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Cooking Vacations


Jlock
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Not sure if this should be in the "Intrepid Traveler" or here, but here we go...

Lackadaisi and I are thinking of taking a vacation that will focus on cooking. While all of our vacations are centered around the eating of good food, this year we want to cook good food too! Any ideas on where we should go? The US and Europe, and other international destinations are all on the table. We can potentially devote up to a week's time to such a trip - probably in the late-Spring or early-Summer. There are a lot of websites out there promoting "cooking vacations", but I figured that someone on DR.com may have a bit more personal information.

Two thoughts:

(1) We are not necessarily looking for a total immersion course, but an interesting locale with a cooking component...

(2) We are looking for a focus on food and not on wine (so perhaps the obvious wine region locations are not quite right)

Thanks!

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When I was in Thailand a couple years ago, I took a Thai cooking class. It was like 3-4hrs long, involved going to the market and shopping for ingredients beforehand, then going and executing the recipes. Fun stuff...I think it's a pretty popular tourist thing to do in Chiang Mai (where we were, the northern capital of Thailand).

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Go to France. Rent an apartment. Go to the market (there will be one very day withing driving distance). Cook.

Probably do the same thing in Italy.

This is where stayed in France this summer. Big old market Saturday, smaller, locals-only "biologique" (organic) market Wednesday. Fish every day.

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When I was in Thailand a couple years ago, I took a Thai cooking class. It was like 3-4hrs long, involved going to the market and shopping for ingredients beforehand, then going and executing the recipes. Fun stuff...I think it's a pretty popular tourist thing to do in Chiang Mai (where we were, the northern capital of Thailand).
That sounds like a wonderful idea, unfortunately, Jlock forgot to mention one other limitation (for this trip only, thankfully). We are actually limited to Europe or the United States.
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Go to France. Rent an apartment. Go to the market (there will be one very day withing driving distance). Cook.

Probably do the same thing in Italy.

This is where stayed in France this summer. Big old market Saturday, smaller, locals-only "biologique" (organic) market Wednesday. Fish every day.

I would suggest the same thing. We spent a week in Umbria last year cooking most of our dinners at a rented villa. While I don't know if I learned anything new about cooking technique-wise it was fun to shop every day for ingredients (and wine).

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i know this isn't europe or the united states (though, it is close)...but what about mexico? i remember my cousin 2 years ago went to oaxaca and took a cooking vacation there. just another idea...
That would be my first choice if we didn't have the limitations. But alas . . .
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Go to France. Rent an apartment. Go to the market (there will be one very day withing driving distance). Cook.
My dream file is large, and actual travel experience, small. That said, I would go to Gigondas, which is a

small town 41 Km northeast of Avignon. Good food. Good wine. Interesting architecture. Far enough off the beaten path

so that it is not so expensive.

In the vicious rumors department, I hear that a visit to Bordeaux is likely to be uninteresting.

Thank you for the opportunity to dream.

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Go to France. Rent an apartment. Go to the market (there will be one very day withing driving distance). Cook.

We stayed here. The market is on Wednesday and it was gorgeous.

DameEdna, we didn't stay in Gigondas, only drive through, but there's some good drinking there.

Here is a list of every market in Provence, by day. As Waitman said, there is guaranteed to be at least one within driving distance of you every day.

You can even reserve an apartment online, through Gites de France. (That's the site for Bouches du Rhone but you can search www.gites-de-france.com for any department in France.

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Go to France. Rent an apartment. Go to the market (there will be one very day withing driving distance). Cook.
My dream file is large, and actual travel experience, small. That said, I would go to Gigondas, which is a

small town 41 Km northeast of Avignon. Good food. Good wine. Interesting architecture. Far enough off the beaten path

so that it is not so expensive.

In the vicious rumors department, I hear that a visit to Bordeaux is likely to be uninteresting.

Thank you for the opportunity to dream.

Good call.

