A great meal is about more than the food on your plate. A perfect atmosphere makes any meal taste richer, effortless company makes it more fulfilling, and the right beverage helps it go down easily. A wave of nostalgia always sweeps over us as we sit down to our first meal at home. We crave the flavors and the environments of far away places. Though Healdsburg and Tuscany may top our list, we know that our next vacation will bring new tastes to savor, new friends to laugh with, and new landscapes to adore.

Healdsburg, CA by Meagan Coates

I sat down at my desk after returning from a weeklong bike trip in California’s wine country with a request to write a piece on my favorite North American restaurant and I have found it nearly impossible to pick a clear winner. Napa and Sonoma biking trips with Trek Travel

My first inclination is Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg—an obvious choice as they receive so many nods in the culinary world with their fresh, local and seasonal food that is perfectly paired with a supremely local wine list and formal but non-stuffy service. Diners enjoy fresh caught fish, local duck and an array of farm-fresh vegetables in a hip and beautiful dining room with expansive ceilings and large windows.

Our Trek Travel groups even have the unique opportunity to dine in the intimate wine library off the hotel lobby after spending a day on the bike and an afternoon at the pool or spa on property. We cap it off with decadent desserts like the chocolate tart with pear sauce or the variety of fresh sorbets served in an old-fashioned soda jerk style container.

california-wine-country-weekend-02-1600x670However, I would be remiss not to mention other Healdsburg haunts like my new favorite—The Shed—located just off the square behind Hotel Healdsburg. Area farmers showcase their handmade products and provide the makings of super hydrating “shrub” drinks at the fermentation bar. I sampled the strawberry, carrot and kumquat but ultimately loved the blood orange best.

Or, just steps away are other amazing restaurants such as Willi’s Seafood, Ravenous, Bistro Ralph, Barndiva and countless others. Savor a craft cocktail at h2’s Spoon Bar (like the cucumber martini!) or just stroll around Healdsburg and you are sure to find something that suits even the most discerning palates. After visiting restaurants in every corner of the world, Healdsburg is definitely the best kept secret for foodie’s looking to travel in North America.

Tuscany, Italy by Kari Kruckow

But close your eyes and take a 6,000-mile journey across the Atlantic. Rolling green hills lined with cypress trees, sun kissed vines, slow food and delicious wines…oh and Roberto. Welcome to Tuscany!

Last week I was able to cycle through this beautiful region and experience its culture. The way Trek Travel invites you to be a local for 6 days on a Trek Bike is amazing. Cycling was the biggest highlight for me on this trip, but food was not far from the top.

TuscanyI encourage you to grab a little something to munch on…I promise you will get hungry as I tell you about my favorite lunch spot on this trip: da Roberto, Taverna in Montisi.

Roberto made us all feel at home as soon as we rolled in on our bikes. He is a countryside cuciniere (cook), whose only claim is to feed himself and guests honestly. Roberto is a true joy and lives to feed people at his table. His mantra is to wake up every morning happy and build a space of peace, balance and harmony to offer to people that dine at his Taverna, which ties perfectly to the experience that you have cycling through Tuscany.

Aside from the comfort and ambiance, the food prepared was as honest, delicious, and as inspiring as the hilltops that overlook the Tuscan valley. The three-course meal was not a surprise on this Trek Travel trip, being as every meal and break on the bike offered plenty of fuel for the calories burned that day.

Tuscany LuxuryRoberto started off the lunch with a unique bean and carrot salad. It goes without saying, but the beans sourced from a local farmer, the carrots grown in his garden behind the restaurant. Food aside, one of the best “accents” to the menu was Roberto’s story behind each dish, his amicability is contagious with every guest that comes into his “home.” Next was the homemade pasta with a true Italian Ragu sauce, to coin a phrase, “mama, mia!” The lunch ended with three dessert options, my favorite was the panna cotta with berries. It provided just enough guilt and enough fulfillment to encourage the balance of the gorgeous ride that afternoon.

Roberto is proud of his food by identifying flavors by gathering fresh, local ingredients, protecting the value of biodiversity, and visiting farms for fresh cheeses and to certify the quality of his meal.

Roberto’s lunch experience was enriching on all levels and what made for a perfect afternoon was the short bike ride to a beautiful accommodation, which felt like an estate and offered a very relaxing evening.

What can I say, Tuscany is tasteful in so many ways. And it is certainly my favorite culinary delight in Europe.