food / travel

Russia Thirsts For Prestige Mark On World's Wine List

Gone are sweet Soviet wines, forgotten is the "dry law" of Gorbachev, Russian viticulture is now reborn.

MOSCOW — A year after its opening, Russian Wine is always full. Located in the center of Moscow, it has become a trendy restaurant. Its wine list stands out: It offers Russian brands only, more than 200, signalled in different colors across all the southern regions of the country.

Russian Wine (in English on the store front, as well as on the eclectic menu) unsurprisingly includes Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula where viticulture has revived since Moscow annexed it in 2014.

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Superstar French Chefs-Cum-Farmers Turn Haute Cuisine Green

Driven by the desire to offer an experience rooted in their terroir, more and more star chefs are turning into farmers. They have the same goal: to keep up with the times by offering local and sustainable produce.

PARIS – Bee balm, savory, marjoram ... All around the terrace overlooking the valley, dozens and dozens of aromatic herbs and vegetables grow despite the first frosts of autumn. Before entering the harshness of winter, Emmanuel Renaut rubs sweet woodruff between his hands and invites others to do the same. "Can you feel the power of this fragrance? I use it in both my sweet and savory dishes." The sweet woodruff mix is one of the many that Renaut incorporates daily into the kitchen of Flocon de Sel, his three-star Michelin restaurant perched at 1,300 meters, just above the village of Megève, in the French Alps.

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"Terminal" Saga, Argentine Student Stuck In Madrid Airport Since August

Reminiscent of the Tom Hanks movie The Terminal, an Argentine student has been "living" in the Madrid international airport for months after changing her return flight to Argentina in the middle of the pandemic and running out of money.

MADRID — It's ripe for a Kafkaesque movie script, with no happy ending so far for a 24-year-old Argentine student who has been sharing on social media her saga about being stuck in Madrid's Barajas airport since August. Milagros Almeida has described a perfect storm of pandemic-related restrictions and bureaucracy, on top of a serious problem of excess luggage, that has left her broke and stranded at Europe's second largest airport.

Recalling the Steven Spielberg-directed movie The Terminal, starring Tom Hanks, Almeida says she has been eating and washing at the airport, buying what she can to survive.

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How Asia's High-End Demand Fuels South American Coffee Exports

Amid post-pandemic trade distortions and changing consumer habits, Latin American countries seeking to boost coffee exports should eye a growing specialty market in prosperous Asian countries.

SANTIAGO — Like many sectors of the economy, coffee production has suffered the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. But COVID-19 and a consequent change of habits that include working from home have also boosted consumption of hot and caffeinated drinks. Now, cultivators of a crop grown around the Tropic of Capricorn are striving to meet this global demand of around three billion cups of coffee per day.

As marketing consultants Euromonitor observed in a recent study, coffee is an eminently social drink and global lockdowns distorted social habits. At the same time, consumers are also seeking out drinks thought to boost the immune system and provide comfort during this troubling era.

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food / travel
Laure Gautherin and Carl-Johan Karlsson

The True Horrors Behind 7 Haunted Locations Around The World

With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.

When Hallows Eve was first introduced as a Celtic festival some 2,000 years ago, bonfires and costumes were seen as a legitimate way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Today of course, with science and logic being real ghostbusters, spine-chilling tales of haunted forests, abandoned asylums and deserted graveyards have rather become a way to add some mystery and suspense to our lives.

And yet there are still spooky places around the world that have something more than legend attached to them. From Spain to Uzbekistan and Australia, these locations prove that haunting lore is sometimes rooted in very real, and often terrible events.

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Society
Pascale Joassart-Marcelli

The Food Truck, A Sign That The White And Wealthy Are Moving In

In San Diego, California, a researcher tracked how in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked dining options, when interesting eateries arrive the gentrification of white, affluent and college-educated people has begun.

SAN DIEGO — Everybody, it seems, welcomes the arrival of new restaurants, cafés, food trucks and farmers markets.

What could be the downside of fresh veggies, homemade empanadas and a pop-up restaurant specializing in banh mis?

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food / travel
Paco Rodríguez

Town Annihilated In Spanish Civil War Now A Paranormal Attraction

Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite. A growing number of tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town.

BELCHITE – Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, the town of Belchite in northeastern Spain became a strategic objective for the forces of the Republican government, before their assault on the nearby city of Zaragoza. Belchite seemed a simple target, but its capture took longer than expected. More than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting, and the town was decimated, with almost half the town's 3,100 residents dying in the struggle.

