Dive into local cuisines and cultures with the top culinary experiences of 2014. The best way to experience exotic customs is by feasting on local produce, savoring regional spices, clinking glasses for a “cheers” with the national beer and sitting down to share a meal. This article features off-the-beaten-path locations highlighting cuisines you probably can’t find at a nearby restaurant. What do they serve at a Bahaman barbecue? What do Vietnamese monks drink at their temple tea ceremony? How does a Pitmaster cook a whole hog in his Georgia garage?
The above opportunities range from afternoon classes to extensive multi-week culinary journeys and can accommodate budding chefs of all ability-levels, with prices ranging from free and up.
Find the perfect gourmet get-away to suit your taste buds and your budget.
1. Cheese-Making In Sudbury, Vermont
Experience life as a farmer in modern times at family-owned Trevin Farms in Sudbury, Vermont. While staying at this “Green Hotel in the Green Mountain State”, learn about animal husbandry, milk the goats and help with chores (if you choose). Their “cooking on the farm” package teaches you how to make cheese and to prepare a four-course meal using 90% of the products grown or raised right on the farm. Cheese-making packages start at $325.
2. Learn The Amish Way In Brandywine Valley, Pennsylvania
Experience Amish hospitality while learning to cook multi-course meals at Hamanassett Bed & Breakfast’s Country Cooking School. Discover the food bounty of the Brandywine Valley when you gather ingredients at the local farmer’s market. Seasons dictate Amish growing, cooking, eating and preserving ingredients, and menus reflect that. Spend your afternoon cooking what you found locally and enjoy the fruits of your labors with a hearty meal. The cooking class costs $450 per couple or $300 per person for the class plus the room rate, which averages $200-$250.
3. Whole Hog Barbecue In Unadilla, Georgia
Visit the home of the star of “BBQ Pitmasters,” where Myron Mixon will share family-style southern barbeque in his backyard of Unadilla, Georgia. Historically, BBQ enabled farmers to feed large families cheaply with pork, the least expensive meat on the farm. Today BBQ has become an art form for some, but Myron will teach you to grill using the same down home style he learned from his farther. Novices, enthusiasts and trained chefs alike can learn the basics by enrolling in Jack’s Old South Cooking School, but the BBQ Memories class covers every step of open-pit cooking. You’ll go to Yoder’s Butcher Block to select the whole hog, shoulders and ribs, choose wood and light fires in original masonry pits. After loading the fire barrel, prepare traditional South Georgia side dishes, including Brunswick stew, cole slaw, potato salad, and homemade desserts to the sound of grease sizzling on the pit. The Basic Jack’s Old South Cooking School costs $750 and more extensive The BBQ Memories costs $1500. If you can’t attend the class, watch Myron in action on the fifth season of “BBQ Pitmasters” on the Destination America, premiering in April.
4. Foraging For Wild Mushrooms And Vegan Cooking Classes In Mendocino, California
If whole-hog country cooking isn’t your thing, try wild mushroom walks and vegan cooking classes (including cheese making) at Stanford Inn. This eco-friendly resort sits atop a meadow overlooking the rugged Mendocino Coast and its remote Northern California location provides an extra incentive to rely on local food and ingredients. Restaurant gardens use bio-intensive and organic methods to grow a wide variety of lettuces, cabbages, spinach, radishes and gourmet vegetables such as radicchio, mizuna, arugula and tah tsai. For both classes and guest menus the Inn uses local mushrooms and seaweeds. To learn about the exotic mushrooms that attract people from all over the world to the annual Mendocino Wine and Mushroom festival, join Mycologist Emily Scott for hike around the grounds to learn about the 3000 species in the area. The mushroom walk is $50 per person. The plant-based cooking classes cost $60 per person.
5. Ceviche And Salsa-Making In Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Immerse yourself in the regional cooking of Mexico and learn about the flavors that have made Mexican cuisine world-famous at Capella Pedregal’s three-day cooking class. Join the resort’s chef to shop the local farmer’s market and select the freshest ingredients. On the first day, build a foundation by learning how to prepare indigenous ingredients, the art of sauces and more. On the second day you’ll apply these techniques to create a variety of regional dishes such as ceviches and tamales, while on the third you’ll prepare authentic desserts like churros and flan. This three-day cooking class is priced at $200.00 per person. Check out the culinary section of their website to learn about their Food & Wine Festival this July, tequila tastings, cocktail classes and a Mexican wine tour.
