Notebook: Cook's Quarters
Share the joy of cooking on these culinary getaways.
FOR SOME TRAVELERS, THE BEST GETAWAY is one where someone else does the cooking. But for many people, cooking is, in itself, a recreational activity. Inns, resorts and schools around New England let them ply the range (and the processor and perhaps the pasta machine) with some of the region’s top chefs. Here are some retreats that offer hands-on culinary adventures.
Another Second Penny Inn, Stonington
When the winter weather outside is frightful, the fire in the original walk-in open hearth at this 1710 farm home, now a cozy bed-and-breakfast near Mystic, crackles to life for an authentic colonial cooking experience. On weekends from November through April, innkeepers Jim and Sandra Wright offer afternoon classes highlighting historic recipes such as Mrs. Robert E. Lee’s mushrooms au beurre, Aunt Laurine’s berry pudding and cod cakes with mushroom catsup, and techniques including spit roasting and string roasting (called the “poor man’s spit”), plus Dutch oven baking and steaming. 860-535-1710, secondpenny.com
Hartstone Inn, Camden
Are you in love with lobster? Learn lots of ways to prepare this king of crustaceans and other delicious denizens of the deep from chef-owner Michael Salmon in the kitchen of his Victorian-era inn during “Weekend Cooking Getaways” from November through May. Other culinary explorations span courses from breakfast scones and holiday hors d’oeuvres to biscotti and crème brûlée, as well as meals from brunch to a romantic dinner for two. Packages include a two-hour class, two nights’ lodging, breakfast each morning, afternoon cookies and tea, and a gourmet candlelit dinner for two. One-on-one, private, four-hour “Chef for a Day” sessions with Salmon also are available. 207-236-4259, 800-788-4823, hartstoneinn.com
In this late-19th-century Italianate mansion-
turned-boutique-hotel tucked away in the Berkshires, chef Jeffrey Thompson offers up his knowledge of seasonal and artisanal ingredients, leads students on shopping and garden field trips, and shares the preparation of his signature soups and soufflés, homemade breads and cookies, summer grills, and holiday classics. Small private groups (minimum four participants) and half-day and evening cooking classes (maximum six participants) include breakfast and lunch or dinner. Weekend packages, available from January through May, include two nights’ lodging, cooking and wine classes, dinner, and a massage. 413-637-0610, wheatleigh.com
The Balsams Grand Resort Hotel, Dixville Notch
The three-day, hands-on “Taste of the Balsams” experience, at the lakeside Beaver Lodge Culinary Arts Center on the 15,000-acre historic resort in the White Mountains, includes 10 hours of instruction, professional guidance and participation in the preparation of two four-course luncheons. Think pumpkin apple bisque en croûte, shrimp and lobster cocktail, salmon with macadamia nut crust and vanilla beurre blanc, and chocolate pot de crème with coffee whipped cream and tuile cookie spoon or chocolate banana napoleon with pecan praline sauce. Each course will be paired with wine and served to you, your guests and the faculty chefs by the dining room staff. The package also includes breakfast, plenty of opportunities for culinary chats with the chef-instructors, and a diploma and “graduation” photo to commemorate your kitchen accomplishments. 800-255-0600, thebalsams.com
Johnson & Wales University, Providence
You (yes, you!) can take a class at one of the nation’s top culinary arts schools. Food enthusiasts ranging from the youngest novices (ages 8 and up) to adults with advanced skills will find three- to four-hour interactive Chef’s Choice classes on subjects ranging from basic culinary skills, pizzas, and comfort and finger foods to gastronomic globe-trotting and fusion fun. Overnight packages for two are offered by the Johnson & Wales Inn (six miles away in Seekonk, Massachusetts) and include lodging, a $50 dinner certificate, a cooking class at the university and breakfast. 401-598-2336,
jwu.edu/chefschoice; Johnson & Wales Inn, 508-336-8700, 800-232-1772, jwinn.com
The Inn at Essex, Essex
Calling itself “Vermont’s Culinary Resort,” this stately colonial inn, nestled in the Green Mountains near Burlington, is home to the renowned New England Culinary Institute (NECI), alma mater of some of the most successful chefs in the country, including Food Network star Alton Brown. You can learn the same tricks of the trade from NECI chef-instructors in the property’s state-of-the-art culinary theater, and hone your skills preparing a three-course feast celebrating the season (past menus have included corn risotto and butterscotch peaches), traditions (homemade pasta and apple pie) or other cultures (Thai and Vietnamese). The “Chef Inn Training” culinary getaway package includes lodging, continental breakfast and a two-hour interactive cooking class. 802-878-1100, 800-727-4295, vtculinaryresort.com