A week in Provence…Tuscany, Paris, or Barcelona? Local guides create culinary tours for every palate.
Eat Without Gaining a Pound in Tuscany and Provence
If you’re a gourmand who craves foie gras and a great body, life can be a little stressful. Luckily, Boston firm Bike Riders offers cycling adventures through Tuscany and Provence led by local chefs Matt Abdoo (Marco) and Marc Orfaly (Pigalle), respectively. Three to four hours of biking through stunning countryside each day—don’t worry, a van shuttles your luggage from one luxury estate to the next—helps to work off that feast of truffled pecorino cheese and brunello or garlicky escargot and Burgundy. Cooking experience required: Minimal Limit: 14–16 guests Dates: Tuscany, 5/20–5/27; Provence, 9/10–9/17 Cost: $4,280 for eight days, 800-473-7040, bikeriderstours.com.
Hunt for Truffles and Taste All the Gelato in Umbria
Does cooking every meal you eat on vacation sound like heaven? Then a week in Umbria with Vermont cookbook author Deborah Krasner is the holiday for you. With the help of Krasner’s Umbrian co-instructor, Francesca, you’ll stuff zucchini flowers with just so much ricotta, and make pizza, pasta, and even prosciutto from scratch. The small group size is key: Participants get plenty of hands-on training, and don’t look like a loud, obnoxious bunch of Americans when they stroll the medieval streets of Amelia or head out on a spontaneous jaunt to a local food festival. Cooking experience required: Moderate. Be prepared to get your hands dirty. Limit: 4–7 guests Dates: 5/4–5/10; 5/11–5/17; 10/19–10/24; 10/26–10/31 Cost: $3,470 for seven days, 802-387-6610, cookumbria.com.
Savor Not-for-Tourists Paris
Those damn Parisians: so thin and stylish as they smugly munch their croissants. What do they know that we don’t? Sally Peabody, head of Medford-based tour operator Your Great Days in Paris, answers such pressing questions on her “Culinary Treasures” excursions. Highlights include watching a tea sommelier blend the perfect cuppa at Mariage Frères, sampling truffles at Jean-Paul Hévin, and browsing an African-immigrant food market. And since everything is optional, you can take time off to visit a museum or the opera. Suddenly, you’re one of those knowing Parisians. Cooking experience required: None. “This is not about cooking—it’s about eating,” Peabody says. Limit: 10 guests Dates: 5/4–5/13; 10/5–10/14 Cost: $2,950 for 10 days, 781-391-6183, yourgreatdaysinparis.com.
Learn to Love Avant-Garde Cuisine in Barcelona
For seasoned foodies who think that Tuscany and Paris are so last year, the cutting-edge culinary scene in Spain offers fresh and bragworthy delights. On her tours of Barcelona and its surrounding regions (volcanic Garrotxa and seaside Empordà), Cape Cod resident Teresa Parker brings you the best of Old and New Spain: the time-tested markets, cheesemakers, and winemakers, plus the young rebels who reimagine rustic specialties like pa amb tomàquet, grilled bread with tomatoes, as tomato water topped with fried olive-oil toast and sea salt. Cooking experience required: Minimal, though a love of liquid nitrogen is recommended Limit: 14 guests Dates: 9/24–9/30; 10/29–11/4 Cost: “Cooking in Catalonia,” $3,250 for seven days, 508-349-9769, spanishjourneys.com.