6. Culinary Paradise With Artisanal Pairings In San Jose, Costa Rica
Spend six days tasting the best local artisan foods and beverages that Costa Rica has to offer while learning to pair and prepare key ingredients. You’ll stay at Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort – an eco-lodge seeped in authentic Costa Rican culture — where you can tour and do a tasting at their organic coffee farm. During the experience you’ll visit another local business to learn to pair artisan cheeses with craft brews then work off some of those calories with nature hikes; tour cacao, vanilla and pepper farms and have lunch and a chocolate tasting at Sibu Fine Chocolates; pair mead, honey and goat cheese over lunch at the Ark Herb Farm and Meadery; and spend time at the farmer’s market and cook local dishes using vanilla, coffee, chocolate and pepper. Chef Gilad and Mike C. from Napa, of Costa Rica Culinary Tours, will be teaching classes and cooking special dinners throughout the week. The Culinary Paradise Week is $3,095 per person, assuming double occupancy ($3,995 for single).
7. Traditional Cooking and Urban Gardening in Cusco, Peru
Andean Discovery arranges a unique cooking class with an expert in organic agriculture. Start by shopping for organic produce and cooking ingredients at the lively Pedro market in Cusco, Peru, with Braulio Vitorino Flórez. This urban agriculture professor has worked extensively in Cusco to promote converting organic trash into fertilizer for home gardens. Visit his house to see his personal garden and learn about the history of the ingredients used in the meal. Afterwards, cook a traditional Peruvian meal featuring dishes like Papa Rellena (stuffed potato pancakes), Aji de Gallina (creamy chicken with peppers) and Lomo Saltado (beef stir-fry) paired with Pisco Sour, a traditional South American cocktail. You can book this cooking class for approximately $40 or as part of their The Classic Machu Picchu tour, which starts at $1,990.
8. Foraging For Wild Edibles And Bottling Wine In Le Marche, Italy
For a rustic experience of rural Italy, visit La Trova Marche organic farm, inn and cooking school. “Hands-on” classes will be held in a 300-year-old stone farmhouse in the foothills of the Apennines. Collect fresh fruit and vegetables from the garden to begin your ‘farm to the table’ meal while you learn cucina povera (peasant cooking) techniques. All cooking classes include local wine, often as an ingredient as well as an accompaniment. Depending on the season, you may prepare braised fennel in white wine, poached pears in local rosè, or a rustic apple roll for dessert with wine-infused dough. If you visit in the spring, help bottle, cork and label wines to refill their cantina. The Cooking with Wild Edibles & Bottling Wine package will include guided edible walks to pick wild radicchio and young nettle to create creamy risottos and decadent ravioli with a glass of wine in your hand. This four-night cooking and wine adventure costs about $690 per person.
9. Hydroponic Gardens And Earthen Oven Cooking In Fiji
At Laucala Island resort, take advantage of the private island’s plentiful indigenous produce by foraging for the freshest ingredients alongside the resort’s Executive Chef, Anthony Healy. At the main restaurant, Plantation House, Chef Healy prepares his daily menu around Fijian dishes that feature what has been collected around the island and received from fishermen that morning. Join Chef Healy for a guided tour through the farm and hydroponic gardens, picking and tasting ripe produce along the way. Learn how to prepare these ingredients according to traditional techniques. To make the chef’s favorite dish, Palusami, wrap rou rou leaves with coconut cream in banana and breadfruit leaves then steam it in a lovo (earth oven). For an even more immersive experience, sample traditional dishes with a buffet as you watch forty performers do traditional dances at a Kava ceremony. As an 80% sustainable resort, your stay will support eco-friendly practices so future generations can partake in these timeless traditions. Rates start at $4,200 per night.
