At the southernmost tip of the South American continent is a vast region of extremes - Patagonia. Shared by Argentina and Chile, the dividing border is the mighty Andes mountain range. Patagonia plays host to a wide variety of climates, and, subsequently, a wider variety of foods.
When most people think of Patagonia, they conjure up wild scenes of blue glaciers, towering mountains, and other-worldly landscapes. Patagonia is all of these things, but it's the local people and their love of food that will leave the biggest mark on you.
Southern king crab served fresh in Ushuaia, fine chocolates of Bariloche, foraged berries in El Calafate, and wild guanaco, this southern frontier is ripe with life and potential. This article is going to highlight the local’s love of food by offering up six of their traditional dishes. The love of wood-fired lamb is strong in Patagonia so let’s start there.
Cordero al Palo
If there is one dish that represents Patagonia, its people, and their cuisine best, it would be Cordero al Palo. On Sundays, the smell of spit-roast lamb emanates from beyond every home in Patagonia. Traveling through, you won’t have a hard time finding Cordero al Palo on many a restaurant menu. The more local an establishment looks the better.
Staked on a blistering hot metal cross, the whole lamb is cooked on an open flame for several hours. You know it’s done when the skin will is crispy and the meat falls off the bone like butter. If the thought of that hasn’t got your mouth watering in anticipation then you must be vegetarian.
The reason why this dish is held in such high regard is the quality of Patagonian lamb. Grazing on rich pastures in the north, Patagonian lambs have a stress-free time living the good life, until, of course, their time comes.
Known in the west as the Southern King Crab, centolla is another culinary delight of Patagonia. Patagonia’s unique geographical coordinates gain it an all-access pass to some of the best seafood on earth, and Centolla sits atop the pile.
If you are down in the southern city of Ushuaia you will see alive and kicking centolla carted straight off the fishing boats and into the town’s lakeside restaurants ready for the day’s service. It doesn’t matter how it comes, Centolla will be the sweetest, most tender crab you will ever slurp down.
It is also considered by foodies everywhere as the best crab on earth. For this reason, it’s expensive by Patagonian standards but is still a fraction of the price of what Southern King goes for in U.S fish markets.
If you are thinking, Patagonian lamb and crab sound great but what about something totally unique to the region? Guanaco is that something. Similar to the alpaca or llama, Guanaco is a wild animal native only to Patagonia. Although it is far from open season on Guanaco, as a result of their bountiful numbers, Guanaco is legally hunted in Patagonia.
This is a regulated industry with strict laws on what hunters can take and is an important food source for the people and culture. It also tastes pretty special too. Lean and tender like the bouncing kangaroo, order a steak of Guanaco with a side of sweet potato mash for a unique eating experience to write home about.
Empanada de Cordero
As a result of a large portion of Patagonia being governed by Argentina, their shared affinity for food is no surprise. Empanada is everywhere in Patagonia, and locals and travelers alike sign themselves up for it day in and day out with a qualm about it.
The difference between an Empanada de Cordero to a run-of-the-mill Argentine empanada is the addition of succulent roast lamb. That’s right, the people of Patagonia love lamb so much that they are willing to do whatever it takes to eat it at all times of the day. Encasing it in pastry and calling it lunch is just one of those ways.
Just like the lamb, crab, Patagonian trout will probably be the best of your life. Trucha Patagonica thrives in the glacial lakes and rivers of this wild part of the world. This is to the delight of all who catch and eat it as it really does taste better than the next fish downstream.
Patagonian trout is prepared in a number of ways that are all particular to certain regions. A few of the all-time favorites include grilled, pan-fried, roasted, and loaded into a thick and creamy stew. This is great news for you as you will be able to travel around Patagonia while sampling each region's trout specialty.
Patagonia has many impressive towns, lakes, and foods to its name, but nowhere compares to San Carlos de Bariloche. Bordering the glacial waters of Lake Nahuel Huapi and encircled by the Andes mountain range, you can’t help but feel like San Carlos de Bariloche sits on hallowed ground.
The sheer spectacle of natural wonder that surrounds San Carlos de Bariloche will give you multiple “pinch yourself moments” as you tell yourself; you aren’t dreaming, this is real, and you are living it. Something that will elevate your endorphins tenfold is the town’s seemingly endless supply of handmade artisanal chocolate.
Not only is Bariloche regarded as the chocolate capital of South America, but its chocolate is also revered on the world stage. Chocolate lovers flock to this angelic mountain town every year to sample its sweeter side. Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities for adventure in and around Bariloche. This will help you to work off your daily chocolate intake (because it will be staggering).
Patagonia’s insanely high quality of food can be put down to two reasons; First, the people of the region have a strong culture that centers around mealtime. Second, its land and sea both teem with life. Thus creating a perfect harmony of place and people. A symbiosis if you will. Dare to venture due south until the land runs out, this kind of place awaits.
