March 2016 - More than half of all U.S. leisure travelers explore the world from a culinary point of view. That’s the word according to the results of a study by the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance, a non-profit organization that consults on food and beverage-themed tourism development worldwide.
It’s an adept observation bolstered by recent years’ unprecedented growth in the celebrity of celebrity chefs, culinary-themed television shows and online resources for home cooks looking to up their game in the kitchen.
OCTA defines culinary tourism as “any tourism experience in which one learns about, appreciates, and/or consumes food and drink that reflects the local, regional or national cuisine, heritage and culture.”
Katherine Pugliese, a sommelier, restaurateur and founder of A Taste of St. Croix, recommends culinary events to experience in 2016. From wine to chocolate and beer to wings, there’s something for every foodie in this line-up of taste-tested destinations.
9 Weeks of Beer: In Newport, Rhode Island, Hotel Viking’s 9 Weeks of Beer continues through May 4 with innovative menus paired with craft beers from some of New England’s top breweries. Beer dinners are $39 per person and held on Wednesdays at 6pm at Hotel Viking’s newly renovated restaurant One Bellevue.
“Our beer distributors helped us compile a list of breweries that would be interested in participating,” said Hotel Viking Chef Barry Correia. “Each week, we pair a three-course dinner with three beers from the featured brewery.”
Flavor of Riviera Maya: The 5th annual Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine & Food Festival kicks off April 27 with some of the world’s best chefs, oenologists and sommeliers on hand to lead an adventure in culinary discovery. The multi-day, multi event festival offers dinners, tastings, cooking classes, and culinary experiences starting as low as $48. Access to the Wine & Food Festival Gourmet Tasting Village, featuring more than 20 local restaurants plus beverage samples, is $95 per person. Located in the heart of Playa del Carman, Royal Hideaway Playacar is command central for foodies looking to explore this showcase of culinary talent. This all-inclusive beachfront resort features six restaurants and can coordinate private car service to and from the event. Rates start at $574 per night, double occupancy, all-inclusive when the Happy Weekends promotion is booked which offers savings up to 50% off regular room rates at Royal Hideaway.
King of the Wing: Nest at Eden View Villa for a bit of tasteful tourism in the form of the King of the Wing festival. The annual event takes place in early June on world famous Megan’s Bay Beach, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, pitting teams against one another to earn the title ‘King of the Wing.’ More than 36 professional and amateur chefs will compete in the chicken wing cooking contest on June 4, 2016. Admission is free, and tasting tickets are $1 each and sold in groups of 5. Funds raised support the Junior Achievement of the Virgin Islands, a non-profit organization that teaches students about financial literacy and workforce readiness.
Sweet St. Lucia: Only the most informed chocolate connoisseurs recognize the Caribbean island of St. Lucia as one of the world’s renowned chocolate producers. Calabash Cove Resort & Spa invites chocolate lovers to discover the island’s sweet side during a tour of its cacao estates. St. Lucia chocolate is rich, not overly sweet, and offered in both milk and dark varieties.
Through centuries, St. Lucia has exported its cacao to as an ingredient in some of the world’s best-known chocolates. More recently, St. Lucia is producing its own award-winning chocolate. The island celebrates Chocolate Heritage month every October with special events throughout the month. At Calabash Cove, guests can indulge in cocoa-inspired dishes as well as chocolate-infused spa treatments with their Sweet Days in Paradise package. The five-night package that includes accommodations, a bottle of champagne, a chocolate scrub and manicure, all meals and beverages including the traditional Cocoa-Tea, plus a choice of more than 20 wines, round-trip airport car service and more for $3795. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 800.917.cove to book the package.
Taste of Collier: Located in the heart of Old Naples with easy access to all points beyond, Lemon Tree Inn is the ideal jumping-off point for Taste Of Collier, a longstanding family-centric Naples tradition showcasing competitions among local top chefs and tastings from more than 30 Collier County restaurants. General admission tickets are just $5 and guests pay for only the nibbles they want to sample by purchasing Taste Tickets ($1 each) and redeeming them at the booths. The 2016 Taste of Collier kicks off May 1 at The Shoppes at Vanderbilt. Rates at Lemon Tree Inn start at $94 and rooms can be booked at www.LemonTreeInn.com.
Taste of St. Croix: Katherine Pugliese founded A Taste a St. Croix in 2001 with friends Kelly Odom and Collin Hodge in order to celebrate the islands restaurant industry. This year’s event, set for April 14, features more than 50 exhibitors including local restaurants, farms, rums, wines and more. Hotels all over the island offer packages. Hotel Caravelle’s ‘Caribbean Spice & Everything Nice’ experience includes a five-night stay and tickets to St. Croix’s hottest culinary celebration. Priced at $995, the five-night stay (April 13–18) is timed to coincide with the 15th annual festival showcasing the best of St. Croix’s culinary talent. This year’s event features more than 50 exhibitors including local restaurants, farms, rums, wines and more. To book the package, visit www.HotelCaravelle.com or call the hotel at 340-773-0687.
“St. Croix has an active culinary community and this annual event showcases our local talent,” said Sid Kalmans, Hotel Caravelle. “Since its inception in 2001, A Taste of St. Croix has grown exponentially. What started as a community gathering has become a major event drawing top chefs, mixologists and winemakers to St. Croix.”