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Review: Food Trails, by Lonely Planet

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About Sheryl

Feeding my curiosity among people who get me.

Blogging about being fifty-something: the good, the bad and the brilliant. Grateful for the brilliance.

You can almost smell the foodie magic unfurling in this brand new Lonely Planet guide.

Being fifty-something, I’m all for the road less travelled. Give me a quiet, uncrowded journey where the magic unfolds at my pace. If that magic is punctuated by new food experiences, all the better.

In , Lonely Planet unpacks 52 short breaks embracing the road less travelled through a cherry-picked collection of the world’s most awesome food (and drink) experiences. Win. Win.

The subtitle sums it up: Plan 52 Perfect Weekends in the World’s Tastiest Destinations.

If you’re thinking that means a lightweight recount of a year’s worth of popular foodie destinations, think again. This book layers one experience on another, on another.

A food vendor walks past a traditional Chinese shopfront.

A food vendor walks past a traditional Chinese shopfront. Pic: Lonely Planet

It dives into new culinary territory such as “Fjordland Foods & Arctic Bounty” in Iceland. Here, you’re urged to seek out mineral water that is “practically a delicacy – the most naturally rich potable fluid on the planet”, or to pull off the main road toward a white house where “two fishermen’s wives make a mean homemade fish soup (from their husbands’ daily catch) with notes of curry and tomato”.

In Spain's northern Basque country, Food Trails exalts the “Pintxos and Michelin Stars in San Sebastian”. Suggestions include a laidback breakfast at Botanika, taking a Pintxo Masterclass at San Sebastian Food and rounding out your day with a sublime tarta de queso (cheesecake) from La Viña.

The trails tread through Europe, Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australia and beyond, exploring the lesser-known culinary underbelly of usual suspects such as Italy, France and the USA, while breaking fresh foodie ground in Oman, Jamaica and Slovakia.

Bari fisherman Maurizio with his freshly opened sea urchins.

Bari fisherman Maurizio with his freshly opened sea urchins. Pic: Lonely Planet

The detail for each trail is extraordinary. Inclusions span orientation maps, expert reviews, web links, phone s, opening hours and an Essential Info edit for each destination, with entries under Where to Stay, What to do and Celebrations.

The copy is engaging, lively and clever. It brims with whisper-in-your-ear local gems and the quirky back stories that get you connected and knowing a place long before you seriously think about visiting.

The images are the real heroes – full-bleed, many full-page and all full-colour. The production values elevate this book from travel guide to coffee table tome. It’s a delight to simply pick up and fall into a page spread of possibilities, and then another. Like an endless buffet, you can scoop up an old favourite and know it in a fresh way, or discover a completely new-to-you experience and wonder where it’s been all your life.

My local stomping ground is covered under “Mod-Oz in Melbourne –Melbourne’s famed gastronomic allure has spread way beyond the big city, into country farms and coastal villages around the Great Ocean Road and Bellarine Peninsula.” True to formula, it covers some favourites such as Jack Rabbit, Bar Americano and Timboon Railway and Distillery Shed, alongside a couple new to me, including Charcoal Lane, a non-profit organisation employing indigenous staff and cooks, and assisting local Aboriginal communities.

A woman makes orecchietti pasta.

A woman makes orecchietti pasta. Pic: Lonely Planet

It’s that level of detail that hooks you in – a story, a moment, a dish or a conversation that intrigues. Food Trails organises all those micro-experiences into well-padded two or three-day breaks.

As a hardback of 304 pages,  is no pack-it-along pocket guide. It’s definitely a pre-travel planning tool or, even if you have no journey on your immediate horizon, an inspirational foodie fantasy read.

From the intro: “Ingredients evoke landscapes, recipes recall history and certain dishes can unlock the very essence of a place and its people.”

And from there unfolds the magic.

Published October 5, 2016 / 304pp / RRP: AU$34.99

Note: Lonely Planet provided review copy.

Images: Courtesy of Lonely Planet (not to be reproduced elsewhere).

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