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Adventures for the gourmet globe-trotter

By | June 08, 2014

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Forget a boring old cooking class while on a beach vacation, the true foodie is now seeking out unusual culinary activities on their travels. We curate a selection of the most unique gastronomic experiences around the planet that are worth getting on a plane for.

Culinary cruise

Where: France

For Francophiles who can’t make up their mind between cruising down the Rhone and dining in Paris, the Taste of France cruise is the answer. This ten-day cruise from tour company Tauck kicks off with a couple of days in Paris, starting with an arrival reception and dinner at Champs Élysées’ celebrity hotspot Fouquet’s. In Paris, you enjoy a chocolate demonstration, a pastry class at École Lenôtre, tastings at Julia Child’s favourite food spots and the École de Cuisine, plus a visit to Alain Ducasse's new culinary school. After two days, the tour continues aboard the 118-passenger MS Swiss Emerald through the Rhône Valley. The seven-day sailing trip includes cooking demonstrations, market visits, and wine tastings, with some of the highlights being a visit to Lyon’s world-famous covered food market Les Halles, classes at an award-winning culinary school in Valence, and dinner at culinary legend Paul Bocose’s restaurant L’Abbaye de Collonges.

Need to know

When: Cruise dates are May 4, June 26, and October 21; Cost: From US$4,990 (around Dhs18,325); www.tauck.com.

Street food and art

Where: Berlin, Germany

Berlin is Germany’s unofficial kingdom of cool, and the artistic commune of Kreuzburg is the centre of it all. This walking tour combines food and street art into a feast for all the senses. Starting at 4pm, you go for a stroll through the typically funky Berlin ‘Kiez’ (neighborhood) and see the best pieces of street art, including both famous works and little known gems, while being regaled with highlights from Kreuzberg’s wild past. Along the way, there are plenty of stops for snacks and drinks that include both typical Berlin fare (such as currywurst) and more international food to reflect the multicultural demographic of the city.

Need to know

Duration: 3 hours; Cost:€55; www.urbanadventures.com.


Truck stop

Where: Vancouver, Canada

A real change from gourmet restaurants and chic cafés, this walking tour allows foodies to discover the culinary prowess of Vancouver’s food trucks. In two hours, the guides steer you through some of the best street eats the city has to offer, including a hot dog topped with seaweed flakes, butter chicken and naan, smoked salmon, hoisin chicken wraps and grilled cheese. Rated five on five on TripAdvisor, this tour also includes a stopover at Vancouver’s most popular street shopping district and the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Need to know

Duration: 2 hours; Cost: CAD49 (Around Dhs160); www.foodietours.ca.

Truffle treats

Where: Tuscany and Umbria, Italy

Digging through the dirt in an Umbrian forest can unearth one of the most decadent culinary components in the world, the truffle. The humble origins of this ingredient belie its true worth – a single kilo of white truffles is valued at around $4,000 per kg. This truffle-hunting excursion takes you through pristine forests in the Italian countryside where you follow a local truffle hunter and his dog, and learn about the history of truffles, while watching them in action. Depending on the time of the year, the bounty consists of white or black truffles – both equally delicious and equally valuable. At the end of the hunt, there is a sumptuous lunch including truffle-based dishes. The excursion is punctuated with cooking classes under the tutelage of Italian chefs. Accommodation is at a 17th century farm that has been converted into a modern boutique hotel with an excellent restaurant.

Need to know

Duration: 4 days; Cost: €724 (around Dhs3,670) per head; www.golearnto.com.

Mussel mania

Where: Brittany, France

Sign up for a Mussel Harvesting and Bread Making course to make the most of Brittany, one of France’s gastronomic hotspots, where seafood and baking count as culinary highlights. Local chef Christian shares the secrets of Breton cooking in the pretty village of Saint Caradec; staying at a charming family-run hotel, you learn how to make famous delicacies such as Moules Marinières and crêpes suzette. Not just that, the mussels used for cooking are harvested by you from the beach right next to the hotel! Your guide will teach you where to look for mussels, how to pick the best ones and how to pluck them. Also nearby is an old mill that was built in 1668, where you can learn how to make bread using traditional methods tried and tested by the local bakers for centuries.

