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Top 5 places to eat in the world

TRAVELING FOR TASTE

As any experienced cultural explorer will say, the best traveling is done by truly immersing oneself in the local customs and lifestyle. As common cultural denominators throughout the world, food and drink have long been one of the simplest yet most effective ways to understand and appreciate alternate means of living. Because such great learning experiences may be cultivated around the dinner table, we have, with the help of SmarterTravel.com's Anne Banas, assembled a list of the best food and wine destinations throughout the world.

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First on our list is New Orleans, LA. This location may come as a surprise to some, as the mention of this city generally conjures up images of Mardi Gras festivities rather than exceptionally fine dining. However, says Anne, with its truly unique regional fare that combines "French, Creole, and Cajun cuisines" and a host of fabulously old restaurants, this southern city certainly deserves a spot on the culinary short list. Check out Brennan's Restaurant, where they invented bananas foster, or Antoine's, the oldest family-owned restaurant in the United States and the birthplace of Oysters Rockefeller.

Next up is San Francisco. The addition of this west coast metropolis to the list should come as no surprise considering the consistently positive attention the area gets for its stellar collection of restaurants, vineyards and markets. "San Francisco is really the center of the local food movement," says Anne pointing to such iconic eateries like Alice Waters' Chez Panisse and Thomas Keller's Bouchon. Furthermore, the close proximity to the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma gives visitors a chance to sample America's best known wines at their source.

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Head a few hours north to hit up the nest spot on our list, Vancouver, Canada. This bustling center of the Pacific Northwest not only serves up some of the freshest seafood and farm-to-table cuisine but also is home to fantastic Asian-inspired places. Anne suggests checking out Grandville Island, with its huge farmer's market and great selection of cafes and restaurants, to sample some of the best Vancouver dining has to offer.

Our next two food and wine hot spots take us across the Atlantic and onto the Continent. First on the list is Italy. As the birthplace of some of the world's most famous dishes, from pasta to pizza to limoncello, this Mediterranean peninsula is a classic choice for the lover of food and wine. Anne suggests traveling around the different regions to get a taste (no pun intended) of the truly incredible variety Italian cuisine has to offer.

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Our fifth and last stop is France. Considered by most to be the gastronomic center of the world, this Continental country offers "unparalleled culture," says Anne. From Paris to Provence, the patisseries to the boulangeries to the cafes and brasseries, the French culinary experience is truly unlike any other. Furthermore, Anne says, not only can you sample some of the world's most fabulous cuisine on a food tour, but many chefs offer cooking classes specifically designed for travelers.

Though these five destinations have certainly proven themselves to be fantastic culinary centers, there are also several up-and-coming locales to check out. Spain, Anne says, is home to two of today's most popular food trends, "tapas and molecular gastronomy." Next is Denmark, where the world's top rated restaurantNoma, can be found. Finally, head over to Asia for our final destination, Japan. For many years this place has not been the focus of the food-savvy crowd, however, Anne says, they are really experiencing a culinary renaissance, booming as a top food destination 

With such a diverse array of regional cuisine, local ingredients, and acclaimed restaurants, there is certainly something on the list to suite everyone's palette. From California to the Continent, one is sure to find the perfect place for fabulous traveling and tasting!

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