The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one. The streets remained deserted. Stray dogs were the only ones to venture into the weed-covered, pockmarked ruins. A sign written on one wall reads, "Old town, historic ruins." Graffitis scrawled on the doors of the Church of San Martín recall better times: "Old town of Belchite, youngsters no longer stroll your streets. The sound of the jotas our parents sang is gone."

Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, must remain exposed.

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Future
Carl-Johan Karlsson

7 Ways The Pandemic May Change The Airline Industry For Good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

It's hard to overstate the damage the pandemic has had on the airline industry, with global revenues dropping by 40% in 2020 and dozens of airlines around the world filing for bankruptcy. One moment last year when the gravity became particularly apparent was when Asian carriers (in countries with low COVID-19 rates) began offering "flights to nowhere" — starting and ending at the same airport as a way to earn some cash from would-be travelers who missed the in-flight experience.

More than a year later today, experts believe that air traffic won't return to normal levels until 2024.

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food / travel
Adriana Santagati

How Argentina's Soup Kitchen Cooks Serve Up Haute Cuisine

People like Aunt Eva, in the outskirts of Mendoza, Argentina dedicate countless hours to preparing food for the needy. They make use of whatever is at hand, and invent some remarkable dishes in the process.

BUENOS AIRES — Pretty much everyone has at least heard of goulash, the Hungarian meat stew served in cafés the world over. But who invented it? Impossible to say. What we do know is that it's a recipe born from necessity: the need, in this case, to slowly cook dried or lesser quality meat until tender.

Indeed, many famous dishes originated this way, from people having to make do with what they had. And who knows, perhaps 20 or 30 years from know we'll be tracking the origin of the corn flour pizza that María Angélica Parodi — Mary, as most people know her — prepares in her kitchen in Rosario, in central Argentina.

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food / travel
Zhang Yan,

Taiwan To Hong Kong To L.A., Birth Of Bubble Tea Culture

Originating in Taiwan, bubble tea was one of many products hard hit by the pandemic. But the internationally-beloved, tapioca-based drink isn't just any import any longer — it's an entire culture.

TAIPEI — In mid-April, a report entitled "Another Unlikely Pandemic Shortage: Boba Tea" appeared inThe New York Times. This rang alarm bells for fans of the great Taiwanese delicacy, also called bubble tea, milk tea or Zhenzhu Naicha in Mandarin Chinese. The bad news came just as the weather was warming up, the tensions brought about by COVID-19 were easing, and the food and beverage industry was hoping for a pick-up in business.

The global pandemic caused a major shortage in the supply chain of tapioca pearls, bubble tea's most important ingredient that sets it apart from other beverages. More than 90 % of tapioca starch comes from Taiwan, as the three partners of Boba Guys, a franchise chain, explained to their clients in an Instagram post.

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food / travel

Inside Volcanoes, In Front Of Trains: 10 Stunning Soccer Fields Around The World

On September 19, the Cumbre Vieja, a volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma, erupted. Since then, it's been a daily spectacle of plumes of black smoke and lava spewing in the air and destroying everything on its path down to the Atlantic shore, with some 6,000 locals forced to evacuate

With this autumn's dramatic images, all of Spain has been volcano-obsessed, and Madrid-based daily La Rázon pointed out to its readers last week that inside a (non-active!) volcano in Mexico, there is ... would you believe ... the El 'Teoca' soccer pitch.

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food / travel
Anne-Sophie Goninet

Rooster, Mon Amour: The Not-So-Quiet Truth About Our Famous French Countryside

To most, the French countryside evokes an idyllic paradise, from the southern Provence region with its lavender fields to vineyard-covered Burgundy to the castles of the Loire Valley. In this postcard vision, you can smell the soft air, see the grazing cows and hear the silence, broken only by the rare tolling of local church bells.

You probably never considered ... the noise.

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Society
Lee Chiu Hing

Hong Kong's International Food Scene Gets Political

In its diaspora around Asia and the rest of the world, Hong Kong's identity is closely tied to its food and tea. Now with the pressures from the mainland, the stakes are suddenly multiplied.

HONG KONG — Hot wonton soup, a cup of milk tea: These are among the dishes Hong Kongers around the world long for when they want a taste of their hometown. Leaving Hong Kong is a challenge for some, less so for others, but virtually all expats eventually grow tired of dishes from their adopted countries, and seek familiar flavors. But more and more, this desire has developed beyond nostalgia to become a question with much more at stake.

The evolution of Hong Kong food culture has, in retrospect, become a construction of the city's identity, from the internationalized food scene in the early years of the last century, which gathered regional cuisines from around the globe, to exportation, which has brought about a new generation of Hon Kong-style tea restaurants in China, Taiwan and even Japan.

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food / travel

How COVID-19 Has Impacted Expat Life

COVID-19 has disrupted the lives of billions of people all over the globe, and expats are no exception.

