Now We’re Cooking!

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Where does a foodie really go for vacation?

The United States may not have a French castle or an Italian villa as backdrops for a cooking vacation, but we have bustling New York City, the coast of Maine, Cajun flavors of Louisiana, the Texas Hill Country and eastern Tennessee.

NYC Style
In New York City, the city that never sleeps, you can attend a wide range of courses at the Institute of Culinary Education. The Institute offers serious classes for chefs-in-training and recreational classes for vacationers conducted by top New York chefs. Once your meal has been prepared and eaten, the Institute will provide containers for you to take your leftovers for another meal later on. Part of the fun of the Institute’s cooking classes is tours of Chinatown and Union Square Greenmarket. A wide range of courses includes The Great New York Steakhouse!!, Couples Cooking: Pizza and Wine Bar, and Asian cooking. Another great cooking school in NYC is Eataly for the ins and outs of great Italian cooking. Learn how to make pasta sauce or train your wine sense through guided tastings. You can also find Eataly in Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles.

On the Seacoast
A few hundred miles up the east coast is Portland, Maine, a busy city that is slowly shifting away from the sea to a more service-based industry. It’s an area of the U. S. that truly appreciates good food. If you want to learn how to cook lobster, scallops you dug and striped bass, contact Lisa Lindblad of Willing Foot. You can stroll through Old Port, sampling artesian cheeses and sipping wine all under a cool sea breeze and the guidance of a local. The school even throws in a schooner tour of Camden Harbor.

Best of NOLA
Preparing seafood in Maine is quite different from cooking with Cajun flavors in the Big Easy. A unique culinary experience in New Orleans is Langlois Culinary Crossroads. Chef Amy Sins and her team take their show on the road; meals are hands on and prepared in different locations around the city as you learn the basics of Cajun or Creole cooking while experiencing a terrific meal. The client books the space, decides on the type of event and the type of food they want. The Langlois team will try to incorporate all wishes, and the client can choose among a dinner party, culinary competitions, tours and experiences replete with Louisiana’s culinary history.

Texas Hospitality
The Blair House Inn in Wimberly, Texas, will spoil you! Their three-day cooking schools are held once or twice a month and offer a wide range of food options. In general, the first day is arrival, a short meeting with the executive chef, a demonstration meal, discussion and recipe assignments for the following day. On the second day, you wake early to prepare and eat breakfast, after which you’re free until it’s time to prepare lunch. After lunch is prepared and eaten, there is another break to enjoy the Hill Country. At three, you begin to prepare your dinner. On the third day, only breakfast and a picnic lunch are prepared. One school is the BBQ Camp, during which you will learn to prepare Texas brisket, St. Louis-style baby back ribs, cedar planked salmon, chicken fajitas, and peach pie with homemade vanilla bean ice cream. Another option is Spanish Cuisine including paella, arroz con pollo and potato and chorizo trinxat.

Food, Wine and Music
Nestled in the Great Smoky mountains is Blackberry Farm. The farm grows much of its food and prepares it for guests. Visitors can sign up for cooking demonstrations or follow a chef around for a day to observe the preparation of food for crowds. There are courses in whiskey tasting and private or group wine tastings. Events range from concerts by the best country artists to truffle hunting with the farm’s Lagotto Romagnolo dogs or your own Lagotto. Exercise buff can take a bike tour of the Smokies or join the Cheese Geeks in a three-day appreciation of cheeses and how to prepare them. Special events are held seasonally and include Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day celebrations.

Whatever you decide; you should start to plan your vacation early. Many of the popular events sell out quickly. In others, such as the Institute of Culinary Education, the top chefs may teach only a few classes a year; if you want to be sure of getting your favorite chef, be an early bird. Travel to some of the destinations may be pricey, and others are pricey because of the uniqueness of their offerings. Nevertheless, when you consider that room, board and meals are all included in many packages, the cost is reasonable. Still, it’s time America ditched the fast food chains and showed more appreciation for the earth’s bounty. Bon appetit! ■

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