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(Budget Travel Online) -- Cooking school vacations are a hot travel travel trend, mixing cooking instruction with places that offer plenty more. Budget Travel magazine highlighted some of the best bargains in the nation. (Full story)
Check out some more cooking schools spotlighted by Budget Travel magazine:
Boulder, Colorado: Cooking School of the Rockies
The 12 students sitting around a huge stainless-steel table next to a vast, gleaming professional kitchen (complete with 12 burners, three ovens, and angled viewing mirror) are sipping fresh coffee, munching on crusty French bread with cream cheese and smoked whitefish as they go around the table explaining why they have come to Boulder to take this five-day course on "Basic Techniques of Cooking."
"My wife wants me to be the cook of the family and my mom didn't cook, so I'm here to learn and maybe even to instill some better eating habits in my kids," says Chris Pritchard, of Louisville, Colorado, near Boulder.
"I don't want to embarrass myself when I entertain," says Mary Delaney, a sales manager for Qwestdex in Denver.
In the classical techniques course, students learn handy tricks like shaping your fingers into a claw so that you slice vegetables without slicing your fingertips, or knowing when meat is properly cooked by using the feel of the flesh in different parts of your hand as a guide. Other special five-day "Cooking Vacations" here (available from April through October) focus on desserts and bread techniques as well as ethnic cuisines such as Asian, Mediterranean, Italian, and more.
For the five-day courses, the $575 tuition includes plenty of eating -- breakfast, snacks, and a huge full lunch with wine that rarely leaves you wanting much for dinner. If gazing at the mountains constantly in your line of sight anywhere in Boulder isn't enough for you, here are a few budget tips on local food and fun: Japango sushi restaurant on Pearl Street offers half-price dishes and drinks before 6 p.m., The Med restaurant has $1 tapas midweek from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., and the Basemar Cinema Saver movie theater only charges $3.
Cost: $575 tuition, includes five days of classes, breakfast, snacks, huge full lunch with wine each day.
Contact: Culinary School of the Rockies, 637 S. Broadway, #H, Boulder, CO 80305; 303/494-7988, culinaryschoolrockies.com/.
How to go & What to do: Fly into Denver and drive 40 minutes to Boulder. Walk off all those calories at the downtown Pearl Street pedestrian mall, where you'll find the Boulder Arts and Crafts Co-op displaying the talent of local artists.
Walloon Lake Village, Michigan: Fonds Du Cuisine Cooking School
"Our name means 'the fundamentals of food,' so we focus on good foods, simply cooked," explains David Beier, chef and owner of the Fonds Du Cuisine Cooking School at Michigan's Walloon Lake Inn. Beier, who trained with European chefs and worked in 18 restaurants, has been teaching "techniques, rather than recipes" for the last 18 years.
"You can get recipes on the Internet, but I teach how to thicken a sauce, sharpen a knife, braise, saute, how you can get organized in the kitchen and make the most of the few hours you have there, techniques that allow you to look at any recipe and be successful," Beier says.
The series of classes is very intimate, usually about four to six people, so everybody can be involved in cooking an entire meal. The four hours of daily instruction (from Sunday to Thursday, October through March) are an intensive but highly sociable experience.
"The view on the lake here is beautiful -- and the students usually drain the wine bottle at the three-course midday meal they share," Beier says with a laugh. Those who don't go to their rooms for a nap can spend the rest of the afternoons in the beautiful outdoors. The inn is situated right on the 35-mile, turquoise, sandy-bottomed Walloon Lake, just a few miles from some of the best downhill (and cross-country) skiing in Michigan, and less than a mile from Lake Michigan. In winter there is also ice-skating (indoor and outdoor rinks) or snowshoeing. In spring, there's morel hunting.
Cost: $400 per person (double occupancy); $440 for a single, includes four days (16 hours) of classes, four nights at the inn, breakfast, and a huge lunch/dinner daily; classes run from Sunday to Thursday, October through March excluding the holidays (though Chef Beier is willing to adapt the timing to suit groups).
Contact: David Beier, owner and chef, Fonds Du Cuisine Cooking School at Walloon Lake Inn, P.O. Box 459 Walloon Lake Village, MI 49796, 800/956-4665, walloonlakeinn.com/.
How to go & What to do: The closest airport is PLN in Pellston, Michigan, 45 minutes away; Traverse City Airport (TVC) is 75 minutes. Skiing, ice-skating, hiking at your doorstep.
Oakland, California: The Art of Thai Cooking
Loha-unchit grew up in Thailand, learning her country's subtle spicing and techniques at her mother's side. She has been teaching cooking classes in California since 1985 and has written two books: Dancing Shrimp: Favorite Thai Recipes for Seafood and It Rains Fishes: Legends, Traditions and the Joy of Thai Cooking. Her classes are as complex as the flavors of her native land.
"I teach about harmonizing flavors-blending hot, sour, sweet, salty, aromatic, bitter, astringent -- all the aspects of taste," Loha-unchit explains. "I don't separate the food from the culture, so people get a cultural experience here, too. It's creative; it's casual -- like having a group of friends over to your house," she says.
And that is, in fact, what Loha-unchit is doing, as she teaches the classes out of her home. "The kitchen is cozy," says Dallas resident Gregg Stone, director of business development for a software company. It's not what he expected when he first came to Kasma's class last summer, but he soon realized the homey setting was a plus. "I think the fact that it was a normal kitchen (with the added feature of a second gas range and an assistant to help clean up) took some of the mystique out of the cooking process--and it kept the cost down," Stone says. "The price was very reasonable--you can't believe how stuffed with fresh ingredients her refrigerator was for that class each day."
The tuition includes all-day classes, preparation of five to seven dishes a day, meals throughout the day, and food field trips. "Kasma took us to an outdoor Oriental farmer's market and to Oriental grocery stores in Oakland," Stone says. "We jumped the BART and went to San Francisco's Chinatown. And I went to a grocery store in Berkeley called the Berkeley Bowl--an old bowling alley converted to a grocery store with a produce section second to none." Though accommodation is not included, there are B&Bs and hotels within walking distance of the class.
What does Loha-unchit want students to take away with them (besides some good Thai green chili curry paste)? "I want them to see that cooking is therapeutic," she says. "Working with ingredients is tactile; if you focus on the senses and the process rather than the results -- and you keep tasting and making adjustments, you don't have to worry about the results. It will always be good."
Cost: The $500 tuition includes five days of classes (with a maximum of 12 students) in summer only (though single classes run March through October), from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., field trips to Asian markets, breakfast, snacks, lunch, and wine; Kasma has a list of nearby B&Bs and motels starting as low as $65 per night. Kasma also takes groups on cooking tours of Thailand: $3,350 for 28 days, including airfare from the West Coast.
Contact: Kasma Loha-unchit, P.O. Box 21165, Oakland, CA 94620, 510/655-8900, thaifoodandtravel.com/
How to go & What to do: San Francisco is 20 minutes away; you don't have to rent a car -- Kasma picks students up from the Bart station one mile away. Five-day classes are also available, but only during summer months.
© 2006. Newsweek Budget Travel, Inc.
Note: This story was accurate when it was first published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
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