· Travel

Back in December 1996, Helen and I were restaurant owners (photo below, and yes that is me in chef's whites). We were located in Painswick in the Cotswolds, England, and for our Christmas party that year we took our small team on a day trip to Paris for lunch. A slight extravagance I'll admit, but it was so worth it. Our 2 chefs, Rob, my brother and head chef, and Tom Kerridge, our then sous chef, chose Arpege which was then a 2-star Michelin restaurant as our venue. Despite careening on two wheels around a Heathrow roundabout as we desperately tried to make our flight on time, we survived and made our reservation time in Paris. It was a memorable meal, and we know it inspired, especially our young sous chef Tom, who is now a 2-star Michelin chef himself with books and TV shows to boot.
Helen and I departed the restaurant business in 1998, but you likely have realized that our foodie roots run deep, especially if you follow our social media feeds.
To get to the point: we are visiting Paris in March and I have again made a reservation at Arpege. Owner and chef Alain Passard has now retained 3 Michelin stars for over 20 consecutive years and the restaurant is currently rated in the Top 10 in the world. This will be the biggest splurge on a meal ever, but with my irrepressible foodie heart, I will almost certainly find it worth every euro.

I write this because this weeks ezine is inspired by an email that came in just 2 days after I'd made our reservation at Arpege. See below for the details, and this weeks Top 5.

Top 5 - Foodie Fodder

1. Alain Passard at Casa de Campo (below)
So just 2 days after making a reservation at Arpege in Paris, I received an email from Casa de Campo, advertising a truly wonderful foodie vacation experience. Since it opened in La Romana almost 50 years ago as the first resort in the Dominican Republic, Casa de Campo Resort & Villas has been a favorite luxury destination for discerning travelers and celebrities the world over who relish the private gated community for its safe and exclusive setting. If you are free March 27th to 29th then head here to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime culinary feast prepared by Alain himself.
$2,999 for a package for 2 and there is already limited availability.

2. Culinary Croatia (above and below)
We are always recommending foodie experiences for our clients trips, and they can run the whole range from tapas tours in Barcelona to pasta making in Florence. But how about a whole trip focused on food? Sign me up. Access Culinary Trips is an award-winning Virtuoso preferred culinary tour company for travelers who want to explore culture through cuisine in the world’s most exciting destinations. Immersive food-focused itineraries and expert local guides deliver delicious one-of-a-kind adventures. With a commitment to responsible and sustainable travel, tours never exceed 12 guests, allowing meaningful connections to local places and people.
Allow me to briefly showcase a few of them here.
Firstly, Croatia, as you taste your way around the "Pearl of the Adriatic" exploring culture through its cuisine in this burgeoning culinary hot spot. Discover Croatia food travel through walking tours, oyster, wine & olive oil tastings, a truffle hunt, and authentic cooking classes.

3. Behind the Noren Curtain (above and below)
Next up from Access Culinary Trips, discover Japan's fascinating culture through its world heritage cuisine. World-renowned Japanese food is just as beautiful to behold as it is exquisite to eat. You will soak in geothermal hot springs surrounded by verdant forests. Masters of age-old traditions share their rituals. Explore Japan’s culture through its cuisine whether in high-speed Tokyo or old-world Kyoto or in the timeless villages along the sacred pilgrimage routes of the Kii Peninsula. As you sample the delectable street food of Osaka, take part in a tea ceremony, and cook a farm-to-table meal, you’ll make meaningful connections with the kind people of this island nation.

4. Savory Spices and Souks (below)
One more from Access Culinary Trips. A Morocco culinary tour is a treat for the senses, particularly the taste buds. Arabic, Berber, French, and Italian influences merge to make Morocco one of the most fascinating and flavorful destinations in the world. From urban Casablanca to the fishing village Essaouira to Berber villages of the High Atlas Mountains to the mesmerizing Marrakech, Morocco’s distinct culture is a story best told through its cuisine, an exciting mix of Berber, Arabic, Andalusian, and Mediterranean cuisines with some European and sub-Saharan influences as well.
PS. For AA flyers there is a new summer route non-stop from Philadelphia to Casablanca beginning this summer.

5. Dine with a Local (above and below)
As much as I will go googly-eyed when I sit down again in Arpege, I value just as highly the experiences you can have these days enjoying meals with and cooked by locals. We have several Virtuoso preferred suppliers who now offer these experiences all over the world. I cannot speak highly enough of the beneficial effect a full interaction over a meal with true locals can have on your soul.
Not only do these in-home cooking and dining experiences offer a true taste of traditional local life, but they provide income for host families who participate too. In both Delhi last September (left), and in Budapest last June (above), I learned so much about local customs and beliefs just through quiet and happy discussion over a meal.

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