The Daily Telegraph - Travel
Xanthe Clay, Telegraph food columnist On these holidays you prepare food like a local and then have the chance to sample the fruits of your labour
Awalk around a food market is on most people’s holiday wish list. Bustling, colourful, and a chance to glimpse everyday life in your chosen destination, they are popular for good reason. But without a guide, it’s easy to miss the good bits, especially if you aren’t fluent in the local language. What are those bundles of herbs for? Why are there three different piles of avocados? And how do you use those strangeshaped fruits? The same is true in restaurants and on street-food stalls – without inside knowledge, you could go away without the real flavour of the place.
The answer? A cookery holiday. Whether you go for a full timetable of classes or just an afternoon, it’s a brilliant way to get the inside track on an area, meet the locals and come away feeling crammed with new information and inspiration. Even if cooking on vacation sounds like a busman’s holiday, don’t dismiss it. You won’t be doing any clearing up, dishwashing is someone else’s job and the pace is generally pretty gentle – all the fun and none of the dreary bits.
Noodles, dumplings and Peking duck with the queen of Chinese cuisine
Fuchsia Dunlop is the queen of Chinese cuisine, having been the first westerner to train at the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine school in Chengdu, as well as writing five books on the subject.
She’s a gentle, charming person who is a delight to travel with. This tour covers market visits and cookery demonstrations in addition to tourist highlights such as the Great Wall, the Terracotta Army and – of course – pandas. There’s a hands-on cookery class in Chengdu as well.
A 13-day Gastronomic Tour of China with Fuchsia Dunlop from WildChina (0033 6 42611792; wildchina.com) costs £5,040 full-board; not including flights. Departs May 15; for a later departure, Fuschia Dunlop is also leading a 10-day Yunnan Gastronomic Tour on September 18.
Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam is home to some of the most thrilling food in the world, but weaselling out the best of it takes inside knowledge. Asia specialist Wendy Wu has put together an 11-day tour which combines gastronomic and tourist highlights. There are cooking classes in the capital, Hanoi, and the historic city of Hoi An as well as Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), alongside market trips with Vietnamese chefs – prime opportunities to get to grips with Asian produce as well as tips on where to buy the best street food.
An 11-day Living Traditions Cooking Tour with Wendy Wu (0800 9888 209; wendywutours.co.uk) costs from £2,390 including most meals and flights.
Gastronomic Japan with Tim Anderson
Remember Tim Anderson, the American MasterChef winner who served up pork with dashi pearls and miso mustard? He lived for two years in Tokyo and recently opened Nanban, his own “Japanese soul food” restaurant in London’s Brixton, so he’s well qualified to lead this 11-day tour taking in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. Its fascinating itinerary includes making your own sampuru, visiting Tsujiki fish market, and a Japanese tea ceremony, plus the opportunity to do karaoke with Tim. Domo arigato.
Going for Goa
Goan food is delicious, with an emphasis on fish, rice, coconut, vegetables and complex spicing. Learn about it with visits to markets, tea plantations and a spice garden to see cinnamon and cloves still on the plant, plus three cookery classes. Accommodation is in a three-star hotel.
An eight-day Goa Cooking Course by On The Go Tours (020 7371 1113; onthegotours. com) costs £1,099, not including flights.
Greek Island cooking
Poros is every bit as lovely as the set of Mamma Mia. Based at the Odyssey Apartments, chef Katerina gives classes with a focus on classics such as moussaka and meze, or seasonal cooking. You can join just one or opt for a weeklong course including four lessons and excursions to Hydra Island, the historical town of Poros and markets.
A week’s Greek Cooking Course based at Odyssey Apartments Poros costs from £795, not including flights to Athens, through Greek Island Activities (01546 603852; greekislandactivities.com).
The Leopard’s kitchen
Here’s a tour that offers the chance to cook with a duchess in the Palazzo Lanza Tomasi, the splendid mid-18th-century palace in Sardinia that was home to Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, author of The Leopard. The day includes shopping, cooking and dining with the current owner, the Duchess of Palma, Lampedusa’s daughter-inlaw. Finish with a four-course lunch and a tour of the Palazzo.
In the Leopard’s Kitchen from The Thinking Traveller (020 7377 8518; thethinkingtraveller.com) costs from around £140 (two to six participants).
Jean Pierre Moullé, executive chef at the iconic Chez Panisse restaurant in California for 30 years, hosts an annual food and wine-themed holiday in Bordeaux with his wife, wine importer Denise Lurton Moullé. Market visits are followed by lunch and hands-on lessons in the family home, while dinners cooked by Jean Pierre and daughter Elsa de Brosses are held in friends’ houses. A visit to Bordeaux, a wine château, a cheesemaker and a chocolate-maker are also included.
Two Bordelais (twobordelais.com) runs a five-day Cooking and Wine tour in Bordeaux, from £3,346, not including travel to Bordeaux. Departs on September 11.
Mexican markets and more
Oaxaca is a culinary hotspot in a country so famed for its cuisine that it has UN heritage status. Your stay on the Oaxaca Master Chef trip is in the four-star boutique hotel Casa Oaxaca and there are three market trips and cooking classes with chefs, including Susan Trilling.
An eight-day Oaxaca Master Chef Trip from Abercrombie & Kent (01242 547701; abercrombiekent.co.uk), in partnership with Journey Mexico, starts from £2,370 including flights and some meals.
By happy coincidence wine country is very often ideal territory for holidays: it combines a warm, benign climate, gently rolling countryside and very often a fabulous gastronomic tradition. In short, you can eat well, drink well and then lie back and enjoy the sunshine. But it’s not all about sybaritic self-indulgence. On a wellorganised wine tour, you’ll be on a steep and fascinating learning curve. Nothing improves an understanding and appreciation of wine more than visiting the place where it is made and the people who make it. Suddenly it is more than a bottle with a label. It is a landscape, a vineyard, and a sensory experience forever associated with the personality of the man or woman who made it. Here are 10 of the best tours that will ensure you enjoy just such an insight.
Prices below are per person based on two sharing a room and include breakfast, all tastings and vineyard visits.
Alsace rieslings are among the greatest white wines in the world – but also among the least appreciated. As a result, the winemakers are particularly welcoming and the wines represent exceptional value. This private four-day tour, based in Strasbourg, visits six wineries and has tastings of 26 wines.
Exclusive Strasbourg Alsace from Grape Escapes (08436 430860; grapeescapes.net). From £1,174 including private guide and transport and private walking tour of Strasbourg, one dinner and lunch. Excludes travel to Strasbourg.
No one has done more than Oz Clarke to enthuse the British about wine, and there is no more charismatic guide to take you around some of the world’s most famous vineyards. This The Château de Saumur, below right, in the Loire region of France; and a couple tasting rioja at the Marques de Riscal winery in Spain, bottom
Few wine tours turn out to be more fun or more convivial than those that involve champagne-tasting.