There’s a lot to be said for the Danish concept of hygge for getting through a cold, long winter. But for those of us who believe that ice belongs in old fashioneds rather than underfoot, there are plenty of foodies sun destinations to explore in 2018. Here are five hot and delicious options that won’t involve overstuffed beaches and lines for disappointing buffets – for all the fine dining sun-seekers who prefer a feeling of exclusivity on their vacations.
Mind the Gap: Barbados
This former British colony’s food prowess is on the rise. The small island has been combining the best of British gastropub fare with fresh coconuts, chili peppers and rum for decades. But now, in the up-and-coming St. Lawrence Gap area, newcomer Cocktail Kitchen and its award-winning chef Damian Leach is classing things up with exciting, locavore cooking, and forcing the stodgier coastal resort restaurants to up their game. Leach’s version of Bajan pudding and souse with pickled breadfruit swaps sous vide pork shoulder for the traditionally pickled pork. He also pan-fries the local sweet potato for the pudding instead of steaming it, which creates a crunchy exterior around a silken interior. And his Piña Colada catch of the day comes with luxurious vanilla-braised plantain purée, coconut-sweet potato mash, coriander emulsion and pickled pineapple for a perfect sweet-and-savory combination. Barbados' local organic farmer’s markets on the Caribbean island are also booming, selling everything from local melons, mangoes and guinep (similar to longans), plus local honeys and teas made with soursop leaves and lemongrass.
St. Lawrence Gap, Bridgetown, BarbadosWebsite
Move over Melbourne: Brisbane
This city, a short drive north of Sydney, is more than a surfer’s getaway. Seafood comes from nearby docks, beef from nearby pastures and fruits and vegetables from nearby farms, meaning a locavore diet is both a realistic and delicious option. Though fine dining still comes second to exceptional wine bars and brunch spots (check out The Valley Wine Bar in the Brisbane suburb Fortitude Valley for a mostly natural wine list including smaller Australian producers), Otto Ristorante, which opened in 2016, is aiming for the top. It started serving $75 BYOW three-course brunch affairs in late 2017, which feature Ricotta-stuffed zucchini flowers and baby barramundi with hand-chopped salsa verde and white anchovies. But the kitchen shines brightest at dinner. Don’t miss the grilled, local Moreton Bay lobster, called “Bug,” which comes hot off the wood-fired grill with lemon, black pepper butter, charred peppers, olives, capers and basil.
The Valley Wine Bar
171 Alfred St., Fortitude Valley, AustraliaWebsite
480 Queen St., Brisbane, AustraliaWebsite
Michelin-Quality Sate and Sambal: Bali
It’s the perfect time to visit the idyllic island country, spend your days on the beach and your evenings in your choice of ambiance, including private clifftop, treetop or floating dining destinations. Tasting menus at the country’s top restaurants range from Locavore’s heritage Galuh rice with snails with garlic, sous vide duck egg, frog abon and fern tips (optionally paired with a Cemcem leaf cocktail with young coconut, lemongrass, tamarind and rum) to Mozaic restaurant’s checkerboard Cuttlefish and melons speckled with vanilla beans. In between snorkeling trips and cave exploration, explore the rows of coconut milk-marinated and grilled sate skewers, rice in banana leaf served with spicy sambal and pandan-colored steamed coconut-rice treats at local markets.
Jalan Dewisita No. 10, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571Website
Jalan Raya Sanggingan, Kedewatan, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571Website
Riches of Rio: Brazil
This country has eight restaurants on the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017 list. The South American country is also home to the winner of the same competition’s One To Watch award: television chef Felipe Bronze’s Oro restsaurant in Rio de Janeiro revamped in 2016, adding a focus on flame to its regularly changing menu of upscale Brazilian streetfood. The 48-hour braised ox ribs with banana farofa and smoked yolk is the only plate served with knife and fork.
Meanwhile, Sao Paulo’s D.O.M., ranked third in Latin America this year and 16th on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list, serves exquisite plates from the country’s jungles, highlands, temperate and desert areas. Menus feature local, sustainable heart of palm, Amazonian root vegetables and a unique herb called Jambu or Pará Cress, which causes an electric shock to the body when chewed. The country is the world’s biggest producer of citrus fruit, but those in search of unique flavours sip fresh juices or sucos made with sweet-and-sour jabuticaba (which looks like a grape but has an inner pulp that tastes like lychee) or cupuacu (think coconut and pear).
Av. Gen. San Martin, 889 – Leblon, Rio de Janeiro, BrazilWebsite
R. Varão de Capanema, 549 – Jardins, São Paulo, BrazilWebsite
Volcanic Wines: Canary Islands
The volcanic soils of these Islands make them a wine producing gold mine. Situated off the Northwest African coast, the islands have more than 200 vineyards, the best of which include Suertes del Marqués winery on Tenerife, which uses indigenous grapes including Listán Negro and Blanco – red and white wines, respectively – to create fresh, mineral wines with minimal intervention. The winery’s location on the lower reaches of El Teide, the highest mountain in all of Spain, feature sand and clay topsoil above their mineral-rich, volcanic lower levels. The vines are over 100 years old and have roots so deep that they don’t need irrigation. Winemaker Roberto Santana uses indigenous yeasts, some biodynamic practices and tends toward natural winemaking with minimal sulfites added.
Wines aren’t the only thing blooming on Tenerife, though; it’s also growing Michelin Stars, the newest being Kazan, a Japanese/Nikkei restaurant featuring daily tasting menus of Canary Island shrimp, pat choi stuffed with ibérico ham and torched spicy mussel nigiri, as well as classic marbled O-Toro sashimi and Wagyu nigiri.
Edf Hamilton, Paseo Milicias de Garachico, local 5, 38001 Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary IslandsWebsite