Culinary Tours


Central Market (CM) in the Dallas area is allowing us to live, even if for just a brief moment in time, in the culinary hideouts of France from May 9-22, 2012. Oh to be in France! Those magical moments in time…err…to be in France while having your feet planted in Texas, I mean, which to some Texans it is even better.

Each year CM “armchair travels” us to a country known for its culinary riches, and wow, have they hit the high mark with France. The event is called “Passport France”. The employees greet you with a “bon jour”, and occasionally take a peek at their mini laminated phrase card – hey, you have to start somewhere!

During this period, there are offering all things culinary French!  In Part One of this review, I mentioned many products to indulge in.  This week they have even more to offer (view brochure).  In terms of wine, they are spotlighting a Burgundy Pinot Noir, a Fourrey Chablis, a Provence Rose, and an Alsace Pinot Gris.  On all French wine, they are offering 20% off 6-17 bottles, and 25% off 18 bottles or more.  Food – oh la la!  Triple creme Belletoile brie, a rich yet mellow cheese; rustic baguettes; herb infused vinegars, apidis honey (wild lavender, acacia, spring flowers, or forest); truffle mustard or mayonnaise; and of course big, beautiful, sunflowers reminescent of the south of France.

As CM says:  “If French cuisine is your scene, then don’t miss Passport France.”

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Central Market (CM) in the Dallas area is allowing us to live, even if for just a brief moment in time, in the culinary hideouts of France from May 9-22, 2012.  Oh to be in France!  Those magical moments in time…err…to be in France while having your feet planted in Texas, I mean, which to some Texans it is even better.

Each year CM “armchair travels” us to a country known for its culinary riches, and wow, have they hit the high mark with France.  The event is called “Passport France”.  The employees greet you with a “bon jour”, and occasionally take a peek at their mini laminated phrase card – hey, you have to start somewhere!

You may know already that Dallas is a culinary mecca – the restaurants, the artisan bakeries, wine bars, etc.; however, I quite do not have the cash to imbibe in many of these experiences.  I must live vicariously through others (real and virtural friends); however, there is something for everyone, at any price point, to enjoy “Passport France.”  Just check out their beautiful hand out.  How about a jar of herbes de Provence actually FROM Provence (what a concept), a savory ham and Gruyere crepe to share with a lover, some Comte cheese aged 18 months, or a large pail of mustard from the heart of Burgundy?  None of these could even break MY budget!

But, let’s see for a moment, what else we can put our hands on:  cassoulet (a rich, slow-cooked casserole with pork shoulder, garlic sausage, and white beans), bouef bourguignon (say hi to Julia), 20 different varieties of French bread, steak au poivre finished with brandy, cognac, or vermouth pan sauce – oh, how my palate sings!  Just walk in and see what happens when you allow your taste buds give in to your senses!

Feel free to try samples around the store:  wine, champagne, cheese, bread, pastry, you name it.  Also feel free to purchase all the luxurious delights which will only be in the stores for a short period of time.  Now that I think of it, I am out of herbes de Provence to place in my French grinder.  Darn, I’ll have to take a trip back to

– A La Votre –

A Food Project in Sardinia, Italy

View clip here.

Viktorija Todorovska and cohort are creating an electronic multimedia resource on the foods and wines of Sardinia and the people who produce them. Sardinia is most known for its beautiful coasts, but the Mediterranean’s second-biggest island has some of the most unique cultural and culinary traditions, many of which have never been written about in English. The electronic resource will tell the story of the diverse foods and wines of the island and people who still make them in traditional ways, with passion and dedication.

The project will include video interviews with Sardinian food and wine producers and multimedia narratives about the products and how they are used. Provided funding, the electronic resources will be released in the Fall of 2012.

In order to make this fantastic project turn into reality, you can pledge a small or large amount at her Kickstart Project Page.

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Viktorija Todorovska is a food and wine writer and educator. Viktorija is passionate about the Mediterranean Diet and helping cooks of all ages explore the world of food through simple and flavorful combinations of high-quality ingredients. Viktorija studied Italian cooking at Apicius, the International School of Hospitality in Florence, Italy, and continues to explore the culinary traditions of Italy during her travels.

