Cook and Relax at These Exotic Retreats
Fold a measure of adventurous dining into a batch of epicurean travel and you have the rise of spa and resort cuisine: culinary programs where you’ll be tasting, slicing, dicingâ€”and acquiring killer recipes to take home. With Father’s Day just weeks away, we’ve rounded up culinary retreats that feed both body and soul. And, of course, our picks for cool luggage, gifts and accessories. By Celeste Moure
WIN IT We’re giving away the Coleman rolling duffel featured here. Think your dad deserves it? Tell us why on our Facebook page to enter the Search for the Ultimate Dad contest and he could take home this and other amazing prizes!
EXOTIC SPICE Four Seasons Chiang Mai, Thailand
What’s cooking Students gather around the resort’s native Thai chef, who enlightens them on the medicinal qualities and historical facts of certain dishes while he introduces the many types of Thai noodles and divulges the secrets of creating killer curries from scratch. Take plenty of notes, because soon you will attempt to recreate it all at an individual cooking station. Class ends as the whole group sits down at a large table, like this Caluco Teak Rectangle Extension Dining Table, to communally enjoy the dishes prepared.
Local flavor During a visit to the herb garden to collect ginger, lemongrass, Thai chilies and other ingredients for the tom kha kai, a chicken and coconut milk soup, you might notice the water buffaloes lolling in the nearby rice paddies. Some of the garden’s herbs and spices are also used at the spa; try the ylang-ylang and pink lotus mask or a pandan leaf wrap.
The kitchen Set amid soaring banyan and bamboo trees and overlooking the jungle-covered hills of the Mae Rim Valley just outside of Chiang Mai, the open-air kitchen pavilion is decked out in rich timber floors, zinc exhaust fans and glass jars filled with exotic ingredients.
Pack right The handsome Samsonite Silhouette 2 Piece Hardside Luggage set is made of durable ABS/Polycarbonate. It features smooth rolling spinner wheels and because it rolls upright, there is no weight on your arm. Packing organization is a breeze thanks to a tri-fold removable suiter and modesty pocket. Meanwhile, the matching Beauty Case features combination locks, a removable tray for all precious belongings and a leather wrapped handle.
CUISINE OF THE SUN Casa de Sierra Nevada, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
What’s cooking Pastel de tres leches, huitlacoche, chilaquiles: Mexican ingredients and dishes are nothing if not exotic-sounding and -tasting. But the chef at this cooking school, set in the picturesque colonial town of San Miguel de Allende, makes it all look easy. By the end of class you will have learned how to make pastel de tres leches, the iconic Latin cake soaked in three (fresh, evaporated and condensed) milks; how to utilize indigenous ingredients like cactus, chiles and huitlacoche, the hard-to-pronounce but delicious corn fungus; and how to prepare staples like mole and chipotle-infused sauces.
Local flavor During a field trip to the neighborhood mercado, the chef gives tips on stocking a pantry and guides students on selecting the best and freshest herbs. Need a new pantry for your kitchen? Check out this White Thin-Man Pantry Cabinet by Venture Horizon.
The kitchen San Miguel native Chef Gonzalo Martinez heads the Sazon Cooking School, which is set inside an 18th-century hacienda and features antique pottery, colorful tiles and hanging copper pots, like these Hanging Copper Torches from H Potter.
Pack right The sturdy and sophisticated Titan Luggage Manhattan Four Wheel 22″ International Carry On is able to move with ease in any direction, making maneuvering through security and crowded international streets a breeze.
MIND OVER MANNERS
Miraval Resort, Catalina, Arizona
What’s cooking The modus operandi at the Miraval Resort near Tucson (there is also a similar Costa Rica Miraval Resort location) is balance and the goal is learning to live in the present. During a guided meal, called Mindful Eating, a nutritionist will ask you to eat in silence for 10 minutes and to try setting your fork down after every bite. The idea is to carefully taste the foods you’ve selected from the buffet, paying attention to the textures, the flavours and the aromas. You might discover that, even though every day for breakfast you eat yogurt, you don’t actually like the taste of it” you just eat it out of habit. Without the normal distractions surrounding mealtime, you might also notice the point at which you become full. And stop overeating.
Local flavor During a desert walk with a naturalist, you’ll stimulate all your senses, spotting native butterfly species and exploring the habitat of the Sonoran Desert. At the spa, don’t miss a full body exfoliation using a natural and fragrant sugar scrub infused with prickly pear.
The kitchen Surrounded by acres of flowering succulents, prairies of wild flowers and gushing rivulets, cooking demonstrations at Miraval focus on making healthy, lighter versions of favorites like tiramisu and wild mushroom and barley risotto. If you love making rice, you’ll love this stainless steel rice cooker and steamer to cook rice and porridge, stews soup, steams vegetables, fish and poultry and more.
Pack right The sleek Heys USA Xcase Carry On features a non-shiny finish with a dimpled texture to better hide any marks or scratches that may happen in-transit. It weights a mere 4.8 pounds, features a built-in divider with mesh pocket and chrome plated wheels for extra flare.
SUNSHINE AND MOONLIGHT
Rockwater Secret Cove Resort, Halfmoon Bay, British Columbia
What’s cooking Instead of partaking in meal preparation, you’ll earn your dinner during an invigorating evening paddle to a remote island, where the chef and his team welcome you with appetizers and wine glasses in hand. While you relax at the beach or by candlelight in the safari-style tent, the chef prepares a three-course gourmet dinner (such as smoked Alaskan black cod rolled with baby bok choi and grilled shitake).
Local flavor While the sun goes down, you will paddle among seals, porpoises and otters as your guide explains the secret underwater life of the surrounding marine park. The next day, book a rejuvenating deep tissue massage at the open-air Spa Without Walls, situated on a bluff overlooking the ocean, or in the privacy of your tent.
Pack right The sturdy Excursion I from Coleman features ample storage and easy access to heavy duty compartments that make packing and unpacking a breeze.
BEYOND PAD THAI
Echo Valley Ranch & Spa, Jesmond, British Columbia
What’s cooking The wild west meets the far east at this resort northwest of Kamloops. During a one-on-one consultation, you can learn to adapt meals for special diets and allergies, to start a kitchen garden and to make the best pad Thai you’ve ever had. Combined with an overview of must-have kitchen gadgets and knife skills, tutoring on the fundamentals of soups, stocks and sauces, and the basics of wine pairing, you’ll leave with a well-rounded culinary introduction.
Local flavor This is a working ranch, so collecting eggs, feeding the horses and roping are all par for the course. You’ll also gain insight into the medicinal attributes of Asian herbs and spices and receive a lesson on ruesri dat ton, an ancient Thai stretching practice.
The kitchen Chef Kim Madsen, who has cooked for Norwegian royalty and received the Medaille Cordon Bleu from France, presides over an open-concept kitchen where up to 10 students get hands-on experience cooking as a team.
Pack right International flight crews love the Travelpro Crew 7 30 Inch Rolling Duffel and you will too. It features a separate top compartment to stash must-haves that makes going through security a breeze, a spring wire feature that supports the duffel when vertical, high-mileage wheels with sealed bearings, an expandable body and strong ergonomic zipper pulls.
TELL US Have you been to any of these resorts? How was your stay? If you could go anywhere to sample (and learn to cook) the local cuisine, where would you go?