COOKING UP A DREAM VACATION
You've got to learn how to make Tarte Tatin sometime. What's stopping you from doing it in Burgundy?
Inspired cuisine often springs from enchanting countryside: spicy soups and rich curries from Thailand's verdant north; handmade pastas from Italy's art-infused Veneto; the cheeses and Rhône Valley wines that sustained post-Impressionist painters in Provence.
These dazzling locales are also fertile grounds for gifted chefs who have their own cooking schools or courses. From Indonesia to Italy, these culinary masters are eager to share their secrets with travelers who want an extra helping of adventure while seeing the world.
ENGLAND Great Milton · Oxford
Le Manior aux Quat'Saisons
DREAMLOCATION This 15th-century manor house surrounded by a profusion of gardens recalls a scene out of a Lewis Carroll tale. Each room at the 27-acre English country estate overlooking the Thames Valley is heady with atmosphere. The rustic Provence room has an open, wood-burning fireplace, and the Opium room evokes the naughty side of Asia, with its private walled garden, low bed and stone Ming Dynasty carvings.
COOKINGSCHOOL This is the only cooking school held in the kitchen of a two-star Michelin chef. Chef Raymond Blanc's method eschews ironclad rules in favor of more eccentric teaching techniques. The two-acre kitchen garden grows 90 types of vegetables and over 70 kinds of herbs.
COURSES The newest courses are on nutrition and modern cuisine, including instruction on "super foods," healing and food's protective properties. Classes are geared to different levels of expertise: Class One teaches basic skills, and Classes Two and Three the more advanced skills. Classes are limited to 10 people each.
TEACHER Chef Raymond Blanc has maintained his two Michelin stars for 18 years. His imaginative menu includes dishes with Perigord truffles, rustic boudin noir, and a sinful terrine of foie gras and quince. He still manages to maintain respect for the environment and be grounded in the principles of nutrition.
WINEMOMENTS The wine program includes wine dinners that feature such bottlings as Ruinart Champagne and Castello Banfi, and a special dinner with Joachim Heger, owner and winemaker of Germany's Heger Estate.
AFTER-SCHOOLACTIVITIES Close to such landmarks as Windsor Castle, Oxford and the Cotswolds, visitors will also find croquet, horseback riding, fishing and clay pigeon shooting.
PRICESANDRESERVATIONS Package includes five nights of accommodations, most meals and cooking school tuition. Price: 1,775 British pounds single occupancy (a companion can stay free, paying only for meals), 3,195 pounds double. One-day courses include tuition, a menu gourmand dinner and accommodations. Price: 550 British pounds per person. Two-day course: 995 pounds. Wine dinners range from 175-195 pounds per person. Tel.: 01844 278881; Fax: 01844 278847; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
ITALY outskirts of Verona
at Villa Giona
DREAMLOCATION The Romeo and Juliet-steeped city of Verona is a center of Italian architectural and culinary treasures. Villa Giona, where guests both live and learn, is a Renaissance gem situated on 15 acres of gardens and 12 acres of vineyards.
COOKINGSCHOOL Giuliano Hazan immerses students in the food, wine and lifestyle of Italy. Each day's lesson culminates in a classic meal, which often includes dishes such as tortelloni filled with Swiss chard, and monkfish baked with juniper berries, straight out of Marcella Hazan's and Giuliano Hazan's cookbooks. Classes are limited to 12 people.
COURSES In five-hour, hands-on classes, students learn practical techniques such as deboning a chicken breast, making homemade pasta, pounding veal and practicing basic knife skills. Each session includes a presentation by Marilisa Allegrini, of Allegrini Winery, on the major wine-producing regions of Italy. Each day, students taste four to six wines, and pair them with meals.
TEACHERS Giuliano Hazan, son of noted Italian food authority Marcella Hazan, celebrates Italian cuisine in his books, which includes the James Beard-nominated The Classic Pasta Cookbook. Marilisa Allegrini is part owner of the award-winning Allegrini Winery.
WINEMOMENTS Students receive a behind-the-scenes tour of the Allegrini Winery. They will also go on excursions to Allegrini's Palazzo della Torre, La Grola and La Poja vineyards, as well as those at the Villa Giona estate.
AFTER-SCHOOLACTIVITIES Excursions include visits to a frantoio, to see olive oil being made; to nearby Emilia-Romagna to witness production of both Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and culatello, the air-dried ham that's more prized than prosciutto.
