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7 Best Food and Wine Trips for 2013

Exploring a place through food and drink is a surefire way to understand and enjoy a destination. But the best culinary travel goes beyond making reservations at the right restaurants. These 7 dream trips for gourmands offer first-hand experiences that will not only open the appetite, but introduce some savory skills, too.

Foraging in the English Countryside


Copenhagen chef Rene Redzepi may have put foraging on the tip of everyone’s tongues, but combing for culinary treasures isn’t just for Nordics. At the Summer Lodge, a Georgian country estate in southwestern England, guests can treasure hunt and gather their own meals with expert forager John Wright of the UK’s River Cottage television series. Successful foraging takes savvy—pick the wrong berry and you can end up in the hospital (or worse). Wright teaches guests the difference between delicious and deadly whether heading into the woods for mushrooms or collecting clams from the coast. At the end of the day, the Summer Lodge’s chef will turn the bounty into a gourmet meal. The best part: the adventure is complimentary for guests. (May and November)

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Salmon Fishing in Alaska


For the ultimate water-to-table experience, TikChik Narrows is a luxury lodge on Bristol Bay, the clean, rich waters of southwest Alaska. The catch on their fishing tours: five species of salmon—king, sockeye, chum, pink, and silver. A typical day starts with an early breakfast, a morning of angling, a salmon lunch cooked by the guides, then more fishing before cocktails and hors d’oeuvres upon return. Dinner at the on-site fine dining restaurant includes all local bounty, such as king crab, halibut, duck, and of course, salmon. And guests bring home more than just fishy stories—the lodge will vacuum pack and freeze their catch to bring back, too. (June-September)

Grape Picking in Napa


During a fantasy camp for oenophiles, Schramsberg Vineyards in Calistoga, California, hosts an annual hands-on fall harvest session. Known for its excellent bubblies, the winery offers a unique experience for guests, as they pick the grapes and participate in the entire process from juice to sparkling wine. Other tricks taught include the art of sabrage—opening a bottle with a saber—and disgorging, dosing, and labeling your own wine. Tastings, pairings, and meals at the Michelin-starred restaurant at Meadowood Resort guarantee that guests leave extremely happy campers. (September)

Coffee Harvesting in Costa Rica


Juan Valdez has nothing on travelers staying at Finca Rosa Blanca, a working coffee plantation high in the mountains above San Jose, where guests can pick, clean, and roast their own coffee while hiking the lush 30-acre landscape. It’s the perfect setting to learn the history of coffee cultivation as well as to pick up the craft of coffee making during barista classes. Daily "cuppings" (tastings) help guests understand the differences between various blends. (October-January)

King Crab Safari in Norway


In Kirkenes, Norway, just over the Russian border, king crab ice fishing not only sustains local restaurants and homes, but it also attracts hungry tourists. Crab hunters don polar suits before setting out on snowmobile-towed sleds out to the middle of a frozen fjord. There, fishermen saw through and chip away at ice in order to pull up crustacean-filled "pots" from the frigid waters a la Deadliest Catch (sans the high-seas danger). Once caught, the legs are cut off and tossed into a crate for cooking…after a sashimi-style tasting, of course. Within a half hour of the crabs’ capture, the crowd is treated to an abundant feast of the giant, steamed legs. The Snowhotel in Kirkenes organizes the excursions, and provides a comfy igloo to sleep off the generous meal afterwards. (December-April)

Conch Diving in Turks and Caicos


The island of Providenciales in Turks and Caicos claims the world’s only conch farm where mollusk scholars can learn the nitty-gritty behind the biology and cultivation of the creatures. For those who want to literally dive right in to get up close and personal with the gastropods, Caicos Dream Tours has boats and snorkels at the ready. During the excursions, guests plunge into the azure waters to gather the ornate shells, then enjoy a fresh salad made from the meat on the cruise’s conclusion. Those who can’t get enough of the conch (it is said to have Viagra-esque powers, ahem) can head to Da Conch Shack, where it is served fried, fresh, or in a fiery Creole or curried stew. (Year round)

Cheese Tasting in South Africa


Most visitors come to the African continent in search of animal herds. But explorers with intrepid appetites come for the wine and curds. Each April an annual festival at Sandringham Estate near Stellenbosch devotes a weekend to all things cheese. Over 30,000 visitors enjoy the wares of 80 local cheese makers, along with music, classes, and competitions. For a more intimate encounter with dairy delicacies, a stop at Fairview Estate in nearby Paarl is a must. Inside its Master Tasting Room, visitors can sample 20 cheese varieties, including their award-winning Camembert. Enjoy it all with some of the region’s best wines, also produced by Fairview. (Festival: April; Master Tasting Room at Fairview: Year Round)

Photo Credits: Foraging in The English Countryside: Courtesy of Red Carnation Hotels Collection; Salmon Fishing in Alaska: Courtesy of Tikchik Narrows Lodge; Grape Picking in Napa courtesy of Hernan F. Rodriguez; Coffee Harvesting in Costa Rica via Shutterstock; Conch Diving in Turks and Caicos courtesy of Hernan F. Rodriguez; King Crab Safari in Norway courtesy of Hernan F. Rodriguez; Cheese Tasting in South Africa: Courtesy of Cheese Festival

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