Courier May 2011 : Page 39

NTA members offer creative, sustainable options in culinary tourism By Doug Rentz avvy tourism professionals understand that what and where people eat and drink on vacation can leave a lasting impression. Each time travelers gather around the table for a hearty, family-style dinner; line up for a sip of the latest handcrafted vintage; or stumble upon a street ven-dor selling tasty, local staples, they are rewarded with a sense of place. Perhaps no other tour component is talked about more by travelers or pitched by sellers of travel than cuisine. And thanks to partnerships with area farmers, vintners and chefs, NTA members continue to add authentic foodie experiences to their tourism offerings. Sure, boxed lunches, buffets and prix-fixe menus still have a place on an itinerary, but here are some alternative gastronomic selections. Bon appétit . S Let’s eat: Recreational outfitters in Oregon offer rafting and kayaking excursions on the Rogue River that include a variety of wine and culinary components. Farm to Fork dinners held throughout southern Oregon and the Willamette and Hood River valleys allow guests to visit with the farmers, vintners and local producers who contributed to their meal. FARM TO FORK TRAVEL OREGON www.NTAonline.com 39

Stepping Up To The Plate

Doug Rentz

NTA members offer creative, sustainable options in culinary tourism

Savvy tourism professionals understand that what and where people eat and drink on vacation can leave a lasting impression. Each time travelers gather around the table for a hearty, family-style dinner; line up for a sip of the latest handcrafted vintage; or stumble upon a street vendor selling tasty, local staples, they are rewarded with a sense of place.

Perhaps no other tour component is talked about more by travelers or pitched by sellers of travel than cuisine. And thanks to partnerships with area farmers, vintners and chefs, NTA members continue to add authentic foodie experiences to their tourism offerings. Sure, boxed lunches, buffets and prix-fixe menus still have a place on an itinerary, but here are some alternative gastronomic selections.

Bon appétit.

OREGON’S FRUITFUL BOUNTY

According to the International Culinary Tourism Association, culinary tourism represents any type of food, beverage and travel experience that is unique and memorable, no matter where it takes place. The folks at Travel Oregon have mastered this concept and are turning their state’s bountiful crops into a cornucopia of possibilities, from farm dinners and seasonal u-pick orchards to wine- and beer-themed rafting and cycling excursions.

Lisa Itel, travel trade manager, credits her state’s burgeoning culinary scene to the Oregon Bounty campaign, which debuted six years ago to celebrate the fall harvest season. Since then, myriad options focused on pairing Oregon’s artisan wines, spirits and brews with its fresh, local cuisine have emerged.

One group-friendly program Itel recommends is Farm to Fork. “For those travelers looking to get off the beaten path and hoping to experience something uniquely Oregon, a ticket to a Farm to Fork event is an absolute must,” she said. “These elaborate- yet-rustic farm dinners are the perfect way ... To experience something completely unique out on Oregon’s back roads.”

Farm to Fork is a sustainable dinner designed to connect visitors with the source of food and celebrate the farmers, winemakers and chefs who contribute to the growing local food communities in southern Oregon and the Willamette and Hood River valleys. Guests indulge in a five-course dinner featuring products sourced from the host farm and prepared by an area chef. Of course, the meal is paired with local wine and, after an introductory glass, an amuse-bouche and a farm tour, guests are seated at decorated tables to begin their feast. Throughout the evening, they have the opportunity to interact with the area food and wine producers.

A fun and recreational way to soak in the beauty of Oregon’s Hood River is by bicycle, and local outfitter Hermosa Tours covers all the bases for a group or FIT outing. While many of its multi-day tours are geared toward more experienced riders, the company also offers shorter, daily excursions for all skill levels. “They’re planning to market many of their tours, such as the wine and fruit loop tours, to groups who are non-cyclists but are looking for something adventurous and physical to do,” Itel said.