PRICESANDRESERVATIONS Six nights' accommodation at the villa, all classes, field trips and five restaurant meals costs $3,800 for participating students, and $2,800 for companions. Web: www.giulianohazan.com or www.allegrini.it. Tel.: 39 941 923 1333.
DREAMLOCATION Deep in the hills at the foot of Sicily's Madonie Mountains, this flower-filled, 19th-century wine estate remains a working vineyard and farm. Rows of vines alternate with almond and olive trees, and birds come here to spend the winter. The school's founder, Anna Tasca Lanza, keeps the region's past alive by growing heirloom varieties of fruits such as pomegranates and quince.
COOKINGSCHOOL This traditional cooking school has attracted such students as Julia Child and Alice Waters. The vegetables, fruit, wheat, olives, cheese and wine that are used in class are all produced on the estate. Lanza is always adding new things to her curriculum. "Recently I added my husband," she jokes. He's a historian; he likes to give informal talks before cooking class begins. Class size: 12 people.
COURSES Classes vary with the season, but often include a tour of the estate's vegetable gardens, and visits to a shepherd who produces Pecorino and Ricotta cheese. Students travel to a local trattoria in the nearby Madonie Mountains (an area still untouched by tourism) to sample regional wild mushroom and asparagus specialties, and shop at the market in Vallelunga.
TEACHERS Anna Tasca Lanza is the author of such classic volumes as The Heart of Sicily and The Flavors of Sicily.
WINEMOMENTS Sicily has supported vines since 500 BC, and at the Regaleali Winery, one of the island's oldest, contemporary enological systems reside behind a 19th century wood and stone façade.
AFTER-SCHOOLACTIVITIES The fabled Greek ruins of Agrigento are only an hour's drive away.
PRICESANDRESERVATIONS Prices include accommodation, meals, cooking school tuition and excursions. Monday-Saturday courses are $2,250 per person. Three-day classes are $1,250. For $700/couple, the school offers dinner, an overnight stay and a cooking lesson. Courses are held in the fall (September through early November), and in the spring (March through May). For reservations, call: 011 (39) 091 450727 or (39) 0921 544011 (Regaleali). Fax: (39) 0921 542783. Web: www.tascadalmerita.com; e-mail is email@example.com. Reservations can also be made through Cuisine International (www. cuisineinternational.com).
INDONESIA Jimbaran Bay · Bali
Four Seasons Resort
DREAMLOCATION Bali's mist-covered mountains overlooking lush terraced rice fields is the tropical traveler's Valhalla. At the Four Seasons Resort, walled villas—each with its own outdoor living area and plunge pool—sprawl down the hillside to the sea.
COOKINGSCHOOL The school is housed in a stone garden compound, with a kitchen that is both ethnic and state of the art: equipment includes a tandoori oven, duck roaster, Asian cooking range and induction hot plates that allow students to cook along with the chef. Class size: 10 people.
COURSES "The Art of Balinese Entertaining" covers traditional decorations and customs such as sarong tying, as well as matching wines to Indonesian foods. "Balinese Cuisine" uses spices from the hotel's herb garden such as Kemangi leaf (sweet basil), lemongrass and kafir lime. "Spa Cuisine" introduces the local ginger-based elixir jamu.
TEACHERS Courses are taught by the resort's Balinese-born and trained sous chef, Wayan Gelgel.
WINEMOMENTS The hotel brings in wine experts and holds the occasional wine dinner. In short: you haven't come for the wine.
AFTER-SCHOOLACTIVITIES Bali retains its cultural depth even in the wake of tourism. Every inhabitant seems to be a part-time painter, weaver or wood carver. Classical dance dramas based on Hindu epics are frequently performed.
PRICESANDRESERVATIONS The six-night cooking school package includes four cooking classes, lunch for two at the Four Seasons Resort Bali Sayan in the hill country, and accommodations. Price is $583 per night, double occupancy, with one person participating in the cooking school. The second villa occupant may take courses for an extra $90 per class. The school is also open to non-hotel guests. Tel.: (62 361) 701010. Fax: (62 361) 701020. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web: www.fourseasons.com.
THAILAND Chiang Mai
Lanna Cooking School
at the Chiang Mai Regent
DREAMLOCATION On 20 acres of opulent gardens landscaped with lily ponds, waterfalls and a profusion of tropical foliage, this tranquil up-country resort is fringed by the Doi Suthep Mountains.
