Ride and Refuel: Top 8 European Food Destinations for Cyclists

BY FRANK BEHRENDT

 

One of the best things about traveling by bike on a European learning adventure is that, as you explore, you’re also burning calories and working up an appetite. Satisfy your craving for adventure in one of these top European destinations for cyclists and foodies alike, compiled by our resident bike and food lover who has cycled and eaten his way through nearly every country in Europe. Bon appétit!

 

Apple Cake Along the Adige

When you think about cycling through Italy at harvest time, apple orchards probably aren’t the first things that come to mind. In the northern part of the country, where the elevation is between 1,500 and 3,000 feet above sea level, the unique microclimate is especially conducive to apple cultivation. After pedaling down the Alps in September, follow the Adige River to a bustling town market or fruit co-op, and choose a fresh and juicy Gala, Golden, Red Delicious, Pinova, Jonagol or Braeburn apple from a local farmer. Enjoy the produce on its own, or sample local favorites like torta di mele (apple cake) or warm apple strudel — perfect for refueling after a satisfying ride.

 

The World’s Most Delicious Melon in Provence

Provence’s Mediterranean climate makes it a foodie’s paradise, with ample amounts of fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs, seafood and olive oil at your finger tips. This hilly region also provides great cycling, especially in September and October when the weather begins to cool down. One item you won’t be able to miss on any menu or in any market in this corner of southern France is the melon de Cavaillon, so named for the town between Aix-en-Provence and Avignon, where this melon was cultivated beginning in the 14th century. Similar to the cantaloupes sold across North America, the Cavaillon melon is in season from June to the beginning of October. Try it chilled as a savory soup or wrapped in jambon cru (similar to prosciutto).

 

A Pot of Fondue After a Day on the Swiss Plateau

The mostly flat Schweizer Mittelland (Swiss Plateau) is nestled between the Jura to the west and the Alps to the east, making this a perfect area of Switzerland for exploring on two wheels. As the weather gets cooler and you start thinking about heartier meals after a day’s ride, fondue — Switzerland’s prominent national dish — is sure to whet your appetite. Made from a mixture of white wine and Swiss cheeses such as Gruyère, Appenzeller and the autumn seasonal favorite, Vacherin, nothing beats gathering around a warm fondue pot with friends and dipping bread cubes into a gooey mixture of bubbling cheeses.

 

An Uncommon Delicacy in Slovenia

Nothing says fall like pedaling your bike past a pumpkin patch — a common sight throughout Slovenia and other countries that once made up the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Cycle past fields of the Styrian variety of pumpkin, cultivated for its seeds which are high in antioxidants and essential fatty acids. Try them dried and eaten as snacks or roasted into a nutty flavored oil. Produced in Slovenia and other regions of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, pumpkin seed oil is a regional delicacy, used to liven up a bowl of vanilla ice cream or drizzled on bed of greens with some cider vinegar.

 

A Glass of Fruity White and a Tarte Flambée in Alsace

While southern France is all about the bottles of bold reds, the northeastern part of the country stakes its claim on the French wine industry with impressive appellations of white wines. Lower in sugar and higher in alcohol content than similar Rieslings, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminers from neighboring Germany, fruity and floral Alsace wines have generated renewed buzz in the past couple of decades. Throughout the month of September, as you cycle through towns and villages along the Rhine, it’s impossible to go anywhere without seeing festivals celebrating the end of the grape harvest or announcements of the arrival of new wines. And no wine festival in the region is complete without a tarte flambée (also known as flammekueche in Alsatian), which is a wood-fired pizza-like tart topped with onion, lardons and fromage blanc.

 

Comfort Food Par Excellence in Prague

Roast duck? Two kinds of cabbage? Dumplings? Potato soup with wild mushrooms? Warm apple cake? Sounds like a perfect fall feast in Prague! While many come to Prague to cycle past well-preserved Art Nouveau and Baroque architecture, down some golden Czech Pilsners after a refreshing ride or wander the streets of Prague’s medieval Staré Město (Old Town), the simple, home-style cuisine of the Czech Republic is often overlooked. And after nearly two weeks in the saddle pedaling from Berlin to Prague, a feast is in order! Whether it’s roast pork with sauerkraut or wild boar goulash, the delightful comfort foods found in Prague are best enjoyed as the temperature begins to the drop.

 

Oysters With a Spritz of Lemon, Bread and White Wine in Médoc

Mention Bordeaux and the Médoc region, and the most likely images you conjure up are glasses of full-bodied red wines and oaky Cognacs. Many overlook another great food of the area: oysters! Oysters are said to be at their best from September to April, after new oysters are born and when the water temperature decreases. About 30 miles southwest of Bordeaux and a short distance by bike from the Dune du Pilat (Europe’s tallest sand dune) is the town of Arcachon. Cycle from town to town, hugging the coastline of Arcachon Bay, to visit wooden oyster shacks (called cabanes) where visitors can learn how to shuck these delectable bivalves, then slurp them down with a spritz of lemon, bread, and white wine.

 

 

An Elderberry Cordial After a Day Along the Danube

Austria is one of the world’s leaders in the cultivation of black elderberries, and pedaling along the Danube from Passau toward Vienna, you don’t have to look to hard to find tasty treats made from either the berry or the blossoms. Despite being regarded as a trendy superfood in the USA, Europeans have long been feasting on elderberries, which boast ample cardiovascular properties thanks to powerful antioxidants. Most commonly, these tart fruits are added to yogurts, cordials, syrups, jams and regional dessert specialties, like Hollerküchel, a type of fritter made from batter-fried elderberry flowers, then dusted with cinnamon and sugar.

 

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ABOUT OUR GUEST BLOGGER:

Frank Behrendt has been helping people, including Road Scholars, see the world by bicycle for over 40 years. An Amsterdam native, he has traveled extensively throughout European countries and has lived in the Netherlands, Turkey, Greece, Israel, England and the United States. Frank is fluent in several languages and is a master storyteller. He seems to have an advanced degree in pastry studies and knows precisely where the best bakery in the next town can be found. Frank also loves teaching the art of Nordic Walking.