If the way to a person's heart is through their stomach, then it makes sense that the way to get to the heart of a place is through its food. So, for proponents of experiential travel or people who just like to eat and drink their way through a vacation, culinary tourism is where it's at -- and the experiences here are destination-centric as well as delicious.
|Southern Tastes and Dixie Tunes|
Offered by tour operator Insight Vacations, this tour makes us daydream of crawfish ettoufee and Elvis. It starts at the Ryman Theater in Nashville, Tenn. Then it heads to Graceland, the Presley mansion near Memphis, and overnights at the famed Peabody Hotel. It offers a mint julep mixology course in Mississippi, a hands-on Cajun cooking class in Baton Rouge, La., and ends with two days in New Orleans -- epicenter of Southern epicurean delights.
|New England's Garden Herbs, Maple and More|
Around the White Mountains of New Hampshire, local harvests and culinary traditions have been turned into an ongoing series of themed foodie experiences. It's always informal, self-guided and community-centered. Hundreds of locals and tourists drive to participate in self-guided snacking itineraries hosted by local B&Bs, inns, or restaurants. This is also an opportunity for innkeepers to meet and razzle-dazzle potential overnight guests. Country Inns in the White Mountains hosts the Inn-to-Inn Herb Tour in June.
|Artisan Cheese Festival|
Further fueling the world's love affair with Sonoma, Calif., we present the Artisan Cheese Festival, now in its seventh year. Nearly two dozen SoCo cheese makers will participate, from "American Original" Bleating Heart, which produces two kinds of sheep's cheese in very limited quantities, to Cowgirl Creamery, which is practically a West Coast institution. Half a dozen wineries are pouring, as well as Petaluma's very own Lagunitas Brewery. The fromage-fest takes place March 22-24, 2013 at the Sheraton Sonoma County, Petaluma.
|French Country Waterways|
In rural France, simple country picnics and mom-and-pop inns serve up meals more delicious and memorable than any big-city banquet. Cruise through Burgundy, Champagne or the Loire with this boutique barge operator and partake of the freshest and best fare from local farms, winemakers and village bakeries. Start with pastries for breakfast, move on to pate and perfect salads, and end each night with a candlelit dinner and sublimely stinky cheese.
|Plate & Pitchfork|
Venture up to Oregon for an adventurous variation on the culinary river cruise. Instead of a barge, guests board a whitewater raft -- and instead of candlelight and Michelin-starred chefs, the fare is traditional BBQ and farm dinners set on picnic trestle tables by the riverside.
Oregon is a center of farm-to-table dining, so you can expect the very best food and philosophy from the chefs and food producers ... plus a soft-adventure setup that's undeniably more exciting than barge transportation.
|Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail|
In New Mexico, green chile is a staple in almost every meal and a must on a burger. Bobby Flay knows it, and so does Guy Fieri. So, a few years ago, in a stroke of grass-roots marketing inspiration, New Mexico Tourism put together a "Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail" comprised of the self-nominations of every burger shack in the state. It hasn't gotten nearly the attention it deserves, but for fans of road food, Route 66, greasy spoons and small town Americana, the Trail is a connect-the-dots guide to authentic, carnivorously juicy culture.
|Vietnam with Asia Transpacific Journeys|
As much as foodies love authentic Asian fare, it can be a bit of a crapshoot to seek it out solo in southeast Asia. Get guidance but stay native with an immersion tour led by Asia Transpacific Journeys, one of the frontrunners in experiential travel to Asia. The company's small group journey to Vietnam takes travelers to a small herb farm, an informal cooking class at a famous Hoi An restaurant, a family's home for a dumpling-making lesson, and Benthanh market in Saigon.
|Croatia's Orange Harvest|
Every would-be backpacker has contemplated working a grape harvest in Europe or Australia (with many giving it up as too darn hard), but we love this less publicized, somehow slightly more exotic version: the early autumn orange harvest season in Croatia. Just like every other sort of agri-tourism, this citrusy adventure ranges from a labor-intensive work-for-board situation to a high-end lark where well-to-do tourists can "pick" a few oranges before repairing back to their villa so that a chef can squeeze the fresh juice for their sunset cocktails.