France Cooking School Vacations in the Loire: Le Calabash
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A Chateau Culinary Adventure at Le Calabash - BEST SELLER
Yzeures-sur-Creuse (Indre et Loire)

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About the location: Le Calabash Cooking School is located on the river Creuse in the heart of the Indre et Loire region, set in a small French hamlet on the edge of the local forest. The region is home to the finest goat’s cheese producers, and winemaking has been deeply rooted here for centuries. This area is simply known as France’s ‘Bread Basket.’

At Le Calabash you will embark on a French culinary vacation that will open new doors to flavors, techniques and skills that will enable you to follow your own flair and imagination. Initial concerns about the level of cooking skills required are immediately dispelled by the informality of the environment, and the realization that the only qualifications needed are a love for food and the desire to learn about cooking. The kitchen where your French cooking classes are held is a traditional French farmhouse kitchen, fitted to allow you to feel at home. You will work with equipment and ingredients that can normally be found in the home kitchen. The cooking courses provide a hands-on opportunity to develop your culinary skills in a practical and supportive learning environment, as well as being on vacation in the most beautiful surroundings, and the chance to make new friends.

About the accommodations: Your home for the week is a luxury chateau that borders the majestic river valley, which is tucked within the Vienne region with its charming villages and rolling hills. Today, you can still see ancient Roman aqueducts, roads, and ruins that dot the landscape. Built around 1850 and influenced by the Belle Epoque and Art Nouveau styles, the chateau was transformed into a luxurious and peaceful residence with just five rooms in 2007. (During certain weeks, the accommodations will in a nearby former manor home, which is now a stunning relais hotel). While the chateau does not have air-conditioning, it does have very thick walls that keep it cool at night. This is a lovely scenic village, very pastoral and charming, a perfect location for a wonderful food and wine experience. 

About the lessons: The cooking classes are limited to a maximum of 12 participants, which allow Alison and Sidney to give personal attention to all their guests. Alison and Sidney are award-winning chefs with many years of international experience. After meeting at The Royal Swazi Sun Resort and Spa in Swaziland, they married and have enjoyed a colorful culinary career. They have cooked for several heads of state and celebrities (including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince William, Richard Attenbourgh, Mick Jager, Madonna, Cher, Sylvester Stallone, U2, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton), and have won recognition by major food guides and medals at the international level. The philosophy of this husband and wife team is ‘Balade Gormande sans Frontière’–Cooking without boundaries–or as Sidney would like to say, ‘Let’s take a walk on the wild side’: and he would, as he was born and raised on the plains of Zululand! They take traditional French cooking and introduce exotic flavors and traditions from around the world to create an exciting ‘cooking adventure.’

You will leave Le Calabash Cooking School with a new-found enthusiasm and confidence, impatient to return to your own kitchen to use your new skills.

A Chateau Culinary Adventure at Le Calabash - BEST SELLER Itinerary

Day 1 - Sunday

See the 2015 itinerary here.

  • Arrive any time after 12 noon and settle into your room.
  • Around 7:00 pm meet your hosts to enjoy a welcome glass of champagne, followed by a Moroccan dinner.
  • Overnight.

Day 2 - Monday

  • Traditional French breakfast.
  • Morning: Your first cooking lesson focuses on fish and shellfish. You will be taught the best catch for each season, as well as how to identify your fish and ensure it is fresh. This hands-on class will also include techniques on how to prepare your fish and mussels, such as skinning, filleting, portioning, hot oil poaching, baking ‘en papillote,’ and hot smoking.
  • Lunch to follow based on your efforts, as well as Alison and Sidney’s favorite French artisanal cheeses and freshly baked bread.
  • Sample menu:
    • Roast fillet of sea bass with chorizo, Aubergine caviar, and fennel.
    • Classic Normandy moules marinière and moules ‘en papillote’ (in parchment).
    • Hot smoked salmon with an avocado creme and beetroot.
    • Turbot Grenoblois.
  • In the afternoon, enjoy some leisure time before dinner. Take the time to relax with a relaxing massage or spa treatment, or explore the area by bicycle, taking a walk or canoe trip along the river, or playing boules in the village square.
  • Dinner of seasonal fish, and Alison will prepare you one of her latest dessert creations.
  • Overnight.

