Food Trails Book Review

Culinary travel is a big thing these days and Lonely Planet is producing a handsome series of books designed to appeal to our inner foodies. Food Trails is the first one that I've seen (there's also a Wine Trails guide) and if this is typical then those of us who like reading about food and seeing beautiful photos of food as well as eating it are in for a tasty treat.

If you're expecting, as I was, to see a typical Lonely Planet paperback guidebook, then think again. Food Trails is a big fat gorgeous hardback of 320 pages, packed with colour photos and helps you, as the sub-title says: 'Plan 52 Perfect Weekends in the World's Tastiest Destinations.'

Those 52 weekends range from Argentina to Vietnam, though we're reviewing it here because many are in some of the most popular locations to visit from London, like Paris, Lyon, Porto, Crete and Venice.

The entries are somewhere between an essay and a conventional guidebook. Each spreads across six pages, begins with an introduction and a map, then plans the perfect foodie weekend for you, location by location. It might be a market, a shop, a restaurant or some other foodie experience that all work together to give you a weekend to remember. It isn't one of those silly hour-by-hour guides – do this at 11am, go here at noon, eat at 1pm – but gives you the suggestions and leaves you to plan your own schedule.

Let's take a look at one of the world's best foodie cities: Lyon. The introduction tells us all about Lyon's bouchons and the local Beaujolais. This isn't just for the handy alliteration but because they're two things at the heart of what makes Lyon so great. The fact that they're both also cheap helps show that this is a book for food lovers of all kinds and all budgets. It is not a gourmets-only guide to pricey restaurants.

Typical Spread from Food Trails

Lyon's entries start with one of the city's best markets, the Marché de la Croix-Rousse, and recommends a bouchon called La Musée before going on to cover an ice cream shop, an indoor market, chef Paul Bocuse's cookery school, more eating places and even a foodie bookshop. Our only criticism is that it doesn't mention Bernachon, one of the world's best chocolate shops, but there's so much in Lyon it would be impossible to pack every food temple into six pages.

There's a heck of a lot in Paris, too, so the book focuses on pâtisseries but finds room to mention a few restaurants too – but ones with outstanding pastry chefs. Sample everything in the Paris chapter and it would be one heck of a fattening weekend. But why not?

Some of the other European places covered in the book are Scotland's Outer Hebrides (bakeries, smokehouses and, of course, a distillery), the Connemara Seafood Trail, How to Eat Like a Venetian and a Seafood and Cider Trail through England's west country.

All in all this is an excellent and inspiring book. All the entries we read were well-written and entertaining. The list of credits at the back shows that Lonely Planet hired numerous authors, each only doing one or two chapters on places they were really intimate with. It's more work for the publisher but the result is a more rewarding experience for the reader. We look forward to more books in a similar vein.

Buying Food Trails

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