Celebrations International Travel Blog

Archive for January 2010

This entry was inspired by a conversation I had recently.  A caller tells me she wants to book a tour for a group of professional chefs.  “They don’t want to cook,” she insists.  “They just want to eat, drink, and be merry.”

Don’t get me wrong, I of all people am all for eating, drinking, and being merry, and the food and beverages are the highlight of any culinary tour.  However, these comments reminded of the need to re-state my agency’s approach to culinary travel

The idea behind a culinary tour is not simply to eat your way through your destination!  (See my previous post entitled “An Introduction to Culinary Travel”.)  The idea is to experience the destination through its food, wine, culinary traditions, history, culture, people, and way of life.  This can be achieved in any number of ways, but the point I’m trying to convey is that a culinary tour is not the same as a “restaurant tour”.  And Celebrations’ culinary tours are by no means designed to be run-of-the-mill bus tours that leave you with dizzying memories of getting on and off a bus for short stints.

When I say culinary travel is meant for travelers to experience their destination, I mean just that.  Get out of the motorcoach and experience your surroundings first-hand and up-close.  Maybe you’d like to stroll through the vineyards in Tuscany, or enjoy wine and cheese on the patio of one of the locales.  Maybe you’d like to visit a local market, where a guide could introduce you to some of the regional produce and specialty foods.  While you’re there, you might see a butcher in action, and you might want to buy a fresh, juicy cut of meat and bring it back to the villa where you’re staying so you can watch the chef prepare it for you.  These are all examples ways in which a culinary traveler might experience his or her destination. 

You might have noticed that I have not mentioned any type of hands-on cooking experience up to this point.  Why?  This is precisely how I would address a request that a custom culinary tour not include cooking.  If chefs, bakers, or other culinary professionals or enthusiasts don’t want to cook on their culinary tours, they don’t have to!  They’re on vacation, after all! 

And of course, although it is a culinary-themed tour, most travelers still want to sightsee, shop, or attend cultural events or festivals.  Our culinary tours are designed to accommodate all of that and are customized for you.  Whatever you want to see, do, and experience, we will help you make it a reality!

Regardless of what interests you, or what you’d like to enjoy on your tour, a myriad of choices will always await you.  The world is full of amazing destinations, and culinary travel provides an interesting and delicious way to explore them all!

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The Culinary Arts Centers aboard Holland America Line’s ships are presented in partnership with Food and Wine Magazine.  In these state-of-the-art facilities, Holland America guests have the opportunity to participate in cooking demonstrations, seminars by top chefs, wine experts, and cookbook authors.

The Culinary Arts Center is also available for private group events for wine clubs and culinary enthusiasts.  Holland America Line even offers special “Club HAL” programs for kids in the Culinary Arts Centers!

For more information on how you and your family, group, or organization could enjoy the use of these facilities onboard Holland America’s ships, contact us.  Our culinary travel experts would be glad to assist you!

We found some excellent mussels at the store on Saturday, and used them in a great seafood pasta:

1 Kielbasa Sausage

1 Can Chopped Clams

2 Pounds Mussels

2 Tablespoons Crushed Garlic

1/3 to 1/2 Cup Water

White Wine to taste

Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

1 Handful Coarsely Chopped Basil Leaves

Parsley to garnish

3 Teaspoons Sugar

Boil your favorite pasta (We used spaghetti) and set aside.  Add the crushed garlic and cut Keilbasa to a heated skillet coated with cooking spray.  Sautee until the keilbasa is lightly browned, just enough to impart flavor, and set aside.

In a Dutch oven or similar vessel, place the mussels and water.  Cover to steam partially, then add the chopped clams, kielbasa, garlic, white wine, basil, sugar, and pepper.  Cover to continue steaming mussels over medium heat.  When the mussels are fully open, remove the cover and continue cooking on medium heat for a few minutes to allow the flavor of the wine to infuse.

Serve hot over pasta and garnish with parsley if desired.  Mangia!

Are you a culinary enthusiast?  Please post to our blog and visit with us! You may enjoy taking a look at our culinary tour sample itineraries, all of which can be customized for your family or group.

