While the sky is still a hazy shade of winter, what could be more appealing than the warmth, chatter, clatter and smells of a gourmet adventure starring none other than you? If you're an avid fan of cable cooking shows, and can't resist perusing the cookbook counter at your local bookstore, then maybe you should indulge yourself in one of the hundreds of weekend cooking school programs that have popped up in every part of America. Be it Asian, Alsatian, Greek or Ethiopian food that strikes your fancy -- or a focused foray into the preparation of appetizers, pastry, or stews, you can expand your culinary horizons, then fill your home with the inviting warmth that fine fare brings.
While many specialized cooking schools, universities and art institute culinary programs cater to full time students bound for professional careers in restaurants, hotels, cruise lines and test kitchens, some also offer classes for people who simply love to eat well and entertain. Delving a bit deeper however, there are a vast wealth of cooking schools and special courses geared expressly to we civilian food enthusiasts.
Sur La Table is a first rate chain that sells every imaginable kind of cooking equipment and accessory and is equally well-known for hosting excellent classes on every conceivable sort of food preparation. In their shops across ten states, they feature something for everyone in both hands-on and demonstration classes for adults, kids, and even couples. A cornucopia of course listings include everything from elegant dishes for Chinese New Year to instructions on staging a savory Cuban feast, from Valentine's Day Desserts to Low Carb Specialties and from sauces to expert knife technique. To find the store nearest you and information on the classes, check out www.surlatable.com/cooking/index.cfm
Many foodies combine vacation travel with cooking lessons. Their journeys take them not only to the far corners of the world but also to inns, bed and breakfasts and hotels right here in the states. For example, ninety miles from both Washington D.C. and Baltimore, in a picturesque Pennsylvania small town known for its role in the Civil War is the lovely Mercersburg Inn.
Eight months ago, the 95-year-old Georgian mansion was purchased by Mahattanites Lisa and Jim McCoy who gave up the hustle and bustle of the city to live out their country life dream. Now, they have arranged for several times a year to have their graceful inn, host chef Françoise Dionot of the acclaimed L Academie de Cuisine of Bethesda, Maryland, and present an impressive series of culinary weekends, which combine hands-on personalized cooking classes with fine, formal dining. As an added bonus, there are plenty of skiing and antiquing opportunities nearby. For information, call 717-328-5231.
If the Southwest is your thing, you may enjoy a visit to venerable cookbook author Jane Butel's 21-year-old Southwestern Cooking School in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There, for a weekend (or a whole week) you can enjoy the Historical Landmark Hotel, La Posada de Albuquerque, in picturesque downtown while immersing yourself in one of America's most flavorful cuisines. Repeatedly rated one of the best cooking getaways in the world, the school features a 2,000 sq. ft. kitchen with six workstations and an overhead mirror demonstration area.
Butel has also established a satellite cooking school that teaches regional Mexican cuisine in Scottsdale, Arizona at the Fairmont Princess Hotel's Hacienda Restaurant, AAA's only 4 Diamond Mexican Restaurant. For more information: www.janebutel.com or call 1-800-472-8229
If all this has whet your palate, perhaps you're ready for an
even more adventurous journey. Why not check out the Tropical Creole Cooking
School of Costa Rica where you can spend a long weekend at Cerro Coyote, a private
nature reserve and Ecolodge where you'll learn a lot about the vast spectrum
of foods that are grown and raised in Costa Rica, plus how to utilize them in
either authentic Creole or Mediterranean cuisine.
Find them at www.acadianfarm.com/foodvacations/Tropical.html
For more mouth-watering listings of classes, take a look at www.culinaryed.com/list_recreational.asp, and at cookforfun.shawguides.com, where you'll find plenty of domestic and international opportunities to explore.
© Melt Magazine 2005