Travel, Food & Wine - A Few Of Our Favorite Things
Learning to eat doesn’t really seem that difficult-but truly, it is a skill. Appreciating a meal that is made with the freshest ingredients seasoned to perfection, is well prepared and balanced and flawlessly paired with wines, is actually more than just a skill when done well-it is an art form. If you have ever had the experi- ence of that perfect balance, you will know it and remember it.
This month I decided that it would be appropriate to investigate gastronomic experiences as a vacation. What could be more fun than a fabulous place to stay and an opportunity to learn about the finer things in life, all while learning how to develop your own skills as a chef?
Santa Barbara Culinary Retreat
The first on my list is in lovely Santa Barbara: it’s called the Santa Barbara Culinary Retreat and it’s a two-night, three-day cooking journey that will leave you with a better understanding of not only cooking, but how to shop for produce, meats and wines. Begin by checking in to the lovely Hotel Santa Barbara which is located just five blocks from the beach and the rich diversity of Santa Barbara’s shops, galleries, theaters, nightclubs and cafés that line State Street for blocks in either direction. Also within walking distance of the hotel are the Mission Santa Barbara, Paseo Nuevo Mall, Stearns Wharf, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.
Your day begins with a tour of the regional Farmers’ market where you will be introduced to local growers, fishermen and producers, as you learn to discern the best ways to recognize and choose your food selections. Once you have gathered the ingredients, you will be returned to the retreat’s studio kitchen and shown how to prepare dishes in a hands-on three-hour class culminating in a five-course gourmet meal, perfectly paired with premium wines for each course.
The next part of your tour includes a multi-course wine dining experience at the famed Bouchon Restaurant in Santa Barbara. Bouchon Santa Barbara is one of two restaurants dedicated to providing an authentic, regional wine dining experience, carefully choosing menu selections whose ingredients, textures and flavors marry well with the incredible wines coming out of California’s wine country.
On the final day, you will be transported to Roblar Winery in the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley. Here you will enjoy a brunch in their rustic tasting room as you savor the vintners’ premium wines-all in all it’s a foodie’s dream! epitourean.com
Ramekins Culinary School
Off to Sonoma we go-to the lovely MacArthur Place and the Ramekins Culinary School located just 45 minutes north of San Francisco. Your stay will begin at the stunning MacArthur Place, originally a celebrated 300-acre, 19th century vineyard and working ranch, with fruit orchards, hay crops, cattle and many prized and well-trained trotters (a breed of horse well-known for their harness-racing abilities).
The property was transformed into the Inn and Spa that it is today in 1997 with extensive upgrades and lovely designer touches. The on-site spa is renowned for its treatments and the proximity to Sonoma’s historic plaza makes it a perfect location to explore its local curiosities-not that you’ll have time!
Afternoon arrival and check-in is immediately followed by an evening cooking class a the Ramekins Culinary School where you will take hands-on classes that feature advanced culinary techniques with locally sourced ingredients. Guest chefs, cookbook authors, famous restauranteurs and TV personalities will cover subjects as diverse as French sauces, cheese making, pastry, bread baking, meat preparation and a variety of cooking methods.
Your second day will start with a lovely continental breakfast at your inn and the late morning is spent in another culinary adventure at Ramekins. Your afternoon is topped off with a well-deserved massage back at MacArthur Place (ahhhh) and a wine and cheese tasting. The evening is yours for the picking; I recommend a lovely candlelit dinner at one of the many award-winning local restaurants. Day three has an optional wine tour that you can schedule either when you reserve or after you arrive-believe me you won’t want to leave, so schedule it already! epiculinary.com