I love taking cooking classes during my travels. No matter where you enroll, these courses often reflect local cuisine while providing new ideas for use at home. From Santa Fe to the Finger Lakes region of New York & agriculturally rich Wisconsin, these schools feature friendly, knowledgeable instructors, cool food prep tips, and great flavors. Here are four of my favorites:
Opened as The New York State Wine & Culinary Center, in June 2006, Canandaigua-based New York Kitchen pairs a gorgeous building with state-of-the-art kitchen facilities. Whether you take a hands-on class or view a culinary demo from comfortable arena seating, this nonprofit cooking school beautifully showcases the state’s food and wine bounty throughout its curriculum. Enjoy tasty, scratch-made cuisine and you may even improve your knife skills (as I did!).
For more than 30 years, Santa Fe School of Cooking has offered cooking demonstrations to hands-on cooking classes. You can choose from a .chile workshop, learn how to make traditional tamales, or even create classic mole sauce. Fresh and local ingredients always star in these, and many other dishes. And, no matter which class brings you to this beloved cooking school, the focus is always 'to celebrate and share the distinctive techniques and flavors of regional Santa Fe cuisine.'
I've also enjoyed classes at two Wisconsin culinary schools. At the L’Ecole de la Maison Cooking School, inside the Osthoff Resort (Elkhart Lake), gourmet fare rules,. During my first class I, and other travel writers, created a five-course French-inspired meal served with premium wine and white linens. My second visit involved a more casual menu, full of fresh produce from the Resort's massive garden. In each case, our gregarious chef/instructor provided patient and thorough instruction, for delicious results..
In Ellison Bay/Door County our press group enjoyed a culinary class showcasing summer produce, at Savory Spoon Cooking School. Longtime culinary professional, Chef Janice Thomas, has owned this school since 2005. It operates inside a renovated 1879 schoolhouse equipped with state of the art culinary equipment, tools and appliances. After three hours spent preparing a summer feast, we sat at well-dressed dining tables and enjoyed perfectly paired wine with our meal..Classes are available in June through October.
During the pandemic, be sure to check the website of each school for updates regarding the status of in-person classes.
Please note: As a writer associated with the travel industry, I received complimentary meals, lodging, and admissions during my visit to each city. While it has not influenced this post, I wish to disclose all potential conflicts of interest.
DRIVE TIME FROM LARGER CITY:
-San Antonio: 1 hour, 11 minutes
Key in hand, I approached the tiny house with pale yellow siding, white trim and a tin roof - my private home through the next four days of our press trip. The door beckoned below a small overhang,
This is a Fredericksburg ‘Sunday House,’ amid Texas Hill Country. This local tradition began when German farm families maintained the tiny properties for short stays in town. From the late 1800's into the 1920's, these miniature homes provided easy access to Saturday markets and Sunday worship. They also made it far easier for hard-working families to participate in Fredericksburg's special events, and to accomplish other business.
But as automobiles became increasingly popular, day trips replaced long 'layovers' in town. And having a Sunday House (haus, in German) became less of a necessity for many families. Simultaneously, some retiring farmers moved into their previous weekend homes, full-time.
Today, many remaining Sunday Houses have become homey accommodations for tourists. They’re often located within an easy walk from local restaurants, shops, and churches. There’s a Sunday House for any taste, whether you prefer space for two, or a family of four. Surround yourself in antique flagstone and pecan trees, enjoy a rocker on your private front porch, or book one of 14 Sunday House cottages, at Fredericksburg Herb Farm.
My Sunday House opened onto a compact living room, with mustard-colored walls and antique wood furnishings. A small couch and coffee table occupied much of the cozy space. German beer steins and figurines filled a massive hutch.
Beyond a wide archway a pastel quilt accentuated the white, wrought iron bed. It sat snugly, between two side tables. The compact bathroom felt bright and cheerful. Country-inspired décor filled the small kitchen, where a well-wrapped plate of pastries awaited me on the table, each morning. It was the perfect accompaniment to my freshly brewed pot of coffee.
If the weather had been warmer, I might have enjoyed breakfasts at the picnic table on the expansive deck,,or watched the river, from a bright Adirondack chair. To choose your perfect Sunday House for a stay in this vibrant small city, check out Visit Fredericksburg.
Please note: As a writer associated with the travel industry, I received complimentary meals, lodging, and admissions during my Fredericksburg visit. While it has not influenced this post, I wish to disclose all potential conflicts of interest.
