- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 22, 2004

People often combine vacations with advancing their hobbies — from taking golf lessons to improving photographic techniques or polishing foreign-language skills. So, why not combine your travel with a culinary education?

Whether or not you already have picked your destination, you can search the Internet for local cooking classes or schools for nonprofessionals, many of which specialize in regional food styles.

Where better than California’s Napa Valley to learn about food and wine? Copia, the American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts — www.copia.org — is the home of Julia’s Kitchen, named for Julia Child, where you can watch chefs in action. Click on Programs to see what’s coming up, including Death by Chocolate in February. Click on About Copia to learn the origin of the name.

When you’re in New Orleans, stroll into the French Quarter and visit the New Orleans School of Cooking — www.thelouisianageneralstore.com — and learn a few local specialties. The Culinary Institute of New Orleans — www.cino.com/classes.html — and the New Orleans Cooking Experience — www.neworleanscookingexperience.com — offer broad samples of Louisiana cuisine, from gumbo to oyster artichoke souffle with oyster sauce.

The next time you’re in Chicago, you could set aside some time for Best Chefs — www.bestchefs.com. In fall, it offered classes at restaurants around the metropolitan area. Click on Cooking Classes and look under Recipe Box for the directions for crab puffs with garlic alioli.

Take in a Broadway show at night in New York City and spend part of your days at the Institute of Culinary Education — www.iceculinary.com/recreational/index.shtml — which has something for just about every taste. While you’re there, you might be able to see a taping of the Food Network’s “Emeril Live,” but to get tickets, you have to visit the Newsletters page — www.foodnetwork.com/food/newsletter — and sign up for the e-mail newsletter.

Maybe you’re heading to Florida to take a break from the winter. You could stop in Fort Lauderdale to visit the Chef Jean Pierre Cooking School — www.chefjeanpierre.com — to polish your basic skills and learn about gourmet sauces.

Going south of the border?

Learn some of Mexico’s distinctive cuisines while exploring the picturesque Central Mexico city of San Miguel de Allende www.internetsanmiguel.com/index.html — which offers a separate page on local cooking schools, along with other reasons to visit. It’s not a complete list; the town also has Arcos Mexican Cooking School — www.internetsanmiguel.com/index.html — which offers a package that includes lodging.

If your travels in Mexico take you to Mazatlan, Cooking With Cuata — www.genio.net/cuata — advertises classes for small groups with day tours. Head for Oaxaca next October and take in the Food of the Gods Festival — www.food-of-the-gods-festival.com..

However, you don’t have to go that far south to learn how to make carne adovada, enchiladas and frijoles borrachos. Take your Mexican recipes with a north-of-the-border flavor in New Mexico at the Santa Fe School of Cooking — santafeschoolofcooking.com — just a few blocks’ stroll from the city’s historic plaza.

Expand your horizons with Gourmet on Tour — www.gourmetontour.com. You can search for culinary tours and schools worldwide. Epiculinary — www.epiculinary.com — has a directory for dozens more.

E-mail comments and tips to [email protected].

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