Just last week I found myself going on a rant about all the books out there that followed the best selling 1000 Places to See Before You Die. I was browsing a bookstore, and there was this outrageously large section of books with all these things you need to do before you die: 1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die, 1001 Paintings to See Before You Die, 50 Places to Golf Before You Die, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, 50 Places to Sail Before You Die, 50 Places to Dive Before you Die. I was having a "Before you Die" O.D.!
Lest you think I am going off on a tangent from what should be a culinary review, gastronomically speaking there's also 1001 Foods You Must Taste Before You Die, 101 Dishes to Eat Before You Die, 300 Beers to Try Before You Die, 100 Belgian Beers to Try Before You Die, and 1001 Wines You Must Taste Before You Die.
So just when you think you'd better hurry up to get all this in before you die, there's Stop Living in a Hurry Or You'll Die.
And while we're on the subject of hurrying, there's always The Guide to Obtaining Your First Home Before You Get Fat, Lose Your Hair and Die. Or if you're in a hurry as in perhaps there's not enough time left for 50, 100, or 1001 of anything, there's The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die, Easy Read Super Large 24pt Edition.
And, I kid you not, there is actually: Have Your Poo Rolled Away By Dung Beetles and 99 Other Things to Do Before You Die (Plus a Few Afterward...). Check on Amazon if you don't believe me! And let's not forget Stroke a Martian and 99 Other Things To Do Before You Die.
AAAACK! I need a vacation!
And so, I find myself with this book in my hand, Gourmet Getaways: 50 Top Spots To Cook and Learn. -- and thank heavens, the title doesn't say "Before You Die!" And it's actually not a bad little book.
All the culinary getaways that are included are in the USA. The book breaks it down regionally as Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, Midwest, and "West" which refers to California only. The Pacific Northwest is not represented. Perhaps, if I remember correctly from my last trip to Seattle, that's because they just drink coffee there?
This book is definitely geared to a cooking enthusiast versus a professional chef. It's a pretty nifty book, handy in terms of the information given. For each locale, the author tells a little about the chef/instructor, the establishment, the courses offered, and he also gives you some local tourist or historical information. A recipe or two is included from each destination.
Most of the recipes are quite decent, and they're a good way at checking out the type and calibre of cooking at each establishment. (For instance, I won't be rushing off to attend the place with the Napoleons made with Ritz crackers).
There's a real diversity in the gourmet getaways chosen, from Macrobiotics and Miso in Massachusetts, to a Virginia plantation's Tequila Sunrise Beurre Blanc, complete with a full pound of butter. One nice surprise of the book is that some of these culinary courses are actually quite affordable.
Most destinations offer typical gourmet cooking experiences, but there are some that stand out as outside that mould. One is Rosewood Mansion in Dallas, Texas, that offers a "table manners" course for youngsters aged five to twelve. It's a two-hour program with a three course lunch, taught by an etiquette expert and executive chef. There's something about teaching the shorties some manners that I find quite charming.
The other inspired offering this book made me aware of, is Dr. Alice Ross' Hearth Studios. Dr. Ross, PhD, has over twenty years research in the history of American cooking, going back hundreds of years. She has turned her Smithtown, New York studio into an authentic, working early American kitchen. By "kitchen," I mean a hand pump for water, a 10 foot indoor fireplace for the cooker. It sounds like a wonderful way to experience history, cooking from her impressive library of authenticated early recipes, in a re-created early kitchen, with a passionate cook who is a true expert in her field. After reading that section, I'll never say that it takes too long to cook something again!
Now where did that Martian go...