When traveling to a new place, a great way to experience the local food dairy free is to book a culinary walking tour. A hotel concierge can be a big help with recommending good restaurants, but she may not have enough intimate knowledge of the cuisine to be able to adapt for a person’s dairy allergy. However, a tour guide, if he is a good one, will be able to adapt fairly easily.
In addition, a culinary walking tour is a great way to taste, in one day, more different kinds of foods than one might otherwise encounter in a week or more.
In the last year, Therese and I have experienced culinary walking tours given by Taste Hungary in Budapest, Hungary and Istanbul Eats in (of course) Istanbul, Turkey. In each case I emailed ahead of time and let them know about my allergy, and they were able to tell me which things to avoid, and add stops to make sure that I got just as much to eat as the others on the tour.
In Budapest, our guide Gabor, in addition to giving us a tour of the Grand Market Hall and allowing us to taste numerous Hungarian delicacies, was invaluable in giving us ideas of places to eat in Budapest. He also told us about a great wine bar in our home, New York City, of which we had never heard (long story short, the wine bar, Terroir, is now one of our favorites)! We were gratified to discover that we had several of his suggested food stops already on our itinerary. For example, we wanted to find a shop to buy some of Budapest’s famous Mangalitsa ham, and the place he recommended, Huspatika, was one I had found in a guide book. He very clearly explained how to get to the shop, and then how to get from there back to our hotel, all by using public transportation. The depth of his engagement with the food and wine culture in Budapest was quite thrilling.
In Istanbul, I felt so well taken care of by our guide Megan. She was able to tell me exactly what I could have and what I couldn’t, and spoke with the cook at one of our destinations to get him to make something without dairy for me. Her breadth of knowledge was extraordinary, not just about the food but about the neighborhood we visited and Turkish culture.
Now, whenever we are planning another trip, one of the first things I do is research what options there are in the cities we are visiting for culinary tours. It is so helpful to have an insider who can translate foods and ingredients for you and let you know which ones to avoid. But even more than that, one’s experience of a new culture is so much more enriched when you are introduced to the food by a guide who loves nothing more than to eat and talk about food.