COOKINGSCHOOL l Just opened in January 2003, the cooking facility's timber floors and rustic zinc range hoods recall the 16th-century Ayuthaya age. The school has an herb and spice garden, which grows ingredients essential to the Asian larder like lemongrass, ginger, turmeric and chili. Class size: 16 people.
COURSES Classes cover such subjects as fruit and vegetable carving, the secret of Thai curries, savory rice and sweet desserts and spicy salads. There is also an introduction to ancient Thai cooking implements and a daily talk on local culture.
TEACHERS Thai-born Chef Pitak Srichan has just arrived from stints in Malaysia and Germany.
WINEMOMENTS The cooking school is quite new and a wine program is still in the works. Some of the stars, so far, on the hotel's wine list include Domaine Zind Humbrecht's 1999 Wintzenheim Gewürztraminer, and Leeuwin Estate's 1995 Art Series Riesling, both of which go brilliantly with spicy Thai dishes. For sweet Thai dishes, try the Verget 2000 Cuvée des 10 Ans Chablis.
AFTER-SCHOOLACTIVITIES The resort is close to orchid and butterfly farms, hill tribe villages, handicraft, antique and silk shops and golf courses. In this neck of the woods, elephant trekking is also an option.
PRICESANDRESERVATIONS The package includes seven nights of accommodations, six days of cooking classes, a two-hour herbal aromatic retreat at the Lanna Spa, a Thai dinner in the guests' private open air sala, a tour of the resort's organic farm and rice paddies, a Thai home-style dinner off the property and trips to the local night market. Classes run Monday-Saturday, April through September. Double-occupancy cost is $2,175 for one student, $2,875 if both guests are taking courses, plus 18.5% tax and service. (Four-night package from $2,200 double.) Tels.: 800/332 3442; (66) 53 298 181. Fax: (66) 53 298 189.
FRANCE Provence and Paris
At Home with Patricia Wells
DREAMLOCATION Patricia Wells's Provençal home is a restored 18th-century farmhouse surrounded by vineyards and landscapes that inspired Van Gogh, Cezanne, Picasso and Renoir. The nearest town, Vaison-la-Romain, has a vibrant farmer's market, Roman ruins and a medieval perched village. Wells also runs classes from her Left Bank artists' atelier in Paris.
COOKINGSCHOOL Wells reveals the soul of the Provençal countryside in hands-on cooking classes in which students use herbs from her garden, grapes from her vineyard, olives from local groves and sourdough bread baked in a wood oven fired with vine clippings. She also guides students to local markets, shops, vineyards and restaurants, and to producers of local olive oils and cheese. Paris classes offer tastings of wine and of a range of oils such as sesame, pistachio and almond, as well as an insider's tour of markets, cheese and wine shops, and boutiques.
COURSES Wells runs special themed courses. One is centered around truffles; the week includes a truffle hunt and a peek at the enigmatic truffle market. Preparations that you learn may include soupe au pistou, sorrel and mint salade chiffonnade, and fig and almond gratin with thyme sugar. "Fitness Week" includes techniques for light cooking. Typical class size: 10 people.
TEACHERS This American doyenne of French food and culinary life has been the restaurant critic for The International Herald Tribune, and is the only American (and the only woman) to serve as the restaurant critic for a major French publication (L'Express). Her eight books include the James Beard award-winning Patricia Wells at Home in Provence, The Food Lover's Guide to France, and its sibling publication on Paris.
WINEMOMENTS Wells is just as pleased to introduce guests to the region's inexpensive wines as to the top-rated vintages from Gigondas, Vacqueyras and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. She runs tastings of such local wines as Gigondas and Beaumes-de-Venise, and her property's own fragrant Côtes-du-Rhône is Clos Chanteduc, made of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre grapes. The "Wine Week" course features tastings led by Juan Sanchez, the American proprietor of the popular Paris wine shop, La Derniere Goutte.
AFTER-SCHOOLACTIVITIES The historic towns of Avignon and Aix-en-Provence are nearby, as are Côtes-du-Rhône vineyards and the seductive lure of Vaison cafés.