Mrs. B and I actually stayed for a week in an old house in Vacqueyras (apparently still available, though rates have risen), which is about 4km down the road from Gigondas. Gigondas is a beautiful village -- though, because of its wine reputation, somewhat touristed. Had one of the best meals of my life in a restaurant just outside of town. The good markets are a little further off than in Uzes, where we walked to the market, though Patricia Well's alleged favorite (Vaison La Romaine) is maybe 10 KM away, and the legendary Isles Sur la Sorgue market is about 40 minutes south. The wine opportunities are spectacular starting with the co-op wine shop right downtown.

A little past Vacqueyras, btw, is Beaumes de Venice, so someone with better knees than mine could hit three famous wine villages in an afternoon by bicycle.

(If you want to dream, click through the links on the Vacqueyras page)

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Not quite the same...but we're going on a bike tour through Burgundy. It's an opportunity to drink and drive, without the massive repercussions. Anyhow, the same tour company also offers "gastronomic tours" in France, with the emphasis on eating and learning to make the foods. The company we're going through is called Discover France. You might want to check them out.

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It's an opportunity to drink and drive, without the massive repercussions.
Don't be too sure about the major repercussions. I swore off the drinking/biking thing after I managed to break my pinky toe when biking home from a 4th of July party one year. I looked at it and figured it would right itself over night (this, despite the fact that it was perpindicular to its normal configuration when I went to sleep). I think, even in my stupor, I also realized that on the evening of the 4th, an ER would be hassle.

It was a breeze the next morning at 7am with my hangover. :lol:

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Two thoughts:

(1) We are not necessarily looking for a total immersion course, but an interesting locale with a cooking component...

(2) We are looking for a focus on food and not on wine (so perhaps the obvious wine region locations are not quite right)

I think the answer will depend hugely on what floats your boat foodwise, but high on my list would be to book an agriturismo (farmhouse B&B or cottage suite) in Italy. Tuscany, and to a lesser extent western Umbria, are well-equipped to accommodate American tourists who may not be fluent in Italian (or in my case, barely able to navigate even with a pocket phrasebook). In late 2005 on short notice, I was able to book an enormous, recently-built two-bedroom suite with full kitchen outside of Cortona for quite a bit less than a good single hotel room in tourist-magnet San Gimignano. That portion of my vacation schedule was ad hoc, but at least two other couples staying at the same agriturismo were part of packaged cooking vacation organized by this outfit. They seemed to be preparing fairly basic fare (cucina povera?) but there's no shortage of English-language cooking tours in Tuscany or Umbria.

While the northeast of Spain is unbelievable as a dining destination, I would rank Italy way up there as a food destination. From Cortona, I managed easy daytrips to Pienza for cheesetasting, to Perugia to tour the museum at the massive Perugina chocolatemaking complex (one more week and I could have attended the week-long Eurochocolate festival), and throughout the eastern Chianti region. A little more planning and I would have tried to work in a trip to Norcia for its famous pork. Some of my friends arrived a couple of days earlier than I did and started in Emilia-Romagna by tasting and stocking up on balsamico, prosciutto di Parma, and the herbal digestif Amaro.

The other surprising thing about that part of Italy is how hard it is to get a lousy meal, caveat skipping the obvious tourist traps like pizza joints. The worst meal I had was "merely good", and the vast majority were delicious...I came home with a pronounced longing for anything involving pici, cinghiale, castagne or farro. Even the "Autogrill" rest stops along the highways were much better than passable. About the only food negatives I noted were that Tuscan bread is hopelessly bland, and that you might as well give up on finding anything but Italian cuisine. And that US Customs will won't let you bring back one of those ornery wild boars, even someone has already gone to the trouble of curing and sectioning it so it won't cause any more trouble.

Print all of Dean Gold's notes on Italy that you can find, including his SlowTrav essay, and bring it with you. Also, much of Italy still maintains a revolving medieval market schedule, so try to find out if there's an extended food market nearby and which day of the week it is. And afterwards...please tell us how your trip went!

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Were I set on going to France and really interested in more than daily trips to the market on my own, I'd look into classes offered by Suzanne Loomis.

The problem with Italy is finding a place that isn't wall to city-wall packed with tourists. In Florence, I think i've been there every single month with the exception of February, and there is no longer any such thing as a lull. As someone who lives close to the National Zoo, I finally understand why so many Florentines are so surly.