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In one of the biggest annual surveys on expat life, Expat Insider, the global networking community InterNations asked both locals and expats about the impact of the pandemic.

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food / travel
Laure Gautherin

La Sagrada Familia Delayed Again — Blame COVID-19 This Time

Hopes were dashed by local officials to see the completion of the iconic Barcelona church in 2026, in time for the 100th anniversary of the death of its renowned architect Antoni Gaudí.

By most accounts, it's currently the longest-running construction project in the world. And now, the completion of work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882, is going to take even longer.

Barcelona-based daily El Periodico daily reports that work on the church, which began as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. But a press conference Tuesday, Sep. 21 confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin).

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food / travel
Vincent Delhomme and Benjamin Jan*

Not All Frites and Beer: Does Eating Belgian Make Sense?

When it comes to food, the fears linked to globalization must be put into perspective. They must also be weighed against the negative effects that Belgian protectionism could have on our economy.

BELGIUM — "Eating local" has become a global trend. Both the political world and the private sector are riding the "ethical consumption" wave and trying to take advantage of it by catering to the patriotic feelings of the "consumer voter." Whether it's a regional food relocation plan or the "BELhaize" campaign, through which the famous chain stop promotes "local products," the aim is to encourage people to buy "Belgian." However, this is neither in the interest of Belgium, nor the planet's.

Distrust in food imports was already palpable before the pandemic, as was the reaction caused by the free trade agreement between the EU and Canada. But these sentiments have been amplified by the health-crisis related supply problems for strategic products. While it's essential to be resilient with regard to products (e.g. semi-conductors or active pharmaceutical ingredients), Belgium would not benefit from a protectionist retreat with regard to food. It's not often pointed out that Belgium is one of the EU member states that benefits the most from the free movement of goods within the single market. Erecting economic barriers to food by favorably discriminating between Belgian products and those produced elsewhere — especially European products — is potentially dangerous. Such protectionist barriers against Belgian products, if extended to all goods, could result in the loss of up to 15% of Belgian GDP.

A man shops the bio (organic) section at a Carrefour in Brussels — Photo: Isopix/ZUMA

The Belgian food industry boasts exports worth 27 billion euros and contributes to a positive trade balance of several billion. Our biggest trading partners, both for imports and exports, are the EU member states and in particular our neighbors: Germany, France and the Netherlands account for 55% of our exports. The question arises as to whether, in a small country like Belgium, it is reasonable to encourage a consumer in Liège to prefer a vegetable produced in Visé instead of Maastricht. What would happen to our economy and our jobs if we pushed other European citizens to turn away from Belgian products? Promoting the know-how of our Belgian producers should involve the creation of a favorable economic environment that allows them to keep or gain market shares, in Belgium or elsewhere.

What would happen to our economy and our jobs if we pushed other European citizens to turn away from Belgian products?

First of all, it is strange to present the purchase of Belgian products as particularly "local" even though 56% of the country's population lives less than 25km from a national border, 65% when it comes to the Walloons. Thus for the inhabitants of Bastogne, eating products from Flanders is less local than eating French, Dutch, Luxembourgish or German goods.

It's appropriate, then, to question the widespread idea that eating locally is better for the planet. The assertion must, at best, be strongly nuanced; at worst, it's completely false. To understand why, we must first demystify the impact of transportation on the environmental cost of our plates. It is minimal: less than 10%. In reality, most of the greenhouse gas emissions come from the production of our food itself. Animal proteins have the greatest environmental impact. The "geographical" characteristics of the countries where our food is produced are also parameters that must be seriously taken into account.

Mussel farmer Peter Cooleman with his Belgian North Sea mussels. — Photo: Kurt Desplenter/Belga/ZUMA

Due to a favorable climate, produce such as strawberries or tomatoes from Spain, for example, have a much lower carbon footprint than those grown in greenhouses in northern Europe. Thus, for consumers concerned about their environmental footprint, it is much more useful to refuse their consumption of meat, even if it is Belgian, than to stop buying Italian tomatoes. Since the environmental impact of the origin of most products is insignificant compared to the impact of meat, eggs and dairy products, discriminating products according to their "nationality" is useless.

Fears of globalization must be put into perspective when it comes to food and weighed against the negative effects of protectionism on the Belgian economy. The economic opportunities that the single market offers to our small country are immense. As for the fight against climate change, it should not be used as an instrument to feed inward-looking attitudes and to support protectionist measures. On the contrary, we could seize the opportunity, on a European scale, to be part of the single market that has different climates in order, for example, to produce where the environment allows optimal production from an ecological point of view.

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