FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.
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Edible Expeditions

by Debra Bokur

Feb 15, 2018

Rawpixelimages | Dreamstime.com


All around the world, vacationers choose to enhance their lives and shared family experiences by opting for getaways with take-away perks. Cooking holidays offer exactly that: Packing up the kids for a jaunt to Memphis to discover the secrets of preparing great barbecue, or jetting off to New Orleans to learn the finer points of concocting jambalaya. Culinary tourism has grown exponentially in popularity, with a 2017 study conducted by AAA revealing it remains one of the travel industry’s hottest trends.


In fact, the AAA study estimated around 22 million travelers specifically sought out food- and wine-related activities during their journeys in 2017. These ranged from kitchen demonstrations with accomplished chefs and interactive cooking classes, to visits with artisan cheesemakers and other small-scale food producers, and tours of farms, vineyards, gourmet food shops and farmers markets.


Cheesemakers and wheels of Parmesan in Italy

© Rostislav Glinsky | Dreamstime.com


“By experiencing food through the eyes of locals,” says Chicago-based cookbook author and food journalist Jennifer Olvera, “you’ll gain a sense of place. Locally driven cuisine, food history and regional expertise offer the best showcase of culinary prowess, while also lending insight into a locale.”


As food travelers quickly learn, immersing yourself in the local food scene provides a unique portal to the history and culture of a place, whether that’s on the other side of the state or the other side of the world. Bonus: A vacation with a cooking component may just give your kids or your partner mad kitchen skills in the process, or even stir up a passion to share in meal and shopping responsibilities.


Even if you limit your choices to domestic destinations, the ever-growing selection can make choosing the best course challenging. Beginning with a favored destination can help; and, if the kids are set on an address where sandcastle building is possible or that offers wild mountain trails for hiking, your vacation time can fulfill multiple goals.


Olvera — who also happens to be a well-traveled mom — suggests pondering a few basic questions to help narrow down the options.


“If you don’t already know, find out what the destination is known for and who’s an expert in the craft, whether it’s making mozzarella from scratch or producing fresh-pressed olive oil,” she says. “Skip overviews and general food tours, which tend to be cliché, in favor of authenticity and hands-on experiences alongside resident experts.”


Boys showing off picked blackberries on a farm

© Karin Hildebrand Lau | Dreamstime.com

A few domestic locations to consider:


Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tenn.

Themed kitchen workshops and cooking classes are a highlight at this dreamy luxury estate spread across 4,200 acres in the Great Smoky Mountains. Besides cooking demonstrations, whiskey and wine tastings are also offered.


Gourmet Retreats at CasaLana in Calistoga, Calif.

Weeklong culinary learning vacations at this Napa Valley resort are customized to each guest, whether a home cook or chef-in-the-making. Stays can be built on a host of themes such as dessert sauces, how to balance flavors, creating emulsions or whipping up homemade pasta.


Hartstone Inn Cooking School in Camden, Maine

This beautiful, historic bed and breakfast inn on the seacoast in Camden, Maine, is an ideal family destination. A walk brings you to the town’s harbor, and activities beyond cooking include tours of lighthouses, marine wildlife viewing, kayaking, hiking and charming museums to explore. At the inn November–May, guests can book the Chef for a Day Program or private cooking classes with the inn’s owner, Chef Michael Salmon.


Onion Creek Kitchens at Juniper Hill Farms in Austin, Texas

The vast, ultra-modern Kitchen in the Grove is the setting for learning experiences on this 54-acre ranch, which also offers comfortable lodging. Classes include workshops with themes such as specialty bread baking, paella making and a layer cake workshop.


Shed in Healdsburg, Calif.

Classes in fermentation and pickling, fish preserving, jam making and how to use herbs in vinegar infusions are just a few of the seasonal classes offered in this food-meets-art market, winner of a 2014 James Beard Award for restaurant design, located in the lush wine country of Northern California.


The Essex Culinary Resort & Spa, Vermont’s Culinary Resort in Essex Junction, Vt.

Offering multiday food classes and experiences for all levels in the Cook Academy, guests can participate in hands-on cooking programs that feature local Vermont ingredients. The Camp Cook program (with multiple week-long dates June 5–Sept. 1) teaches kids kitchen safety and knife skills, plus allows for experiential activities that include picking seasonal herbs and gathering vegetables from the on-site gardens, and collecting eggs from the inn’s own hens.


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