On the Gears and Beers tour, riders find out that grapes aren’t the only thing fermenting in the Columbia River Gorge. With six breweries and a number of taprooms cropping up in and around Hood River, bikers don’t have to pedal far to find a frothy libation. The tour combines a day on the bike with a stop at a local brewery, where participants sample award-winning IPAs, creamy stouts and seasonal delights, as well as enjoy lunch and a guided tour of the facility.

If rafting is more your clients’ speed, then Corvallis-based White Water Warehouse offers a range of floats that combine gourmet food and fine Oregon wines and beers. Among its tours is the Oregon Craft Beer Trip, on which visitors raft or kayak the wild and scenic Rogue River, then relax with samplings from one of Oregon’s most popular microbrews, Eugene-based Ninkasi Brewing Co. White Water Warehouse also features women’s-only, fishing and family trips on its 2011 schedule, as well as a special, glutenfree culinary trip that will launch in August.

A TASTE OF VANCOUVER, USA STYLE

Located just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon, the city of Vancouver, Washington, is shaping itself into a trendy foodie town. Just in the last couple years, several new restaurants and hip bars have spiced up its culinary scene, providing upscale and innovative dining experiences.

Chef Brad Root is well known for his first establishment, Roots Restaurant & Bar, a farm-to-table concept that Kim Bennett, president and CEO of Vancouver USA Regional Tourism Office, said is one of the region’s top culinary venues. His second restaurant, Lapellah, also is receiving rave local and regional reviews for its open kitchen, wood-fired grill and a menu that focuses on locally sourced foods. Here patrons can enjoy Washington saffron-infused mussels served with white wine and a garlic baguette as a starter before tackling the house-smoked pork loin, which is brought in locally from Carlton Farms and served with mushroom risotto and rosemary shoestring potatoes.

For those looking for a casual, fun atmosphere offering authentic Italian cuisine, La Bottega, located in the Uptown Village section of downtown Vancouver, is a local favorite where wine lovers and foodies gather to enjoy monthly specials from Chef Peter Dougherty. Oliver’s at th e Camas Hotel opened last summer and already has received local and national accolades including being named the “Best New Suburban Restaurant: Outside Portland” by Food & Wine magazine. And Vinotopia’s stylish Wine Bar and Wine Tasting Cellar allows customers to experience more than 100 world-class wines by the taste or glass, which earned the restaurant Wine Spectator’s “Best of Award of Excellence” for 2009 and 2010.

“In addition to these great new restaurants, the southwestern corner of Washington quickly is becoming a burgeoning wine region,” Bennett said. “Though it’s not yet an official appellation, the area is home to six commercial vineyards that have taken root in the past nine years with at least three more in development.”

One opportunity to sample regional wines is at the annual Vancouver Wine & Jazz Festival. Now in its 14th year, the event, which is held at downtown’s Esther Short Park, features internationally acclaimed jazz and blues musicians, more than 200 wines, fine arts and crafts, and local cuisine. This year’s celebration takes place Aug. 26–28.

COMING TOGETHER FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD

Coastal Virginia is full of delicious cuisine, from succulent seafood pulled straight from the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay, to fresh produce grown and harvested by local farmers. In addition to restaurants located along the coast, the region’s many flavors can be enjoyed through private lessons with a chef, wine tastings and festivals in Virginia Beach. In fact, food is such a part of the tourism landscape that a new culinary-themed tour series was created and launched last month.

“With all the wonderful restaurants, sustainable farms, rich culinary history and the demand for food tours, the Virginia Beach CVB developed Coastal Food Tours of Virginia,” said Kelli Norman, director of tourism marketing and sales. “Our goal in creating these food tours was to increase consumer awareness of our local agriculture and culinary riches, educate our visitors on sustainability and local support of agriculture, and embrace year-round culinary events.”

