There’s not a more delicious way to get inside of a country’s culture like taking a cooking class or food tour. The first thing I always do when planning a trip is to look for some sort of culinary experience. This kind of activity certainly gives me a taste of the local cuisine, but it’s also a snapshot of the region’s history and traditions, not to mention that I leave with a fully satisfied stomach. Here are five of my favorite food experiences from Europe.
Make Macaroons in Paris
The macaron has become synonymous with the City of Light almost as much as the Eifel Tower. Frankly, the only time I eat these adorable little delights is when I’m in Paris. They just don’t taste the same anywhere else. Despite my thoughts on indulging in these pastries outside of the France, I set up a macaron making class with Kensington Tours. In the three-hour interactive class, a French pastry chef taught me how to make three different kinds of macarons. By no means was this an easy task, but luckily the final product tasted much better than it looked. Read the full account here.
Private Wine Tour in Vienna
Wine tasting isn’t exactly a “culinary” experience, but wine is made from grapes, so it’s practically the same thing. If Vienna is visited in the winter or spring months, the fact that grape fields surround the city is probably lost on most visitors. But visit in the summer or fall, and the Viennese wine culture is abundantly clear. A tradition unique to Vienna is the heuriger. Essentially a wine tavern akin to the German biergarten, the heuriger began in the 18th century as a place for wineries to sell tax-free their newly fermented wine directly to the consumer. Kensington Tours not only organized my visits to several heurigen, but also a private tasting with the owner of Wieninger Winery. The chauffeured car and guide came in really handy. I drank a lot of vino. Read the full account here.
Roman Food Tour
Rome is one of my favorite food cities in the world. I visited the Eternal City nearly ten years ago, and I’m still dreaming of the Jewish artichokes. I’ve searched the world over and have yet to find anything quite like them. On my most recent trip to Rome, I called on Walks of Italy for their food tour. Starting at a market in Campo dei Fiori, I sampled olive oils, balsamic vinegars and homemade limoncello. Neighboring stores offered fresh bread and a variety of Italian cured meats. For lunch, I made my very own wood-fired pizza. And then for dessert, it was gelato and espresso. All I have to say is thank goodness this was a walking tour, because I probably ingested my weekly allotment of calories on this tour. Read the full account here.
Cook Goulash in Budapest
Hungarian food tends to get glossed over and lumped in with German, Austrian or Czech cuisine. They do have some similarities, but not when it comes to goulash. Hungarians will tell you that they invented goulash, and that the sweet, dumpling- laden version found in Prague is a joke. Meaning “herdsman” in Hungarian, goulash gets its red color from the spicy Hungarian paprika, which was brought to the country by the invading Turks. I learned this history, along with how to cook traditional Hungarian goulash, thanks to Kensington Tours and Erik, my hulk-like goulash guru. Read the full account here.
Italian Cooking Class in Umbria
Tucked away in the Italian hills on the border between Tuscany and Umbria is Il Fontanaro. A mother and daughter operate this organic farm and cooking school, and my time there ranks among one of my favorite travel experiences of all time. Organized by Walks of Italy, not only did I spend the day whipping up homemade pasta and sauces and risotto, I also swilled more wine than I care to remember, including some produced on their farm. Truly a warm and welcoming experience, I dined at the family’s table, ogled the massive wine cellar and then spent the night in one of the farm’s luxury villas. The entire experience—from greeting to goodbye— was perfection. Read the full account here.