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Top 10 food vacations to take in 2012

Aug. 27, 2012 at 12:09 PM ET

Flickr / Alaskan Dude via The Daily Meal /
La Cabrera, in the Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires, is a small restaurant that serves hefty portions.

Think you have tried everything? Well, The Daily Meal has met someone who has probably been to more places and has tried more delicacies than most avid travelers.

Slideshow: See the top 10 food vacations

At 33 years old, Lee Abbamonte is the youngest American to have visited every country in the world. Not content to stop there, his next mission is to become the youngest person to visit all 321 countries and territories in the world according to the Travelers' Century Club list of countries. With 305 countries and territories stamped in his passport, he is nearly there.

Ever since he lived in London during a college study-abroad program, Abbamonte has been traveling. He initially set a goal to reach 100 countries by age 30. In 2007, his goal became 150, and his passport stamps and goals grew from there.

After graduation, Abbamonte worked on Wall Street and used his vacation time to travel. To reach so many destinations efficiently, Abbamonte planned his journeys by region. For example, he would go to West Africa for two months, then North Africa, and so on.

After 9/11, Abbamonte quit his job and traveled for two years. Some 13 years since his first trip, Abbamonte has gone hang gliding over Rio de Janeiro, dodged bullets in Libya, conquered the world’s highest bungee jump in South Africa, tracked silverback gorillas in Rwanda, played golf in Afghanistan during the war, gone on safari in the Serengeti, and white-water rafted down the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe. But Abbamonte’s favorite travel moment was summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania with his best friend.

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Abbamonte’s time in each sovereign nation has lasted from one day to six months. He has lived in Europe, Africa and Australia, but despite recently checking off Libya, the 305th nation on his list, there are still 16 places Abbamonte has yet to see. Still on the to-do list are Greenland, where he will go in June, and Antarctica, which Abbamonte will visit this winter. So what does it cost to see the world? Abbamonte estimates he has spent $250,000 traveling.

Along the way, Abbamonte has also had some amazing food. As he closes in on his latest record, the globe-trotting traveler shares in his own words his top 10 food vacations to take, and some travel tips. After all, he’s eaten nearly everywhere.

Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Argentine capital is paradise for carnivores. If you love meat, there is no end to the heaven that awaits you in Buenos Aires. The grilled parrilla, an Argentine way of saying grilled meat, is to die for in the city of tango.

My favorite place to eat is called La Cabrera and it is located in the Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires. Get there early, as most Argentines don’t eat dinner until midnight or later. The wait can be long at this local institution, but its worth it. Expect to sit close to your neighbors in a small restaurant and wash down your meat with your favorite malbec from the stocked wine list and bar. The best piece of advice is to come hungry because the portions are large and you will need some extra room because it’s just that good.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The city of samba may indeed be the most exciting city in the world. Its the home of Carnival, amazing nightlife and the best urban beaches on Earth. Rio is also home to some of the world’s best food and drink. The best way to eat quick, delicious and healthy in Rio is acai. This Brazilian "superfruit" is the real deal and it is available at street stalls all throughout Copacabana, Leblon and Ipanema. Add bananas and granola, and prepare to be satisfied, and energized.

At night, don’t miss a Rio institution called Porco. This gorgeous restaurant with views of Guanabara Bay, Sugarloaf and Corcovado mixed with the amazing taste of Rios top churrascaria make it a can't-miss. The waiters will bring around a variety of salted meats and slice them onto your plate until you tell them to stop. There are several varieties of all kinds of meat, all of which are amazing. For vegetarians, there is also a salad bar and roasted cheese, which may be Porcos most delicious item. Wash all the meat down with a caipirinha and you have yourself an amazing gastronomic feast fit for a king!

Bangkok, Thailand
"One Night in Bangkok" may have been a hit in the 1980s, but Bangkok is certainly worth more than one night. Aside from being one of the worlds most notorious cities, it also features some of the worlds best hotels, nightlife and more importantly, food. Street food is the name of the game in Bangkok and it is widely available.

The backpacker ghetto of Khaosan Road is the home of cheap eats in Bangkok and the streets stalls do the best pad thai I have ever had. For less than $1 (seriously), you can get a feast of pad thai with all the usual accompaniments, the spicier the better. If you want to go back for seconds, it clearly won’t break the bank. Don’t be worried about eating street food in Bangkok; it is clean, sanitary and just delicious.

Naples, Italy
If tourists go to Italy at all, it is usually just to pass through to Pompeii, Positano or Capri. But by completely bypassing Naples you are missing out on the world’s greatest pizza. Naples is the birthplace of pizza and Da Michele does it better than anyone.

The basic restaurant has no frills but the lines can be very long. Get there early and indulge in the greatest margarita pizza on the planet. I have been to every great place in the U.S. and all around Europe, but Da Michele is the end-all, be-all of pizza. Even if you are just passing through the hectic city of Naples, take some time for this pizza palace. Its not far from the train station and is well worth taking the next train south or the ferry to Capri.

Monterrey, Mexico
Monterrey is off the regular tourist map when thinking of visiting Mexico. The Nuevo Leon capital boasts a world-class university and pumping nightlife, but maintains a small-town feel even though it’s a massive city. It is only a few hours drive from Texas, but a new world when it comes to food.

The famous dish in Monterrey might be baby goat but the real treat in Monterrey is their tacos. They are varied in taste and type, but any way you have them, they’re delicious. There is a spectacular place across from Tec de Monterrey called Tacos Manolo that has the best tacos I’ve ever had. They're made from fresh ingredients and the best meats; the avocados and fresh tortillas are ridiculous but the trompo tacos are to die for. The prices are unbeatable and it has a cool college atmosphere as well.

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