Thursday, October 27, 2011

Culinary Excursions

A large part of travel is, of course, food. And it makes sense, because most of the time, the places we visit have cuisine that is completely different from our home town, especially if you venture to a different country. Personally, I don't feel I have truly experienced a place until I've eaten one of its local specialities. If you can find a trip that not only offers unique delicacies, but also an opportunity to learn about the culinary process of making it, then you've really got something special.
I have had the privilege of partaking in some of these activities, and I highly recommend them. If you happen to go to Sienna, Italy, I suggest signing up for a personal cooking class. I, along with my family and friends, got the chance to cook with a Tuscan-style chef right in the comfort of her own kitchen. We chopped, sliced, seasoned, sipped and tasted our way through the afternoon, enjoying classic dishes like bruschetta, chickpea soup a four herb pasta. We ate each dish as it was prepared, heading back into the kitchen after each one to dive into the next, all the while drinking glass after glass of Italian wine.

Being from Colorado, I know a number of quality brewery tours that give you a first-hand glance at the beer-makign process...but these can usually be found in any city nowadays, especially with the popularity of craft beers in our culture. However, I recently stumbled upon a new business in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood called Brew & Grow, where home brewers can buy all the supplies they need to make beer on their own. Not only that, but it offers beer making classes, where you can make your own stout or ale, learn about flavors and consistency, as well as what food is best to pair with it. It's a great way to learn about a local activity while experiencing a city that is becoming a big player in the craft brew arena.

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal that covers a couple more food getaways for the upcoming harvest season. One in particular that caught my interest--and this should be no surprise to my readers--was the Grape Education at Blackberry Farm in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. In mid-November, the farm hosts its Wine Geek 101 event, where guests learn all about wine tasting, selection and pairing. You can also partake in cooking demonstrations and tours of the farm. It's relatively pricey ($1,200 per person) but if you have the time and funds, I think it would be a magical trip.
Of the other suggestions, I think the next one I would pick is the bread making in Bath, England. Not exactly the easiest location to get to, but for fresh Italian and French bread, I think it's worth it. The five day course costs $300 a day, with one- and three-day courses available, too. An award-winning chef leads the class, where you learn how to make a vast array of different breads, and at the end, I'm pretty sure you get to eat some, too.

For the autumn season, when cooking and comfort food reign supreme (how many days until Thanksgiving?), it seems appropriate to indulge in a culinary excursions. The best part about them is that they can usually be squeezed into a quick weekend trip, making it super easy to enjoy another location on short notice.

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