It Starts with a Square

Culinary Excellence

BY Nick Cotros

Far beyond the sugar and the salt, culinary excellence is the collection of exotic flavors that takes your taste buds on a global snacking tour – bringing unique tastes, from near and far, to your snack tray for new adventure moments!

Many of us have started to realize the strongest memories we bring back home from vacation have to do with food. Have you ever noticed how even the faint aroma of something you ate on vacation instantly takes you back to when and where you experienced it? Maybe you took a really great food tour, or learned to make pasta in a cooking class, or even ate at a particularly amazing restaurant. Those are all cherished memories now.

Culinary tours, as well as food and wine cruises, have grown in popularity over the past few years. We have found that more and more people are interested in cooking classes, wine tastings, beer tours, and learning special techniques and traditions from the locals.

So, where would you like to go? We are always searching for culinary vacations that promise incredible dining options, fun food-inspired experiences, and some really good wine to wash it all down. And, while there are so many great locations around the world that satisfy that craving, some stand out more than others in the culinary department.

Here are our top 5 international destinations:

Italy: Tuscany, Italy is on everyone’s bucket list (when it comes to foodies) because you can take cooking classes. From the homemade pasta and rich, meaty tomato sauces, to drinking wine and eating briny olives and antipasto on the terrace overlooking the vineyards, this experience can be found all over Italy. Best of all, there’s no shortage of cooking schools and wine tasting tours.

Paris, France: When people plan trips to Paris, they tend to forget that the city is a foodie paradise. There are so many fun, food related things to do that are sure to enhance your trip. You will find that croissants and Croque Monsieurs belong right there alongside the Eiffel Tower and Sacré-Coeur. No vacation to the French capital is complete without trying the many foods that make the country so unique – yes, escargot and frog legs included.

England: People often think England doesn’t have any good food, or that it consists merely of fish and chips and pub food, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, London is one of the biggest food cities in the world, and you can find every type of cuisine imaginable in the city. Plus, where else in the world can you find tea shops at every corner?

Spain: You may or may not have heard of this one, but San Sebastian, Spain is perhaps the greatest food destination in the world, with more Michelin stars per capita than any other city. It makes our list not only because of the overabundance of haute cuisine, but also because of its incredible views over the crescent bay and the beautiful La Concha Beach. The city is also within easy driving distance of some of Spain’s famed Rioja wine producers.

Bordeaux, France: Combine the delicious wines of Bordeaux with the gorgeous scenery, and you have the vacation every foodie has been dreaming about in France! A bike tour through Bordeaux is perfect for wine enthusiasts, foodies, and really anyone who wants to enjoy the countryside, while biking through some of the world’s most beautiful vineyards.

Here are our top 5 destinations in the United States for a culinary experience: New Orleans, New York, Seattle, Chicago, and Napa Valley.

If you are a foodie or a wine enthusiast and would like to visit several destinations all during the same trip, we suggest a cruise. You only have to unpack once!

A food or wine cruise offers the conviviality of traveling with a group of like-minded people and a myriad of private events, dinners, and tastings scheduled onboard the ship and on land. Your cruise is two programs in one – an exclusive group program PLUS all the fun and features of cruising on a deluxe ship. There are several ocean and river cruise lines that are known for their dining experiences and their wine tastings. These cruises have master chefs on board that go to the local markets in each city to collect the ingredients for your specialty dinners.

That being said, did you know that you can actually go with them? These cruise lines offer chef guided tours of local markets and restaurants, tantalizing your palate with the ingredients and aromas of your destination. You will get to learn the techniques for sourcing, preparing, and cooking, then finish the evening with an exclusive galley tour and a specially-prepared dinner inspired by the local cuisine. You can even take shore excursions, which often include unique opportunities to visit a private home for cooking classes. Every meal can be a destination and is its own globally-inspired and locally-sourced experience.

You also have wine tours, where you can spend the day exploring wineries and tasting an array of local vintages. Or maybe you would be more interested in discovering some of the destination’s craft beers and taking a private tour to one of its breweries. But, the best part of it all? Retiring back to the ship after a long day of wine tasting to relax on your balcony or enjoy dinner al fresco as you sail off into the sunset, surrounded by sweeping vineyard views.

Whether you want to immerse yourself in Livorno’s rich Italian culinary traditions, taste some of Sorrento’s culinary artistry on an exploration of local markets, or discover some of Cartagena’s best craft beers while enjoying a private tour of the Cerveza Artesana Brewery in Spain, there’s a lot you can choose from!

Come and savor the taste of the world’s finest food and wine, as these marvelous meals and wonderful wines are often what you remember most when returning from a trip. Why not make it the main focus of your next vacation?

May/June 2020 Tour Collierville Magazine