We wish you all a very happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year. Now that all the festivities are over, perhaps it is time to start planning a culinary vacation for 2013. We have so many great options from which to choose for an experience that will provide a lifetime of wonderful memories! Whether you're looking for an all-inclusive vacation, or a one-day class, we have a variety options for you.
Please call us or e-mail with any questions or recommendations. We all love what we do and are eager and happy to share with you.
I know I have written about this program before, but I am so taken with our cooking vacation A Culinary Adventure in the Loire Valley, I felt the need to talk about it again!
This is really an exceptional program and cooking experience. It is located in a beautiful region of France, of course, the area of the chateaux, but the Loire is also know as the "bread basket" of France. It is rich in agricultural traditions and is very much a "farm to table" region, with residents of the region making use of the great food found locally.
Sidney and Alison are two of the most accomplished chefs I have the privilege to work with, and their goal is not only to teach, but to make sure you enjoy yourself during the experience. Add to this the wonderful local wine, visits to places like Chenonceau, a charming hotel for your accommodations and all the pieces fit together for a great trip.
In 2013, Sidney and Alison are going above and beyond once again, offering even more trip options for your next cooking vacation. During certain weeks, discover the world of French pastries with renowned Chef Alison, stay in a beautiful French chateau, vacation with your female friends during Women Only Weeks, add a truffle day in the Fall/Winter season, and experience some of Sidney and Alison's Christmas traditions!
If you have any questions about these new itineraries, in addition to the regular -- but very special -- weeks with Le Calabash, as always feel free to contact me.
As the 2013 travel season gets underway, we don't have too much to report from our Chicago office. There's still plenty of time to plan your international culinary vacation for the year, and we're excited to offer some new programs for you to consider for your next culinary journey overseas!
Tuscany continues to be a popular destination for our clients, which is why we're now offering not only a new Tuscany wine tour but also a unique and exclusive trip to the hills of Pisa. During the 4-night program "Tuscan Adventure: Country Cooking," see this beautiful region from a whole new vantage point: in a helicopter! The program also includes 3 hands-on cooking classes, and accommodations at a stunning country resort.
Or consider heading to the food basket of Italy, the less-touristy destination of Emilia-Romagna. In Parma, you can discover centuries-old gastronomy traditions and sample the best in Italian foods, including balsamic vinegar, prosciutto, and of course parmigiano cheese. You can also cook in an agriturismo using locally grown products.
Over in France, discover the wines of Provence during our French culinary vacation and wine tour, "Terroir, Touring, and Tasting." You'll visit chateaux and a number of family-run vineyards while staying in a hotel in Avignon.
Other programs on the horizon -- keep up to date by following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ -- include culinary vacations in Lucca (Tuscany), the southwest of France, Normandy, and the undiscovered region of Puglia, as well as some one-day classes in Liguria.
Our cooking vacation offerings will continue to grow too, as our colleague Kerry is gearing up for a big tradeshow at the end of March to meet with potential new partners in France.
If you have any questions about these or any of our programs, as always, feel free to contact us at 312-467-0560.
Our travel coordinator Kerry Herbst just returned from a French tradeshow with some interesting tales to tell, as well as ideas for new cooking vacations. For this month's newsletter, I'll hand the reins over to her to recount what she saw in Burgundy as well as the southwest of France.
"I just returned from my first The International Kitchen trip to France where I toured Burgundy and attended the annual Rendez-Vous Trade Show in Toulouse. It was an amazing experience both personally and professionally. I came back with new friends, new confidence, and a new knowledge of the unbelievably charming region of Burgundy and the college town of Toulouse. Did I also mention that I came back with at least 5 new pounds? That is just a testament to the amazing food and drink that I was introduced to in Burgundy.
My trip started off on a bit of an ominous note. Halfway over the Atlantic, I was awakened to the pilot announcing that he had to divert the plane to Newfoundland, Canada, after a woman sitting two rows ahead of me had a heart attack. After landing, attending to the sick woman, refueling and de-icing, we finally headed back towards Paris. About 30 minutes before landing in Paris, I was again awakened to find out that the flight crew was now over their contracted hours and we had to land in Brest, France and wait three hours for the next crew to arrive! With the help of my colleagues at The International Kitchen, I finally made it to Burgundy the following day and met up with a group of 17 tour operators from Australia, Brazil, Japan, and America. We toured various parts of Burgundy for the next several days.
Burgundy is known for it’s gastronomy, wine, and cultural heritage. We had the opportunity to partake in all three aspects of this beautiful region. Our first stop was in the quaint town of Dijon that is not only famous for its mustard but also its gingerbread, which is a perfect way to describe the town. It is so charming that one might mistake it for a gingerbread village. We had a delicious gastronomic dinner in Dijon, the highlight being salmon wrapped in spinach, covered by a Dijon mustard sauce. The next day, we headed to Beaune, the wine capital of Burgundy, and a wonderful place for a wine tour. Here we toured the Hotel Dieu, an architectural beauty, which served as a hospital for the poor in the 14th century. Of course, we had an amazing dinner that evening in the wine capital. Dinner was paired with even more amazing wine!
