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Food and Wine Tours – 7 Ways for Adding Culinary Depth to Your Travels
Food and wine had been the basis of their courtship. Marriage brought an end to these quiet and yet exciting times. She has said little through the years as he went off with golfing pals and corporate jaunts while she stayed at home. His conscious always treated her to spa visits and club memberships to make up for it. Now, he wanted something for just the two of them. Twenty five years together deserved a celebration.
He was looking for a place near enough to allow them more time for each other and less time for travel. They needed to find a way of enjoying what they both loved and yet rediscovering their mutual passions for life and each other. One loved the outdoors and gardening. The other looked for a more urban relaxation. Their mutual love was preparing and eating great food. Thus a great culinary adventure is born.
Culinary tours allow visitors to really experience the cultural roots of a region. It’s a little bit history, a little bit entertainment and a little bit educational. Yet it can also be an assault on the senses. What better way to involve all five senses?
7 Delightful Ways to Design Your Culinary Adventure
1. Celebrity/Master Chefs
Dining out has long been one of society’s favorite activities. Master chefs have left culinary schools for world-class restaurants, honed their skills and are returning in droves to their home communities to be a part of regional tourism and hospitality. The James Beard Foundation is dedicated to celebrating and preserving America’s cultural diversity and traditions. These master chefs are usually members of this foundation.
Many are indeed, recipients of James Beard honors. You can usually get some great insights of where to dine by looking for press releases from this organization. Even better, there are categories for joining as a food and wine enthusiast. Of course, some of these master chefs do merit celebrity status. Be sure to make reservations in advance to get the most out of your visit.
Cleveland’s Entertainment District hosts some of the city’s most popular restaurants, bars and clubs. Master chefs and celebrity chef, Michael Symon, all have their flagship restaurants here. This is a microcosm of Cleveland, and indeed America’s diverse cuisine. It is a great way to step into the culinary scene and branch out into the neighborhood that centers around your favorite taste. The ethnic neighborhoods of Cleveland are known for superb dining choices.
2. Schools – Wine and Culinary/ Master Classes
We have come a long way from Julia Child to the Food Network and beyond. What is important today is that food is recognized as essential to healthy living. Perhaps more important is that preparing healthy food can be at the core of reducing stress for busy professionals and providing touch points for family and friends to rally around.
Luxury resorts and hotels have provided culinary excursions and master classes for generations. These are again gaining in popularity. Cleveland boasts both cooking schools and a wine school. These schools provide busy locals with the skills to take their culinary appreciation to the next level. They can also provide a great added value to a culinary tour of the region. Additionally, the nearby Culinary Vegetable Institute brings master chefs from throughout America as artists in residence for classes and private dinners on their campus.
3. Luxury Hotel Culinary Packages
Essential to any great vacation is the need to replenish and revitalize ourselves. Some may choose a Bed and Breakfast but for those who see this basic need as a time to treat oneself to more than the ordinary choose a luxury hotel or resort. These hotels and resorts have in place a highly skilled, 5 star staff just looking for ways to delight the guests. Culinary tours are as varied as the hotels but can provide a great foundation for any regional food and wine tour.
The Ritz Carlton Hotel of Cleveland boasts a culinary tour that includes face time with the Executive chefs, special dinners, tours of the West Side Market and the city. The concierge staff is poised to provide directions and reservations to other restaurants and attractions that add to the culinary experience.
4. Farmers Markets
America’s cities are known for the public markets that support the cities and restaurants. Seattle has its Public Market, San Francisco has its Fisherman’s Wharf, and Cleveland has its West Side Market. These are popular tourist destinations. There are ample chances to talk with local suppliers, sample the many treats and enjoy a pleasurable time people watching.
Cleveland’s venerable West Side Market has been supplying the tables of families and restaurants since 1912. As one of America’s oldest enclosed markets, it sets the standard for the many farmer’s markets set up in both urban town squares and the rural areas surrounding Cleveland. This market supplies fruits, vegetables and a diverse array of the regional meats that make Cleveland so popular with gastronomers.
A drive through any area in Northeast Ohio on a Saturday will supply a family with locally grown, healthy fruits and vegetables for a week. Concessions provide ample opportunity to taste the best of the regions. You can also check out the Farmers Union markets in town squares and shopping centers throughout Northeast Ohio on weekdays during summer months.
America’s interest in locally produced wines and brews is growing. Wine regions are gaining in popularity as destinations. The Sonoma and Napa Valley regions of California, Oregon’s Columbia Valley, New York’s Finger Lakes and the Niagara region readily come to mind. Microbreweries are the next craze to attract regional visitors. Microbrew tastings as well as wine tasting are easily found in the wine regions. You can actually find wineries that are developing companion microbreweries on their properties.
Northeast Ohio is home to Vintage Ohio, an event attracting thousands to sample the growing wine industry in the state. Home to several wineries and vineyards along Lake Erie, northeast Ohio provides ample ways to enjoy the ambiance of relaxing in a scenic vineyard with friends with a glass in hand. You can enjoy a picnic lunch or opt for a more formal dinner in the elegance of the winery.
6. Farm Tours
Heritage farm tours along the Ohio and Erie Canal are committed to capturing the farming techniques of the regional founders for posterity. Many Amish farms welcome visitors to tour their farms by request. Indeed you will find produce stands along the country roads leading to their farms selling whatever vegetables and fruits are currently being harvested in their fields and baked goods, cheeses and cured meats processed on their farms.
The Culinary Vegetable Institute in nearby Milan, Ohio provides organic and heritage vegetables and micro-greens to the kitchens of some of the country’s top chefs and restaurants. Farmer Lee Jones, the spokesman for the family business, is gaining national acclaim as a celebrity guest at many culinary events.
7. Community Gardens
Urban gardens are becoming vital parts of neighborhoods as families realize the advantages of homegrown produce. However they are not new in many communities. When a visitor is fortunate to find an urban garden gem that has been established for quite a while, that visitor is treated to a glimpse of the heritage of the neighborhood and lovely afternoons spent talking with the gardeners who share the space.
The Brooklyn Heights Community Garden in Cleveland celebrates is now 100 years old. Its grounds are well-maintained by the coop members and classes for all ages are held in the greenhouse and garden center on the campus.
Remember that anniversary couple? They spent a relaxing week in an area not too far from their home but a world away in new experiences. They cruised the back roads with the car top down, picnicked under the stars in a lakeside vineyard, joined other couples for an elegant and exclusive private wine dinner and shared an evening at the theater. There was even time for a tour of the Botanical Gardens, a little shopping and just the two of them for a few holes of golf. Of course that led to the couples massage in the luxury hotel where they stayed. The rest of the time is private.
You can find more about regional destinations and culinary tours at my blog. Be sure to look up my review on Mr. Symons B Spot restaurant in Woodmere.
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