With the exponential growth in popularity of the Food Network the idea of food-as-entertainment, and the growing disdain for fast food (thanks, Morgan Spurlock!), Americans have become far more savvy about what they put into their mouths. We are, as a recent book title tells us, the United States of Arugula. The good news is that travelers who are interested in truly exploring the cuisine of a region now have a multitude of ways to do just that, and the packages and promotions we've put together here provide plenty of promise for the traveler with a hearty appetite and taste for adventure.
Hilton Hotels (tel. 800/HILTONS; www.hilton.com has partnered with the Food Network to offer some branded packages to guests in eleven cities in North America including Austin, Atlanta, Boston, Sedona, New York, Beverly Hills, Costa Mesa, Chicago, San Francisco, Honolulu and New Orleans. The promotion was just announced in mid-November, and it includes a four-course dinner with wine pairings for two, chosen by Hilton chefs. You also receive a ten-city travel guide (as seen on the Food Network) and swag such as a DVD compilation of various program highlights, a Food Network Kitchen cookbook How to Boil Water, and a travel tote. The meal in Austin, for example, at Finn & Porter, features everything from lobster bisque to filet of ribeye to crème brulee. At Boodles Back Bay in Boston, the menu features the likes of grilled beef tenderloin to bibb lettuce and watercress salad to a warm chocolate moulton cake -- and that's just a small sampling.
The package is valid until March 31, 2007, and is based on a standard room. You can, however, request a different type of room, based on availability. The prices will of course vary depending on the day of the week, the restaurant, and the hotel, but they range from approximately $190-$430 per night.
Park Hyatt (tel. 800/233-1234; www.parkhyatt.com offers travelers some fine accommodations and dining options. The Masters of Food and Wine (tel. 800/401-1009; www.mfandw.com, a twenty-year old event, has traditionally taken place at the Highlands Inn Park Hyatt in Carmel, California, but this year it has expanded to the Park Hyatt Mendoza in Argentina (www.mfandw.com.ar), located in a region rich with wineries. The event takes place February 15-18, 2007 in Mendoza and February 22-25 2007 in Carmel. Both events provide guests with a variety of culinary experiences with food and wine pairings in an intimate setting, some with no more than 50 attendees.
Guests will dine at wineries with meals prepared by internationally acclaimed chefs and wines chosen from equally esteemed wineries. Three-night packages for the Park Hyatt Mendoza are available starting at $990 per person plus tax, based on double occupancy. The package includes all ground transportation, airport transfers, welcome gala reception with all participating chefs, two gourmet wine lunches, two wine tastings, one dinner in the wineries and restaurants, a cooking demonstration, and the gala dinner capping it off.
The Park Hyatt Carmel's festivities are marked by the 10th annual Wine Spectator Rarities Dinner, a nine-course meal cooked by three internationally renowned chefs accompanied by 21 of the most rare, expensive wines in the world. Carmel's chefs may be more instantly recognizable to most Americans -- they include Michael Mina, Gary Danko, Gina DePalma, and more. The Carmel property offers two separate three-night packages. The Food Lover's package includes an opening night reception, morning and afternoon cooking demonstrations, plus lunch and dinner on Friday and Saturday, and a meal at the Sunday Chef's Table. It's priced at $2250 per person, based on double occupancy accommodations, plus tax and tip.
Many people travel to Mexico and the Caribbean during the winter months from North America, so why not head to the colonial city of Puebla, the birthplace of mole, a chocolatey, spicy, nutty sauce that accompanies many a dish in this part of central Mexico. Meson Sacristia de Capuchinas and Meson Sacristia de la Compania are part of the Mexico Boutique Hotels group (tel. 800/728-9098; www.mexicoboutiquehotels.com that have not only beautiful city accommodations, but cooking classes for guests. They're offering a big package called A Season in Puebla, good through the winter months. Priced at $5,800 per couple, the package includes accommodations for forty nights plus other amenities. You get transportation between Mexico City and Puebla, guided visits to the main sites in Puebla with either a Spanish or English speaking guide, a visit to the ancient city of Cholula, three-day passes for the city tour bus, a free visit to each of Puebla's three main museums, one complimentary massage for an hour per visitor and a welcome cocktail. In terms of cooking and food, you will have access to fifteen hours of the "culinary magic" gastronomic program. You'll get a culinary immersion, shop for your ingredients at the marketplace, and learn how to prepare dishes such as mole poblano, and gain insight into the historic origins of every dish you make. The price also includes fifteen hours of creativity vis-à-vis the Talavera art program, which offers guests workshops at the studios of local artisans such as potters.
In late February, the Sixth Annual Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival (tel. 305/627-1741; www.sobewineandfoodfest.com draws many celebrity chefs and national chefs alike, and curious, hungry consumers obsessed with said culture. From February 22-25, there are plenty of events, tastings, demonstrations with chefs ranging from Rachael Ray to the likes of Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, Anthony Bourdain, Tyler Florence, and Giada De Laurentiis. A special dinner will be held featuring Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin of New York City, and a brunch honoring Martha Stewart, who will receive a lifetime achievement award. Some events are already sold out, and most events are priced individually
As one might imagine, there are packages and promotions designed to get you here. The Weekend Pass, priced at $1,225 per person, will gain you access to several events, including tribute dinner in honor of Michelin three-star chef Eric Ripert and Maguy Le Coze, after parties, a wine seminar, and events at the Publix Grand Tasting Village, which typically attracts about six thousand people. Delta (tel. 800/221-1212; www.delta.com) is the official airline of the festival, and there are a handful of host hotels -- some are sold out already -- showing some availability. Choose from the Best Western South Beach, which starts at $169, for standard king or two double beds and the Radisson for $189, to the Bentley Beach Hotel, starting from $279 for a luxury studio. The Ritz-Carlton South Beach and the Cardozo, however, are both sold out.
Gourmet Safari (tel. 800/839-5795; www.gourmetsafari.com, a Toronto-based company, provides culinary tours to Spain, France, Italy and Morocco. Last-minute travelers might enjoy the three-night trip to Seville, Spain, home of tapas, priced at $1,205 per person based on double occupancy (that's in U.S. dollars, mind you), for stays in December, January and February. Day one you arrive and spend an evening eating at four of the city's best tapas bar, with a tour guide. During day two you will explore the Sierra of Aracena, a mountainous area north of the city and have lunch there. Day three takes guests to San Lucar de Barrameda -- a great place for seafood and sherry. Explore the process of making sherry and drink some manzanilla (a sherry made only in Andalusia). Accommodations include the four-star Petit Palace Marques Santa Ana Hotel; the package price does not include roundtrip airfare.
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