Virtuoso Life November 2019 Food-focused Trips to Argentina, Japan, Morocco, and More

Food-focused Trips to Argentina, Japan, Morocco, and More

A limited-edition-sake sampler, served with a lunch of tempura, soba, sashimi, and pickle garnishes at Kizakura Kappa Country in the Fushimi Sake District.
A limited-edition-sake sampler, served with a lunch of tempura, soba, sashimi, and pickle garnishes at Kizakura Kappa Country in the Fushimi Sake District.
Photo by Ben Weller
Sizzling octopus takoyaki in Osaka. Flaky honey pastries in Marrakech. Fresh cacao fruit in Costa Rica. Where better to dig into a new place than at the table? On culinary trips with local connections, mealtime is just the beginning: Participants also forage for ingredients, learn from local experts, and take new recipes home. Read on for a few of our favorite deep-dive food tours around the world.


World-heritage-grade cuisine and a street-food smorgasbord.

Washoku, a word that roughly translates to “food of Japan,” is on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. In addition to food traditions refined over millennia, the country has more cities with Michelin-starred restaurants than any other on the planet. Tokyo holds the highest number of stars of any city in the world, and Kyoto and Osaka rank among the top five. Avanti Destinations provides a nine-day private tour of all three. In Tokyo, experts guide travelers through famous underground food halls and set up private nigiri- and maki-making lessons in a local’s home. A tea ceremony and a visit to a sake house in Kyoto give insight into the country’s history and customs, as does an optional trip to buy regional staples, such as yuba (tofu skin) and dried bonito, in the mile-long Nishiki covered food market. A tour of Osaka’s street foods, such as takoyaki, demonstrates why the city is associated with the Japanese word kuidaore, which loosely translates as “to eat oneself to ruin.” Departures: Any day through 2020.
Culinarium serves bright dips (eggplant, beet, and strained Georgian yogurt)<br />
in Tbilis.
Culinarium serves bright dips (eggplant, beet, and strained Georgian yogurt)
in Tbilis.
Photo by Taylor Weidman


Trending worldwide from this former Soviet republic: Khachapuri, dumplings, and orange wine.

Georgian food is popping up far outside this nation’s borders between the Black and Caspian seas, attracting the forks of adventurous diners hungry for the next big cuisine. A parade of dumplings, breads such as cheese-filled khachapuri, and simple salads accented by fresh herbs and walnut-based dressings, it strikes an eminently craveable combination of flavors. Plus, it’s photogenic: #khachapuri yields nearly 45,000 Instagram results. Exeter International’s eight-day private tour balances lessons in the traditional – tasting orange wines in the country credited with inventing them and making khinkali dumplings in the mountain village of Stepantsminda – with modern food classes at Culinarium, a Tbilisi cooking school and restaurant. Another highlight: During a wine-paired lunch at eastern Georgia’s Cha虃teau Mukhrani winery (winner of 15 International Wine & Spirit Competition medals and former home of the prince of the Bagrationi dynasty), a troupe demonstrates khridoli, a centuries-old Georgian martial art. Departures: Any day through 2020.
Artisanal Costa Rican chocolates.
Artisanal Costa Rican chocolates.
Photo by Sean Davis

Costa Rica 

Pura vida means unadulterated flavor.

Costa Rica is best known for jungle adventure, white-sand beaches, and surfing,
but its natural resources and tropical produce also make it a hot spot for cuisine. Access Culinary Trips’ food-centric, eight-day private tour starts with a visit to San Jose虂’s Borbo虂n and Central markets, integral to a community that values “pura vida,” or the simple life. At the markets, visitors learn about folk medicine and shop for items such as cashew apples, guavas, and a rainbow of other produce. Just outside San Jose虂, a chocolate-experience lunch includes cacao-fruit samples and roasted-cocoa-nib salad. A behind-the-scenes visit to Finca Rosa Blanca’s Santa Ba虂rbara coffee plantation takes participants through the process of harvesting, drying, and roasting, culminating in a tasting flight. En route to the base of Arenal Volcano, there’s a stop for fresh pineapple on a family farm before a private cooking class in La Fortuna, where a local chef teaches techniques for grilling meats and mixing cocktails. Departures: Any day through 2020.
A traditional bisteeya meat pie.
A traditional bisteeya meat pie.
Photo by Konstantin Kopachinskiy/Alamy


Rich spice traditions and sweet treats.