Viktorija’s passion for wine is inseparable from her love of food. She writes about wine and leads wine tastings and classes, making topics such wine styles, food pairings, and how to choose wines easy to understand. Viktorija is an accredited Sommelier (International Sommelier Guild), French Wine Scholar (French Wine Academy), and Certified Specialist of Wine (Society of Wine Educators).

Viktorija’s first cookbook, The Puglian Cookbook: Bringing the Flavors of Puglia Home, was published in April 2011. Viktorija’s stories and recipes paint a vivid picture of the region and its culinary traditions. The recipes are simple and easy to prepare, making it possible even for beginner cooks to create delicious meals and create unforgettable dining experiences.

When she is not sipping wine and teaching classes in Chicago and its surroundings, Viktorija can be found traveling the wine regions of the world, soaking up new knowledge and discovering new and interesting wines and the stories of the people who make them.

  1. olivacooking.com
  2. mywinesmarts.com

Perugia is located in the Umbria area of Italy.  Tuscany is just to the west.  The capital of Umbria, Perugia is a picturesque city of just over 160,000 residents. Like many towns in the region, Perugia’s history spans many eras. The city wall and arch are Etruscan; the sixth-century Sant’Angelo church was built atop a Roman temple; the town’s cathedral is both Gothic and Renaissance. The excellent National Gallery of Umbria has the largest and best art collection in the region. For sweets lovers, Perugia is also home to the famous Perugina chocolate factory.

frm the top of perugia

The geographical location may not mean much to you or me, so let’s look on a map, shall we?

From Rome in Central Italy, Perugia is about a 4 hour bus ride.  From Milan in Northern Italy, Perugio is about a 6 hour train ride.  As I live in Dallas, I know that American Airlines fly into Milan, but not to Rome in the winter, FYI.  No worries, right?

Umbria is an upcoming wine region of Italy, so an excellent place to hold the 2012 International Wine Tourism Conference and Workshop.  The conference is being held over 4 days – Janurary 30th through February 2nd.  The conference consists of over 40 talks, presentations, panel discussions and workshops, oh, and of course, plenty of wine tastings.  This is a totally awesome way to network and co-create alliances with wine lovers, culinary tourism operators/agents, and bloggers.  There is a Study Tour offered to top bloggers who will be writing regularly through social media about the experience.  This trip is scheduled before the conference and sure to be awe-inspriring.  There also is a Study Tour offered to top culinary tour operators to network even more and will last for 5 additional days after the conference.

If you are already in the wine tourism industry or want to learn more about it, this is the place to be!

Extraordinary Women of Spain: Chefs and Winemakers

Two good friends of mine are experts on culinary experiences.  I am so excited to fill you in on an outstanding women’s travel series called the Extraordinary Women of Spain:  Chefs and Winemakers. This travel series is co-created  by Epicopia Culinary Journeys and Epicurean Ways (the two good friends of mine).  There will initially be 5 trips to Spain to savor the culinary aspects of many different regions.  The first tour will be in the Catalonia & Barcelona region which includes visiting a total of no less than 10+ Michelin Star women chefs- all in 8 days!  Talk about some expressive, mind-blowing meals (with fabulous wines to match of course).  Speaking of wine, the winemakers you will meet include world-renowned masters of the craft, as well as passionate owners of small wineries .  Departure is set for June 16 – 24, 2012.

Each itinerary is designed for women, about women. Your Experience Director, Gabriella Ranelli de Aguirre is a recognized leading specialist in the food,
wine, art and architecture of Spain. She is the go-to person for the international press on matters gastronomic.

The travel series will continue to include five eight-night itineraries in Spain before braching out to other countries  and will also feature the women chefs & winemakers in The Levant: Alicante & Valencia offered October 20 – 28, 2012. The 2013
itineraries will include women chefs & winemaker in La Rioja and Basque Country, the region of Galicia, and Madrid: Town and countryside.

According to Harold, a 40 year veteran of the travel industry, “Women Chefs & Winemakers in Catalonia brings you deep into an elite wine and food region with plenty of time to linger, savor, reflect, discover and learn from the extraordinary Catalan women creating food and crafting wine in their own unique way.”

