You can only learn so much watching The Food Network. Put down the remote control and pick up a whisk at one of these culinary destinations near New York City—from the Culinary Institute of America in the Hudson Valley to a quaint bed and breakfast-hosted food and wine pairing in New Jersey. You may just find your inner Julia Child. Even if your soufflés fall and your cookies crumble, a good time (and a new take-home chef’s hat) is all but guaranteed at one of the following six gastronomical getaways–all accessible without a car, of course.
1. Le Petit Chateau Inn, Hyde Park, NY
Why: The Inn’s four rooms have all the modern amenities you need, while maintaining an elegant charm. This B&B is located on forty magnificent acres, which include a private pond. If the weather is fine, give in to temptation and sneak in a pre-breakfast row. Just make sure that you don’t miss breakfast because it is a treat. The Inn’s chefs are all Culinary Institute of America graduates or advanced students (it is just one half mile away), and prepare everything from scratch. Wine lovers are well tended to here, with complimentary afternoon sips poured freely. The Francophile innkeeper has named each suite after a different wine-producing region of France, and tokens from her favorite country can be found throughout the Inn. Check–out the in-room collection of wine-related books and guides.
Culinary Packages: Two cooking classes are offered. A CIA trained chef will privately teach you and your lucky guest to prepare a meal from start to finish. The Gold Package will have you preparing a lunch menu, and costs $175 per couple midweek or $195 on weekends. A chef will show you how to concoct a customized dinner menu for $195 mid-week or $225 on weekends with the Platinum Package. All menus feature Hudson Valley ingredients. If you are looking for hands-on training in a casual setting, consider Le Petit Chateau Inn.
How to get there: Metro North Hudson line to Poughkeepsie. Call the adorable owner, Valerie, who will be glad to pick you up at the station. (39 West Dorsey Lane, Hyde Park, NY, 845.437.4688)
2. The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, NY
Why: This is the goliath of American cooking schools, and many of the most respected chefs in the country have graduated from the CIA’s rigorous and highly respected programs. If you don’t have several years to spare, have no fear, the CIA offers several options for non-professionals.
Culinary Packages: Attending the CIA, the dream of many passionate home cooks, can be a reality. The Weekends at the CIA programs focus on a specific technique or cuisine. You will be preparing dishes in a beautiful CIA kitchen, learning from talented chef-instructors. Novices and seasoned kitchen-mavens alike will acquire new skills and gain confidence. If you have even the slightest interest in food or cooking, this is a must-do experience to add to your bucket list. Your classmates will be fellow foodies, who provide an encouraging atmosphere and a sense of camaraderie. Classes cost $250 and run five hours. You are given an apron, chef’s hat, and a cookbook as take home souvenirs. Classes include The Italian Table, The Flavors of Asia and Spain and the World Table, but the list of offerings is extensive, so there is something for all tastes. Baking enthusiasts are not left out, and offerings include Cake Decorating and Artisan Breads. (Gift certificates are available, if you are looking for a special something for your top-chef.)
If you want to take it up a notch, try Boot Camp, which gives you an intensive immersion into the world of food. Culinary Boot Camp Vacations last from two to five days. The Boot Camp immersions start at $995.
How to get there: Metro-North Hudson line to Poughkeepsie, 10 minute taxi to the CIA in Hyde Park. If you choose to stay overnight, Le petit Chateau Inn would be a convenient resting place. The Holiday Inn Express in Poughkeepsie has a shuttle that will drive and pick you up from the CIA. (1946 Campus Drive, Hyde Park, NY, 845.452.9600)
3. The Emerson Resort and Spa, Mount Tremper, NY
Why: Nestled in the lush Catskill Mountains, the Emerson Resort boasts a great spa, and an Inn with 26 premium suites, and five duplex loft suites, all with a 24-bottle in-room wine selection. 27 family-friendly suites are located in the rustic yet elegant lodge. The location provides a range of outdoor activities, from on-premise ice-skating in winter, to mountain biking and hiking during the warmer months.
Culinary Packages: The Emerson Signature Cooking Class is a two-hour private class for you and that lucky someone. A chef will take you thru the paces as you prepare a soup or salad and a pasta entrée. Sip complimentary wine as you learn to create delicious dishes to add to your repertoire. The cost is $250 per couple, and includes a culinary-inspired gift to take home. The class needs to be booked with two weeks advance notice, and can be customized to accommodate your interests.
