Celebrations International Travel Blog

Archive for the ‘Culinary Destinations’ Category

As part of Azamara Club Cruises‘ focus on destination immersion for its guests, their VP of Sales & Marketing Edie Borenstein hosts a series of video clips entitled “You’ll Love Where We Take You”.   Each episode highlights a different, unique destination to be experienced with Azamara Club Cruises.

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Omar Silingardi’s post entitled “In Search of Marco Polo” on Princess Cruises Travel Bucket List of Essential Experiences caused me to reflect on how Marco Polo’s travels had a great influence on the culinary world as we know it.  Omar tells us how annual trips to his ancestral town of Modena, Italy involve visiting with family and enjoying traditional Italian home cooking.  I don’t think life gets any better than great cooking enjoyed in picturesque settings like Modena.

If you like the sound of that, you might enjoy a culinary adventure of your own in Tuscany!  Check out our sample itinerary….At Celebrations International Travel, we customize all culinary tours to suit your needs, preferences, budget, and timeframe.  Who knows?  Maybe you’ll even consider combining a Princess cruise with a custom culinary tourContact us for more information.

Voterra in Tuscany, Italy

I received this recipe in a holiday greeting from Viking River Cruises, and it looks so good I had to share it!

Happy Holidays and enjoy: 

Viking River Cruises' Sachertorte

The year was 1832, and the Austrian minister of foreign affairs, Prince Metternich, ordered his court’s kitchen to create a special dessert for his high-ranking guests. But the head chef of his household was ill that day, so the task fell to his 16-year-old apprentice, Franz Sacher. Fortunately, the delicious chocolate cake he developed on the spot was a rousing success! Herr Sacher went on to become a famous confectioner. In 1876 his son Eduard opened the Hotel Sacher in Vienna, where the treat has been served to honored guests ever since.One of the best things about traveling with Viking River Cruises is the opportunity to sample delicious local cuisine. Here is a recipe from Austria—Sachertorte (pronounced “SOCCER tort”). While the dessert is found in many of Vienna’s coffeehouses, it can also be sampled on many of Viking River Cruises‘ ships.

Cake Ingredients
5 oz. softened butter
A half cup sifted powdered sugar
8 egg yolks
8 egg whites
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate
Two-thirds cup of flour
A half cup sugar
2 tablespoons apricot jam

Glaze Ingredients
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons butter

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Cream together butter and powdered sugar. Add 1 egg yolk at a time, mixing until creamy. Melt the 5 oz. bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler or microwave; gradually add to the creamed mixture. Fold in flour. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites and sugar until stiff. Fold into chocolate mixture. Pour batter into a lined 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 50-65 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack. Heat apricot jam and smooth over entire torte, including the sides. For glaze, melt the 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate with butter and frost the cake. Serve with whipped cream.

Makes 8-10 servings.

Check out this mouthwatering post on GotSaga.com that I was graciously invited to contribute to:  http://t.co/KcHBDfB Scroll down a bit until you see our picture!

Here’s the full text of my submission.  Enjoy!

China:  Peking Duck – A traditional three-course meal in which the duck is enjoyed in three different ways:  the crispy skin, the meat, and a soup course.

Thailand:  Phad Thai – This favorite is made up of flat, skinny rice noodles, bean sprouts, scallions, and other vegetables, tossed in a flavorful spicy and tangy sauce, topped with chopped peanuts.  The meat of your choice is most often added to this dish.

Vietnam:  Pho is a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup that is made in countless variations.  Vietnamese-style rice noodles are added to a spicy broth, along with beef, chicken, pork, or seafood and a variety of vegetables.  Diners are offered fresh lime, basil leaves, and bean sprouts to garnish to taste.

Australia:  Billy Tea & Damper:  A traditional Australian brewed tea with milk and sugar, enjoyed with a rustic-style biscuit.  The best thing about this is that it can be prepared virtually anywhere, including the middle of the Outback!