DRIVE TIME FROM LARGER METROPOLITAN AREA:
-Kansas City area: 3 hours
It has been 83 years since the Nifty Nut House opened, on a quiet Wichita street. From the beginning, the store has stocked raw nuts and house-roasted salted, or roasted unsalted, nuts.
Today, this iconic third generation family-owned business offers 110 nut options. Buy raw pine nuts, Macadamia Nut Roasted Salted, Maple Nut Clusters and even Organic Hazelnuts. Chocolate lovers will find plenty of delicious options, too, from Mint Chip Malt Balls and Espresso Bean Dark Chocolate to Lindt Truffle Balls and Butterfinger Minis. Are you a fudge fan? Choose from among half a dozen flavors.
Kids of all ages love Nifty Nut House's colorful array of gum balls, and licorice varieties that include Licorice Money. Buy some candy necklaces and Pop Rocks too. Health-conscious customers also appreciate dried fruits, or vegetables such as Dried Green Beans, and many sugar free items that include dried unsweetened papaya spears.
The company moved to a larger building near its original site a couple of years ago, with a can't-miss mural that spans the entire front outdoor wall. It would be easy to spend an entire afternoon exploring this massive, well-stocked store. In fact, Nifty Nut House's current inventory includes more than 3,000 items plus holiday extras such as classic candy corn or American flag Tootsie Rolls
Where else can you purchase 10 pretzel flavors? Choose Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels, and dark or milk chocolate pretzels, to name a few. There's wedding-appropriate candy and treats to help announce the sex of a new baby. Purchase Good 'N Plenty or Cherry Sour Balls, or find Nostalgic Candy Mixes that reflect several different decades.
Love Jelly Belly candies? I doubt you'll find a larger selection anywhere. Choose your favorites from at least 60 flavors.
There's also plenty of fun stuff to see here. 1,000 vintage gumball machines that line upper walls reflect a collection spanning more than three decades, and colorful, locally handmade pinatas hang within view of the entrance. If you have a sweet tooth, be sure to visit the Nifty Nut House when you're in Wichita.
Please note: As a writer associated with the travel industry, I received complimentary meals, lodging, and a Nifty Nut House tour during my Wichita visit. While it has not influenced this post, I wish to disclose all potential conflicts of interest.
DRIVE TIME FROM LARGER CITY:
-Mobile, Alabama: 1 hour, 4 minutes
I have attended dozens of press trips throughout an equal number of years. But some of my favorite trips have included special events. I've enjoyed Fiesta San Antonio, Ann Arbor, Michigan's KindleFest, and holiday events in Fredericksburg, Texas.
During late 2018, our group traveled to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama. Not only would we become acquainted with this gorgeous place throughout our visit, but our group would also serve as judges for the 7th annual World Food Championships!
The 2018 event took place under enormous white tents, only minutes from shopping and dining inside The Wharf at Orange Beach. During the WFC's initial nighttime event - a fundraiser dinner for Operation BBQ Relief - dramatic lighting decorated tall palms amid the quiet shopping district.
Drawing 1,500+ contestants from 42 states, and 12 countries, 2018 WFC categories included Bacon, Chicken, Seafood, Barbecue, Chili, Steak, Burger, Sandwich Dessert and (best) Chef. And the payoff for five days of intense competition? A share from more than $350,000 in cash and prizes.
Beginning on the following day, we had plenty of time to watch early phases of competition. It was such a blast to see so many talented chefs at work. Each of them had won other competitions, first (a requirement for participation). Tents were filled with excited voices, smoke and hungry spectators.
Some of the event statistics were staggering:
-50,000 pounds of food in the WFC pantry
-10,000+ social media impressions and 3,738 article mentions before the event even started
-the oldest competitor was 91
-the youngest competitors were 14
-more than 500 culinary teams...
.....created nearly 7,000 dishes for judging
377 E.A.T. Certified Judges participated, with our group receiving onsite training. I then watched several judging categories, before it was my turn. Although judging Desserts captivated my sweet tooth, the time went so fast! Each participant showcased a complete dessert before presenting a single portion to each judge. Within minutes, desserts that crowded the table before me demanded judging in three categories: Execution (35 percent scoring weight): Appearance (15 percent); and Taste (50 percent weight). Judging required a lot of quick thinking, for everyone.
If all goes well, the 2020 World Food Championships will take place November 6-10, at Dallas' iconic, indoor, Fair Park. In the meantime, here are more photos from 2018.
Please note: As a writer associated with the travel industry, I received complimentary admission, judge training, meals and lodging, for the purpose of this review. While it has not influenced this post, I wish to disclose all potential conflicts of interest.
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