So…I ask:

When was the last time you were inspired? Had the chance to hang out with smart like-minded women and explore a region unfettered by your everyday duties and responsibilities? When was the last time you took the time to indulge your interests in food and wine? Have you ever said to yourself?  Someday I‟m going to get away on my own?  Well it‟s time to make it happen.

My friends mentioned not to delay – the 10 Michelin Star Journey is limited to 15 women.  Contact Harold Partain for Epicopia Culinary Journeys at 972.771.3510 or Toll Free 877.661.3844 or Email: hpartain@epicopia.com.

If you can’t wait to see or hear more before getting in touch with him, here is the link to the fabulous itinerary:  http://tinyurl.com/62bdmcd.  I am salivating as I write!

Peru is on the lips of every top chef in the world right now. With reason, its vibrancy, freshness, and diverse flavors leave us all mesmerized–and wanting more. Peruvian cuisine fused together to become its modern, regional-driven expression during five centuries of Spanish, West African, Japanese and Chinese immigration, along with the native Quechua culture. Due to a lack of ingredients from their home countries, immigrants to Peru modified their traditional cuisines by incorporating local foodstuffs, many of which are not found outside the country. Consider the country’s 84 microclimates, from the Pacific Ocean to Amazon, Desert, and Andes Mountains, and Altiplano, and you can imagine you’re going to have some amazing concoctions.

So what are the anchor ingredients of Peru? The country’s cuisine really relies on a gamut of humble ingredients easily procured in country. Just about everything grows somewhere in Peru: rice, coffee, cocoa beans, (for some seriously sinful dark chocolate!) quinoa, thousands of tubers, tropical fruit, organic vegetables, chilies, grapes for the brandy Pisco, and more. The cuisine’s key ingredients are the floral, piquant Chile called Ají Amarillo (yellow chili), perhaps the soul of Peruvian dishes, along with the tongue-tingling rocoto pepper slivered on ceviche . Think your tongue is made of steel? I dare you to try roasted rocoto stuffed with meat or cheese, typical of the Arequipa region. Traditional staples are corn, either as large kernels, or ground into a paste to make humitas, tamales. Locals eat a kazillion potatoes; with reason, there are over 3,000 varieties in Peru, where the tuber may have originated. There are also heirloom beans, and the Spanish introduced rice, wheat, and meat, all an integral part of the modern diet. Love seafood? You’re in the right neighborhood, the Humboldt Current brings frigid water from the Antarctic with plankton to nurture sea life and meshes with tropical currents coming down from Ecuador. The result? Dozens up dozens of fish, bi-valves ,and crustaceans. Seafood utopia.

However, what truly separates Peruvian food from its other Latin cousins, particularly in the capital of Lima, is the hefty Asian immigration that left a stamp on the country in the late 1800s. The immigrants brought their vision of cooking with stir-frying, dumplings, skewers, raw seafood dishes, sushi rolls with toppings, and fused them with the local ingredients on hand. Peruvian food is a seafood lover’s dream, often prepared raw or “cured” with high acid from key lime juice. For those unfamiliar with Peruvian food, this bridge in the form of the Japanese influence, makes it easy to start exploring. For example, many of the best-loved national dishes like tiraditos (slices of raw fish, dressed in sweet-and-sour sauces, sound like dressed up sashimi?) are reminiscent of Japanese dishes–with a twist. Remember, Nobu got all his ideas for his restaurant in Peru!

Overall though, Peru is a nation of foodies from humble huariques (joints) to ceviche stalls, top restaurants, and even celebrating with the deceased on Day of the Dead in cemeteries country-wide. They love food. They see it as a fundamental part of their national identity, regional pride, and a common denominator that all share. I want to share with you five dishes that you MUST try when you venture out into one of the local Peruvian restaurants opening across US cities from San Francisco to New York, Houston, Boston, Miami, and beyond. Be sure to order up a frothy, zippy Pisco Sour. I can tell you from experience, be careful, the effects don’t hit you until the end of the second one!