France:  Duck a l’Orange or Pate de Fois Gras – Duck with Orange Sauce or a terrine of Duck Liver Pate

Austria:  Weinerschnitzel – The traditional, richly-prepared Austrian veal cutlets

Switzerland:  Fondue or Raclette – The fondue is most often a mixture of different varieties of Swiss cheeses mixed with white wine or kirsch and fresh herbs, eaten with bite-sized pieces of a crusty baguette.  A raclette is a meal so unique I have never seen it elsewhere, even in Europe.  It requires a special grill with multiple compartments and surfaces, places in the middle of the table.  Diners choose from a variety of fresh vegetables, meats, eggs, or anything else the host fancies, puts the food in the raclette, and tops it off with cheeses, onion, garlic, herbs, and other condiments.  The heat from the raclette melds the ingredients together, resulting in a tasty and unique creation.

Spain:  Paella – This is a rice dish traditionally made with a variety of fresh seafood (clams, mussels, oysters, shrimp, scallops, etc.) and meats like chorizo and chicken.  Flavored with a rich broth and plenty of bright yellow saffron, paella can be prepared over an open fire and enjoyed on the beach, or savored in a five-star establishment.

Morocco:  Traditional Couscous –  This traditional meal is presented in huge, deep bowls.  First, a generous portion of couscous fills the bottom of the bowl, and is typically topped with cubed or sliced lamb, beef, and chicken or another meat of choice.  Fresh, colorful vegetables are added (root vegetables, etc.), then a slightly spicy, flavorful broth is ladled over everything….a great king-sized meal!

Gourmeted.com‘s featured Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna looks like it’s ready for the best Italian grandma’s Sunday dinner table!

Lasagna of Emilia-Romagna from Gourmeted.com

Lasagna of Emilia-Romagna from Gourmeted.com

Not only does this look delicious, but Joy from Gourmeted.com includes the recipe with instructions, including many pictures of her first attempt at lasagna-making.  What a wonderful first lasagna!

I know there are many wonderful cooks and culinary enthusiasts out there who share this passion for great food and excellence in our kitchens.  Follow your passions and indulge in a custom culinary tour to Italy, where you can take hands-on cooking classes, visit local markets with chefs, tour vineyards, taste wines, and do just about anything else you want to satisfy your culinary pleasures and curiosity.  Contact us to start planning your custom tour today!

Celebrations International Travel...Celebrating Life Through Travel

Whether you are an aspiring chef or simply an epicure, culinary travel promises the opportunity to truly savor your vacation. This growing trend of experiencing authentic cooking and dining around the world allows you to broaden your education and your palate at the same time. What a decadent way to travel!

The genre of culinary travel includes trips that focus on learning to create local dishes, those that emphasize tasting and wine pairing, and everything in between. As you can see, there are many options available. Let this TRO report assist in your planning, as it will provide you with the basic recipe for culinary travel. With it, you and your travel consultant are sure to cook up the perfect culinary adventure!

The most important consideration in planning your culinary vacation is whether you want to learn traditional recipes and cooking techniques, or if you’re more interested in enjoying the end result. Those wanting a strictly educational experience might enjoy cooking alongside famous chefs in renowned cooking schools. If dining inspires you, perhaps you would prefer the company of a learned chef as your guide. Or maybe you would like just a taste of culinary arts in your trip, as you explore other cultural aspects of your destination. The more consideration given to these issues before contacting a tour operator, the more efficient the planning process will be and the quicker you’ll be on your way.

If cooking is your passion, think about attending a cooking school, many of which boast award-winning chefs as instructors. If you go, you will have to consider your level of expertise to ensure pairing with courses that suit your abilities. The less experienced might learn more through hands-on instruction, while advanced students may feel confident in attending cooking demonstrations. You can even choose to learn a particular specialty such as pastry making. Wine schools are also a popular choice, offering classes on wine making, history, appreciation and pairing with foods.

For those interested in learning to cook according a country’s customs but want to spend a little less time in the kitchen, a cooking tour may be the best bet. Along with culinary classes, these tours are peppered with visits to wineries, vineyards, superior restaurants, and local markets and food producers. With some tours, you will travel to different cooking schools to take classes. Others offer the more intimate experience of attending the kitchens of various celebrated chefs.

Culinary tour guides, many of whom have backgrounds in history and/or cultural anthropology, will tell you the history of indigenous dishes, offer guidance while dining with you, and even provide cooking instruction. Your tour may be guided by an actual chef, or may enlist the services of two guides: one culinary and one cultural. Your guide should be bilingual, even if those providing the cooking demonstrations are not. And of course, if you would like to design your own culinary dream vacation, chef guides and cultural guides can be hired on an individual basis – the possibilities are endless!

