Culinary travel offers the best of food and adventure

chefclaudioThis article appeared in the October/November 2013 issue of AARP Magazine.  I thought it may be of interest to my readers.  Enjoy!

Some say the way to most deeply understand a place is through its cuisine (just ask Anthony Bourdain). That’s the idea behind culinary  travel, where visitors learn to cook like the locals as a way to experience a foreign culture. “Travelers want to get out of the bus or the car and actively learn and do,” says Erik Wolf, executive director of the World Food Travel Association.

Colorado-based Epitourean says it sent about 3,000 foodies to Italy in 2012; in 2013, it was on track to send a few thousand more. Other popular destinations: California’s Napa Valley, and Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, where low-country cuisine is the draw. David Loy, Epitourean’s president, says cooking trips are “on people’s bucket lists.”

Cost varies widely. Many U.S. bed-and-breakfast inns offer two- or three-day culinary getaways for less than 1,000. The Blair House Inn in Wimberley, Texas, has a three-day “barbecue camp” for $621 per person, double occupancy, plus airfare. But spending a week in France’s Loire Valley while learning how to make chocolate soufflé is about 3,000, fights excluded.

The article included a few trips to consider:

The International Kitchen – Various locations ($3,500 per person)
Enjoy Italy’s Amalfi Coast on one of International Kitchen’s best-selling trips–six nights in a boutique hotel where travelers cook classic regional dishes and visit places such as Pompeii. The price: $3,500 per person, double. May-September, excluding airfare; $2,950 during low season.

John C. Campbell Folk School – Brasstown, North Carolina ($1,107 per person)
Escape for a week to dig in the dirt and learn how to grow and cook with fresh herbs. The price is $1,107 per person, double, for six nights with family-style meals and a shared bath, airfare excluded.  Also at the folk school: A weekend class–wheat-free cooking, for example–costs $435 per person, double.

Los Dos Cooking School – Mérida, Mexico ($1,725 per person)
Try a three-day, four-night Yucatán cooking workshop. Oklahoma-born chef David Sterling teaches at his colonial mansion in downtown Mérida. Learn to make favorites like salbut (crispy tortilla topped with ingredients such as smoked port). The price: $1,725 per person, double, with a minimum of two, excluding airfare.

And here’s one that I’m familiar with:

Active Gourmet Holidays – Various locations (Prices vary by location)
Whether it be learning to master local dishes from a renowned chef in the heart of Provence, biking amidst the spectacular red poppy fields of Chianti, or tasting fine Tuscan wines from the Brunello region, Active Gourmet Holidays offers the perfect culinary tours.

Foodie vacations help travelers save money

foodwindjammersalmonThose who think food-focused vacation dining has to cost as much or more than the cost of accommodations may want to reconsider how they approach culinary travel.

Here’s a handful of my favorite ways to enjoy full-flavored travel experiences.

Charity: Fundraising efforts frequently provide ways to enjoy phenomenal local food for less.

One example is the annual Clearwater Beach Uncorked event in Florida, which raises money for a number of causes, including transitional support services for disabled veterans. Ticket holders get to enjoy gourmet food samples from the area’s top restaurants, as well as beverage pours from a wide variety of wine and spirit vendors. While a great value in its own right, further savings can be enjoyed by taking advantage of package perks with the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa. As the event’s host hotel, the resort offers discounted suites with full kitchens, living rooms, multiple bathrooms and walk-out balconies. Half-priced event tickets also come with the lower-priced room rates.

Cuisine: Cities with serious foodie scenes often host annual events to entice visitors and locals alike to check out a variety of restaurant venues.

In the state of New York, for instance, Taste of Buffalo offers a penny-pinching traveler a variety of options for full-flavored foodie fun. The event prices sample experiences in a way that mirrors many amusement park rides, with different restaurant offerings available for a set number of tickets, typically between two and eight. Individual tickets are 50 cents each, and must be purchased in $5 sheets. Not bad for a city-wide event, and the affordable starting price allows vacationers to customize participation according their budgets.

On the road to good eats

Ulf and Silce Menzel of the Olde German Schnitzel Haus in Hickory, recently voted Best German Restaurant in America.

When your job includes driving around in search of good food, you hear this all the time: “Can I be your driver?”
Bob Garner of Burlington certainly gets that one. Now he has figured out a way that a lot of people can ride along, and they don’t even have to drive.
In North Carolina, Garner really is the guy who wrote the book on barbecue. “North Carolina Barbecue: Flavored By Time,” published in 1996, is a classic. He’s also the restaurant reviewer for UNC-TV’s “North Carolina Weekend,” a writer for Our State magazine and communications director for AARP-NC.
Garner and Our State have a new project to put Garner’s food knowledge to work. The Bob Garner Restaurant Road Trip is a rolling food tour, complete with tour bus.
The idea is to set up two-day trips that would include notable food places and a barbecue.
“North Carolina is like the bus-trip capital of the world,” Garner says. Between his TV and AARP jobs, he meets a lot of people who love taking short food trips.

Food Inc. Producer Robert Kenner To Discuss The Illusion Of Choice At Culinary Tourism World Summit

Food Inc. Producer, Robert Kenner

Food Inc. movie producer Robert Kenner will present his thoughts on “The Illusion of Choice” to delegates of the Culinary Tourism World Summit, which is being held September 19-21, 2010 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Kenner’s film, Food Inc., drives home to consumers the point that cheap food has a much higher cost, namely poor health and decimation of local economies. By demanding ever cheaper food, and in doing so, largely supporting chain restaurants, consumers are unwittingly shooting themselves in the foot. “If we don’t support local, independent restaurants, then in 20 years, we won’t have any choices left in where we eat. There will be one global outlet each for burgers, coffee and pizza,” says Erik Wolf, President of the International Culinary Tourism Association (ICTA). “Exactly,” said Kenner. “Consumers are under the illusion that they are getting more choices today than ever, when in reality the opposite effect is occurring.” Kenner will deliver his insightful and provocative food for thought to delegates at the ICTA’s Culinary Tourism World Summit, which is co-presented by Taste of Nova Scotia, and sponsored by the Canadian Tourism Commission.

More information about the Summit is available, and registration is open, at Conference registration includes over 20 sessions, 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches and 2 networking receptions. Highlights of the World Summit include:

  • Keynote by Canadian Food Network Host Chef Michael Smith, “One World, One Table – Using Culinary Tourism for Economic Development”
  • Food Inc.’s Robert Kenner discussing “The Illusion of Choice”
  • 20 other world-class internationally recognized speakers

About the International Culinary Tourism Association (ICTA): The International Culinary Tourism Association (ICTA) is regarded by the tourism industry, as well as media, as the world’s go-to authority for everything to do with culinary travel. The Association provides culinary tourism community, education, product development and marketing assistance.

About Taste of Nova Scotia: Taste of Nova Scotia is a unique, province-wide marketing program, whose members are committed to offering the very best culinary experiences and products that Nova Scotia has to offer. The Taste of Nova Scotia membership base includes more than 120 quality food producers and processors, as well as a collection of the best restaurants in the province.