Need to know

When: May 1, June 5, July 3, 17,31, September 4 and October 16; Duration: 4 days; Cost:€286; www.golearnto.com.


Epicurean explorations

Where: New Zealand

Pegged as an invitation to ‘explore nature’s greatest outdoor pantry’, the Ultimate Dinner Party is a unique nine-day adventure offered by luxury travel specialists Exclusive Travel Group, and co-curated by celebrity chef, TV presenter and writer, Al Brown. While itineraries can be tailored, a typical trip would start off with a harbour cruise dinner in Auckland, with a chartered classic DC3 aircraft taking the group around the country for the different activities that ensue therafter. These range from the group being split up into teams to go on foraging trips using different means of transport, and then cooking off against each other to make the evening’s meal, which is then enjoyed together at a secret location; to vineyard visits; and lunches in exotic locations including a glacial mountain and a yacht. The group will be guided by local personalities and experts along the way, including celebrity chefs who you can dive and fish with. With stunning scenery, and adventure activities such as kayaking also thrown in, this is one of the most unique and immersive culinary experiences for a foodie – if you can afford it!

Need to know

When: Dates arranged on request; Duration: 9 days; Cost NZ$39,600 (Dhs124.600) per person, minimum 12-member group required; www.exclusivelynz.com.


Polar adventure

Where: Iceland

Featured on CNN, among other media, food writer and chef Jody Eddy’s meticulously planned culinary tours of Iceland are a breathtaking mix of the majestic landscapes and the unique gastronomic heritage of this country. Eddy has spent years exploring the country, and now shares her expert insight with adventurers. Hikes to waterfalls and geothermal pools are interspersed with visits to local growers and producers of Icelandic specialties such as smoked arctic char, skyr (a tangy local yoghurt), sweet rye bread, reindeer Carpaccio and liqueurs made with rhubarb, birch and caraway. Celebrity chef Gunnar Karl Gislason (the man behind Dill, the restaurant in Reykjavik that put Icelandic cuisine on the global food map) also gives cooking demonstrations and hosts a dinner, as part of this tour.

Need to know

When: August 16-23; Duration: 8 days; Cost Around US$4,500; www.icelandculinarytours.squarespace.com.

Meat mastery

Where: Toulouse, France

Certainly not one for the faint hearted, but ideal for someone looking to seriously hone their skills, the Charcuterie & Butchery Course course, which covers preparation of meat products, such as bacon, terrines, and pâtés, as well as knife skills, jointing and sectioning a whole animal, will teach you to have control of your meat from nose to tail. The course takes place in a restored French farmhouse in the village of Gramont (50 minutes from Toulouse) surrounded by views of the idyllic Gascony countryside. French cooking lessons using the meat and prepared meat products are part of the course.

Need to know

When: April to October; Duration: 4 days; Cost: €776; www.golearnto.com.

Gastro-journey

Where: Napa Valley,

San Francisco, USA

Railway enthusiasts who appreciate fine cuisine will revel in the Napa Valley Wine Train Culinary Experience. The eight-hour trip starts with a sparkling wine tasting at the Gloria Ferrer winery in Sonoma. Prior to embarking on the train, you enjoy a guided, behind-the-scenes kitchen tour of the Napa Valley Wine Train Culinary Arts Center, which is not open to the general public. Once aboard, guests enjoy a gourmet lunch or dinner as they travel through the rolling hills vineyards of the pretty little village of St Helena, taking in the breathtaking views at every turn. Conducted by the executive chef, the tour concludes at the train’s onboard kitchen.

Need to know

Duration: 8 hours;Cost: US$167; www.viator.com.


