This holiday season, we are celebrating the ways in which food inspires us to explore and connect with different cultures throughout the globe. They say the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach, and we think that’s a sentiment travelers in particular can relate to. Food does more than bring people together, it offers insight into unique cultures, customs, and traditions. It can bond us, inspire us, and teach us something new.
Searching for Northern Italy’s best chocolate, wine, cheese, and bread.
For most, Milan conjures images of high fashion, high finance, and the white, sculpted spires of the city’s Duomo. Nearby, Turin is known for Fiats, the Shroud, and the fevered frenzy of rivaling soccer teams. But for me, a certified chocolate connoisseur, and Mario, a sommelier in-training, these cities and their surrounding countryside offer much more than designer clothes and cars. They offer a taste of terroir in the form of the world’s best chocolate, exquisite Italian bubbly (spoiler alert, it’s not Prosecco), historic cheeses, and the working man’s bread.
In the 17th century, European nobility developed a sweet tooth for chocolate. In Northern Italy, drops of the stuff were melted into water and enjoyed as a drink. In Piedmont, cacao became such an expensive commodity during the Napoleonic wars, that local hazelnuts were combined with chocolate to cut costs. By melding the two, gianduia was born. And, while the spread has been made internationally famous by Nutella®, it was a former pastry chef outside of Torino who elevated the combination to a near cult-following status.
Guido Castagna’s gianduia is of the highest quality. He says his secret is respect—for the cacao, for the farmers who grow the raw ingredients, and for the processes he employs to achieve exceptional results. His award-winning Giuinott takes a 150-year-old gianduiotto recipe and modernizes it to create a velvety combination of Venezuelan Chuao cacao and PGI Piedmont hazelnuts. I can never resist buying these triangular-shaped, bronze foil-wrapped, chocolate hazelnut bites of bliss, a jar of his 55+ chocolate hazelnut spread, and his bean-to-bar fine chocolate tablets.
Along a narrow, 20-kilometer strip south of Lake Iseo, only 40 minutes from bustling Milan, lies Franciacorta. Here, a mere 127 wineries produce some of Europe’s most intriguing and delicious metodo classico (sparkling wines). The first producer to bottle in this region was Berlucchi Winery. Beginning 1955, Guido Berlucchi and Franco Ziliani worked together to improve the quality of the region’s white wine. Ziliani, a lover of Champagne, suggested they try to create their own sparkling wine. Six years of trial and error later, the first 3,000 bottle vintage was released.
On a tour of the cellar and estate, Mario and I learned the nuances of this family-run vineyard, and eventually made our way to the old Palazzo Lana kitchen, where we had the opportunity to try the 1961 Berlucchi Brut and Berlucchi Nature Blanc de Blancs. The former is a 90/10 blend of Chardonnay/Pinot Noir, whose aroma reminded Mario of bread crust, followed by a hit of citrus. The 100% Chardonnay Nature is a zero-dosage wine, and understandably drier, though it stood up very well to our accompanying snacks. We walked away with a bottle of each.
On our way back from Franciacorta, we made a slight detour past Brignano to visit a small producer of award-winning goat and sheep’s milk cheeses. Caseificio Lavialattea is located in an unassuming residential area that had us checking our GPS. Once inside, with their many medals in full view, it was clear we had found the right place. Cheesemaker Lorenzo Facchetti initially seemed shy but, once he started talking cheese, there was no stopping him. While many of the cheeses were absolutely superb, the Piramide del Pastore had us exchanging knowing looks. A soft cheese rolled in vegetable ash, this blend of cow, goat, and sheep’s milk has an earthy, umami layer of truffles—making it irresistible.
Accompanying our cheese and wine, we found some impossibly fragrant local strawberries and now only needed to find a bread to round out our feast. Luckily for us, Milan’s Mercato Centrale is adjacent to the Milano Centrale, the train station from which we are departing. We find Master Baker Davide Longoni’s Pane Terra stall in the market. The staff takes time to explain the various loaves’ regional origins. We choose a Pan Tramvai (Tram Bread), a pleasantly sweet sourdough studded with raisins. It’s traditionally eaten in the Lombardy region and is so-called in honor of the tram travelers connecting Monza to Milan.
