There are some types of exotic or upscale food that everyone talks about—Champagne, Kobe beef. But are you actually getting what you pay for?
A little while ago there was a big stir when it came out that many U.S. restaurants advertising Kobe beef were misleading customers. Turned out, the USDA had a ban on importing most Japanese bees, due to concerns of foot and mouth disease.
Well those rules were just recently relaxed, so you may actually see the real stuff showing up on menus. Here’s a tip: If it’s called Kobe beef, that means the cattle actually came from a certain prefecture in Japan. If it’s called Wagyu, that refers to the breed of cattle, not the geographic designation.
That’s not the only item where geography makes a difference. As you know, Champagne can only earn that name if it comes from the Champagne region of France. Everything else is sparkling wine.
If you see a bottle of wine or a wedge of cheese with an AOC label, you can be assured that it comes from where it claims. That label protects its designation of origin—probably the most famous example is Roquefort, which has to be made in a certain set of caves of in the South of France.
Bottom line: If you encounter an unforgettable item on your travels, do your research on how to experience the real thing at home.
For more information, visit the culinary travel archives.
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