The CVB partnered with the Virginia Tourism Corporation, Visit Norfolk, Food Tour Corporation and the City of Virginia Beach Agriculture Department on the program, which features various farms, restaurants, businesses and wineries throughout southeastern Virginia. Visitors will taste local products as well as learn how they are grown, processed and prepared.

Norman said the first part of the program features both spring and fall harvest tours.

On the Coastal Harvest Feast Food Tour, guests stop at the Virginia Beach Farmers Market; Mattawoman Creek Farms on the Eastern Shore, known for its organic produce; Cherrystone Aqua Farms, also on the Eastern Shore and famous for its clams; and the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center to learn about sustainable seafood. “For the finale, participants savor the moments of the adventure with a harvest feast on the beach where local chefs and farmers prepare a meal representative of coastal Virginia’s cuisine and culinary traditions,” Norman added.

Virginia Beach also plays host to numerous food-themed festivals throughout the year, and one not to miss is the East Coast She Crab Soup Classic. Held annually in April at 24th Street Park along the oceanfront, the event features up to 20 of the region’s leading seafood restaurants serving food based on their unique recipes and vying for bragging rights in both Critics’ Choice and Peoples’ Choice categories.

A Culinary Leader in the Berkshires

Chef Brian Alberg traces his roots in the sustainable food movement to his childhood. He began his career making omelets with his mom at the age of 9 in Copake, New York, and at 14, he went to work as an apprentice under chefowner Jean Morel at the L’Hostellerie Bressane in Hillsdale. Today, The Red Lion Inn’s executive chef raises his own hogs for meat and chickens for eggs, and what he can’t produce, he purchases from local farms near the Stockbridge, Massachusetts-based property.

“Growing up in a rural area, I embraced it at a young age, and then I just started to apply it to a larger cooking philosophy,” Alberg said.

In keeping with the history of The Red Lion Inn, which has been welcoming guests to the Berkshires for more than two centuries, Alberg sticks to traditional New England dishes such as pot pie, pot roast, roast turkey and clam chowder, while at the same time, introduces new creations on seasonal menus. On this spring’s bill of fare, he added a braised chicken with mushrooms and a sunny-side Bantam egg. “You’ve got chickens coming from 15 miles away, eggs coming from my farm, and the mushrooms are locally foraged, so right there in one appetizer you’re sustaining a community,” he said.

According to Carol Bosco Baumann, the inn’s director of marketing and communications, the chef spends more than $400,000 a year on locally sourced ingredients. He also gives back to the community by serving on the boards of Berkshire Grown, a non-profit or ganization that promotes supporting area farms, and the Railroad Street Youth Project, where he runs a culinary program for at-risk youths.

The Red Lion Inn offers more than 200 selections on its wine list, and its Main Dining Room is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Guests also can choose from Widow Bingham’s Tavern, the casual Lion’s Den pub or, in warmer months, the flower-filled Courtyard.

For more information, contact Brian Butterworth, +1.413.298.1604, www.redlioninn.com, member since 2003. —D.R.

Talkin’ Food

Switzerland Tourism’s Anina Trutmann speaks on the culinary diversity of her homeland

“Switzerland is overshadowed by its near neighbors when it comes to food and drink, and yet the country nurtures a wide and absorbing range of local cuisine, taking in influences and styles from the surrounding diversity of French, German and Italian cooking while sticking close to its rural and Alpine roots. Being a quadrilingual country, it comes as no surprise that Switzerland has much to offer in the diversity of its food. Just as climate, language, dialects, architecture and temperament change between regions, so does the culinary landscape. High levels of immigration have brought in different international flavors, and restaurants of all kinds of ethnicities can be found in Switzerland. Enjoy your meal! En guete! Bon appétit! Buon appetito! Bun appetit!”

For information on Switzerland’s vast food and wine tour offerings, contact Switzerland Tourism at 800.794.7795, www.myswitzerland.com, member since 2002.

Read the full article at http://onlinedigitalpublishing.com/article/Stepping+Up+To+The+Plate/704450/67137/article.html.

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