Vacations shouldn’t have to require hideous waits, grim-faced attendants and abysmal cuisine before you get to the good stuff. Score the treat you travel for without the hassle. In the Hudson Valley, there are dozens of freelance chefs offering creative lessons in a full range of cuisines, plus the vaunted Culinary Institute of America, just waiting to whisk you away to a different world. Check out our favorite Hudson Valley cooking escapes, for advanced gourmands and the clueless alike.
For the Vegetarian, Gluten- and Dairy-Free Crowd: The Food Evolution | Bardonia
Diane Hoch says she launched The Food Evolution
to “make a difference and change people’s lives through healthy food.” Ms. Hoch focuses on plant-based, sustainable cooking, and she specializes in creative gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian recipes that are full of flavor and easy to prepare. She teaches classes out of the Food Evolution’s sprawling headquarters in Bardonia. Her mission is to teach people how to feed themselves and their families healthy foods while helping them to do their part to “change what food and nutrition has become, and heal our food system,” she says. “There is a major connection between what we eat and how we feel. I hope that students feel the warmth, love and positive energy that is created in our kitchen and that it inspires them to create beautiful meals at home.” Ms. Hoch, a certified nutritional health counselor and natural foods chef, offers two-hour cooking classes (using all organic ingredients) at $65 per person, and three-hour couples classes on Saturday night for $149 per couple. To learn more, go to the Food Evolution’s calendar here
Jennifer Clair founded her company in 2002 with a simple idea: teach people to cook good food in an unintimidating, fun atmosphere. Ms. Clair offers classes in her Beacon location at Ella Bella’s Bakery
, or at your place. As a former manager of Cooking and Entertaining for Martha Stewart’s website, she spent years creating and taste-testing recipes utilizing every imaginable technique and cuisine. Since launching Home Cooking, Ms. Clair has utilized her encyclopedic knowledge for everyday home cooks who want to broaden their horizons and learn how to make anything from a simple roasted chicken to a kicking char siu bao. “Groups can opt for any menu they like and they show up with bottles of wine in hand, and we cook together for a few hours, and then they sit down together and enjoy the fruits of their labor at one large dining room table,” Ms. Clair explains. “We can host groups of up to 10 people in the kitchen. The most popular menus are the Northern Italian risotto or gnocchi dinner, French Bistro, and our homemade cocktail and hors d'oeuvres party.” Get the full 411 here
. Classes for up to four people are $300, plus the cost of groceries. For groups of six or more it is $75 per person (groceries included).
For the Gourmand: Vintage Hudson Valley | Rhinecliff, Tarrytown, White Plains
Have your cake and eat it, too, with the combo pack of indulgence and learning offered by Vintage Hudson Valley. Choose from day-long or a full-weekend stays that culminate in a two-hour class taught by chefs at either the Ritz-Carlton Westchester in White Plains, The Rhinecliff in Rhinecliff or Castle on the Hudson in Tarrytown (you can select your destination when booking the getaway). Following the class, a four-course fete with wine pairings is offered. Courses are $175, exclusive of tax and gratuities, and accommodations are not included, but are recommended for the ultimate getaway. To book a class, or for more information, go here.
If your knife skills (or speed-dialing-for-takeout skills) are already sharp enough, then the Hudson Valley Wine Goddess
’ exploration of wines may be of interest. The Goddess, a.k.a. Debbie Gioquindo, a certified wine specialist, launched a new series of classes that she promises will "Uncork Your Mind" without decimating your wallet (they run $45 per person and include wine and a small food pairing.) “My aim is to take the intimidation out of wine,” The Goddess says. “The classes are fun and snob free, no matter how full your glass is. Classes will be limited to 15 participants and you will taste between four and six wines.” Her classes explore a range of interests and topics, from learning to Review Like a Critic
(learning the American Wine Society’s 20 point evaluation system) to New York Wines
to Sparkling Wines of the World
(deciphering the differences between champagne, prosecco, cava, cremant, etc.). If you don’t see a class that whets your appetite, shoot The Goddess an email — she will custom-design a class that will suit your interests. She is also available for private consulting classes. For more information on the classes, held in LaGrangeville, go here
If it’s good enough for Cat Cora
and Grant Achatz
, it’s good enough for the rest of us. The world’s premier culinary college is set on 170 acres in Hyde Park and features four award-winning restaurants and cafes, dozens of cooking courses, and an epic bookstore with a treasure trove of cookbooks and kitchen essentials. From classes on artisanal bread-making to meat-fabrication basics (a.k.a. the breaking down of a carcass) to cooking the Indian classics, the CIA offers a tantalizing array of esoteric options for the culinary cognoscenti. The school also offers baking and cooking boot camps for a serious immersion experience for beginners. Go to their online calendar
for a full range of options. Classes are generally $250 per person, and include an apron and cookbook. If you take a handful of classes and want to stay nearby, check out the CIA’s lodging recommendations, here