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.

Chefs predict the biggest trends for 2011

http://www.virtualme.bizAs reported by Greg Cox, restaurant critic for Raleigh’s News & Observer, it’s that time of the year again when “experts” (quotation marks optional, depending on whether you agree with them) of all stripes make their predictions about coming trends.Let’s take a peek into the crystal ball of the National Restaurant Association, which recently surveyed more than 1,500 chefs nationwide, and published the results as the association’s Top 20 Trends for 2011.  Read the full article online. Here are some highlights:

  • The word of the year, evidently, is “local.” Four of the Top 20 include the word, including “locally sourced meats and seafood” and “locally grown produce,” which tied at No. 1 with 86 percent of chefs giving them a nod. “Hyper local” (restaurants with their own gardens, for example) and “locally produced wine and beer” also made the list.
  • “Sustainable” and “organic” fared well, too, tallying a combined three entries on the list. No big surprise here, really. Unless your name is Rip Van Winkle, you’re aware that the philosophies of local, organic and sustainably produced food have been hot for several years now, and the trend shows no sign of letting up. Now, if you’re looking for a really hot new trend . . .
  • “Nutrition” — especially for children — is coming on like gangbusters. Three of the Top 20 are aimed at providing healthier fare for children, while a fourth broadens the focus to include the general population. “Gluten-free food and being food allergy conscious” at No. 8 on the list, will come as good news to many.
  • The chefs clearly have a fun side, too. Among their other predicted trends for 2011 are artisan cheeses, ethnic-inspired breakfasts and newly fabricated cuts of meat (such as pork flat iron, or the rabbit bacon I saw on a menu recently). The “culinary” cocktail made with savory or fresh ingredients is another trend with fun potential. I think I’ll pass on the bacon-essence vodka, though.

Interested in local food and farming? it may not be likely that you’ve been to an agricultural conference in the past, this just might be the year to do it!

Western Wake Farmers’ Market Manager Kim Hunter and President Juliann Zoetmulder will be among the panelists on Saturday, December 4 at the 25th Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference hosted by Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA). They will participate in the “Farmers’ Market Special Series: Starting a New Farmers’ Market” workshop. CFSA’s conference, December 3 – 5 in Winston-Salem, NC, isn’t just for farmers, but for anyone who cares about the food they eat and the local food scene.

This year’s conference theme is “Local & Organic Arrives:  Our Opportunity is Now.”  Local and organic food is at a popularity level that we would have only dreamed of a few years ago.  How do we, as a movement, seize this opportunity and take it to the next level?  Keynote speaker and local food expert Michael Shuman will offer some compelling and provocative ideas.

For the non-farmer, this conference offers plenty of great information. Gardeners, cooks, community food activists alike will find workshops of interest, plus lots of great local, organic food, of course!

Early bird registration ends September 15, so check it out if you’re interested. CFSA offers a Work Exchange with partial discounts for working at the conference, and they need help with many tasks before and during the conference.  If you have questions, are interested in participating in Work Exchange, or want to volunteer at or before the conference, please e-mail Cheryl at CFSA.