoes in the mercado, mostly plum but regular as well (although no hierloom) and all kinds of greens--many of which I haven't figured out yet. I bought some beautiful fava beans last Thursday and there's a huge variety of onions. Saw a selection of a few different kinds of mushrooms and some lovely shelled peas. And I don't know half of what I'm looking at. Totally agree with you about the corn, however. Cattle feed.

                                    I disagree, also, about the coffee. Bought a pound of already ground (don't have a grinder in my apartment) Tostaduria Buen Cafe and and I've been liking it every bit as much as some of the fancier coffees I buy back home at Fairway. Perhaps the reason the coffee stinks outside of tourist areas (although I'd hardly call the Paiz in downtown Guatemala City a tourist area) is that people there actually prefer Nescafe. Or think they do.

                                    1. re: JoanN

                                      Didin't see greens or even plum tomatoes at the Antigua market today, but I did buy seven dfferent types of mangoes and it only took me an hour to get to the mercado from La Merced through the blocked Palm Sunday streets

                                      I read a while back that there has been an effort to interest Guatemalans in quality coffee which has resulted in places like Cafe Saul, & Cafe, Cafe Gitane, etc. Yes, there is more variety in the big cities, but that doesn't seem to be perculating elsewhere yet.

                                      1. re: rworange

                                        And Guatemala coffee is SOOO good. It is baffling to me that is is not part of a morning routine everywhere in the country.

                                        1. re: rworange

                                          Yeah, I've already learned never to go to the market on the weekend. My teacher told me that the best selection with the smallest crowds is on Monday and Thursday, so those are now the only days I go. The market must have been a madhouse yesterday.

                                          Really, really surprised that you saw neither greens nor plum tomatoes. The market was loaded with both last Thursday.

                                          1. re: JoanN

                                            Part of the thing with coffee is preparation. It is so heavily sugarded that it may as well be anything. A friend who is a rare exception during my visit and open to trying new things, finally tried a decent brew without sugar and said politley "I need sugar:" after a few sips.

                                            It took me five years before I could drink coffee without sugar, so that is understandable.

                                            And prior to Nescafe, coffee was brewed in a pot for hours over an open fire. I had that once during my visit and the smoky taste permeating the coffee was one of the most memorable and wonderful tastes in my life. If it was cheapo beans, it didnt matter, the brewing changed it to a magical elixer.

                                            Yesterday was dead at the market with the fewest people I've ever seen. Everybody was either in front of the market on the street watching carpets being made or elsewhere in the city watching processions or otherwise .... um .... 'celebrating' Palm Sunday - Domingo de Ramos. Ramos was a new word for me in Spanish and Palm was a new English word for my Guatemalan friend.

                                            Still, even with fewer people there didn't seem to be any empty vendor spaces.

                                          2. re: rworange

                                            Here are a few random photos from just a couple of hours ago. Lots of different lettuces; beautiful watercress; more tomatoes than you could carry; beautiful asparagus; a few different kinds of eggplant; some lovely turnips. I don't get it. It's as though we've been in two entirely different markets. Are you going inside near where the meat and fish is, or just hanging around on the outskirts?

                                            1. re: JoanN

                                              Great photos.

                                              It is not that there's not a lot of produce, but with the exception of whatever tropical fruit is in season, it is a lot of the same produce.

                                              Those are the ever present Roma tomatoes. Gotta make chirmol out of something. Without a lot of looking, they taste like what Safeway or any chain supermarket sells. Paulb actually found a vendor in Santiago with decent plum tomatoes. Occassionally there will be beefsteak type of tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, but like lettuce other than iceburg it is not comon.

                                              Yeah, watercress (berros) is a common green in Gautemala, very inexpensive and used more creatively than just stuck in tea sandwiches.

                                              Nope that's the market I see, though I haven't run across that lettuce vendor.

                                              Hope you get some photos of the chickens on one of your visits. I tried to locate salt cod yesterday inside without luck. If you see any in the next week, hope you snap a photo. It is a Lenten dish.

                                              If I could have gotten there thru the crowds, I would have revisited La Fonda de La Calle Real yesterday as they have a salt cod dish and a Lenten appetizer plate. Other than that special Easter dishes seem to be non-exixstant.

                                              No ads in Paiz or elsewhere for Easter. No shelves of chocolate bunnies, eggs or jelly beans. No Easter egg kits. It is salt cod, canned tuna and canned sardines.

                                              Good Lord, Guatemalans treat Easter like a religious holiday . Where's the pagan good times and eats?

                                              Anyway, fabulous mangos and there were a few chico vendors at the market.. Tiny yellow nance and something even my friend never saw before ... red cocotes were on sale.

                                              1. re: rworange

                                                I saw huge piles of salt cod yesterday, again right around where the majority (and best) of the butchers and fish mongers are). If you can find the butchers (there's one aisle that must have about half a dozen, and then right around the corner were a couple of places selling very nice looking pork and baggies of rendered lard), the salt cod was on tables in stacks about two feet deep.