How to get there: Adirondack Trailways from Port Authority to Kingston. Not all Kingston bound buses continue on to Mount Tremper, so check when you purchase your ticket. The driver will drop you off at the Emerson upon request. (5340 Route 28, Mount Tremper, NY, 877.688.2828)
4. Main Street Manor Bed & Breakfast, Flemington, NJ
Why: Innkeepers Donna and Ken Arold run a B&B that couldn’t be any quainter. Their accommodating attitude and genuine hospitality make this Inn special. There are five distinctly decorated rooms and a comfy front porch, complete with rocking chairs. Breakfast and tea feature seasonal organic produce, locally sourced. Don’t skip the desserts and cookie jar treats, lovingly baked by Donna’s mom Grace.
Culinary packages: Hunterdon County, New Jersey is making a name for itself as a wine-producing region, and what better way to experience it than through the Inn, which will arrange a Wine Tasting and Touring Package for $80 per person. Spend the afternoon being driven to the areas finest wineries, where you will taste their best blends. When you return from your tour, the Inn will provide you with a gift bottle of local wine. Main Street Manor runs periodic food-oriented tasting events in their gorgeous Victorian parlor. The recent Wine and Chocolate tasting event sold-out, so a Beer and Chocolate tasting event is in the works for later this spring. Check the Inn’s website for dates and times. Tasting events cost $35.
How to get there: Trans-bridge bus gets you from Port Authority to Flemington in 90 minutes. From the Liberty Village stop, walk to the Inn is under 5 minutes. (194 Main St., Flemington, N, 908.782.4928)
5. La Cucina at the Market, Reading Terminal, Philadelphia, PA
Why: Food lovers from around the east coast flock to Philadelphia’s historic farmer’s market. Well known for its Amish specialties, many ethnicities are represented here. In the middle of it all sits La Cucina at the Market, housed in a sleek demonstration kitchen, full of the most modern appliances. Philly native Anna Florio runs the show. Her love and knowledge of Italian cuisine is genuine, having spent childhood summers in her parent’s native land. Luckily, Anna aims to share her expertise, teaching us the secrets of La Cucina Italiana. A respected line-up of local chefs headline a variety of classes.
If you are not stuffed after all this cooking and eating, head over to 17 and Sansom Street and try chef Guillermo Tellez’s take on American cuisine, liberally infused with the flavors of his native Michoacan, Mexico. Square 1682 is getting a lot of well-deserved buzz, and if you sit in the lower level of this duplex space, you will get to see the chef at work in the open kitchen.
Culinary package: Hands-on classes include Fish Without Fear on Saturday, June 23, and Gnocchi, Gnocchi, Gnocchi on Thursday, June 28, 5:45-7:45pm. La Cucina’s schedule is loaded with interesting offerings, so check the site for more classes, which usually run two hours and start at $45.
How to get there: MegaBus stops at Independence Hall, on 6th and Market. The Reading Terminal Market is on 12 and Arch, a 10-minute walk. (51 North 12th St., Philadelphia, PA, 215.922.1170)
6. The Four Seasons Hotel, Boston
Why: Executive Chef Brooke Vosika’s upscale comfort food is so delicious, trust us, you will want to learn his secrets. He holds monthly, themed group cooking classes for novices as well as savvy semi-pros. Brooke’s guidance, the convivial atmosphere of the Bristol Lounge and the youthful, after-work crowd make for an informative and creative evening.
Culinary packages: The two-hour hands-on classes generally start at 6:30 p.m., and cost $180 per person, including light fare and wine. Upcoming classes include Couple’s Valentine’s Dinner on Sunday, February 12, including hors d’oeuvres, oyster and truffle bisque, American caviar, lobster, and red velvet cupcakes, then Year-Round Vegetarian Favourites on Tuesday, May 29 featuring Pepper “steak,” eggplant Parmesan and truffle mac n’ cheese, and Street Food Around the World on Monday, July 23, when you will learn to make dishes like Philly cheesesteak, bánh mì, arepas, and green papaya salad. Be on the look out for fall classes that incorporate the best fresh products of the season, along with Chef Vosika’s skill as a wine and cider maker. September features a grape crushing class. In October, local varieties of apples are used to make a first press cider. The number of participants is limited, and classes fill-up quickly.
How to get there: BoltBus and Megabus both go to South Station. If the weather cooperates, you can walk across the Common to the hotel in minutes. (200 Boylston St., Boston, MA, 617.338.4400)