Our last stop in Burgundy was in the town of Cluny. While in Cluny, we had the opportunity to visit what remains of the Benedictine abbey which, built in 910, was the largest religious edifice in Europe. Of course we ended the day with a 4-course meal that was highlighted by the strawberry shortcake (gastronomic style) dessert that was served.
Finally, we arrived in Toulouse for the Rendez-Vous workshop where I met with over 40 travel vendors from France. I had the opportunity to learn about enhancements that are being made to our current cooking vacations as well as some new possibilities for The International Kitchen. Be on the look out for some new programs and classes as well as updates to our current programs within the next year!"
Do you ever have the sensation that time is just flying by? It seems like we just celebrated the New Year and suddenly it is May 1st! Perhaps I have this feeling because we have been so busy this year. Not only are we busy with lots of bookings, we are busy with lots of new offerings!
In Tuscany alone, we're offering a plethora of new cooking vacations and one-day classes. In Lucca, stay in a private villa during "Luxury Lucca Villa Cooking," see Tuscany from a helicopter during "Tuscan Adventure: Country Cooking," discover the wines of the region during a "Tuscany Wine Tour," and cook in the elegant home of Chef Laura in Florence. We've also organized a lovely one-time only architecture and cooking trip this October to Tuscany with architect Lenore Weiss.
As for other parts of Italy, stop in Bologna for a professional cooking school class, and then head to Rapallo and learn about making the famous Genovese pesto. Other Italy programs on the horizon include a new trip to Puglia, a vacation in Florence that includes a bike trip, and one-day classes in Verona.
But don't think we've forgotten France! In addition to the Loire Valley's Le Calabash expanding their offerings -- including a stay at a beautiful chateau, pastry weeks, and a master course for professional chefs -- head to Normandy and cook with renowned Chef Susan Herrmann Loomis.
We're expanding in other countries too. Visit Portugal's seaside and stay at one of the top 25 hotels, as named by Trip Advisor. Last but not least, explore the island of Crete and get to know both the local people and the cuisine.
One of the strongest tenets of our company is our commitment to excellence and continual search for high quality options to offer to our clients. This is an "organic" process, challenging and time consuming, but we strive to deliver the best!
I have just returned from a two week trip to Turkey and OMG, what a fabulous country! It is the only one in the world that is on two continents, and it has such an incredibly rich and varied history - it is all a bit mind boggling.
Our Turkey cooking vacation, "The Cuisine of Sultans," this past May was our first foray into this exotic land, and it exceeded all my expectations. From the grandiose mosques in Istanbul to the ruins of Ephesus to the caves in Cappadocia, this is a country to behold. In addition to our touring, we did some wonderful cooking classes, and we have come away armed with recipes to reproduce all the tasty dishes we made. Wine production is relatively new to Turkey, but in the last decade they have started producing some very good quality red and white wines.
Our hotels were all first rate, our guide a delight, the driver always accommodating, every meal delicious. Combined with some of the most incredible sights ever, this is the trip of a lifetime!!! (And did I mention the shopping?)
This isn't the first time I've written about Le Calabash, but I talk about it time and time again, because I truly love this program. The husband and wife chef team, Sidney and Alison, are professional and engaging, but also friendly and welcoming. And now their culinary vacation at Le Calabash cooking school in the Loire Valley has gotten even better!
While I have always thought that the relais accommodations for the program were charming, I'm excited to announce that the accommodations will now be in a stunning and lovely chateau in the river valley for most weeks in 2013 and 2014. These are incredibly special accommodations, especially when you consider that the Loire Valley is famous for its chateaux, which were once the manor homes and palaces of French nobility.
This chateau in the Loire Valley isn't the only one you can stay in during a culinary vacation with us. We also offer programs in the Béarn, Bordeaux, and Provence regions that feature chateaux that offer luxurious and relaxing experiences.
Feel free to contact us at any time about these accommodations and vacations.
In the meantime, have a wonderful 4th of July!
Tuscany continues to be our most requested destination, and it's not hard to see why. From the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea to Florence, the beautiful landscape features everything from mountains, coastal cities, river plains, hill towns, and the capital of the region. And that's exactly why we offer so many different programs, 14 to be exact (currently), throughout the Toscana region.
Our best-selling cooking vacation remains A Classic Tuscan Table With Chef Claudio, in large part due to Claudio's charm. But the rustic property -- complete with olive groves, cottages, restaurant, gardens, and swimming pool -- is also another wonderful draw; after all it gives visitors a chance to experience the true Tuscan countryside.
Another program in the countryside is Cook in the Heart of Chianti. While this is near Florence, just as Claudio's program is, it offers a different perspective of life in Tuscany. The Chianti region is known for its wine, and as such, the vineyards here are not to be missed. During this particular program, you can even visit the village of Greve in Chianti for a tasting at a local estate.
Wine too is popular in Southern Tuscany, such as right outside Cortona with our culinary vacation Cooking and Vineyards of Southern Tuscany. Here in Pergo, the restaurant chefs are also passionate about wine, which is why they strive to choose wines to match their seasonal menus. A guided visit of the Montepulciano region is also included.