With loaf in hand, like those who traveled before us, we jump on a train to our next destination with our Northern Italian picnic and enjoy every bite of terroir that brought these edible masterpieces to being.
Call us today to plan your own Northern Italian culinary adventure.
SEA AND LAND TASTE: Silversea’s unique travel and food experience brings the destination to you.
A pinch of salt can pack a big punch. Silversea’s S.A.L.T is an immersive culinary experience that gives guests the opportunity to explore local food and culture in unique ways. We chatted with Silversea’s Senior Vice President of Sales for the Americas, Katina Athanasiou, to learn more about this innovative on- and off-board program.
S.A.L.T. is simple. It stands for Sea And Land Taste and provides the opportunity for all travelers on Silver Moon and Silver Dawn to experience the very lifeblood of their destination. Conceived by Adam Sachs, former Editor in Chief of Saveur Magazine, S.A.L.T. gives Silversea guests a chance to travel deeper through engaging experiences and local food culture. The S.A.L.T. program is tailored according to the sailed region and incorporates both ship-based and shoreside enrichments, including winery visits, dining experiences in regional restaurants and bars, special dinners with guest hosts, insightful food lectures, cooking classes and demonstrations from local guest chefs and food experts.
The idea behind S.A.L.T. is that it offers all guests a chance to travel with taste. Guests can take a trip to the S.A.L.T. Bar and Kitchen to taste a plethora of international food dishes, inspired by their destination. Local recipes made with local products are given a Silversea-stylish twist. The S.A.L.T. Kitchen is Silversea’s dedicated dining venue that offers an ever-changing menu and a regionally inspired wine list to enable diners to form meaningful connections with local cultures. But S.A.L.T. doesn’t just begin and end on the plate – guests can visit the S.A.L.T. Bar for regionally inspired cocktails, made with locally produced quality spirits by enthusiastic and knowledgeable bar staff. And if Silversea’s guests want to dive deeper into regional food cultures, the S.A.L.T. Lab allows guests to get hands-on experience of local recipes in a professional kitchen. Small groups of guests are invited to take part in shared cooking sessions where they will not only learn how to cook the recipe, but will also understand the food heritage of each ingredient.
Selected shore excursions on all Silver Moon and Silver Dawn cruises benefit from a culinary focus. This means guests could be travelling into the hinterland of Heraklion in order to experience the heart and soul of Greek organic cooking. Or delving into the secrets of a working organic farm in the hills of Paros. Or meeting with a native Ecuadorian chef at the fashionable street food market in Guayaquil. Or lunching with a vineyard owner in Sicily, and enjoying their home grown wines during a lavish lunch with a view of Mount Etna. These in-depth and informative shore excursions are accompanied by our food experts, who are adapt at explaining the intricacies of foreign cuisine.
All images courtesy of Silversea Cruises
From rooftops in Rome to towering hotels overlooking Dubai’s skyline; mix the best of food with the best of views by enjoying this global roundup of elevated dining experiences.
A getaway with the guys begins with a spirited train ride and culminates with visits to family-owned distilleries. In Mexico, tequila is more than a drink. It’s a culture, a source of pride, and a vehicle to experience generations of tradition. Join Michael Shapiro and his long-time friend Julio Bermejo, as they travel through Mexico’s agave fields and distilleries, to discover the bonding power of tequila, and the dedicated families behind it.
A ride on a tequila-inspired train is how dreams begin in Mexico.
My long-time friend Julio Bermejo and I board the Jose Cuervo Express; a train that travels from the city of Guadalajara to the town of Tequila, which is now officially recognized as a “Pueblo Magico” (magical village).
We’re in the recently unveiled Elite class, a wood-paneled train car with mariachi bands, premium tequila tastings, and a Mexican lottery game.
Sipping tequila while passing fields of agave, the spiky green succulent from which tequila is made, is the perfect way for a couple of guys to kick off a long weekend celebrating Mexico’s premium spirit.
“Grape fields are all over the world, but agave grows only here,” Julio remarks as the train chugs past a towering volcano. “It gives you a sense of place. When you see agave fields, you know where you are; it reminds you everything comes from the land.”
