Mmmmm, food! Absolute Travel clients (and staff members) routinely report that sampling local cuisine is one of their favorite aspects of traveling. What many people do not realize is that there are a number of wonderful ways to learn about traditional foods beyond eating at local restaurants: cooking classes, market tours, and meals in private homes are among the most popular options. Though the possibilities are truly limitless, here are some culinary experiences that are currently whetting our appetites!
Franschhoek, South Africa
Margot Janse and Chris Erasmus from luxury boutique hotel Le Quartier Francais and Neil and Tina Jewell from top restaurant Bread & Wine lead foodies on a four-day culinary adventure that covers charcuterie, bread baking, wine blending, cheese tastings, and visits to an organic herb farm. In addition to the cooking lessons and assorted food-related activities, the chefs host private meals that allow students an opportunity to get to know their teachers at the table as well as in the kitchen. For those who are not ready to make the four-day commitment, Le Quartier Francais executive chef Margot Janse also leads small group cooking classes that take just one afternoon but allow wanna-be chefs to learn about South African food and wine from a true expert. What a delicious idea!
Suggested tour: Tantalizing South Africa: A Food & Wine Tour – 8 days
Though becoming an expert at Chinese cooking takes years of diligent study, you can learn a few handy tricks with a casual one-day cooking class. The Yangshuo Cooking School offeres straightforward courses geared towards amateur chefs in a restored farmhouse that has been refitted with floor-to-ceiling windows that showcase the stunning hilly karst formations of Yangshuo. Conducted on a small group basis that encourages a convivial atmosphere, the day begins with a visit to the local market to choose ingredients. Students then dive in, learning to slice, dice, fry and steam as they prepare five traditional dishes. The lesson concludes with a group meal to gorge on the finished result. Recent menus included duck with pickled ginger and chilies and “beer fish,” a famous local specialty. This tasty adventure can be integrated into any visit to Yangshuo and is a fun, interactive introduction to what can be an intimidatingly complex cuisine.
Find out how great wine is made by heading straight to the source: the rolling hills of Argentina’s top vineyards! Start your day at a private wine estate with an introduction to the winery and some background on Mendoza’s winemaking history. Then head out on a tour of the vineyards to learn about how the grapes are cultivated and harvested before sampling a few of the varieties in a winetasting. Take a break with a delicious three-course lunch of traditional dishes (complemented by local wines, of course!) and then get down to work: creating your own private blend. The estate’s wine master will guide you as you choose your favorite combination of varietals and then design the label for your wine. A champagne toast concludes this special day and, in the later afternoon, you will head back to your hotel with a bottle of your own tasty creation as a souvenir. Talk to a travel specialist about incorporating this day into your Mendoza itinerary !