Food wonderlands of the world
Those who elbow through Mexico City’s Mercado de la Merced are rewarded with tastes from all over the country. (Greg Elms/LPI/Getty)
Step into a delicious reality with these fantastic food fantasylands, a dreamy world of candy apples, whirling spices and chocolate chip cookie dough.
Chandni Chowk, India
Graze through the sweets and savouries of Chandni Chowk, a 350-year-old bazaar in Delhi, attached to the Red Fort of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Crunch into a buttery, pistachioed sohan halwa dessert, then mix it up by downing a cone of spicy fried potato sticks. Vendors sell mounds of masalas (spice mixes), tubs of paneer (fresh cheese), towers of mangos and bins of candied fruits. Thirsty from bargaining over the din? Quench with a thandai, a milk, sugar, almond, cardamom and crushed ice concoction. When you are ready to burst, wave down a rickshaw to wheel you home.
Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory, US
You can pretend you are on the tour to learn about the company’s socially responsible business practices (they use only natural ingredients, bought from local family farms). But we all know you are really at this Vermont factory for the dreamy ice-cream samples swirled with fudge chunks, toffee bars, brownie batter and chocolate chip cookie dough. Would it not be the world’s greatest job to ensure quality control of the 55-gallon fudge tank or proper blending of the peanut butter-filled pretzels into their vanilla malt base? Ice-cream fanatics have been known to weep onsite.
Fit for hungry tsars, this grand 1901 St Petersburg food hall drips with crystal chandeliers and Art Nouveau stained-glass windows, with plenty of gold and marble tossed in for good measure. The edibles and drinkables are even more opulent. Beluga caviar and champagne? Check. Smoked salmon and vodka? Yes. Siberian meat dumplings and cognac? Got it. Salamis, cheeses and more vodka? Here! And what about dessert, say jam-filled gingerbread and Belgian chocolates? Yeliseyevsky has it all.
Paseo de la Princesa, Puerto Rico
Energetic kids, amorous couples and old men clacking dominoes get their fill along this San Juan promenade, which runs beneath moss-draped walls. Food carts with coloured awnings proffer candy apples, cotton candy and other sugar-fuelled sweets to young ones, while older gents sip rich coffee and eat golden fried, seafood-stuffed yucca dough at outdoor tables. Cold drinks are the paseo’s specialty, with locals trying to beat the heat by gulping fruit-sweetened shaved ice, pineapple-juice-and-coconut-milk piña coladas (sans rum) and maví, a tree-bark cider served frosty from wooden barrels.
Hershey’s Chocolate World, US
Yes, it is geared mostly to youngsters with its animated films of singing Hershey Bars and Reese’s Cups wearing top hats, but adults also have ample opportunity to act like kids in the candy shop. Chocolate World is, after all, a Pennsylvanian tribute to the making of some of America’s finest sweets – crisp wafery Kit Kats, tooth-destroying caramel Milk Duds, cool tingling Peppermint Patties and roast peanut-infused NutRageous bars. The pièce de résistance for chocoholics is gaping at shelves of 5lb Hershey Bars in the onsite chocolate emporium.
Mercado de la Merced, Mexico
Those who elbow through this cramped, four-block marketplace in Mexico City are rewarded with tastes from all over the country. Traditional eats include nopales, dark and chewy cactus paddles, normally eaten raw or cooked in stew; fresh white cheese; and an array of atomically hot chillies – all of which vendors generously offer in samples. In addition to explosive flavours, multi-hued piñatas and bright wool blankets dangling from the stalls ignite the Mercado in a festival of colours.
Spice Museum, Germany
The scent tickles your nose as soon as you enter this Hamburg establishment. It is sweet, peppery, astringent and liquorice-like all at once. As you step over creaking floorboards and approach the burlap bags scattered throughout the warehouse, the aromas begin to focus. First marjoram, mint and nutmeg, then cinnamon, sage and fennel. The olfactory paradise continues, with 50 different spices to sniff, along with exhibits explaining five centuries of spice history. The aphrodisiac spices (cloves and coriander) make for particularly good inhaling.