Moroccan desserts play on distinctive textures and flavors, layering naturally sweet ingredients such as honey and dates with depth from nuts and seeds. It’s hard to say no to flaky, honey-crisped, and almond-filled makrout, or to chebakia – deep-fried, flower-shaped cookies, coated in honey and rose water and sprinkled with sesame seeds. During Artisans of Leisure’s private ten-day journey through Morocco, travelers taste the gamut of local sweets and learn about traditional desserts’ backgrounds during baking classes. Briefings on how to prepare savory bisteeyas (flaky meat pies) and spiced tagines round out the feast. Stops at local markets supply regional ingredients, from fresh and dried figs in the High Atlas Mountains to just-caught squid in the eighteenth-century port of Essaouira. Departures: Any day through 2020.
Chef Francis Mallmann tending to the pit at The Vines Resort & Spa’s Siete Fuegos in Mendoza.
Chef Francis Mallmann tending to the pit at The Vines Resort & Spa’s Siete Fuegos in Mendoza.

Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay 

New World classics and the next big thing in wine.

Chile’s Bordeaux-style whites and reds get a lot of press, as do Argentina’s asado meats and malbecs. But the buzz around Uruguay’s tannat as the next malbec merits including the country in any South American itinerary. Virtuoso advisors can work with on-site connection Abercrombie & Kent Argentina to create a 13-day private tour that gives a taste of each country. In Santiago, a local chef accompanies travelers to an open-air market and teaches them to prepare a meal in her apartment. In Mendoza, visitors stay at The Vines Resort & Spa and have the option to dine at its Siete Fuegos restaurant, where fire-loving chef Francis Mallmann sears Argentina’s famous beef gaucho-style over a roaring open flame. And in Carmelo, Uruguay, a winetasting at Narbona Wine Lodge’s cellar provides a chance to bring home conversation starters in a bottle. Departures: Any day through 2020 (excluding holidays and the first week of March).

Water to Wine 

On wine- and beer-centric cruises, the captains are your designated drivers.

Kim Stare Wallace and Don Wallace of Sonoma’s Dry Creek Vineyard join Paul Gauguin Cruises’ 332-passenger Paul Gauguin on an 11-day round-trip voyage from Papeete, Tahiti, through the Society and Tuamotu islands. During the day, stops such as the UNESCO- listed Fakarava Atoll in the western Tuamotus entice divers. In the evening, the Wallaces host a dinner paired with Dry Creek wines and present several panels on Dry Creek Vineyard and tasting terroir. Departure: October 14, 2020.

Passengers taste vintages by iconic wineries such as Montalcino’s Castello Banfi during SeaDream Yacht Club’s eight-day Mediterranean wine cruise from Nice to Rome (Civitavecchia) on the 112-passenger SeaDream I. An optional excursion on the island of Elba includes a tour of a seventeenth-century cellar and a hike to see the residences where Napoleon spent 300 days in exile. On the mainland, visitors can join a truffle hunt on Castello delle Regine’s nearly 1,000-acre Umbrian estate, home to 500-year-old olive trees. Departure: September 26, 2020.

On a 15-day Budapest-to-Amsterdam sailing aboard Avalon Waterways’ 166-passenger Avalon Panorama, river cruisers tour a hops garden in Bamberg, discover microbreweries in Bratislava’s Old Town, and enjoy free-time options such as tasting Ko虉lsch in a Cologne Brauha虉user, where it’s been brewed for more than a century. An afternoon cruise through the Rhine Gorge, visits to abbeys, and a guided sightseeing tour of Budapest keep all the senses engaged. Departure: October 27, 2020.

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