With the growing popularity of food-based travel shows like Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations and Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods, travelers are increasingly aware of how they experience cultures through food. But beyond savoring the local cuisine, more and more travelers are seeking out cooking classes while on vacation so they can recreate regional specialties at home, long after the actual vacation is over.
A good pozole or huevos nopalitos lets me relive my trip to Chiapas, Mexico. A spicy vinegar barbecue will take me to Raleigh in an instant, while a deeply smoky barbecue will transport me to Austin (I’ve been known to drop a couple y’alls after eating this type of ‘cue), and Hawaiian-style imu barbecue (can you say kalua pig?) takes me back to O’ahu. Thankfully, I’ve learned to make reasonably passable versions of both pozole and kalua pig at home.
To recognize July’s status as National Culinary Arts Month in the United States, I’ve pulled together a sampling of some of the culinary experiences offered in Moon travel guides. Instead of just telling your friends about the fabulous food you had on your trip, you can let them taste it too! And they’ll have something delicious to nosh on while looking at your fabulous vacation photos.
In Albuquerque, learn to fry the perfect sopaipillas at Jane Butel Cooking School, presided over by a Tex-Mex maven who has written numerous cookbooks; day, weekend, and week-long classes are available.
After a day on the beach, spend an evening at EVOO Cooking School, where three-course dinner classes ($89 includes dinner) are offered at least a couple of nights a week. Specialty classes on topics such as bread baking and cooking seafood are also offered.
Affiliated with hip local restaurant chain Maverick Kitchens, Charleston Cooks! has gourmet items and kitchen ware, and even offers cooking classes in Lowcountry cuisine (think toasted Carolina aromatic rice, grilled peaches, lemon pound cake, shrimp and grits, and more), as well as classes in Cuban, Jamaican, and Italian cuisine, and even cooking classes for kids.
Denverites love their libraries; statistics show that Denver has the highest number of library cardholders per capita in the country. But the Central Library of the Denver Public Library system is no ordinary library. In addition to the Western Art Gallery on the 5th floor, the library also hosts film series, guest lectures, book clubs, concerts, knitting, and even cooking classes throughout the year. Pick up the Fresh City Life magazine at any library for the current month’s schedule.
Although they’re closed for students’ summer break in July, The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone has it all: a restaurant, a café, a gourmet shop, one-day cooking classes and demos, a food history museum, and a stunning set of campus buildings set into the forests and vineyards near the town of St. Helena, right on Highway 29. If you’re a for-real foodie or cork dork, consider signing up in advance to attend a cooking demo or even a seminar at this haven for haute cuisine. And be sure to take a few minutes to wander the charming grounds and marvel at the imposing structures of the campus—made from (of course) gray stonework.
Convenient to Kansas City, the Queen Anne Victorian–style Amber House Bed and Breakfast is a luxurious retreat that offers packages to coincide with various local events. Satisfy your inner foodie with the Amber House Cooking School Culinary Getaway, a two-night stay that includes a demonstration cooking class for 6–8 people (from $30/person plus the cost of room).
Santa Fe School of Cooking offers day classes not only in contemporary Southwestern cuisine, but also in traditional Native American cooking and New Mexican standards (author Lois Ellen Frank instructs). Nice farmers market trips are offered too.
For a more rural experience, try Comida de Campos in Dixon, north of Santa Fe. A stay at this school involves learning about the working farm its set on. Day classes cover basic dishes such as tamales and lessons in how to bake in a traditional horno.
Café Brown, Cabo, Mexico
Attention to detail and a love of improvisation set Café Brown apart from your average small-town café. Enjoy a limited menu of home-style cooking made from quality ingredients. The owners love to share a good time, from informal cooking classes and independent films to percussion instruction and salsa dancing. Look for Café Brown in the back of the Maria Bonita Hotel (formerly Hotel Misión del Pilar) complex.
<a href=”http://www.peruculinaryvacations.comPica Peru, Lima, Peru
U.S. tel. 303/513-8878, or 866/440-2561
In a country renowned for its cuisine and flavor fusions, Pica Peru offers culinary vacations. The creative nine- and ten-day trips were designed by a U.S.-based food journalist and a Peruvian gastronomic press trip organizer. The first days are spent eating in Lima’s excellent restaurants, before participants head to provincial cities for interactive cooking classes and sightseeing.
For those familiar with Lima’s culinary delights, it should come as no surprise that it hosts a cooking school licensed by the Cordon Bleu. There are a variety of classes, including short-term seminars on Peruvian food, international food, and even desserts.
Another option is the hotel and restaurant management school Cenfotur, whose workshop classes also feature cocktail making and wine-tasting. At either of these institutions you will have to make special arrangements for English speaking classes.
Los Dos, Mérida, Mexico
Spend a day in Mérida learning about Yucatecan cuisine at Los Dos school. American David Sterling, a Manhattan transplant and accomplished chef, conducts fun and informative classes at his gorgeously refurbished colonial home. The “Taste of Yucatán,” the most popular course, includes a trip to the local market, salsa and meal preparation, and a grand, white-tablecloth dinner featuring your creations, plus complimentary wine and beer. Private classes and three-day workshops are also available. Reserve your space at least 48 hours in advance—and preferably more—as the schedule fills up fast.
044-951/508-0469 or 044-951/508-0044
Susana Trilling offers an unusual mix of Oaxacan culture, cooking, and eating, with a lodging option, at her Seasons of My Heart cooking school in the Etla Valley, north of the city. Susana’s simplest offering is a one-day cooking adventure, including a morning trip to a local native market to buy food, then preparing and eating later at Susana’s ranch. Other options are a long Thursday–Tuesday cooking and cultural adventure, or an extended one-week version of the same thing.
The delightful Guayabo Lodge, near Turriabla Volcano National Park, enjoys a hillside setting. This modern two-story structure has 20 uniquely decorated rooms with parquet floors and delightful decor that includes wrought-iron beds. When not exploring the 80-hectare finca, settle into a hammock and enjoy the superb views. The finca has its own dairy and cheese factory and hosts an occasional cooking school.