For Tom and me, 2015 ends where it began—in Basel, Switzerland. We’ve spent a quiet holiday season, taking in local Christmas markets and concerts, and enjoying time together. On New Year’s Day, we’ll head down the Cathedral Hill and join our neighbors for a cup of Hypokras, Basel’s name-brand mulled wine, dispensed from a city fountain, a unique local tradition.

Our year in food and wine

wine tasting
Wine tasting in Bulgaria

For six years, our travels and blog have centered on cultural discovery, with an increasing emphasis on the foods that carry the DNA of place, and the people who make the foods we enjoy.

In 2015, unlike in previous years, we concentrated on Europe. We followed our taste buds and food travel instincts across the continent, from the Atlantic shores of Portugal, through the back roads of an under-appreciated corner of Tuscany, to the emerging vineyards and wineries of Bulgaria and the Balkans. Between trips, we circled back and through Switzerland, delighting in old favorites—cheese and chocolate anyone?—and regional specialties that were less familiar to us.

We cherish the places we visited for their iconic charms, to be sure, but it’s the food that captured our imaginations, fueled reunions with old friends and brought us new ones.

Here is a sampler of what we found.

A generous dose of Switzerland

Ticino, tiny vineyard
In Ticino, tiny vineyard plantings abound

2015 found us all over Switzerland, as well as ambling across several borders. We dipped into at least five Graubunden valleys, and popped through the Gotthard to Ticino several times.

In February, Basel’s inimitable carnival celebration—Fasnacht—held us rapt for the city’s “three most beautiful days”.

In August, we angled for a close-up of the Matterhorn from Zermatt and Gornergrat. In summer, it was also time to swim in the Rhine, and visit Ticino winemakers. In autumn, Basel kept us busy with street food and the autumn fair. At Christmas, markets in Basel and nearby Alsace provided a festive close to our year.

Swiss food and wine held our attention through the seasons: culinary treats in Graubunden, meeting winemakers in Ticino, and Basel’s first street food fair were just a few of the highlights.

Stirring the pot in Graubunden
Stirring the pot in Graubunden
Celebrating the grape harvest
Celebrating the grape harvest in Rovio, Ticino

Catalonia dreaming

In April, a meet-up with travel bloggers in Costa Brava gave us an excuse visit Catalonia, and we had a couple of beautiful weeks there—with Anita in a Barcelona kitchen and chasing street art, and Tom floating over the countryside in a balloon. It was a marvelous sampler of what awaits lucky travelers in the coming year, when Catalonia celebrates its food and wine heritage as a European regional center of gastronomy. We can’t wait to return for a bigger dose of Catalonian sunshine and good eating!

Learning from winemakers in Catalonia
Learning from winemakers in Catalonia
Cooking in a Barcelona kitchen
Cooking in a Barcelona kitchen

Celebrating Portugal

We spent just over a month in Portugal in 2015, and had numerous opportunities to replenish our culinary memory banks. Was it fresh fish on the beach in Alentejo, or hot off the grill along “fish street” in Matasinhos, near Porto? Perhaps that glass of vintage port from a small Douro producer? Or maybe a slice of aged porco preto with olives from a 2,000-year-old tree, with bread dipped in oil from the same source?

A happy customer at Porto's Bolhão Market
A happy customer at Porto’s Bolhão Market

Our food memories from Portugal were powerful, indeed, as we searched out Portuguese flavors and discovered great tascas and tabernas in Porto, and even some Portuguese “light bites” in a region famous for its meaty offerings.

Our love of Portuguese people and food and will soon carry us back to the western edge of Europe for an extended stay. Exciting times are ahead—stay tuned!

Sampling olives in Alentejo
Sampling olives in Alentejo

Food and wine at center stage

Our travels this year gave us many opportunities to explore wine, terroir and tourism. High among our foodie discoveries was Portugal’s marvelous coffee, along with an opportunity to meet one of the country’s influential coffee families. With the World Food Tourism Summit in Estoril, we launched a month-long sweep through Alentejo, Dão, and Porte e Norte. From Minho’s marvelous vinho verde to black pork and other specialties of Alentejo, we were reminded of how much we love Portuguese food.

In October, we spent a wonderful week in Bulgaria, attending the Digital Wine Communications Conference (DWCC), where we gained a new appreciation for people who live, breathe and share their passion for the grape. At DWCC, Anita was the food traveler presenting in a session on food and wine pairing with the developer of DeliPair. The intersection of wine and culinary exploration is an exciting niche for food travelers, and we’re thrilled to be there.

Alentejo's gastronomic society
A special welcome from members of Alentejo’s gastronomic society

Cheers!      Prost!      Saluti!      Viva!      Saúde!      Наздраве!      Santé!


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  1. It sounds like you’re a bit torn between Switzerland and Portugal! It would be hard to choose! I’m not at all knowledgeable about food or wine or how to pair them, but I know when I like them. I love both Portuguese and Swiss specialties, but haven’t tried wine from either one. I’ll make sure to try some of each this year! Happy 2016!

    • Not so much torn, as an enthusiast for both! There is plenty to discover, from a culinary and wine POV, in both Switzerland and Portugal, as we have discovered. Bon appetit!

  2. I love mulled wine and the thought of it coming out of a fountain…..great idea! Wish I had known you back then as I was also at TBEX in Spain in April! Portugal is definitely a place I’d like to visit and the food sounds glorious!

    • The wine is lightly spiced and chilled, not exactly what one usually thinks of when it comes to mulled wine…but it’s definitely interesting! Perhaps we will see you at TBEX in Minneapolis this year?

  3. I’m so glad I had the chance to meet both of you at TBEX, what a wonderful experience we all had with the food and wine of Costa Brava! This year Portugal is on my list and now I have to go back and read all your great coverage of the country. Plenty of great tastings to discover. PS-love that photo of Tom-pure satisfaction!


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