That cheap all-inclusive you let your old high school buddies talk you into, you know, the one with overcooked steak and suspicious-looking shrimp. Never again. Here are a few food experiences to make eating abroad everything you’d hoped it could be in 2012, whether that be devilishly delicious or deliciously healthy.
1. The world renowned Le Manoir aux Qaut’ Saisons in the exquisite English countryside, near Oxford, has long been lauded for its two Michelin-starred restaurant and luxurious accommodations. Now the very talented, very French and very charming chef and owner, Raymond Blanc, offers guests the opportunity to learn to cook like a professional. He’s recently taken his cooking school to a new level by adding a selection of courses based on current trends, including garden-to-plate, vegetarian and “La Cuisine Modern et La Nutrition,” in addition to more traditional classes on chocolate and bread-making. It’s nirvana for all gourmands—you eat like a King and leave knowing how to cook for one.
2. South Africa’s Morukuru offers an amazing food experience where you cook with the chef, and have a three-course dinner paired with well-selected wines. Not to mention you dine in the bush. Just like the gazelles do, only much fancier.
3. Guests at Hotel de Toiras in France are given a wicker basket so they can shop what they like at the market and the chef will prepare it for them. Since the hotel is situated in the port of Saint Martin de Ré, picking up some fresh fish (high in omega-3!) is a must.
4. At Lime Wood, Hampshire, England, which opened in 2009, there is a full-time “forager,” Garry Eveleigh. Go out with him for hikes into the surrounding 140,000-acre New Forest and learn about, as well as bring back, wild mushrooms and other edibles. Back at the hotel, chef Luke Holder cooks what you have gathered, and the best experience is to eat it in the Scullery restaurant, the century-old house’s former working kitchen.
5. Fairmont hotels and resorts around the world have rolled out their Lifestyle Cuisine Plus menu. It offers vegan and gluten-free diners, as well as those watching their diet due to diabetes or heart disease, strict yet scrumptious courses. They’ve even recently introduced healthier options for children too.
6. For those seeking appetite adventures, chef José Andrés’ Bazaar at the SLS Hotel Beverly Hills in Los Angeles, will open your mind to food experiments you never thought possible. Consider chocolate covered Pop Rocks, chicken poppers served out of a Nike shoe (for real), a Magic Mojito strained over cotton candy, and decompressed olives, to name a few.
7. On the opposite end of the spectrum, for those looking to rid themselves of some of the naughty things noshed on in 2011 and restart your eating engine, Sparkling Hill Resort in B.C., Canada offers a seven-day Cleanse Program. The detox agenda includes appointments with a naturopathic physician; spa, beauty and health treatments; movement classes; and, best of all, a private dining area (so you’re not tortured and tempted by other guests gorging themselves in the regular dining room).