Travelers seeking cultural connections might want to roll up their sleeves on an upcoming trip. In big cities and small towns, a variety of hands-on classes are linking curious visitors with local experts. Whether you want to learn about cheesemaking or butchery, there are many opportunities to get your hands dirty and meet locals at the same time.
Many of these classes are focused around food, a pleasure that connects us no matter where we call home. Not only do the following classes teach us something new and provide the framework to connect with locals, but they are also delicious. With every class there is the reward of tasting what you made and feasting with new friends. Here are four of my favorite ways to get your hands dirty around the globe.
1. Chinatown Shop and Cook, New York City
Chef and owner of Camaje in Greenwich Village, Abigail Hitchcock, runs an incredible series of cooking classes out of the kitchen of her neighborhood bistro. Topics range from knife skills to best of brunch and specific themes like how to cook with Moroccan spices. Particularly special options include classes that start with shopping for ingredients. One option involves gathering ingredients at the famous Square Greenmarket, while another kicks off in Chinatown, buying fish and produce from markets that even some locals find intimidating. Chef Abby demystifies shopping in the neighborhood and then brings participants back to Camaje for a cooking class and fish feast.
2. Reypenaer Tasting Room, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
You may already love Dutch cheeses – Gouda, Edam – but have you sampled them at the source? Overlooking one of Amsterdam's most charming canals, the Reypenaer Tasting Room is a cheese shop and classroom that offers the chance to taste and learn. Sign up online in advance for a class (in English) that includes a vertical tasting of aged cheeses (from youngest to oldest, or longest aged cheese) along with wine pairings. A cheese expert helps students articulate what they like about certain cheeses and why. Tip: This class is a fabulous alternative to lunch.
3. Fabulous Food Trails, Dublin, Ireland
If you prefer to nibble on a variety of foods while getting to know a destination, check out local food walking tours instead of classes. One great option is the Dublin Walking Tour from Fabulous Food Trails (they offer options outside of Dublin, too). You'll burn off some calories during a 2.5 hour walk through scenic downtown Dublin, earning your snacks from markets, bakers, bread shops, and cheesemongers along the way. All of the most delicious bites in Dublin are brought together with this well thought out food trail, led by local experts.
4. Persimmon Provisions, Barrington, Rhode Island
Outside of Providence, Rhode Island the seaside town of Bristol is home to many culinary hotspots. One of the best is a bistro called Persimmon, where James Beard award nominated chef Champe Speidel cooks up a seasonal menu that is beloved by locals and draws visitors from afar. The chef recently opened a sister store, Persimmon Provisions, a butchery and artisanal food store, in Barrington. Butchery classes are offered here, providing students with expert advice on cuts, quality, and how to prepare meat with the special touch and knowledge of a professional chef.
What has been your favorite hands-on class you've taken?