Day 3 - Tuesday

  • After a traditional French breakfast, visit the local goat cheese farm and producer to taste and experience the best goat cheese in the world, St. Maures AOC.
  • Following the goat cheese farm, head to the kitchen for a cooking class to learn the art of soufflés, such as cheese, lemon, and chocolate soufflés, which you’ll then enjoy for lunch along with Sidney and Alison’s favorite French artisanal cheeses and baked bread.
  • In the afternoon, your cooking class will focus on some of Le Calabash’s most popular dishes.
  • Sample menu:
    • Guinea fowl with cep risotto and seared foie gras
    • Beef fillet, wild mushroom polenta, confit of shallots, and Parmesan crisps
    • Chicken and cep gateau with crepes and a port sauce
    • Sidney’s seasonal dish of the moment
  • Time on your own until dinner.
  • For dinner around 7:30, weather permitting, a picnic next to the river in Angles sur Anglin, one of the most beautiful villages in France. With its paved streets and winding alleys, Angles sur Anglin was an important place in history, as it was dominated by bishops, bitterly disputed by the English people and the French torn between the Huguenots and the Catholics, and a place where revolutionary ideas flourished in the 19th century.
  • Overnight.

Day 4 - Wednesday

  • Traditional French breakfast.
  • Depart for the market in Loches, where you will buy ingredients for class. Loches is a town dominated by a medieval citadel, which is surrounded by 1.5 miles of old walls.
  • Return to Le Calabash for a traditional French lunch based on the items and ingredients purchased at the market.
  • In the afternoon, your next class is all about pastry and desserts. Chef Alison will share her passion for creating and preparing great sweets and pastries, such as green tea and berry marmalade macaron, seasonal macaron, millionaires chocolate macaron, fruit creme and soft jelly, and the art of meringues, Swiss, Italian, and French.
  • Time on your own until dinner.
  • Tonight at 8 p.m., Sidney and Alison take you out for dinner with their friend, Michelin star Jacky Dallay at the renowned Promenade restaurant in le Petit Pressigny.
  • Overnight.

Day 5 - Thursday

  • Traditional French breakfast
  • Depart for Chateau Chenonceau, where you’ll have time to explore Chenonceau on your own. The Chenonceau Castle was once a royal residence and is now an exceptional site not only because of its original design but also because of its rich collections, which were loved and protected by women throughout history, including Catherine de Medici and Madame Dupin.
  • Lunch at the renowned Orangerie restaurant at Chateau Chenonceau.
  • In the afternoon, visit one of France’s finest white and sparkling wine areas, Vouvray. You will be taken on a guided tour of 3km of wine caves, which hold, on average, 4 million bottles of wine. You will be given an in-depth tour of the production and bottling plant, and then return for a wine tasting.
  • Return to Le Calabash for a surprise dinner demonstration prepared by Sidney while you enjoy a glass of wine.
  • Overnight.

Day 6 - Friday

  • Traditional French breakfast
  • For your morning class, learn more about the art of French pastry with Chef Alison. You will make such dishes as pear, specoloos, and chocolate delice; profiteroles with a Madagascan chocolate mousse; chocolate sauce and hot chocolate; and ice parfait ‘Josephine’, as well as discover the art of dessert presentation, including sugar craft and tuilles.
  • Lunch in the orchard.
  • In the afternoon, you’ll take a walk on the wild side during your last cooking class. In the class, learn Sidney’s African childhood recipes. Two of the dishes you will be taught are Gold Medal dishes and appear in the Le Calabash: A Culinary Adventure cook book.
  • Sample menu:
    • Tiger prawn peri peri
    • Chicken galinha à Africana
    • Cape Malay lamb sosaties
    • Chakalaka sauce
    • Lamb samosas with fruit chutney
    • Vegetable bhajis
    • Putu pap
  • After class, some time on your own to rest, take a last walk down the river, and prepare for the last evening together.
  • Certificate presentation and champagne followed by Sidney’s Zulu barbecue.
  • Overnight.

Day 7 - Saturday

  • Traditional French breakfast
  • Departure by mid-day.