Add These 30 Meals to Your Food Bucket List

Here, in no particular order, is your list of foods to consume at one point or another during your remaining time on earth. Some require travel, but most don’t, so get nomming.

By Sarah Copeland


30 foods to try before you die

1. Fresh seafood in a coastal village. It could be in France, Croatia, Maine, Maryland. It doesn’t matter, just make sure the seafood is fresh and the view is killer.

2.Homemade pasta. Sure, it takes several tries to get it right, but it’s not brain surgery. Option B: Make pasta once, give up and then fly to Rome to eat fresh pasta for a week. 

3. A perfect lobster roll. To do your due diligence, try both the buttery-whole-claw-in-a roll style (toasted and buttered bun, natch) and the lobster-salad style. 

4. While you’re lobstering...a freshly steamed lobster in Maine, with drawn butter. (File lobster derivatives, like lobster mac-and-cheese, under over-rated). 

5. A from-scratch chocolate layer cake. No boxes, no cheats. It should be densely chocolatey (think: devil’s food or blackout style), with a butter-forward chocolate icing. Not a chocolate gal? Swap this for homemade butter cake. 

6. Spicy Sichuan Noodles. If you can’t find authentic Sichuan near you, make them. Store-bought fresh pasta (like pappardelle) makes a fine substitute, laced with a good chili sauce (my pick: Mom’s Mala). 

7. 24-month-aged Parmesan (in Parma, if you want to go all the way). If semi-hard cheese isn’t your thing, swap this for a good aged cheddar, like Clothbound Cheddar, cut straight from the wheel. In short, find your cheese, then tour the creamery (from Switzerland to Wisconsin, remarkable cheeses are everywhere). See how your cheese is made, and consume it on the spot, with an expert. 

8. Drink wine from the barrel. 

9. Make and eat a double-crust pear-apple pie. Take lots of pictures (it’s laborious; this might be the one and only). Check it off your list, then dive into crisps and galettes forevermore; same rewards, a quarter of the work. 

10. Freshly fried beignets. Or freshly fried churros. New Orleans versus Spain/Mexico. Different, but the same. 

11. Eat at The French Laundry (in Napa), or The Lost Kitchen (in Maine).  The hype — and wait time to get in, are justified.

12.Eat street food in Jakarta, or Bangkok, or Mexico City. Find out what the locals are eating. Order the nopal tacos instead of pulled pork (you know the pulled pork is good; time to branch out). Try the funky looking thing on a stick. Live a little. 

13. A perfectly executed deviled egg: mayo and pickle ratio spot on, and a dash of paprika (no funny business here). Eat multiples. 

14. Super fresh poke bowl + shave ice for dessert. (By the way, it’s shave ice, not shaved ice. It makes no sense, but you won’t care while you’re eating it). Maui or the Big Island are great destinations for this duo, but you’ll find it in LA and beyond, too. 

15. A steamed pork bun at a mom-and-pop shop in Chinatown (New York’s or any). Eat it warm, from a paper bag. The Vegetarian alt: steamed bean-paste buns. 

16. Traditional barbacoa. American barbeque has nothing on this ancient, smoked meat masterpiece. Look for it in the Caribbean, or Mexico — made with sheep, goat or beef cheeks, topped exactly as the locals instruct. 

17. Freshly shucked oysters in Portland, Maine, Seattle, Tomales Bay (California), or the Irish coast. Find your oyster style (soft and meaty or small and briny) and eat them on repeat — with lemon or mignonette. 

18. Pork udon noodles with a soft-boiled egg. This one is harder to DIY (it’s all about a richly flavored pork broth and homemade noodles) but worth hunting down in any mid-sized town.  

19. A tortilla, fresh off the griddle. Where: anywhere in Mexico, or the Latin neighborhood of most major cities. Look for the words tortillaria. Eat them hot with sea salt, lime and avocado — only. Alt: make your own. The minimal equipment and skills to pull this off have a high ROI. 

20. Deeply hued chicken paprikash. If you’ve vegetarian, mushroom paprikash offers you the same experience (use big meaty mushrooms — porcinis, NOT portabellas). 

21. Fresh apple strudel. There are three places to get a good one outside of central Europe: Cafe Sabarsky (New York City), 20th Century Cafe (San Francisco), or Lydia’s Hungarian Strudel Shop (Parma Heights, Ohio). It should be hand-stretched, shatter at the knife, and always served fresh. 

22. Game day spinach dip. Eat with veggies, or in a bread bowl, or with a spoon (hey, this is a judgment-free zone). 

23. A well-aged red wine. If a true connoisseur offers to open a bottle they’ve been aging, properly, since their last big raise five years ago, go for it without a second thought (most wines don’t improve after 5 years). 

24. Homegrown tomatoes. They must be grown by someone you know and ripened in the sun. To serve: slice thickly and sprinkle with maldon and freshly cracked pepper. 

25. Roman pizza. Yes, ideally in Rome. Runner up: a thin-crust, brick oven Margherita anywhere at least 200 people swear is the best for 50 miles. Stand around (inconspicuously) to make sure they don’t rush it off the bricks before the bottom is crisp.

26. A white bread BLT. Bacon should be thick-cut and maple brined (no nitrates), the tomato fresh, and the bread toasted — with butter, for God’s sake. For the lettuce, iceberg is fine, but if you have two extra minutes, stir up an herbed mayo. You’ll thank yourself.

27. Remarkably creamy gelato. Italy, New York, Santa Barbara and even your own grocer’s freezer case probably has a worthy option. Peep the pistachio — a tell-tale sign of the maker’s dedication (pistachio gelato should be pistachio green, not neon). Try your favorite flavors in combinations. Dark chocolate + mango is a worthy starting point. 

28. A pillowy challah bread. Must be fresh, rich, egg-forward and fully consumed on day one.

29. Chicken and Waffles. When in Harlem, NY (or deep in the south), fill your plate. Look for crispy, greasy, crackling-skinned thighs, piled high on golden waffles. Requirements: real maple syrup, a stack of napkins, and a post-meal nap. 

30. Soup Dumplings. Among turnip cakes, vegetable rolls and chive dumplings, soup dumplings are the crown jewel. Spoon into your mouth — whole — and let the warm soup soothe your soul.   

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