Top Cooking Classes

We’re smack in the middle of the cooking season. Thanksgiving has come and gone and with it the first round of feasting. Maybe you’re still working your way through leftover stuffing or making soup with turkey stock. If you haven’t already started, you may soon be deep in the throes of making Christmas cookies and other goodies. With Hanukkah underway, perhaps you’ve already churned out several loaves of Challah or several batches of latkes. Whether you’re trying to keep your skills sharp on vacation or learn how it’s done in a different culture, you’ll love these cooking classes with Virtuoso partners.

Florence

Eatwith lets you start your morning by meeting an Italian grandmother in Florence’s central market, shopping for ingredients that you’ll make into a wonderful meal that afternoon. Spend time discovering Florence with a local and stop off for a nice glass of wine or coffee before getting down to business. Learn how to make homemade pasta from recipes that have been passed down for generations. Cap it all off by enjoying a meal that tastes even better because you had a hand in it.

Casablanca

Soak up the sights, sounds and smells of a Moroccan souk with ShoreTrips. Sample lamb, couscous and seafood, deciding what should go in your dish. Once your menu is set, head to your host’s home and dive into making authentic appetizers, main courses, even desserts. Your host’s family will arrive just in time for dinner, sharing snippets of their daily life and engaging in cultural exchange.

Tokyo

Eatwith takes you on a tour of the world’s largest fish market. There will be big, beautiful fillets of tuna, live shrimp jumping and octopuses wriggling. Take the catch of the day to your guide’s house, where you’ll learn the ancient art of sushi making. Your guide will help you make rolls and nigiri and share the secret of the perfect slice. Enjoy a bowl of miso soup and a healthy dessert along with as much sushi as you can handle.

Lima

Discover the history of pre-Columbian cultures through the food of the Peruvian capital. Lima Tours immerses you in a culinary experience that gives you the flavor the country. The chef shares the history, geography, and biodiversity of Peru’s regions, then instructs you on how to make a proper ceviche. For the main course, you’ll make lomo saltado, a stir-fry loaded with beef, vegetables, and French fries. By then, your mouth will be watering and you’ll get to devour your creation.

Lyon

Train under a Michelin-starred chef in the French foodie mecca. Book a cruise that is a Virtuoso Voyages sailing, and you’ll be able to visit the famed Les Halles, dedicated to cooking legend Paul Bocuse. Chef Philippe Lechat will show you around, introducing you to the cooks who make the magic happen. Sample a local specialty to get the taste down, then spend an hour making the main course. Don’t worry about dessert, the chef will handle that. You get to kick back and savor the fruits of your labor.

Must-See Spring Blooms

Depending on where you live, it might not yet be evident, but it is officially Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Soon enough, birdsongs will fill the air and everything will be in blossom. While there is an abundance of festivals celebrating the renaissance of greenery, these places’ blooms are among the best.

 

Washington, D.C.

Peaking near the end of March, the famed cherry blossoms turn the Tidal Basin into a dazzling canvas of pink and white. Gifts from Japan more than a century ago, the cherry trees have come to symbolize the start of spring in our nation’s capital. There are nearly 4,000 trees in 11 varieties near the National Mall, and peak bloom is expected this week. The National Cherry Blossom Festival runs until April 15.

 

Japan

The ancestral home of D.C.’s cherry trees, Japan has several areas throughout its islands that are great for viewing sakura. Utilizing the bullet train system, visitors can make their quickly from south to north as the warm weather and blooms spread in late March and early April. Set against the backdrop of a 400-year-old, the blossoms in Hirosaki are particularly worth checking out. Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo is a reliable spot thanks to its proliferation of early- and late-blooming trees. Chureito Pagoda in the shadow of Mount Fuji is among the most picturesque spots.

 

The Netherlands

Obsessed with the flower since the Tulip Mania of the 17th century, the Dutch have cultivated the world’s finest tulip garden at Keukenhof in Lisse, South Holland. About 7 million bulbs are planted across 79 acres and pop up in a variety of bright colors. The park opened last week and remains open until May 13. The best time to see the bulbs is usually mid-April, during which time river cruises designed around tulip viewing are in high demand.

 

Morocco

High in the Atlas Mountains, a 6-hour drive from Marrakech lies M’Goun Valley, aka the Valley of Roses. Between April and mid-May, the valley yields 3,000-4,000 tons of wild roses. Used in the production of perfumes, oils, soaps and rose water, the plants have also inspired an annual Rose Festival in May. According to legend, the flowers were introduced to the area by a Berber trader from Damascus, and the sweet-smelling Damask roses are now a highly sought-after prize among France’s top perfumers.

 

France

The lavender fields of Provence aren’t in full bloom until mid-June, but they are more than worth the wait. The Luberon countryside erupts in purples and blues until harvesting is complete in mid-August, filled with gorgeous sights and smells. Charming hill towns such as Aurel and Sault make for a beautiful staging area for a driving tour, and the fields around the Abbey of Senanque are the perfect setting for a photo, so long as you arrive early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid the throngs.