Here is a recipe for some deliously simple Schwaben Klappen cookies that some friends brought to our house for Sunday brunch recently.  They’re perfect if you like your cookies a little sweet, but not too sweet.  My friends school-aged childen don’t like them, but my preschoolers couldn’t get enough!

Enjoy, and let me know how yours turn out!

1/2 LB Sweet Butter

1/2 LB Cream Cheese

2    Cups Sifted Flour

2    Egg Yolks

* Strawberry Jam (for filling)

Mix first four ingredients cream butter and cream cheese add egg yolks and blend. Add flour.Knead dough.  Dough will be sticky.  May need to add a little more flour.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled ( about 1 hour) . Cut off small piece of dough and roll thin (put remainder of dough in refrigerator to keep chilled) cut dough withe drinking glass fill dough with jam (small amount of jam on the end of teaspoon) Pat a little water on the edge of cut dough, fold over and press edge together with fork. Place cookies on ungreased sheet. Bake @ 400 12 to 15 min.     Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Taste versions of these and other German specialties on our Germany culinary tourContact us to plan your custom culinary tour today!

I have resisted the urge to voice my opinion on this matter for days.  Part of me thought “Let the big-wigs in the industry fight this one out,” and another part of me thought “It doesn’t matter what I as one agent think, it’s what the cruise line thinks.”  But I’ve seen this topic come up in countless consumer and travel industry news bulletins, and a client asked me about Labadee last week, so here’s my take on it:

I can definitely understand the viewpoint that asks “How can people be enjoying themselves on vacation when there’s death and devastation 100 miles away on the same island?”  Nobody is implying that cruise passengers and crew who visit Labadee don’t have the people of Haiti and their current struggles in their hearts and minds.

While it is quite unusual and ironic to think that people could enjoy a port call to a nation in such a situation, just imagine what would happen if Royal Caribbean and Celebrity had decided to skip all port calls in Labadee for the foreseeable future.  No one knows how long the clean-up and rebuilding efforts in Port au Prince and its environs might take, and in that time, would it be right to cut off the livelihoods of so many others outside of Port au Prince?  Sure, the cruise lines could choose to divert their ships to other ports, and their employees would continue on as usual, once all the details were ironed out.  But what about the people in Haiti who depend upon cruise tourism to make their living?  And wouldn’t the lack of visitors to Haiti increase the likelihood that citizens of other countries would start to not only disregard Haiti as a cruise destination, but forget about it altogether?

Travel industry professionals like myself believe strongly in supporting the locales from which we make our living.  The thought in this regard is much the same as protecting and preserving the environment in which cruise ships sail, resorts operate, and so on.  With that being said, I agree with Royal Caribbean and Celebrity’s decision to return to the port of Labadee.  They are doing so in support of the economy in Haiti, and their ships bring in much-needed supplies each time they are in port.  Especially with the cruise lines’ buildings and attractions in Labadee undamaged by the earthquake, what better way to make use of the port and incoming ships?

A tweet from @travelstour caught my attention just now, publicizing this article on foods named after places.

This article intrigued me for a number of reasons.  First, it was a fun challenge to see what I could add to their list.  I posted a comment with the following:

Carolina BBQ, Texas BBQ, Georgia peaches, Maryland blue crabs.

If I took more time, I think I think of quite a few more.

Second, this article got me thinking:  Identifying signature foods with certain places has everything to do with the very existence of culinary travel as a specialty travel niche.  If places were not culturally and historically identified with certain foods, culinary travel specialists like myself would not have much to talk about, would we?

Just off the top of my head, here are just a few examples featured in our own custom culinary tours:

French Champagne and Calvados, German Chocolate, Peking Duck, Edo-Style Sushi, Phad Thai, Chianti, and Rajasthani Thali

Indeed, we live in a very diverse, interesting, and tasty world!

Here is the text of an article I wrote that was published on WhereIveBeen’s “Your Daily Escape” yesterday.  Please note that the picture I’ve included here is different than that pictured on WhereIveBeen.com, and the links herein our for Celebrations International Travel’s site.