To experience Sicily and its full culinary potential, you must eat as the locals do. Whether that be eating your way through Palermo’s streets, picking what’s good at a seafood market in Taormina, or dining at a starred restaurant in Ragusa, Sicilians take their mealtime very seriously (and so should you).
To ensure you are tucking into the best of Sicily, we are about to serve you its best food tours. Technically, Sicily is part of Italy, but its cuisine and culture tell a different story and that story is diversity. A melting pot of influence has given Sicily its own foods to be proud of and these tours do a mighty fine job at showcasing every last bite of them.
Palermo Food and Wine Night Tour
Streaty is the O.G. food tour company of Palermo and the Food and Wine Night Tour is their most popular offering. After the name roll has been called at Teatro Massimo, Streaty’s signature tour kicks off with a glass of Sicilian sparkling and an intriguing selection of Sicilian-style bruschetta at their favorite wine-slinging haunt.
From here, you will weave, wind, and get “lost” in Palermo’s backstreets as you try a lot of what the city’s street food scene is renowned for. We’re talking panelle, ham crostini, more Sicilian wine, and, of course, sfincione. Sfincione is a crusty deep-pan Sicilian-style pizza that must be a gift from the heavens. Ending in Piazza Fonderia nearby to the city’s old port, you will be finished off by the best gelato in town.
This is a well-priced street food and wine tour that manages to showcase Palermo’s street eats as well as give you a brief yet interesting overview of its culture and history. Three hours from start to end, it is the perfect precursor to a night out in Palermo with your newfound tour friends.
Hidden Sicily Tour
If you have a week up your sleeve and are looking to book something special, the Hidden Sicily Tour is that something. Keeping guest numbers purposefully low, a team of expert local guides and a dedicated tour manager will cater to your every need while showing you a side of Sicily that tourists don’t normally see. Off-the-beaten-path historical sites, unspoiled villages, pristine national parks, a stop by a traditional hunting lodge, the Cammarata ice road, we could go on and on but you’re better off experiencing it for yourself.
Included in this weeklong Sicilian excursion of a lifetime is every meal (authentic Sicilian only of course). Entrance fees to sites/ museums, all hotel city taxes, a private minibus, and airport transfers. Accommodation-wise, your time will be split between agrotourism venues with farm-to-table menus and boutique hotels in towns like Gangi and Scopello.
As you can imagine, a tour of this magnitude doesn’t come cheap. If, however, you only have seven days and you want to make every second count, you could do a lot worse than the Hidden Sicily Tour.
For the thrillseekers and off-road enthusiasts amongst us, how does a 4x4 adventure to the active volcano of Mount Etna sound? This 4x4 excursion and tasting lunch tour runs out of Catania and is a real unique treat. The tour starts wherever you are (granted you are in or around Catania), heads to where the road ends, and keeps on truckin’.
After venturing through chestnut woods and a puma cola apple orchard, you will be taken to the iconic Valle del Bove. Famous for its rock formations and lava spires, the scale of this site is a sight to behold. Bottoniera Dei Monti Sartorius is the next natural wonder you will be driven to. We predict you will be scooping your jaw up off the floor after taking in this moon-like landscape.
There are a couple more geographical phenomena to observe on your way to the final stop of the tour (the eating and drinking part). A Masterclass of local wines, specialty Sicilian products, and local dishes that pertain to the peculiarities of the region - this tour has no counterpart in Sicily. It takes six hours from hotel pick-up to drop-off, and for folks with a wild streak who like to eat, it’s perfect.
Just up the coast from Catania, you will find one of the most spectacular towns in all of Sicily. Taormina is angelically perched on a hillside that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the east while Mount Etna towers to the west. Taormina Gourmet Food and Wine Tour captures the beauty and essence of this picturesque town while serving you plenty of delicious local eats.
Fish plucked fresh that day, bruschetta, cheese, marmalade, caponata, cannoli, and torrone are a few such local delicacies. Wash it all down with a delectable selection of fine Italian and Sicilian wines. Red, white, sparkling, name your flavor and it will be poured into your glass and topped up accordingly.
Finishing you off with specialty desserts and Italian liqueurs, you just know you’re having a cheeky snooze back at the hotel after this boozy tour. The entire tour takes just three hours but feels like an eternity as you step back in time to discover Sicilian culinary traditions, learn the local history and eat your fill.
Sicily regarded as a top foodie destination in the world is nothing new. Every food lover loves to tell of their times spent in Sicily, but none of them have experienced a tour like the ones listed above. Revolving around good and authentic food (as a prerequisite), each tour offers a totally unique, culturally significant Sicilian experience. We hope you make it one day soon.
Author: Debra Harris
As founder of Life’s Journey Travel, I’m deeply passionate about creating custom travel experiences that allow my clients to truly savor the journey.