10. Czarist Cuisine, Retro-Soviet Cafés And Vodka Bars In Russia
Did the Olympics make you hungry for more Russian culture? Consider MIR Corporation’s 10-day culinary tour of Russia and discover a cuisine that goes far beyond borscht and blini. As you explore traditional open-air markets, learn about the history of Russian food. Join famous chefs for hands-on cooking classes. Visit retro-Soviet cafés and the vodka bars of modern Russia to learn about new trends in czarist cuisine. In addition to eating what you cook throughout the trip, dine in a smorgasbord of restaurants, family homes, and a country dacha, where home-cooked cuisine and traditional Russian culture come together. The August 1-10, 2014 “A Chronicle of Russian Cuisine & Culture” tour starts at $5,995.
11. Cook For An Army And Visit An Organic Farm In The Desert In Israel
Join Taglit-Birthright Israel’s culinary tour ( to learn how food comprises the core of Jewish customs and culture in addition to touring main itinerary sites of Israel. Visit local markets to see seasonal produce, tour vineyards, an olive press and Jaffa, the home of Israel’s best hummus. Meet leaders in Israel’s culinary scene — including top chefs, food editors and restaurant owners — and discover there’s more to “Jewish food” than lox and bagels and more to “Israeli food” than falafel. Test your skills at a Masterchef challenge at an organic farm in the desert and by cooking for an entire base of IDF soldiers. This tour is free for young Jewish adults interested in experiencing Israel through a culinary lens. Interested parties should apply at www.BirthrightIsrael.com.
11. Home Cooking And Beach Barbeque In The Bahamas
If you’re not a Jewish young adult, you can get a free authentic cooking lesson and meal through People-to-People Experience ambassador program at Grand Lucayan Resort. Dive into local Bahamian cooking culture by being paired with one of over 500 Bahamian ambassadors for local market shopping, an authentic cooking lesson and meal with the ambassador’s family. If you visit on March 29th, complement this home-cooking experience with an interactive pasta and pastry-making demonstration by renowned Michelin-Star Chef Gianfranco Chiarini. This informative lesson will be followed by a Bahamian barbecue at the massive lawn overlooking Grand Lucayan’s China Beach. The cost to participate is $25 per person. Call (242) 373-1333 to reserve a spot.
13. Biking Through Culinary Hotspots And Tea Ceremony with Monks In Vietnam
Taste and bicycle your way through Vietnam with VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations’s Journey Through Vietnam Tour. On this thirteen-day trip get intimately aquatinted with myriad natural, man-made and culinary wonders. Explore Hanoi’s 19th-century Dong Xuan food market, take a private cooking class at one of Hoi An’s most popular restaurants and learn the art of local cuisine at Saigon Cookery Art school. Learn the vibrant, everyday cooking traditions from Mekong Delta locals at the My Tho market. Finally, talk to monks and participate in a tea ceremony at Thien Mu Pagoda. This leisurely biking and tasting trip through Vietnam — from Hani to Halong Bay to Ho Chi Minh City — costs $3,995 per person, including international airfare.
14. Gourmet Menu Planning and Preparation in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Learn the secrets behind Otahuna Lodge’s award-winning culinary program from Executive Chef Jimmy McIntyre in Christchurch, New Zealand. After listening to an overview of the philosophy behind the Lodge’s celebrated food and wine program, find out how to plan menus, harvest ingredients from the Lodge’s working organic gardens and craft these ingredients into a gourmet seasonal meal. Most of the food prepared during the cooking class comes directly from the property’s vegetable, mushroom, herb gardens and orchards, which inspire the menu.
This cooking class is the capstone of Swain Destinations’ Foodie New Zealand tour, two weeks dedicated to tasting the best of New Zealand’s North and South Islands. With this gourmet getaway, taste internationally acclaimed Pinot Noir at boutique wineries around the rural village of Martinborough; visit three vineyards at Waiheke,“the Treasure Island of wine and food”; and end your trip with vineyard restaurants in the world’s southernmost wine growing region. If booked separately, the cooking class costs $350 but is included in the 14-day Foodie trip that costs $14,070.
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