This tweet was WhereIveBeen’s announcement of my article:

whereivebeen International Flavor: An Introduction To Culinary #Travel http://su.pr/33u9Mi Thanks, Adrienne! (@celebrationsint) #foodies

Enjoy!

International Flavor:  An Introduction to Culinary Travel

By Adrienne Mitra
Celebrations International Travel

Culinary travel is an emerging trend amongst ardent travelers and food and wine lovers alike. What exactly does the term “culinary travel” bring to mind? As with any type of specialty travel, the variety of trips that could fall into the culinary travel category are as countless and unique as the travelers themselves: a weekend getaway visit to a special event like the Lobster Festival in Maine; a wine connoisseurs’ cruise; a tour of the Napa Valley vineyards; or hands-on cooking classes. What all of these culinary travel options have in common is this: The focus is not on simply having travelers eat their way through their destinations.

In my mind, the idea most intrinsic to culinary travel is that it provides travelers with the opportunity to immerse themselves in the culinary heritage and traditions of their destination. Excellent food and drink can be found anywhere in the world without necessarily having to travel. However, because food and its associated traditions are an intrinsic part of life, culinary travel is about experiencing a destination’s cuisine, culture, history, people, and way of life.

With this outlook, at my agency, Celebrations International Travel, we endeavor to create culinary travel that is unique and includes a variety of activities and experiences. We do this by combining elements of traditional sightseeing and cultural highlights with culinary-focused components to create customized tours. The culinary-focused components can be anything, depending on what the destination is best known for. For example, many culinary tours involve components that highlight the region’s renowned wines and classic cooking.

As a premier wine destination, your options in Tuscany are endless. For example, travelers can stay at a villa in the countryside with its own renowned chef. From this “home base,” travelers may choose to visit several wineries and sightsee in different parts of Tuscany. The winery experiences include not only wine tasting, but also olive oil, grappa, and cheese samplings. Guests have the opportunity to witness the wine-making, olive oil pressing, and cheese-crafting processes, take leisurely guided walks through the vineyards and olive groves, and enjoy visits with the local vintners and farmers. Germany is another great destination for wine connoisseurs, where travelers can choose to spend the night in a hotel room built in a hollowed-out wine barrel after a day of exploring the vineyards (pictured below)!  Guests may also enjoy a meal in the peaceful surroundings of a vineyard, grove, or farmhouse, with the venue’s signature wines as the centerpiece.

Wine Barrel Hotel Room in Germany

Stay in a hotel room built out of a wine barrel on our Germany culinary tour!

Speaking of meals, culinary travelers can enjoy hands-on cooking classes highlighting local specialties and ingredients. Sometimes the classes are held in culinary schools; other times they are hosted by well-known restaurants, villas, or bed-and-breakfasts. Whatever the venue, travelers will find themselves learning first-hand from culinary experts. In many instances, the “students” will assist the chef-instructor in gathering the ingredients to be used, either in an on-site garden or during a visit to a local market. The chefs introduce their guest students to the ingredients and guide them in the preparation of a gourmet meal that the entire group will enjoy at the conclusion of the lesson. These cooking classes give culinary travelers an excellent opportunity to try their hand at making pasta and other Italian favorites, learn the many uses of fresh Italian herbs, and enjoy a scrumptious meal that they helped create! Similarly, in Germany, guests may get to make an authentic Wienerschnitzel, learn various ways of incorporating fine German beers into traditional dishes, or try making Spaztle noodles. Best of all, cooking classes always end with a chance to sample the specialties made in the class!

There are many notable culinary destinations around the world. Domestic highlights include Napa and Sonoma, New England, the Louisiana Bayou, and the Hawaiian Islands. Internationally, France, Spain, Peru, Chile, China, Japan, Thailand, India, and Australia are some culinary hotspots to consider. No matter what destination you choose to explore from a culinary perspective, you are sure to find that a variety of activities and experiences await you.


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This is blog based on the experiences and interests of travel agency owners Adrienne and Agni Mitra. Through our blog entries, we will share our travel experience and expertise. We will also have other entries of interest to inspire your travels.

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