Liz Caskey – guest blogger

Kay Zink of A to Zinfandel & Harold Partain of Epicopia Culinary Journeys decided it was about time they took to the streets of Dallas to see just what the city had to offer.  We can name our favorite restaurants, villages, truffle hunters, etc. in Europe, but what is here in Dallas, one wonders.
We decided to discuss our itinerary over lunch at Urbano Cafe on Fitzhugh near Bryan.  There we caught up with owner and Harold’s long time friend Mitch Kauffman.  Urbano is a wonderful neighborhood cafe who offers up plenty on the menu, including authentic Italian paninis.  They are also BYOB, but at 11am, we refrained, although thought about it!  I had a delicious pulled pork panini with cilantro pepper slaw and hoison mayo; Harold had the portobello panini which was fresh and had a well balanced flavor… a great sourdough style bread.
Jimmy’s Food Market is just next door and was our second stop.  Looking for some NY Deli style products with an Italian twist? Check them out! Great Parmigiano Reggiano for $9.99 a pound! Price hasn’t changed in the past 10 years Harold has been shopping here. The BEST Italian sausage in the city, for sure.  Saturday is a hopping day, but they still had time (and room) to offer peppered bacon with wine samples.  “They have the very best Italian wine selection in the city” – Harold.

In the name of research, our third stop was at Bottle Shop on Greenville Avenue, who just so happenned to be having a beer tasting.  We had the honor of meeting Wim Bens, brewer and founder, of Lakewood Brewing company.  Along with him was Willis, a volunteer and friend of Wim’s, and Chris Hanks, Director of Consumption (A+ for the title, don’t you think)?  The two beers we sampled were delicious and unique in style. One named Prince Albert… was reminiscent of a dark Belgium but not as bitter… very smooth. Apples… I believe I tasted some apple in there! Loved the lighter, spicier one… no lingering bite with it either. Look forward to LBC finding a new home and being open to the public.

Follow link below to video:
Lakewood Brewing Company

Fourth stop was the very colorful Mextopia restaurant on Greenville Avenue.  Lots of street construction out front but plenty of parking in the back. Terrific margaritas and great Mexican style food brought to us by Ricardo Avila.

Fifth stop on the culinary tour of Dallas was Dude, Sweet Chocolates! If you have not tried these beautiful chocolates concocted right in Oak Cliff on West 8th… get over there now! Katherine is changing the perspective of chocolate. Some unbelievable combinations and with names that will make you laugh… and bring back a memory or two or three!

Well by now, my iPhone had died which I had been using as my camera, so there are no pictures to see.  Scardello Artisan Cheese was next and pretty busy on Saturday afternoon as well. Located on Oaklawn just down from Lucas’ B&B this is without a doubt the very best artisan cheese shop in Dallas. Rich Rogers and staff have created a delightful place to spend a few hours with friends tasting cheeses and wines and some great sandwiches. If you want good cheese for your next party, check out Scardello Artisan Cheese, you will be glad you came.

Follow link below to video:
Scardello Artisan Cheese

Chocolate Secrets was on the agenda, located on Oak Lawn.  This is a local, family owned, gourmet chocolate and fine wine boutique.  We choose so many different chocolates, that I can’t remember the “notes” on all of them, but 2 of them were rather unique and quite different from one another.  The first was a perfect pairing of dark chocolate and a full-bodied cabernet; the second was organic black forest bacon cooked, then candied and encased in dark chocolate ganache.  We even picked up a bottle of Australian Shiraz from the Barasso Valley. The things we do for love!  Artisan Cheese, you will be glad you came.

Follow link below to video:
Chocolate Secrets

Well, it was time to get home and feed the doggies, so Harold and I departed, proud of the accomplishments of the day, but anxious for more.

If you should care to join us on our adventures, please let Kay or Harold know.  We had a blast!

Harold was sweet enough to add this comment:  Kay was a delightful and adventurous companion for the day. We did it all in the name of research! Dallas has a lot to offer and we just scratched the surface. From food to drink we see some day trips in the making in Dallas! Stay turned! Let’s Meet Up for food, drink, and travel.

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