While traveling is the one time when people should indulge in sweet temptations. Especially when on a city break vacation, you’re often up early, walking extensively and on your feet a lot. Why shouldn’t you sample a macaron in Paris or a have a gelato in Italy?
I feel that food experiences are just as much a part of a country’s culture and past and should not be excluded from the “tourist circuit.” I’ve discovered that in Korea, a region of the world not normally equated as being dessert heavy like the West is, sweet temptations do exist. It was in Seoul that I first became familiar with Azuki bean paste, a sweet, dark red bean paste that originated in East Asia. It is prepared by boiling and mashing azuki beans and then sweetening the beans with sugar or honey. Not as utterly rich or sinful as a slice of cheesecake but baram tteok, a Korean rice cake that contains sweet red bean paste, usually in the form of a crescent moon, is still a worthy contender.
The below are my top three sweet temptation experiences I’ve had while traveling:
1.) Queen of Tarts Cafe-Dublin, Ireland
Although D and I had eaten a filling Irish breakfast earlier in the morning, our walking tour on the 1916 Easter Rebellion, in which we traversed most of Dublin’s North and South Sides, had left us famished, and so we were in need of a food and drink rest. Although the cafe serves breakfast and lunch, its “happy ending” offerings are what brings people inside its doors, the sight of the sweets behind the display cases too scrumptious to pass up. Selections include a chocolate pear and almond tart, old fashioned Victorian sponge cake, fresh warm plum tart, hot blackberry and apple crumble, and more. The lemon meringue tart was the best I ever had and paired with my own pot of Earl Grey tea to ward off Dublin’s infamous cold and damp air, a terrific respite.
2.) Chocolate shops-anywhere in Belgium
Belgian chocolate is legendary and being able to sample it in the country where it is made is phenomenal. In Brussels D and I got our chocolate fill from Leonidas, a chocolate producer that has been in operation for almost a century. While in Brugge we sampled from a variety of shops including some that had the most elaborate and creative display windows I’ve ever seen and naturally, they were all made out of chocolate. Although I’ve gone back to eating the more locally produced Hershey’s chocolate, I know no other chocolate can top Belgian chocolate.
3.) Cafe du Monde-New Orleans, Lousiana
I must admit that this was one of the things I was looking forward to the most when planning my trip to New Orleans. A venerable coffee shop in the city’s French Quarter that has been in operation for almost 150 years, Cafe du Monde serves only coffee (cafe au lait) and its famous French-style beignets (donuts) topped with copious amounts of powdered sugar. Although when I went the place was packed and the waitresses harried, it was still some of the best fried pastry dough I had ever had. My friend and I tried beignets from another place in the city and I even bought some of Cafe du Monde’s own beignet mix to take home with me. Nothing however, compared to the ones I ate one morning at Decatur Street’s most famous cafe.