Most cooking tours will accommodate travelers with every level of experience. However, general kitchen knowledge is expected. Before you go, ask your travel consultant if class participation is mandatory, or if you may merely observe. You will also want to inquire about attire. Cooking classes are generally casual, but more sophisticated dress may be necessary when dining out. You may also want to find out whether recipes will be provided after the demonstration.

Your tour operator should be able to accommodate any dietary needs regarding meals. However, the meals prepared during cooking classes, unless the class is designed and taken on an individual basis, are usually determined by the instructor and cannot be changed upon request. There are tours designed for vegetarians, which usually take place in Asian countries. Thailand, for example, boasts an annual vegetarian festival.

If you are more of a gastronome, you will want to take or design a tour that focuses on the pleasures of dining. Many culinary travelers maintain that there is no better way to learn about a culture than by sampling its traditional dishes. Such tours often include the excursions mentioned above, as well as more standard tourist attractions such as museums and art galleries. Certain tours allow more time for exploring the towns in which you stay. There are also more active tours, which incorporate such activities as hiking, painting and language instruction. These tours also provide a good option for those wanting to dine independently.

Not surprisingly, the most popular destinations for gourmet vacationing are Italy and France. Tasting tapas in Spain is also en vogue. When visiting these popular regions, the earlier you make your reservation, the better. But Europe isn’t your only option. You may enjoy a culinary cruise to the Caribbean, or take a chef-guided tour of Mexico. For the more adventurous, culinary tours are offered in such exotic locales as Morocco, India and Vietnam. For those looking for an experience closer to home, consider becoming a barbecue connoisseur in West Virginia or cook up some Creole in Louisiana.

Travelers may also take a culinary vacation by means of a food festival. The Netherlands boasts an international food-tasting festival every August, and Georgia is home to the annual Vidalia Festival. If you appreciate good beer as much as good food, Oktoberfest is certain to leave you hoppy.

The cost of a culinary vacation varies widely. The biggest factor in determining the price of your trip is whether you opt for a package tour, which generally means sharing your travel experience with other culinary enthusiasts. Most culinary tours are packaged at a fixed price that includes daily classes, meals, excursions, accommodations and ground transportation. You will be responsible for making your own travel arrangements to the school or destination, a task with which your travel consultant can greatly assist. The cost of your trip is further determined by the country visited, the extent of teaching provided, the quality of restaurants enjoyed, and the number and nature of excursions taken.

Accommodation is also a factor. Luxury and high-end hotels are a more expensive option. Staying in a countryside villa may not be as posh an experience, but the relaxation granted by fresh air and lush landscapes could prove to be priceless. Work through the options with your travel consultant. The more clearly you state your own preferences, the better your travel consultant can work with the tour operator to properly accommodate you and your traveling companions.

When pricing your stay, remember to take into consideration any Value Added Tax (VAT) levied by many countries in Europe and elsewhere. Because VAT is often as high as 20% of the cost of an accommodation or good purchased, the amount is often not insignificant! Many travelers assume that VAT is refundable. However, this is typically not the case for services such as transportation, accommodation, food, gas or any other goods or services consumed within the country itself. Ensure that the price you are quoted includes all taxes and other fees.

Sound too good to be true? It’s all for real and with a little planning a culinary vacation can be an absolutely wonderful way to garnish your next trip away from home.

Content courtesy and with the express permission of Travel Research Online.

For a sample of Celebrations International’s culinary tours please visit our Culinary tours homepage. Please note that all our tours are fully customized!

Check out this divine tiramisu made by Joy of Gourmeted.com.  Looks just as good as restaurant-quality, but it’s homemade!  Read more about Joy and her love of cooking, and follow her on Twitter @Gourmeted.

Tiramisu by Gourmeted.com

Homemade Tiramisu by Joy of http://www.Gourmeted.com

Click on the photo above to view Joy’s recipe.

If you love Italian food and want to enjoy an authentic Italian culinary experience, check out Celebrations International Travel’s Tuscany culinary tour.   The itinerary posted is only an example of the types of tours we can custom create for your family, group, or organization.  Let us help you plan an ideal tour to savor the tastes of Tuscany!

View sample itineraries for other featured culinary destinations.  In case you’re interested in a destination that’s not featured, contact us.  We can customize culinary tours throughout most of the world.


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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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