Later, at the sprawling Jose Cuervo distillery called Fábrica La Rojeña, I turn the lever to open an oaken cask and pour my own bottle of Cuervo’s finest tequila, its Reserva de la Familia. Then I push in the cork and dip the bottle in molten red sealing wax.
The next day, we visit Guillermo Sauza at Tequila Fortaleza. As his surname suggests, he’s tequila royalty. He was in line to run the tequila behemoth Sauza, but in the late 1980s, his family sold the company. Guillermo launched Fortaleza, the small premium tequila maker, in 2002. “Tequila-making can’t be rushed,” says Guillermo, looking relaxed in a Hawaiian shirt. The agave heads take seven to 10 years to grow and weigh 50 to 200 pounds when harvested.
Across the street from Fortaleza is the boutique distillery Arette. Eduardo Orendain, the earnest son of the owner and the fifth generation to work in his family’s business, grew up with tequila.
“I love tequila,” says Eduardo, who is in his late 20s. “Since I was little, I rode horseback in the agave fields, but my family put me to work – I had to clean the bottles.”
In the hills above the town of Tequila is Casa Noble, which has made a name for itself with its triple-distilled premium tequila. Aged in French white oak barrels, Casa Noble is made at the Cofradia compound, which includes lavishly decorated hotel rooms and a restaurant called La Taberna, which serves everything from fishbowl drinks to locally sourced lunches.
Casa Noble uses atmospheric fermentation, which means its tanks are open to wild yeast in the air. The best way to evaluate tequila is straight from the tank, says our guide, David. “You can’t imagine what tequila really tastes like until you’ve tasted it straight from the still.”
As we sit down to taste, David notes that taking a shot isn’t the way to enjoy tequila. “It’s like drinking boiling coffee and getting scalded,” he says. The right way is to sip it, slowly. “It’s not one quick bang – how about the cuddling and kissing – that’s what makes it more enjoyable.”
Tequila is one of the best-selling spirits in the world, which is “phenomenal,” Julio says, because by law it can only be grown in designated districts in Mexico, mostly in Jalisco.
The town of Tequila isn’t the only region where Mexico’s national spirit is distilled. Some of the best producers are in Jalisco’s highlands, east of Guadalajara, so we travel to the pueblo of Arandas to visit Tapatio.
Referring to a leading scotch brand, Julio says: “There’s no Mr. Macallan” in Scotland, but in Mexico you can still visit many family-owned distilleries. “It’s a beautiful thing.”
Carlos Camarena, Tapatio’s director, is proud of adhering to generations of tradition. A tahona (a grinding stone the size of a small car) is used to mash the agave for Tapatio’s premium brand, El Tesoro de Don Felipe. The process is “old and inefficient, but this is the way my father and grandfather did it.” Carlos says, raising a glass of golden tequila.
Beverage conglomerate Seagram’s approached the Camarena family and offered “way more than the company was worth,” he says.
“But you know what, we didn’t accept. We have more than 80 years of tradition of making a good-quality product. We have a decent living. That’s all we need.”
Each month we’re showcasing our cruise partners to bring you the latest on the cruise line and their ships. With different cruising styles and a variety of ships to choose from, you’ll find these profiles helpful for selecting the cruise that’s right for you.
On October 15, 2022, Rotterdam re-created her namesake Rotterdam I’s 1872 maiden voyage from the City of Rotterdam to New York City. As the seventh ship in Holland America Line’s fleet to bear the name Rotterdam, our newest beauty proudly continues a tradition of travel that’s been opening guests’ eyes to new worlds for 150 years.
When you cruise with Holland America Line, you can circumnavigate the continents of Africa, Australia, or South America; coast through the turquoise waters of the South Pacific; or experience outdoor adventures in Alaska — right from your doorstep. A simple drive or domestic flight to one of our convenient North America ports unlocks a world of destinations, cultures, and experiences without the challenges of international air travel. Our carefully crafted itineraries call on nearly 400 ports in 114 countries — with 225 ports in 91 countries accessible from the U.S. and Canada. On board our fleet of perfectly sized ships, you’ll find an array of world-class dining options and entertainment choices ranging from enriching lectures to thrilling musical performances. Whatever your pleasure, our dedicated crew members are ready to meet your every need.
