The best thing happened in Latvia. I discovered a foodie tour! I love learning about the local foods when we travel and normally that’s on a traditional food tour, which is usually great. But this time, we got out of the city of Riga and into the countryside a bit to learn more about local foods (and drinks!) and taste-test everything!
As part of a conference I went to, our group was sent on this complimentary preview tour with The Latvian Element called “Food, Glorious Food.”. I knew nothing about the company, just that this tour was just for foodies. Safe to say, I was wow’d! Then I looked into the company more and became even more wow’d. They really want to show you the authentic Latvia through their well-designed tours. I say “well-designed” because I feel that each of their tours are for specific interest and not the typical all-around tours. I LOVE THAT!
Latvia Tours (as day trips from Riga)
Latvia is covered with amazing nature. With such varied options to be outside, The Latvian Element has a bunch of day tours (and a couple overnight ones) at really good prices that really let you explore that side of Latvia. Of course they do this foodie tour as well, but I just wanted to tell you about the variety. These are pretty small groups, too. You don’t feel like you’re in one of “those” group tours where you are herded around like animals. It’s more like a group outing. You’ll all be friends by the end of the day!
I’m hoping to get back to Latvia JUST to go on more of their day tours. They are SO convenient being from Riga. It was one of those experiences I can’t stop gushing about! No, I wasn’t paid, I just love when someone comes up with a really good experience and can’t wait to share it. If you’ve been around this blog for a while, you probably know that about me.
We are typically independent travelers, so I always get a little caught up with group tours. Is this something we would do if we were traveling on our own (and not for a conference)? The answer, in this case, was absolutely! We also always make sure that anything we share with you is something YOU CAN ACTUALLY DO. Many times bespoke tours are created for conference groups, but not this time. The price is so reasonable, that if you are traveling through Europe, you will likely be able to afford this unless you are on a shoe-string budget.
The Latvian Element currently doesn’t host tours in the winter and early spring, but keep an eye on their website for more information since they’ll soon be updating with new tours (including this one!).
Latvia Food Tour
My favorite part about this tour (aside from the food) was the people. Everyone was so incredibly nice and passionate about their products. That’s just something you have to experience for yourself. I can tell you that I would love to hang out with everyone we met. And there are so many smiles. Why don’t more people know about Latvia? Or care about visiting? You are seriously missing out! Of course, I’m talking about the people who are able to travel about. What I’m saying is, don’t dismiss Latvia when looking where to travel next in Europe.
Ok, stepping off my soapbox now. On to the food!
After being picked up in Riga, we started the day in a small seaside town called Carnikava where we learned all about the Lamprey (and eel-type fish). It’s always been a bit of a delicacy in Latvia and we got the watch the whole smoking process and meet the whole family who runs the business.
Of course, we got to taste the Lamprey and had to eat it the authentic way — dangle it above your head and take a bite! Some liked the small, crispy tale the best while I liked the meaty part. We were also given a nice shot of alcohol to warm up (we went on a chilly day).
Next up was to try the Lamprey in different forms. That meant trying jellied Lamprey and Lamprey sushi. The sushi was pretty good but me and anything jellied just don’t get along (except Jell-O!).
Moving on to our next stop was for…ICE CREAM!!!! The might have been my favorite part of the day. The owners were the most lovely, wonderful people and their ice cream was worth traveling to Latvia on its own. When you visit this place, on this tour, you’ll feel like you are a VIP. It was that epic. It was hospitality at its finest.
The creators of this ice cream brand, Gogelmogels, are Jans and Eva. They learned everything from workshops and the internet. Yep, you can learn anything! And they found out that by using their own farm-fresh eggs, they made the best version of their ice cream. Of course, that’s along with only the freshest local dairy products. Whatever they are doing is working and I would choose it over Ben & Jerry’s any day. And I really love Ben & Jerry’s.
What’s better for after ice cream than some wine? Yep. Latvian wine is my newest obsession. I went to a lot of wine-tastings while in Latvia. I list all my visits over on this post about things to do in Latvia.
For this tasting, we head to Krimulda Manor. The main manor is mostly used as a physical rehabilitation center which is actually really special because at some point in history, it was turned from a living home to a place that helps people. However, it’s also in a park with incredible views, old castle ruins, and a funicular that you can take to get even more epic views.
In a separate building from the imposing manor is the tasting room for the Krimulda Manor wine brand called Cremon. Latvia doesn’t make much grape wine, and if they do, the grapes are imported since they are a bit too far north to make good grapes. But they do make some killer fruit and flower wines. I ended up buying the dandelion wine. Yes. I bought a wine made from weeds because it is delicious. The most popular wine in Latvia is rhubarb wine, but I liked too many at this tasting and had to choose. I mean, I ended up buying 3 bottles of wine and 1 bottle of artisanal gin throughout my trip in Latvia. I keep staring at the wine (since this was my last full day) thinking “will it fit?” and then settling on “I’ll figure it out” and then bought my last bottle of wine from Latvia.
After exploring the grounds a bit, taking selfies with some castle ruins, and trying a bunch of wine flavors, we headed back out to our last stop…dinner!
Dinner at Mālpils Manor
We were in for a treat for our final meal on this Latvian food tour. Our restaurant was inside the stunning Mālpils Manor. Apparently, after Jamie Oliver ate here, he called Latvia a hidden culinary gem in Europe. Also, the head chef is a very talented woman which you don’t hear a lot about, so it was awesome to see her so successful in Latvia. We need more women chefs!
After 3 delicious courses, we were full and completely satisfied. It was a full, delicious, and positively delightful day. I wish this kind of tour existed everywhere. If you know of any other small group tours like this, please let us know in the comments below or reach out on our social media channels! This is what we’re all about 🙂
Latvia surprised me on so many levels. The country is beautiful, the people are wonderful, friendly, and passionate, and the food is all its own. Although I was getting over being sick, I still thoroughly enjoyed this tour. Big thanks to Dārta for being an energetic and positive force on this journey. You are one of the best guides I’ve ever encountered and your enthusiasm for all things Latvian is contagious!
Wishing you all joy and travels!