Food and wine touring is one of the best methods of travel, and a growing trend. You meet locals, often take the road less traveled, taste exquisite regional cuisine, sample rare wines, and try a culture on for size. These scrumptious tours come in all flavors and cater to groups.
Cooking classes abroad
My mom and I participated in a group cooking class while in Florence for a destination wedding. 20 guests from the wedding bonded, made new friends, and spread the spirit of the wedding through the days leading up to the ceremony. With the chef supervising, ingredients prepped, and kitchen utensils at hand, we broke into smaller groups and worked on our respective culinary assignments. Mom and I were with the tort table following a simple recipe for a lemon tort while others prepared a beef entrée, appetizers, and salads. After baking and cooking, we all feasted on our homemade Italian food and drank vino at a big banquet table. Bonus: We all got to take home the recipes and aprons. To this day, it's still one of my most memorable meals. Thanks to Apicius, the Culinary Institute of Florence.
The same destination wedding trip to Italy also gave me the opportunity to take a small group wine-tasting tour. We visited quaint, lesser-known wineries and stopped for lunch at a local restaurant in a rural village just outside of Florence. Chianti's 300 acres between Florence and Siena are filled with hills and various wine-growing conditions, producing a range of bouquets. We sampled soft wines, dry wines, and robust wines not marketed in the U.S. Apparently, the American market demands certain grapes and types of wine, but often the local vintners shake their heads in wonder because they know the superior bottles don't sell well on the mass market. Reason alone to do a wine-tasting tour: rare finds. These tours are a great way to meld with the rural areas, sample the fruits of its earth, and pass the time with a little culture.
Pick and choose your favorite culinary tour. Your body, mind, and gut will thank you for it, and it's ideal for group trips. A few suggestions to whet your appetite:
Bordeaux wine tours
Napa Valley wineries
South Australia wine-tasting tours (source: travelgirl magazine, Sept./Oct. 2006)
Guinness tours in Dublin
Anheuser-Busch Brewery tours
Redhook Brewery tours in Washington state (near Seattle) or New Hampshire
Samuel Adams Brewery tours in Boston
Food & culinary tours and classes
Cooking classes in France, Spain, and Italy
Mexican cooking tours
Food & music tours (eat 'til you ache, dance 'til you drop)
Chateau St. Michelle Winery concerts in Woodinville (near Seattle)
Celtic music and food tours in Ireland and Scotland
Taking a culinary or wine tour with family or friends is a priceless experience, great for girls getaways, bachelorette parties, wedding guest activities, and so on.