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On tap: Bring home fresh maple syrup the next time you’re in Canada. Photo: iStockphoto

By Jennifer Olvera

Odds are you’ve gifted a snow globe. Perhaps a location-emblazoned shot glass. You may have even been on the receiving end. Our advice: stop the madness, and go the way of gourmet goodies instead. They’re enjoyable long after the adventure is done. That, and they don’t come off as an airport grab.

Although Belize is synonymous with sun and fun, it’s also the land of cacao. The crop is especially prevalent among Mayan farmers in the south. Begin your exploration with a tour of the Cotton Tree Chocolate factory in Punta Gorda, or a visit Juan Cho’s organic cacao farm. If your travels take you on a Belize vacation in May, consider attending the Toledo Cacao Festival.

Meanwhile, don’t overlook a Canada getaway for maple syrup alone. Book a cheap flight to Ontario. Then, head to the breakfast condiment capital of Lanark County. Use the Lanark & District Maple Syrup Producers Association as a resource for finding sugar bushes and tours. But be sure to save room when setting out, since many spots ply sweet-tooths with samples. Plus, you can usually procure liquid gold for the road.

Naturally, a Mexico vacation and margaritas go hand-in-hand. But while tequila is the more talked about tipple, mezcal is another agave-based elixir that gets (and gives) buzz. With sipping, savoring and souvenir-ing in mind, make your way to Mexico City, home to the Museo del Tequila y el Mezcal. Afterward, think about touring small-batch producers in Oaxaca, home to an estimated 5,000 facilities. Odds are you’ll find favorites for friends and family back home.

Then again, rice is serious business in Spain—so much so that a Denominaciónes de Origen designation is used. Use our Valencia hotels as your home base, and get a taste. Considered the birthplace of rice cuisine—paella, in particular—the city is a launching pad for the famed, fertile Albufera region. While there, be on the lookout for short-grained Bomba, an unusual, superior varietal, which expands in length when cooked, absorbs about three times its volume in liquid and doesn’t stick. In other words, a spare suitcase is requisite.


Jennifer Olvera is a culinary travel writer, recipe developer and author of Food Lovers’ Guide to Chicago.

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Jennifer Olvera

Jennifer Olvera

Jennifer Olvera is a culinary travel writer, recipe developer and author of Food Lovers’ Guide to Chicago. Find her on Twitter at @olverajennifer.
Jennifer Olvera

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