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June - July, 2014

The kitchen at Villa Panzano

Cooking in Chianti: September 20-27 and October 4-11

Discover the Tuscan lifestyle and the region's passion for food and wine. Put on your apron, gather around the kitchen table, get wrist-deep in pasta dough, and learn Tuscan cooking.

You'll stay in our private luxury villa with all modern comforts. There are 6 double or twin bedrooms with en-suite bathroom and the villa is just a few minutes from Panzano-in-Chianti and 25 km from Florence. The villa has several terraces and al fresco dining areas, all with magnificent views of the hills and valleys, and surrounded by olive groves and scenic vineyards.

You'll cook in a professional kitchen with Chef Barbara, who is fluent in English. The cooking classes are hands-on, and every lesson ends with a dinner.

Pricing is $3,400 per person, based on double occupancy. It includes 7 nights accommodation; 7 breakfasts; 3 hands-on cooking lessons; 5 dinners, including superb Tuscan wines; 4 lunches; 2 full-day excursions by private minibus and guide; visits to a cheese producer, olive oil mill and a flagship vineyard with tastings.

For an itinerary and to make a reservation, contact us at 888 345 3005, 212 327 3424 or email us at

Violette de Toulouse

Toulouse - The "Pink City" Turns Violet

Among the largest cities in France, Toulouse is known as the "Pink City" because the bricks used in many buildings take on a rosy glow in the warm southern sun. Today the city is the home of the high-tech company Airbus but in the 19th century it was world-renowned for violets: the highly-scented purple flowers that were indigenous to the area.

Back in Napoleon's time, violets were quite fashionable. Legend has it that the tiny violets were his favorite flower and played an instrumental role in why he fell in love with Josephine. Apparently, she was holding a bouquet of the purple flowers when they first met. Soon, violets and their scent became all the rage in Paris. And Toulouse, because of its perfect climate, became the center of production.

During the late 1800's violet production reached it's peak. The flowers were shipped throughout Europe and even to Russia. It was also during this time, that the flowers were crystallized in a sugar syrup and used to decorate desserts.

Production started to decline in the 1940's and almost came to a halt in 1956 when a severe cold snap destroyed many flowers. In the 1980's, a small group of producers, industrialists and enthusiasts banned together to continue the tradition of the violette de Toulouse.

Today, the subtle fragrance enhances savory foods such as mustards and vinaigrettes. Local chefs scatter violets in salads, add violets to stuffing for meat and use them to flavor roast duck, steak and lamb. There is even a violet foie gras!

When you visit Toulouse, you can find many of the iconic products of the area at La Maison de la Violette, a unique boutique aboard an authentic barge from the 30's, moored on the Canal du Midi (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Here you'll find crystallized flowers, candied honey, teas chocolate, vinegar, cookies, fragrances, perfume, candles...all made with the sweet little purple violet.

Chef Sean Brock

Charleston's Lowcountry Flavors

September 8-11th, October 6-9th & November 17-20

Join us for a food lover's glimpse of Charleston, voted Travel + Leisure's 2013 No. 1 U.S. Destination and Conde Nast's Traveler number one city in the United States for three consecutive years. Stay at the 5* Charleston Place Hotel & Spa, experience a hands-on cooking class with renowned chef and cooking show host Nathalie Dupree, tour a bone-fide southern plantation, and lunch in an organic vegetable garden. You'll discover all the traditional culinary delights the region has to offer, from Carolina Gold rice to benne seeds, and be exposed to the next generation of Lowcountry chefs working with heirloom ingredients in a revolutionary way. Most importantly, you'll get to see first-hand why foodies and chefs around the country can't stop talking about Charleston.

For an itinerary or to make a reservation, contact us at 888 345 3005, 212 327 3424 or email us at