If you're leaning towards central Italy, nonetheless, I'd look into Faith Willinger, Divina Cucina or Aroma Cucina in a tiny town in Umbria which is close to good places to spend parts of your days. Can't find them? Send a PM.

Me? I'd go to the following, perhaps in the following order, instead:

1) Love Sicily

2) Spain. Don't know possibilities, but oh, Spain! The market in Barcelona! Everyone knows from French food. Italian food's easy to make according to Waitman. But if you could find a nice place to learn regional, home cooking, you'd be doing something that may be trendy, but distinct.

3) Don't know if I'd put this last, really, since it looks so amazing, but go to eGullet.org. Visit the regional forum for Mexico and look for a long thread that docsconz put together, documenting a cooking vacation he and his wife took with Rick Bayless. It is an eye-opener. I would put this first in my list were it not for the other things I really want to visit in Sicily and Spain.

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Were I set on going to France and really interested in more than daily trips to the market on my own, I'd look into classes offered by Suzanne Loomis.

The problem with Italy is finding a place that isn't wall to city-wall packed with tourists. In Florence, I think i've been there every single month with the exception of February, and there is no longer any such thing as a lull. As someone who lives close to the National Zoo, I finally understand why so many Florentines are so surly.

Get out of Northern Italy and head south and visit Molise, Abruzzo, Campania, Puglia or Calabria if you don't wall to city-wall tourists. Granted the amount of English that you will hear is drastically reduced, but the scenery, people, and food are some of the best you will find anywhere. These areas also have agro-tourist places or you can get an apartment and visit markets and cook everyday.

Overall it really depends on if you want classes or just to be able to cook yourselves. Obviously class locations will most likely be in places that are heavily touristed.

Do you have any specific country or city that you would like to visit? That may help focus the search a bit.

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Overall it really depends on if you want classes or just to be able to cook yourselves. Obviously class locations will most likely be in places that are heavily touristed.

Do you have any specific country or city that you would like to visit? That may help focus the search a bit.

Thank you all for your suggestions. After thinking on this for a while, I think that we have narrowed it down to Italy or Spain, leaning more towards Italy. Although France is very high on the list, I think that it might be better saved for another time. We will want to take some classes, but we don't want to be in a tourist infested place . . .
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I think this probably fits best in this topic ...

Anyone have any recommendations for 2-3 month culinary programs? Really, anywhere in the world ... So far, the one I've found that fits my probable timing is the Basic Cuisine course at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Any other ideas? Intel about Le Cordon Bleu or other schools?

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On ‎1‎/‎26‎/‎2007 at 0:54 PM, TedE said:

I would suggest the same thing. We spent a week in Umbria last year cooking most of our dinners at a rented villa. While I don't know if I learned anything new about cooking technique-wise it was fun to shop every day for ingredients (and wine).

 

On ‎1‎/‎27‎/‎2007 at 7:52 PM, ol_ironstomach said:

I think the answer will depend hugely on what floats your boat foodwise, but high on my list would be to book an agriturismo (farmhouse B&B or cottage suite) in Italy. Tuscany, and to a lesser extent western Umbria, are well-equipped to accommodate American tourists who may not be fluent in Italian (or in my case, barely able to navigate even with a pocket phrasebook). In late 2005 on short notice, I was able to book an enormous, recently-built two-bedroom suite with full kitchen outside of Cortona for quite a bit less than a good single hotel room in tourist-magnet San Gimignano. That portion of my vacation schedule was ad hoc, but at least two other couples staying at the same agriturismo were part of packaged cooking vacation organized by this outfit. They seemed to be preparing fairly basic fare (cucina povera?) but there's no shortage of English-language cooking tours in Tuscany or Umbria.

 

On ‎1‎/‎28‎/‎2007 at 11:53 AM, Anna Blume said:

If you're leaning towards central Italy, nonetheless, I'd look into Faith Willinger, Divina Cucina or Aroma Cucina in a tiny town in Umbria which is close to good places to spend parts of your days. Can't find them? Send a PM.

Umbria, Italy’s Best-Kept Culinary Secret, Is Budding, by Julia Moskin, September 13, 2016, on nytimes.com, and in print September 14, 2016.

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