These are just a sampling of our Tuscany vacation offerings. We also have additional packages in Florence, Cortona, Lucca, Arezzo, Pisa, and more.
If you need help deciding among these choices, feel free to contact us at any time.
Visiting and getting to know each of the cooking vacations we sell is an important part of the business to us. I recently returned from one such trip to Portugal to check out our newest Portugal program, "Seaside Cooking in Portugal," which takes place in the lovely town of Cascais (pronounced Cash-Kaich).
This program was everything I hoped it was, and more. The unique meat and seafood dishes were delicious. The tour of Sintra -- a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage site -- was a wonderful glimpse into life in Portugal. The rooms were luxurious and peaceful. And the hotel service! Everyone at the Onyria resort made sure that I had the best possible stay. And this experience wasn't just my own. We've already had a few clients take part in this cooking vacation, and they've come back saying the same thing.
This is a spectacular program at even more spectacular price, and I urge you to take a look at it, so you too can discover the wonders of seaside Portugal.
We often highlight our trips to Italy, France, and Spain in our newsletters as these are popular areas for food and cooking vacation adventures. But they're not our only destinations, as we offer trips in such exotic locales as Morocco, Turkey, and Peru, as a few examples. In 2014, we're expanding our offerings even more with some particularly unique trips, all of which are organized with the fabulous chefs of Le Calabash cooking school!
Discover a melting pot of cultures with a one-time only trip to Israel, May 21-27. With Chef Sidney and Alison, travel to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa to explore not only the city markets but also the unique array of foods, from traditional Arabic breads to cuisine that is served nowhere else in the world.
Le Calabash is also offering a special art and cooking adventure the week of June 22-28 in the Loire Valley, France. Not only will you cook traditional French dishes paired with exotic flavors, but you'll learn an array of art techniques through drawing and painting classes with the renowned artist Edel Rodriguez.
Last but surely not least is a trip to Namibia in southern Africa, near where Chef Sidney spent his childhood. Keep your eyes peeled in late October for further details on our website, including the itinerary!
In the meantime, feel free to contact us at any time so we can help plan your next culinary vacation adventure.
I have just returned from one of my "obligatory" site inspections. We never take for granted that things remain of the same high quality from year to year, so we periodically re-inspect properties to ensure the same.
I was in Tuscany for a few days and then on to the Amalfi coast. In Tuscany I was actually checking out some new options and am delighted that we will soon post a new program for wine lovers, based in Chianti and Bolgheri on the Etruscan coast. This should prove to be a pretty fantastic program!
On the Amalfi Coast, we visited some new options and some old friends. We had dinner where we hold our cooking vacation "Blue Sky and Sea," and I must tell you I was blown away. It has always been a very special property, but with the improvements they have made, it is really spectacular. There is a brand new Olympic size free form infinity pool that is heavenly, and a new chef who is fantastic. This is now a 5 star quality property, unlike anything else I have seen on the Amalfi coast; it is really a dream. This is a family-owned hotel of only 13 rooms where they care very much about the property and the contentment of the clients.
While I was traveling in Italy, our Travel and Web Coordinator Liz Hall was over in France for a tradeshow in Provence. She also got a chance to stop in Paris to check out Dominique's cooking class, and she only had great things to say about the things she learned and the meal they enjoyed: a Normandy and Alsatian-inspired meal of veal scallopini (escalope de veau normande) and spaetzle, among other dishes!
Down in Provence, she also visited Chef Reine Sammut and her stunning property in the countryside. This was one of Liz's favorite parts of the trip: following a cooking class with Reine, the group enjoyed a Mediterranean-inspired meal packed with vegetables — especially tomatoes — and a "Rock 'n' roll" soirée, where all the guests were entertained by Chef Reine's husband, Guy. His band even played some Neil Young songs!
We hope to see you in 2014 at one of our great programs. As always, please call or write for any recommendations or with any questions.
As I write this I'm in Cannes, France, my last trip of this year. This is the annual International Luxury Travel Mart, a trade show where luxury operators, hoteliers, etc., from all over the world come to meet appropriate buyers. This is a wonderful show, and every buyer has to be thoroughly "vetted," deemed appropriate to be invited and a guest of the trade show, and we are very pleased to be a hosted buyer so that we can meet with partners and discover new cooking vacations for you.
And just one last reminder: gift certificates are still available. I promise they'll make the perfect holiday gift for the foodie in your life!
Here is what clients are saying about their experience with The International Kitchen...
"What an incredible cultural and culinary experience: the hosts were great: fun and friendly, accommodating, and customized the itinerary based on the group. Food was amazing, classes were engaging and informative..." Read more
"It’s taken me quite a while to write about our experience ... Not because it wasn’t everything I dreamed of and more, but because it so exceeded all of my expectations..." Read more
"A lovely remote setting with wonderful hosts and great food! A perfect blend of relaxation, cultural experiences, and hands-on cooking lesson. I would recommend highly..." Read more