There’s a lot more we have to write about Europe as yet, but as we move on, I’m already missing some of the really interesting food and drink we had while we were there…so without any further ado, here’s my list of things I’ll probably be searching for in the USA! *in no particular order
Chin8, or Chinotto as it’s pronounced, is an Italian soda that has apparently been around since the 1950s. It’s flavored with a particular kind of orange, namely, the myrtle-leafed orange, which interestingly really isn’t an orange at all but a distinctly different citrus fruit. It’s a bitter enough drink that I think it’s a bit of an acquired taste–kind of a bitter cola flavor–but in the end, I just kept getting it. I think it works well as a digestif.
Gingerino is similar to Chin8 in being a pretty bitter soda, but it’s an attractive red color and comes in a cute little bottle, which is good for people like me who are like magpies. It’s local to the Veneto region we were near when we were in northern Italy, and gets its flavor from a mix of sugar, spices, and herbs–it would probably make a good mixer for cocktails, I imagine, with its color and similarity to some bitter liqueurs.
Such as the Aperol in an aperol spritz! Aperol’s been around since 1919, though it interestingly didn’t become popular until after the second World War. It’s similar to the maybe more well-known Campari in flavor, but it’s got a lower alcohol content. When mixed with sparkling white wine, it makes for a very pretty orange-red, very easy to drink cocktail that will still knock you for a loop regardless of the lower alcohol content. It’s perfect for happy hour! Or, aperitif hour, or, appy hour, if you will!
Cedrata is a lovely chartreuse soda that’s flavored with citron, a.k.a. that giant lemon-like fruit that you don’t really eat. It’s really refreshing and not-too-sweet, but also not-too-tart and not-too-sour; it’s a Goldilocks of lemony sodas. And, it comes in a classy unlabeled bottle!
On to Scotland…Dandelion and Burdock Soda
Dandelion and burdock soda is a dark drink that doesn’t taste anything at all like dandelion greens, which, in the end, I think is best for everyone involved. It may or may not taste like a burdock. I honestly have no idea what a burdock is; it may be an animal or mineral for all I know!
Oh! It’s a plant. It’s kind of like a thistle, or maybe a burr sort of thing. The more you know. Anyway, a new Scottish friend described it as “the gentleman’s Dr. Pepper,” and that’s pretty apt. It’s in the realm of root beer or sarsaparilla, but a lot more like bubblegum. While also being like those things. Look for a Fentiman’s to make sure you try it with natural and original flavorings!
Elderflower soda, like elderflower liqueur, has the most delightful, joyful scent to it, and unlike some things, that scent actually carries through into the flavor. It’s a sweet but-not-fruity flavor–it’s pretty unique and definitely one of my favorite flavors. I think it just makes people happy!
Tunnock’s Teacakes were introduced to us by our lovely friend Amy and her roommate Jess. It’s apparently a Scottish institution, which is pretty impressive for a marshmallow on a very thin biscuit coated in chocolate. It was also the centerpiece of the opening ceremony of a previous Commonwealth Games, in an apparently utterly hilarious way, which I simply could not do justice trying to describe as they did to us. It’s a nice little treat, though!
Irn Bru, or “Scotland’s other national drink,” is not, as we very quickly learned, pronounced like it looks like, ie, “rrrrn broo.” It is rather a funny sort of abbreviation of “iron brew,” which had to be changed because “brew” would indicate that it was a beer sort of drink, which just wouldn’t do. It’s a fun, radioactive sort of orange, and tasted like orange-cream soda when we first tried it in a restaurant, but then bubble-gum when we tried it in a can (so, in other words, get it on draft in a restaurant). It’s also known for some pretty funny advertising campaigns, eg, “It’s not a drink from those crazy Yanks, because it’s made right here you know it’s tougher than tanks!”:
Haggis is like…well I was going to say it’s like mujadara, but the latter doesn’t have heart, liver, and lungs in it. Either way, both are peasant sort of foods, for the salt of the earth, and both are–to me, anyway–solidly good, but not something I’d go out of my way to eat. I enjoy both of them, both have good, savory, spiced flavors and similar minced combination of things textures, but it’s not mind-blowing. It does usually come with the amusingly named neeps and tatties, or, rutabaga and potatoes, which is fun. And Bonnie enjoyed trying the vegetarian version, which actually seems just as common as the traditional meat one.
Okay, yes, these are in the States as well. And, though we didn’t try the fried Mars Bar that Scotland is famous for, we did try regular Mars Bars, and they were noticeably different than ones we’ve had in the past. Amy actually informed us that it’s because the chocolate in the UK is made differently than say, Australia or the USA, and doesn’t use anti-melting compounds. And it’s consequently more delicious! Points to the UK!