PRICESANDRESERVATIONS Much of the 2003 schedule is already booked; reservations are now being taken for 2004. The five-day Provence classes for 2003, which include most meals but not lodging, are $3,000 per person. Wine Week is $3,500 per person. In 2004, the class fee will be $3,500. The 2004 Paris classes, including lunches but not dinners or lodging, will be $3,500. Reservations: Judith Jones,
708 Sandown Place, Raleigh, NC 27615. Fax: 919/845-9031. E-mail: email@example.com.
USA AND FRANCE
Courses at the Greenbrier
(West virginia) and
La Varenne Ecole
de Cuisine (burgundy)
DREAMLOCATION The French site of Anne Willan's celebrated cooking school is the 17th-century Château du Feÿ, which overlooks Burgundy's Yonne Valley, a hotbed of Michelin-starred restaurants. This lovingly restored stone mansion, lushly photographed in Willan's book, From My Chateau Kitchen, has its own herb garden, swimming pool and tennis court. Willan's U.S. base is the bucolic Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia.
COOKINGSCHOOL This is an intensive five-day program of hands-on sessions, guided wine and cheese tastings, and forays to a regional market and a vineyard in Chablis. The program also includes dinner at such Michelin-starred restaurants as La Madeline in Sens, and the Côte St. Jaques in Joigny. Class size: 10 people.
COURSES Master classes consist of two hands-on sessions taught by Anne Willan, and two demo classes with local chefs. Students learn a variety of techniques, including sautéing, baking, roasting, poaching and creating classic sauces. They'll fix dishes such as wild mushroom mousse, apple Tarte Tatin, tangerine soufflé and poached eggs in meurette red wine sauce. An artisan baker teaches with the aid of an ancient bread oven.
TEACHER British-born Anne Willan, founder of La Varenne, has authored over a dozen cookbooks including Cooking With Wine and the 17-volume Look and Cook series. In June and July Willan teaches in France, and in March and April at the Greenbrier.
WINEMOMENTS A tasting at a Chablis vineyard may include tantalizing wines you can't buy at home. The pre-dinner apéritif is Crémant, a local sparkling wine. Meals are accompanied by traditional Burgundian vintages from Irancy and Chablis.
AFTER-SCHOOLACTIVITIES An on-site tennis court and swimming pool keep students occupied in their down time (which isn't much). For those with a case of chateau fever, Paris is only 90 minutes away.
PRICESANDRESERVATIONS France: The Sunday to Friday program of cooking classes, meals and excursions, including pickup and return to Paris, is $3,245, double occupancy. There are only four to six sessions offered each year. Tel.: 800/537- 6486. Fax: 703/823-5438. Web: www.lavarenne.com. La Varenne at the Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia: Includes lodging, most meals and resort amenities, from $1,900 for three days, $2,300 for five days. Tel.: 800/228-5049. Fax: 304/536-7834. Web: www.greenbrier.com
USA California · Napa
Beringer Master Series
on Food and Wine
DREAMLOCATION At the epicenter of the Napa Valley looking up at the mountains, Beringer. the region's oldest winery, is now celebrating its 126th anniversary. Its historic pedigree is evident in the hand-dug aging tunnels and the 19th-century Rhine House, with its slate-covered, gabled roof and Art Nouveau stained glass windows.
COOKINGSCHOOLThe area's most innovative chefs and vintners open their doors to students, offering a backstage view of the Napa Valley.
COURSES While each class is unique, guests might play winemaker for a day, blending six Beringer single-vineyard wines to create their own cuvées. Students might also learn to make salmon coronets from Chef Thomas Keller of the French Laundry, filet a turbot from Chef Mark Franz of Farallon Restaurant, or debone a squab from Chef Todd Humphries of St. Helena's Martini House. After the work's done, students dine on such dishes as pan-seared squab breasts with corn pudding truffle sauce and chanterelles—all at the Napa Valley hillside estate of Martini House owner Pat Kuleto. Class size: 8-12 people.
TEACHER Participating chefs are some of the keenest talents in the country. Past instructors have included Bradley Ogden of The Lark Creek Inn and Gary Danko of Restaurant Gary Danko.
WINEMOMENTS In visits to top wineries such as Pahlmeyer, Grace Family Vineyards, Spottswoode and Stags' Leap, guests explore cellars and spend time in vintner's homes.
AFTER-SCHOOLACTIVITIES Croquet and spa treatments at Meadowood.
PRICESANDRESERVATIONS One-day classes are $175, three-day courses are $1,275 without hotel, and $1,975 including accommodations at Meadowood. The school also runs two 10-day excursions to France, and one 10-day wine extravaganza to Tuscany, each at $5,500 per person. Phone: 707/967-4451. Fax: 707/963-5521. Web: www.beringer.com