Food foraging

Where: Around Britain

A growing trend amongst serious foodies around the world, food foraging courses teach you how to find delicious and nutritious edibles in the wild. Foraging expert Robin Harford (creator of the UK’s leading wild food site eatweeds.co.uk) shares his knowledge on how to identify edible wild plants, prepare, cook and preserve them, and do it all sustainably. Locations for the foraging trip are revealed to attendees upon arrival, and up to 20 edible plants are explored during each session, which may include coltsfoot, water mint, wild garlic, nettle, burdock root and more. Harford’s courses take place all over Britain, including Devon, London, Oxfordshire, Scotland, and Sussex, and vary in cost and duration, depending on location and time of year.

Need to know

When: February to June; Duration: 2-6 hours, depending on course; Cost: From GBP30 (Around Dhs185); www.foragingcourses.com.

A good (food) run

Where: Bordeaux, France

Wine and running generally don’t mix, but trust the French to do it anyway! The decidedly unique annual Marathon du Médoc in the Bordeaux wine region of France is a charity event that sees runners weave their way through more than 30 chateaux in Medoc, stopping to drink copious amounts of wine en route, and sampling cheeses, escargot and foie gras from local producers. With the cheers of hundreds of spectators lined up along the beautiful French countryside, this themed event is always good for a laugh – this year’s theme is The Countries of the World and their Carnivals.

Need to know

When: September 13, 2014; Duration: 1 day; Cost: From €83; www.marathondumedoc.com.

Global gourmet

Where: From New York to Stockholm

Got about a month or so, and over 30,000 dirhams to spare? Then take the 33-day New York to Stockholm cruise trip aboard the Crystal Symphony. The journey covers Boston and Maine in the US, to go on to cities in Canada, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Finland, Russia, and Estonia, culminating in Stockholm. Apart from the days of sailing, where you can enjoy delicious food on board (included in the fare), you can opt for a wide selection of excursions, which have a distinct culinary bent. In New York, choose between a Bateaux evening dinner cruise in New York (US$329), or the Chelsea Food, Wine & Culture Walk (US$219). In Boston, enjoy the Flavors of Boston’s North End – a guided walk of the city’s ‘Little Italy’, capped with lunch at an award-winning restaurant (US$209). Other activities include enjoying a New England Lobster Bake in Maine (US$129), Tea at the Citadel in Halifax, Canada (US$69), and a 4x4 Adventure & Lobster Lunch in Reykjavík, Iceland (US$409).

Need to know

When: June 1 - July 4, 2014; Duration: 33 days; Cost: From US$11,375;

www.crystalcruises.com.


Food safari

Where: South Africa

Looking for a chance to eat and drink with and learn from one of South Africa’s top chefs, while spotting and photographing wildlife on the side? This trip is the ultimate combination of culinary and wildlife delights, in which you get to experience diverse aspects of South Africa, from Cape Town to Johannesburg. The culinary trip staples of lavish lunches and dinners, cooking lessons, wine tastings are combined with two nights aboard the ‘Pride of Africa’ Rovos Rail – straight from the golden age of train travel – and a Big Five wildlife safari at a luxury eco-lodge in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. Other highlights include wining and dining with a view at the award-winning five-star Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, a cooking safari in a family home, lunch at the home of Chef Bruce Robertson, and a multi-course African-inspired dinner.

Need to know

Duration: 12 days; Cost: From US$9,985; www.africantravelinc.com.


Cone connoisseurs

Where: Sorrento, Italy

Affectionately known as ‘BFG’ by the locals, Chef Biagio Longo owns the B&B cookery school in Sorrento – a gorgeous seaside town set on the Bay of Naples, dotted with Renaissance palazzi and Romanesque churches. Apart from his popular Gelato making course, in which ice cream lovers can not only learn how to make the perfect gelato, but also get tips on how to start their own gelato business, Chef Biago also aids budding chefs in mastering the art of Italian classics in other courses. The school’s focus is on simple Italian food using fresh, local produce, while accommodation is in the lovely Hotel Soluena near the cookery school.

Need to know

Duration: 5 days; Cost: EUR438; www.golearnto.com



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