Meals and wine excursions to France, Italy, Spain and the UK

When Colin and Jenoa Matthes left their home state of Utah in 2019 to embark on a world tour, they were drawn to the food scene in places like France and Italy.

“We really loved, especially the food in all these different countries … and how local and specialized they were in different regions … We don’t really get that much in the US, where we’re from, where it’s more of a hodgepodge of cuisines.” from around the world,” Colin Matthes told CNBC via video call.

Last year, the couple launched a travel company called Stay Awhile, which organizes trips “around food,” according to the company’s website.

Stay Awhile’s first destination was Bologna, Italy, where guests took part in a month-long tasting and remote work trip, sampling local mortadella sausage, sampling almond and pistachio granitas (a type of sorbet), and eating authentic tagliatelle al ragu. a pasta served with a traditional beef and pork sauce.

Baking in Paris

Next up for Stay Awhile is a 10-day French pastry trip to Paris in June 2023, where guests will learn to prepare desserts and pastries ranging from Opera Cake, a layered sponge cake filled with coffee and chocolate, to the classic Croissant, which involves quite a laborious process.

The Place des Vosges, a square in the Marais district of Paris. Guests taking Stay Awhile’s French baking class visit the area to sample gourmet delicacies.

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While boulangeries (bakeries) and patisseries (pastry shops) can seemingly be found on every corner in Paris, finding authentic recipes for baking pastries at home can be difficult, said Matthes, who is also a home baker. “I feel like so many of them have been adapted and maybe simplified and … I don’t feel like I’m becoming like a real French eclair recipe, for example,” he told CNBC.

To ensure guests cook authentically, Stay Awhile hired pastry chef Jennifer Pogmore, who trained at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Paris. Pogmore will teach participants in an apartment with a large kitchen in the city’s 11th arrondissement, a neighborhood known for its restaurants, bars and opera house.

In addition to learning how to make French classics, the itinerary includes a day-long wine tasting in Champagne, as well as a guided tour of Paris’ Le Marais neighborhood to sample delights like cheese, sausage, and chocolate.

Fresh loaves of bread in one of the Poilane bakeries in Paris. The company said bakers complete a nine-month apprenticeship to learn the craft.

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There is also enough time to explore the city. Matthes recommended visiting Brasserie Bellanger for traditional French mains and family-run bakery Poilane for “arguably the best croissant in all of Paris.”

Stay Awhile’s Paris Baking Tour starts at $5,400 per person, excluding flights. The pair have plans for an Italian cooking class in a villa in Tuscany and a gourmet gastronomic experience in Spain’s Basque country, known for its bite-sized dishes known as pintxos.

“The main goal is for people to … have these profound experiences with food and cuisine, especially local and regional cuisine,” Matthes told CNBC.

A gastronomic tour of San Sebastián

Pintxos are a staple in San Sebastian, one of the most popular foodie spots in the Spanish Basque Country. For the luxury tour operator SmoothRed, the city is a highlight of northern Spain. It organizes bespoke wine and food tours to the area, with sales director Adam Stebbings recommending flying to Bilbao and then experiencing San Sebastian cuisine and Rioja vineyards.

“The … Bilbao-San Sebastian triangle with Rioja is very popular. It’s not just a wine tour … it’s a gourmet getaway,” Stebbings told CNBC over the phone.

San Sebastián in northern Spain is known for its gourmet scene.

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A four-day trip might include two nights at the Hotel Marques de Riscal, a luxury spa hotel in Rioja, with an eight-course meal at its Michelin-starred restaurant, followed by a night at the five-star Hotel Maria Cristina in San Sebastian, includes dinner at Casa Julian de Tolosa Steakhouse. Prices start from £2,289 ($2,650) per person including transfers but excluding flights.

For pintxos, Stebbings recommended Borda Berri and MendaurBerria, both small bars in Old San Sebastian. For lunch, he suggested the seafood restaurant Elkano, about a half-hour drive west of San Sebastian. Reservations are essential as it was named one of the top 50 restaurants in the world for 2021, Stebbings said.

Interest in food-focused travel is increasing, Stebbings said. Sales are up 60% year over year since 2019, although some of that increase is due to delays in bookings from 2020, he said. The French regions of Burgundy and Champagne are particularly popular.

Pintxos, a traditional small dish, in San Sebastian, Spain.

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Guests are staying longer and adding more excursions, Stebbings said. On a tour of France’s Languedoc-Roussillon region, travelers can take a boat trip to an oyster farm off the coast of Montpellier. When in Tuscany, they can add an e-bike tour of a vineyard or two.

Wine tasting in Tuscany

Tuscany is known for cities like Florence and Siena, both of which are close to Borgo San Vincenzo, a new luxury boutique hotel named after the patron saint of winemaking.

The hotel encourages travelers to get off the beaten path and experience the region in more authentic ways, from olive oil tastings from small producers to a cheese-making demonstration at a nearby farm.

The boutique hotel Borgo San Vincenzo in Tuscany is named after the patron saint of winemaking, St. Vincent.

Borgo San Vincenzo

Truffle hunting near the historic town of Montalcino and a cooking class in a 13th-century castle with local chefs are popular, according to a hotel representative, while an e-bike tour to taste Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a local wine, was also popular a hit with guests this year.

This autumn, Borgo San Vincenzo will offer winemakers’ dinners, where a variety of producers will offer private tastings. One of the dinners features dishes created by the hotel’s chef Giulio Lombardelli, paired with wine made by his brother Amadeo Lombardelli from the nearby Icario winery.

The Flying Monk Bar at the Borgo San Vincenzo Hotel in Tuscany serves classic Italian cocktails such as Aperol or Prosecco Spritz.

Borgo San Vincenzo

Combinations include a pumpkin, leek and almond lasagna with Icario Trebbiano 2021, a white wine or spicy prawns with pioppini mushrooms paired with Icario Nysa Rose 2021.

Cooking in the Cotswolds

Local ingredients are at the heart of the cooking school at Daylesford, an organic farm and upscale estate in the Cotswolds, a picturesque region known for its rolling countryside and honey-colored stone villages.

Half-day and full-day courses at the school – ranging from artisan bread-making to a butcher’s workshop – offer guests the opportunity to learn about the region through its produce.

A chef prepares the table at Daylesford cookery school in the Cotswolds, UK.

Daylesford

Participants can also stay at the farm in one of their cottages, which have been converted from the original 19th-century farmhouse, or they can stay in nearby Kingham, a village which has Daylesford Cottages as well as The Wild Rabbit, a pub with accommodation, owns.

Daylesford also has a farm shop, garden and antiques centre, wine shop and restaurants, as well as a spa and a range of organic skincare products.

But despite its expansion over the past 20 years, Daylesford remains “an organic farm at heart,” according to chef James Devonshire, who oversees his cookery school.

It “grows or grows a huge amount of different ingredients,” he told CNBC over the phone. Travelers might find a double Gloucester cheese made at his dairy or a box of traditional tomatoes grown in the garden.

“We use as much of the garden as we can throughout the year,” Devonshire said, adding that the garden is otherwise not open to the public.

A room in Fowler’s House, a cottage in the village of Kingham, part of the Daylesford estate in the Cotswolds, UK.

Daylesford

People are picking produce for their class from the garden, with recipes recently including a beef tenderloin with potatoes, capers and arugula and an onion bhaji with charred cauliflower.

Classes are held in a high-ceilinged stone barn, and some of the most popular classes include canapé-making, a seasonal dinner party class, and a summertime BBQ and fire pit class.

While Daylesford’s shops and restaurants can get busy, the culinary school is quieter, Devonshire said.

“It’s like a little oasis,” he says.

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