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Foodie Without Fear: European Edition, Part II

There’s so much to see and taste in Europe that you’ll probably be coming back for seconds. This time take a European tour of some of the smaller countries around the continent to get a sample of cultures and cuisines. From the rainy, green hills and bogs of Ireland to the sunny Mediterranean coast of Greece, each region has iconic foods that should definitely be on your foodie bucket list.

Before we head out to explore, a word to the wise tourist. When in Europe, do as the European do when it comes to table manners and ordering food. For instance, it’s often considered poor etiquette to put your hands in your lap during the meal so rest your wrists on the table when your fingers aren’t occupied with silverware. Tipping is not required as many restaurants include a service charge on your bill, but feel free to leave a little extra for wait staff that go above and beyond.

Speaking of overachievers, Europe definitely excels when it comes to satisfying tourists. Let’s take a second sampling of the incredible tastes you should scout out on your next European vacation.

The Netherlands

When you imagine the Netherlands, you probably either think about the thriving city life of Amsterdam or acres and acres of tulip fields. The Netherlands is a relatively small country in Europe, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in experience. And the Dutch certainly put as much passion into engineering incredible food as they do into creating sea walls.

What to Try

Stroopwafel is something you may have seen in the grocery store, but you haven’t truly tasted one until you eat a stroopwafel off a street cart in Amsterdam. These thin, buttery waffle cookies are sandwiched together with sticky caramel syrup and were first made in the city of Gouda. No cheesy jokes, please.

Pataje oorlog sounds rather exotic, but it’s really just pickled herring. This delicacy is sold all over the Netherlands and Europe and while tourists may hold their noses over the smell, most Dutch consider it a staple of their diet.

How to Ask

Trying to avoid the tourist traps? Ask a local for a recommendation by using this phrase in Dutch.

Waar is hier een goede plek om te eten?

(Where’s a good place to eat around here?)

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Greece

From the gorgeous beaches of the Greek islands to the ancient artifacts and history of Athens, Greece offers unique experiences not just for sightseers but for foodies as well. And like many other countries around the world, the version of Greek food that you’re accustomed to may be quite different from what the locals actually eat. This island nation relies heavily on fish, while lamb, rabbit, and pork are used more commonly inland.

What to Try

Gyro happens to be one of the words tourists most often mispronounce. It’s “yee-ro” and refers to the shaved chicken or beef that is accompanied by onions, peppers, and tomatoes rolled into a pita and slathered in tzatziki sauce. Tzatziki sauce is a uniquely Greek experience comprised of yogurt, vinegar, and olive oil mixed with chopped cucumbers.

Spanakopita, otherwise known as spinach pie,  may not sound like your idea of a good time but it definitely deserves your attention. Spinach is layered with phyllo dough, onions, and feta to create this signature greek pastry.

How to Ask

Getting the best gyros in town gets a lot easier once you know the language. Ask locals for recommendations in Greek.

Με συγχωρείτε. Πού μπορώ να βρω τα καλύτερα γυροσκόπια;Me synchoreíte. Poú boró na vro ta kalýtera gyroskópia?

(Excuse me. Where can I get the best gyros?)

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Ireland

Hearty stews and huge sandwiches are standard fare in Ireland, where potatoes still reign king. The cold, rainy weather makes having hot food imperative for your palate and Ireland certainly does it justice from the pubs of Dublin to the countryside of County Kerry.

What to Try

Brown bread is another word for Irish soda bread. It’s a bread where the leavening is provided primarily by baking soda, which creates dense, chewy bread that’s the perfect companion to a bowl of soup. Break off a hunk and toast your good fortune at finally finding a bread recipe that never fails.

Black Pudding sounds pretty harmless until you realize it’s not a pudding at all but sausage, made from fat, suet, and blood mixed with groats. It goes by several other names, including blood sausage and typically accompanies eggs and toast in a proper English or Irish breakfast.

How to Ask

While English is widely spoken and is the official language of Ireland, there is also an effort to preserve the Irish language, and to pass it down for future generations. Practice your Irish by asking for directions to the nearest pub.

Cá bhfuil an teach tábhairne is cóngaraí?(Kaw will Un tauk taur-na iss Cone-ga-ree)?

Where is the nearest pub?

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Poland

Bordered by seven different countries including Germany and Ukraine, Poland’s cuisine enjoys many different influences.Warsaw and Krakow are Poland’s most vibrant and populated cities with plenty of museums and heritage sights by day and bustling nightlife and cuisine by night.

What to Try

Pierogies are essentially dumplings, but the authentic versions served in Poland are a world away from the ones you’ll find in the frozen section of your grocery store. While potatoes can be a traditional filling, many times you’ll find a variety of meat or veggies revealed with each bite.

Smalec looks like butter and is often used in a similar way, but it’s actually made up of lard with bits of pig crackling and skin. The Polish put it on toast or bread and it is also referred to as bacon spread or “the rich man’s butter.”

How to Ask

Getting recommendations from a local is the best way to sample what Poland has to offer. Using the following phrase in Polish to ask for help finding fantastic food.

Czy możesz polecić pobliską restaurację?

(Can you recommend a nearby restaurant, please?)

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Sweden

Stockholm, Sweden’s capital, has an internationally known foodie scene. The emphasis this country has on health also makes Sweden an interesting and adventurous place for food. Swedes are the second largest consumers of dairy products in the world and you’ll find both milk, cheese, and yogurt take a prominent place on any Swedish table.

What to Try

Kanelbulle adorns many bakery windows and is the Swedish version of cinnamon buns, usually spiced with cardamom. They are a common breakfast or dessert pastry across Europe.

Lingonberries are often used to make jam that is a staple of the European diet. Most tourists have experienced lingonberries as an accompaniment to Swedish meatballs. Swedes do have a particular fondness for the jam, slathering it on everything from meats to toast.

How to Ask

Want to ask a local where to get the best kanelbulles in town? Brush up on your Swedish and learn a few phrases that will help you find your way.

Ursäkta mig. Var hittar jag de bästa kanelbullarna?

(Excuse me. Where can I find the best kanelbulles?)

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Foodie or Foolhardy? You Decide.

Surstromming might have you turning up your nose at Swedish cuisine. This fermented herring is known as the “smelliest food in the world” and has been banned from being carried on flights because the noxious gases can build in the tins and cause them to explode. It’s recommended that you evacuate the area and open some windows before cracking open some to try.

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