Photograph by Benoit Decout, REA/Redux
From the National Geographic book Food Journeys of a Lifetime
Bananas Foster, New Orleans, Louisiana
Prepared at the table, this dish of bananas sautéed in butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and banana liqueur, then flambéed in rum and served over vanilla ice cream, is as much theater as dessert. Chef Paul Blangé created it at Brennan’s Restaurant in 1951; founder Owen Brennan named it for his friend Richard Foster.
Planning: Brennan’s is at 417 Royal Street in New Orleans’s French Quarter.
Singapore Sling, Singapore
The first person to serve this long fruit cocktail was Raffles Hotel barman Ngiam Tong Boon around 1910. The sling fuses gin, cherry brandy, Cointreau, Bénédictine, grenadine, a dash of bitters, and pineapple and lime juice, garnished with a cherry and a pineapple slice. Its rosy hue initially made it a ladies’ drink, but gentlemen soon acquiesced. Many consider sling-sipping in Raffles’s colonial-era Long Bar crucial to a Singaporean sojourn.
Planning: Raffles Hotel is at 1 Beach Road (MRT: City Hall). Singapore Airlines serves Singapore slings free in all classes.
Darjeeling Tea, Darjeeling, India
Shoulder-high to the Eastern Himalaya, the lush countryside around the colonial-era hill station of Darjeeling is tea-growing—and visual—nirvana. Darjeeling is the champagne of teas, whose delicate black leaves regularly fetch record prices. To understand its production, where better to lodge than luxury accommodations on the working Glenburn Tea Estate?
Planning: For the dreamiest approach, travel on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. The growing season spans March through November.
Bellini Cocktail, Venice, Italy
Near Venice’s Piazza San Marco, perennially popular Harry’s Bar gave birth to the Bellini cocktail, a fragrant fusion of prosecco and white-peach puree. Barman Giuseppe Cipriani invented it here in 1934, and Italian restaurants swiftly globalized it.
Planning: For a less touristy experience, try Harry’s quieter sister bar, Harry’s Dolci, on Giudecca Island.
Parma Ham, Parma, Italy
Production of dry-cured Parma ham is restricted to a rural pocket around the city of Parma in northern Italy. It requires but four ingredients: legs of specially bred pigs; small amounts of salt to preserve it; air to dry it; and patience—at least 400 days. The ham’s slightly nutty taste derives from the whey of Parmesan cheese, another local delicacy, fed to the pigs.
Planning: Parma Golosa organizes gourmet tours of producers.
Tarte Tatin, Lamotte-Beuvron, France
Made of caramelized dessert apples tucked into puff pastry, this upside-down tart was the accidental invention of sisters Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin—owners of the Hôtel Tatin in the village of Lamotte-Beuvron, central France. They first made the tart in 1898, its fame spread, and it soon joined the menu at Maxim’s in Paris.
Planning: The Hôtel-Restaurant Tatin still exists and still serves tarte Tatin.
Peach Melba, London, England
A Covent Garden performance by soprano Nellie Melba one night in 1892 or 1893 inspired this confection of peach, vanilla ice cream, and raspberry sauce. Her singing so impressed Auguste Escoffier, the illustrious chef at the Thames-side Savoy Hotel, that he fashioned the dessert in her honor.
Planning: Customers of the Savoy benefit from a $140-million restoration of the legendary hotel, completed in autumn 2009.
Banoffee Pie, Jevington, England
Banoffee’s birthplace is the Hungry Monk, a pub lying among the South Downs in southern England. The pub’s owner, Nigel Mackenzie, and chef, Ian Dowding, concocted the dessert in 1972. Named Banoffee for “banana” and “toffee,” it comprises toffee—condensed milk boiled in the can—on a shortcrust flan base, topped with whipped cream, bananas, and ground coffee.
Planning: Work up an appetite with a hike along the scenic South Downs Way, which passes through Jevington.
Cheddar Cheese, Cheddar, England
Mass manufacturers of plasticky horrors wallow in Cheddar’s lack of controlled appellation, as the brand is not restricted to one region or recipe. Using traditional methods with unpasteurized milk, the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company is the only cheesemaker in this Somerset village, beneath England’s largest gorge, that still makes the genuine “farmhouse” article.
Planning: The plant opens daily, with guided tours from Easter through October.
Eccles Cake, Salford, England
The exact origins of this flat, currant-filled puff-pastry cake—sometimes affectionately known as “dead-fly pie”—are murky, but it first scored commercial success around 1790 at James Birch’s shop in Eccles, now part of Salford, northwestern England. Trading briskly, it fast became a favorite British teatime treat.
Planning: In Eccles, Martins Bakery sells the cakes and Smiths Restaurant serves them with tea.
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