Finding the perfect gift, especially for a food fanatic, can be tricky. There's a good chance the foodie has been to most of the best restaurants in town and have all the kitchen gizmos and they could possibly need. But fear not -- sometimes the best gift of all isn't a thing they can unwrap but rather an incredible food experience they'll never forget.
As every corner of the world becomes more and more accessible through technology and increasingly affordable transportation options, a one-of-a-kind experience is less the exception and more the rule for many. It's no longer good enough just to taste that Iberico ham; seeing, touching, feeling and learning about our favorite food and drink has become an important part of the equation, and the industry is taking note.or
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And we're not just recommending a gift card to the newest restaurant in town. From hospitality groups and restaurants to travel, technology and even museums, brands have been capitalizing on the growing demand for unique, exciting and, let's face it, social media-friendly food and drink experiences. We've rounded up some of the most amazing offerings of food experience gifts -- from the affordable to the extravagant -- to give your food-loving friends or family this year.
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Thomas Keller is America's most Michelin-decorated chef. In this in-depth video tutorial hosted by the online portal MasterClass, Keller walks you through some of the techniques that made his restaurants, such as Per Se and The French Laundry, so iconic. Specifically, the downloadable and rewatchable class walks students through the preparation of fish and other seafood, sous vide cooking and even some of Keller's favorite desserts. Pair this MasterClass ($90 at MasterClass) with an actual sous vide stick for the perfectly themed experiential cooking gift that will undoubtedly lead to some delicious meals.
Maggot-infested cheese? Bull's testicle? Sheep's eyeball? A disgusting meal is truly in the eye of the beholder, and this freaky food experience will prove it to your taste buds. The exhibit has a permanent home in Malmö, Sweden but is often on the move with limited engagements in cities like Las Vegas and Nantes, France (see here). The exhibit, created by psychologist Samuel West, features foods that may seem unfamiliar and perhaps even grotesque, but despite a sensational name it really aims to expand the idea of what's acceptable to eat, and educate visitors about alternative and eco-friendly food sources. Visitors to the exhibit can see, smell and even taste (hello to all those looking for a taste of adventure) things like Peruvian frog smoothies or Chinese mouse wine at the grand finale tasting bar (yikes… or yum?).
Food tours are by no means a new thing, but the standard tasting tour and walking tour have certainly gotten better over the years. Since Airbnb launched its Experiences platform a few years back, this tapas tour of Barcelona's incredible gothic neighborhood called "Tapalicious" ($90 on Airbnb) has racked up a near-perfect 4.9 out of 5 stars in over 500 user reviews. There are countless food-based experience gift ideas to book through Airbnb in just about every major city on Earth, so be sure to explore them during your next adventure.
Looking to rub elbows with some of the world's best chefs like Tyler Florence, José Enrique and Eric Ripert? For one incredible weekend in October, Dorado Beach, A Ritz Carlton Reserve -- consistently ranked one of the world's best resorts -- offers a spectacular culinary getaway weekend with chefs of both local and international fame, who flash their wares in cooking demos, tasting parties, seated dinners and more.
For the past several years the inimitable José Andrés -- who you may remember fed displaced Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria -- has helmed and headlined the weekend. If you go, be prepared to be surprised mixing and mingling with these culinary giants (and as the wine starts flowing, so do the stories). And hey, you might even catch Jimmy Fallon singing an impromptu duet with Chef Andrés.
The food is the real star, though, and proves a wonderful mix of delicious local cuisine made by some of the island's top chefs, and food prepared by the international superstar guests. Take this year's seaside paella lunch prepared by José Andrés himself or pulled pork arepas made fresh by Chef Lorena Garcia.
Tickets start at $1,945 per night, which is hardly chump change, but includes some of the most luxurious lodgings and thoughtful hospitality you'll find anywhere in the world. Check back for an official announcement on dates, lineup and schedule of events for the Culinary Getaway 2020. If you can't wait that long, Chef Ripert is hosting a similar culinary spectacular along with Andrés, Andrew Zimmern, Stephanie Izard and more at the Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman in January -- which you can book now.
For the bacon-lover who can handle a knife (and isn't squeamish), gift a butchering class like the one at Philadelphia's Kensington Quarters (two locations), where the kitchen team shows amateurs expert techniques for carving the various cuts and how to cook them. For $100 per person, the restaurant provides food, an open bar as well as charcuterie and snacks. Folks even get sample cuts of pork to take home. And don't worry, this little piggy will have already met his maker by the time you arrive.
As of publication, the next butchering class will be taking place on January 30, 2020, but classes run year-round and more dates should post soon.
Does the gentle kiss of a giraffe while you nosh your morning eggs and toast sound like the perfect breakfast? Of course it does! At this outrageously charming hybrid inn and animal sanctuary in Nairobi, Kenya, you can live that very dream. As guests eat morning breakfast in the luxurious estate dining room, giraffes -- who freely roam the grounds alongside other exotic animals -- sidle up expecting attention and snacks, of course. Just watch this video and immediately book a stay (which starts at around $600 per night) for a great gift for you and a very special someone in your life.
Celebrating 111 years of hospitality, Dukes of London is truly a stalwart of one of the great drinking cities of the world. The historic hotel bar is home to some of the world's best (and most expensive) martinis and, upon request, guests can receive a special Martini Masterclass hosted by legendary barkeep Alessandro Palazzi, who has been shaking cocktails there for over a decade. Palazzi will guide wannabe mixologists through the history and art of the martini, including the nuances involved in choosing an ideal gin or vodka, through to the perfect finishing garnishes. Guests enjoy canapes during their class and a minimum of four persons are required for booking.
All the fun and know-how of a private cooking class from world-class chefs, in the privacy of your home or apartment. The Chef & The Dish brings Michelin-level culinary masters into your kitchen via video chat, from places as far away as Italy, Japan, Singapore, Spain, New Orleans, Turkey and Thailand. Dinner is going to be awesome from now on. Classes for two start at $299, plus $50 for each additional person, making a four-person class as little as $100 per.
How would you like to set sail on an intimate food journey with a James Beard-selected chef sharing his or her cooking and culinary know-how and ingredient-shopping secrets along the way? On various culinary-themed cruises throughout the year and across various regions, these chefs will be aboard a series of Windstar Cruises (official cruise partner of the James Beard Foundation), sharing their passion for local cultures and cuisine inspired by local ingredients. Most cruises are accompanied by a beverage expert (like a rum master in the Caribbean) as well, while fewer than 310 passengers per voyage ensures plenty of interaction and no lines. Specialty cruises run from as close as the Windward Islands to as far away as Tahiti. Prices vary depending on the trip and cabin type.
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a freeform, often self-guided and days-long tour of the 13 bourbon distilleries in Kentucky. Each distillery, like Maker's Mark, Jim Beam and Buffalo Trace have their own unique tour and tasting experience, and you can do the trail in whichever order you want. To keep track of where you've been and where you haven't (considering all that drinking) you might want to bring along this handy Kentucky Bourbon Trail passport.
Originally published earlier this year.