As the latest jewel in our Pinnacle Class crown, Rotterdam delivers the best of everything we do: exquisite cuisine, award-winning service, and the best entertainment at sea. Raise a glass to Holland America Line’s 150-year history at Half Moon Bar — a Rotterdam exclusive which bested entrants from the world of restaurants, hotels, casinos and other beverage industry groups to win the 2022 VIBE Vista Award for “Best Beverage Menu”! Hear live chamber music at Lincoln Center Stage, sing along to chart-topping hits at Billboard Onboard, dance the night away to the best of Memphis-style rhythm and blues at B.B. King’s Blues Club, or rock out to the classics at the Rolling Stone Rock Room, found only on board our Pinnacle Class ships. With her modern design and innovative offerings, it’s no wonder Rotterdam received the USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice Award for “Best Mid-Sized Ship.”
Each of Rotterdam’s elegant staterooms and suites features refined amenities. In addition to daily housekeeping and complimentary 24-hour room service, you’ll find generous storage space, a safe for your valuables and our signature Mariner’s Dream™ beds topped with plush Euro-Top mattresses. In the bathroom, slip into deluxe bathrobes, unwind with premium massage shower heads and pamper yourself with luxurious Elemis Aromapure toiletries. The majority of Rotterdam’s accommodations are ocean-facing, with many of them boasting teak-lined verandahs perfect for alfresco dining, sunbathing or taking in stunning sea views.
When you sail on board Rotterdam, you’ll find everything from grab-and-go options and casual meals to exquisite fine dining. Whether you’re enjoying a poolside burger and fries at the Dive-In, tucking into a perfectly cooked steak at Pinnacle Grill, or savoring breakfast in bed or a late-night snack with our included 24-hour room service, you’re sure to find just what you’re looking for. We offer everything from traditional Dutch coffee and fine wines to pizza, sushi, and fresh-made gelato. Sample expertly prepared Asian fusion creations at Tamarind, enjoy a craft cocktail at the Ocean Bar and savor classically modern French fare at Rudi’s Sel de Mer. Whether you’re relaxing on your private verandah or taking in panoramic views from the Crow’s Nest, our award-winning dining and beverage options offer something for everyone.
Rejuvenate your senses at the Greenhouse Spa & Salon,® where you’ll find a full range of services for the hair, face, and body featuring naturally sourced ingredients and time-honored techniques from across the globe. Invigorate your journey at our professionally staffed Fitness Center, offering the latest cardio and weight machines as well as fitness classes, wellness seminars, and more. On deck, we offer a variety of pools, sport courts and plenty of fresh sea air. During Days at Sea, explore our duty-free shopping options, try your luck in the Casino or simply enjoy a recently released movie from the comfort of your stateroom or suite. Innovation meets entertainment on the World Stage, showcasing enriching lectures plus cutting-edge music, film and dance performances. When sailing on board Rotterdam or one of her two sister Pinnacle Class ships, the experience is even more spectacular thanks to a two-story-high, 270° LED screen. And at the heart of Rotterdam lies our renowned Music Walk® — a collection of live music areas featuring electrifying performances from accomplished artists across multiple genres, with each venue just steps away from its neighbors.
No matter where you’re traveling, a Holland America Line cruise on board Rotterdam is sure to delight children, parents, and grandparents alike. For cruisers between 3 and 17 years old, there’s Club HAL® — our comprehensive onboard youth program offering a variety of activities sure to please teens and little ones alike. Our award-winning onboard specialty restaurants feature complimentary kids’ menus and half-price meals for cruisers under 13. And our spacious staterooms or suites come in an array of sizes and configurations, including sofa beds and adjoining rooms.
Whether you’re traveling on board Rotterdam or one of her sister ships, the goal of our dedicated crew members is always to establish a genuine connection with our guests that’s both authentic and meaningful. When you sail with Holland America Line, you can expect a level of hospitality akin to welcoming you into our home. We’ve been nurturing our service culture for years — 150 of them, to be exact.
Cruise the Caribbean or Europe while experiencing world-class dining, superbly appointed accommodations, and the best entertainment at sea.