Do you love to travel to new and exciting places just for the food and drink? Are you tired of being herded through tourist cities, not being able to stop and smell, taste and eat the cuisine? Do you want to experience a city and its culinary offerings with the guidance of a seasoned and epicurean-savvy local? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then culinary tourism is for you.
Instead of taking that generic island or mainland adventure,
try spending a week – or a weekend – exploring the ins and outs of a gourmet destination's cultural cuisine. The newest travel hot-spots are areas that are known for spectacular
food and beverages – think California's Napa Valley, Italy, France and Spain.
These places and many more are ripe with culinary offerings that turn an ordinary vacation into a spectacular stimulation of the senses. Best yet, you will be taking home more than just pictures
– at the end of the vacation, you will have mouthwatering memories, tips and techniques to simulate new cuisine in your own kitchen and, likely, a few gourmet goods you couldn't
possibly live without.
Although any town or city can be a culinary destination, some of the most popular places for culinary getaways are France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and the wine-centric areas of California. All of
these locations offer a variety of local foods, local beverages and breathtaking, beautiful scenery.
When searching for an epicurean adventure, let your tastes determine your culinary destination. If your gastronomic desires beckon for Italian food, then head to Italy. If your inner oenologist
thirsts for wine, set your sights on Napa Valley, California. Go where your hunger takes you so you end up well-fed on cuisine that deeply interests you.
Italy is always a popular destination, showing visitors everything from how to make pasta to truffle hunts.
Napa Valley, California is unsurprisingly one of the top three culinary destinations in the world. This verdant and lush locale boasts some of the best wines and fresh locally-grown ingredients
California has to offer.
France, the kingdom of haute cuisine
, is a gourmand's dream. A trip there will lead you through amazing wineries and local farms, likely giving you a new perspective on the true meaning of French cuisine.
Spain and Portugal both offer delectably fresh seafood and unimitable dishes as well as distinctly delicious wines.
The Culinary Institute of America:
The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Greystone, Napa Valley, California -- one of the top culinary schools in the world -- has recently launched a program entitled the Sophisticated Palate
Jay Blotcher, Media Relations at the CIA, describes the program as an "immersion course for die-hard foodies, which by combining top-shelf education with culinary field trips in and around
Napa, has created a dream week for food enthusiasts."
The two- or four-day module, which takes place on the campus of the CIA and surrounding locations, offers cooking classes, gourmet dinners, expert guest speakers, and culinary field trips to
wineries, farms, olive groves and cheese caves. The field trips take guests to places not typically open to the public, for a unique insider's look at the makings of a regional cuisine.
The Sophisticated Palate program offers three unique courses: Live Fire Cooking, A Taste of Northern California, and Cooking for the Next Half of Your Life. Each course is led by seasoned
chef and wine authority John Ash as well as nutritionists and student chef assistants.
Bike Riders Tour: For the more adventurous food lover, Bike Riders Tour offers guest chef tours of France, Spain and Italy. Guests cycle through the country-sides of Sicily,
Puglia, Tuscany, Provence, Burgandy, the Dordogne and Andalucia, stopping at open-air markets, farms, wineries, restaurants and other food-oriented sights. Guests also get to take cooking classes
along the way with world-renowned chefs.
IS A CULINARY VACATION RIGHT FOR YOU?
If you are thinking you don't belong on a culinary get-away because you don't consider yourself a gourmand, think again. You don't have to be a Top Chef to enjoy a culinary weekend.
In fact, it is preferable that you be an "expert novice" in the kitchen – you love food, you know a little about food, you love to cook and, most importantly, you love to explore
Culinary getaways are perfect for anyone or any group of people that consider themselves foodies. A gastronomic getaway is an invaluable experience of immersing yourself in a delicious culinary
adventure that will inspire you with a new awareness of different foods, techniques, cultures and ideas. This is a food-intense, fun, educational approach to a vacation.
According to Blotcher, culinary tourism brings people to consciousness that food is not sourced from the supermarket. It gives them a greater understanding of the people who raise and farm food and
a greater respect and appreciation for food itself.
It's time to stoke your hunger and pack your bags!
For more information, visit these sites:
CIA Sophisticated Palate
Bike Riders Tours
Active Gourmet Holidays
For more travel ideas, visit the SheKnows Travel Channel
*Photos courtesy of Culinary Institute of America/Faith Echtemeyer