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Cooking Around the World--
Diverse Culinary Adventures
Tempt the Global Gourmand

By MeiMei Thai
GoNOMAD Staff

Tasty dishes, fine wine, excellent cooking classes, beautiful scenery – who wouldn’t want to go on a food tour to Europe? Three tour companies that offer these trips are Epiculinary, My Croatia, and Active Gourmet Holidays.

“Unique cooking vacations” of over 100 programs throughout Europe and North American such as Spain, France, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, and the U.S. are offered by Epiculinary. Vacations range from a two to a 14-night stay. Activities include cooking lessons, excursions, and wine tasting.

Epiculinary’s vacation program focus are on healthy vegetarian, American Regional, East Asian-Pacific Rim, French, Indian, Italian, Spanish, and Mexican culture, cuisines, and wine, and they are available year-round.

“Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast are two of the most famed and desired destinations to Italy ,” president and owner of Epiculinary Catherine Merrill says via email. “They have been for hundreds of years, [and] Epiculinary just added a wonderful cooking school in Ireland called Belle Isle. It’s our hottest new property.”

My Croatia

“Our holidays focus on authentic experiences in unspoilt locations,” Vanessa Borcic, director of My Croatia says “We explore the links between a region’s food, drink and culture… Our tours are private, flexible and designed for groups of 2 to 12 persons, [and] we combine self-drive day trips, escorted visits, private presentations and courses.”

My Croatia has “the flavors, the beauty, and the lifestyle.” They have programs in different settings from the hilltop towns to the island villages, and they take you to kitchens, vineyards, markets, and gardens, as well as truffle hunting.

That just gives you a taste of Croatian culture. My Croatia programs allow you to tour in small, private groups with family and friends with professional local cooks and wine experts. You can also relax in the different lodges they provide: country homes, B&Bs, farmhouses, historical and boutique hotels, or family-run guesthouses, which are included with your vacation program.

Events in Croatia include Gourmet Istria and Dubrovnik’s Wine and Oysters. Gourmet Istria is offered from March through June and September through November, and the Wine and Oysters begin from March through November. Both events are one week long, and usually focus on other ethnic cuisines, vacation programs, and wine.

Gourmet Istria

Included in the Gourmet Istria program are private wine tour and tastings, musical evenings, gastronomy presentations, excursions and sightseeing, and genuine hospitality in an unspoilt landscape.

Hosts Drazenka and Rolf Moll will present their presentations of Istrian cuisine. All their dishes -- including pork, lamb, prosciutto and cheese, pasta and bread, wild asparagus, black and white truffles, and many others -- are made from local ingredients. Contemporary dishes include pikuleci and a dessert made with vodka and lemon.

Making pasta in Italy. photo: epiculinary.

Besides the traditional feasts, you will be taken on a tour to Svetvincenat, a Renaissance town with a 16th-century castle and moat, loggia and town square. You’ll be traveling on the roads throughout Istria and strolling through vineyards – this will give you a better sense of what it’s like.

Dubrovnik’s Wine and Oysters

Dubrovnik’s Wine and Oysters’ event is set in Dubrovnik and offers excursions to the beautiful Peljesac peninsula to explore, private wine tasting and tours, champagne, oysters, and Dalmatian cuisine.

The Peljesac peninsula features charming medieval towns, hidden coves and pebbly beaches. You will also get a chance to learn about the different types of grapes from different regions and how the environment affects them. Tasting the peninsula’s most popular wines, Dingac and Plavac Mali will top off the day. The next day, you will motorboat around Dubrovnik and learn more about its history, and a meal of fresh seafood will be served afterwards.

Active Gourmet Holidays gives travelers a 3-day to 2-week vacation to “nourish the senses, refuel the body, and replenish the spirit.”

One of the most popular cooking classes are, “Tuscan cooking classes,” owner of Active Gourmet Holidays Jo-Ann Gaidosz says. “People seem to want simple and delicious recipes.”

Active Gourmet Holidays has several outdoor activities for those who are adventure seekers. They offer biking along the coast of Saint Tropez or hiking in the Italian Riviera. Other options include learning how to cook, speak Italian, painting, photography, yoga, horseback riding, and of course, dining and wining. Like My Croatia, they also take visitors in small, private groups into vineyards and local food producers.

“Cooking, food and wine, and hiking vacations are hot right now,” Gaidosz says. “I focus on these as well as combination holidays--pairing cooking/food [and] wine with something active.”

If Tuscany isn’t the place you want to visit, there are other destinations the Active Gourmet Holidays offer. You can go to different areas in France such as Provence, Northern Loire, and Basque. Perhaps you want to go to a different area in Italy such as Southern Chianti, Sorrento, or Venice. Spain and Portugal are other alternatives.

So when can you book a trip? The schedule begins from April through July and September through November.

Homestyle Tuscan Cooking

Active Gourmet Holidays holds events from February through December. Hands-on cooking classes are held in Florence and Chianti. Hosted by Simonetta and Paolo for 15 years, they teach traditional Italian family recipes to guests, who will have the opportunity to live in an Italian home. A definite plus in learning more about the people and their way of living.

What more could you ask for? The Homestyle Tuscan Cooking program will give you the whole Italian experience. Living with a local family, learning how to cook Italian dishes, possibly picking up their language, and tasting the delicious Italian food and fine wine.

Listed as one of the top 25 cooking school/food and wine programs in “Cooking School Holidays,” Active Gourmet Holidays offers another program called A Taste of Seville, which focuses on Spanish food and wine. Another culture to experience head on with a 3-night stay or a 6-night stay.

A Taste of Seville includes learning and seeing where red wines are produced, excursions to Jerez and Sanlucar, olive oil tastings, visiting tapas bars, and food and wine tasting. If you chose the 6-night stay, you get to take two cooking classes including a visit to a 1755 olive oil mill.

All three tour companies offer exquisite and unique opportunities for travelers. Eating, drinking wine, and immersing yourselves in the community is a great way to experience a country up close.

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