For foodies, the best part of traveling is diving into a new culinary scene. Every year, millions of travelers even go so far as to choose a travel destination based on its culinary culture. Culinary immersion travel brings this focus on food to the next level, building your entire vacation around the food in your destination. Given the growing interest in food-centered travel, resorts all over the world are beginning to get in on the action, offering culinary immersion packages for their guests.
These packages can be the perfect way to spoil yourself with decadent food in gorgeous surroundings.
Resort culinary packages can offer things like exclusive dining experiences, excursions to renowned nearby restaurants, tours of farms or wineries, beer and wine tastings, and cooking demos. And because these experiences are centered around a resort, they often take place in beautiful settings mere minutes from your room.
Terranea Resort, which hugs the Pacific coast of Palos Verdes, just outside of Los Angeles, launched its own “Land to Sea” culinary immersion package in the spring of 2015. The package includes a three-day, two-night stay at Terranea and offers guests an in-depth exploration of the resort and its unique take on the farm-to-table culinary philosophy.
Terranea was already known in the Los Angeles-area for its wide variety of food offerings, but Executive Chef Bernard Ibarra says that foodie guests specifically requested a culinary immersion experience at Terranea.
“The resort-wide emphasis on using regional ingredients was demonstrated with seasonal menus and fresh flavors, but guests began to express interest in experiencing what goes on behind the scenes, before the ingredients reach the kitchen." Ibarra is from a modest farming community in the Basque region of France and grew up utilizing foods from the land and the sea in their family meals, a farm to table passion that is highlighted in Terranea's Land to Sea package.
Ibarra’s cooking philosophy is that, “one must respect the ingredients and the cultures, feel the passion, and live your life like you are cooking a great dish.”
If the goal of culinary immersion travel is to see a new side to food and taste food unavailable elsewhere, Terranea’s Land to Sea package is an ideal example of what to look for in a resort culinary immersion package. Terranea, which boasts eight on-site restaurants and cafés, has built its culinary philosophy on sustainability, seasonality, and local availability, and the Land to Sea package reflects that philosophy.
Chef Ibarra says, “The package is comprised of experiences that showcase our Farm-to-Terranea philosophy while allowing participants to satisfy their inner foodie. Interactive tours and activities, such as the Sea Salt Workshop and Catalina View Garden tour, allow guests to engage the senses and learn about the process from start-to-finish.” The package give resort guests a look at what’s unique about Southern California coastal cuisine at the same time as it offers guests the opportunity to try a wide variety of unique foods. You might try sea salt chocolate truffles with sea salt made on site and housemade papardelle noodles, while seeing the sea salt conservatory and on-site garden.
For example, the package saves guests a seat at the table for Terranea’s bi-monthly Chef’s Table dinner series. The dinners, which are prepared by Terranea’s executive chef, Bernard Ibarra, offer a menu which changes for every dinner and is based on what’s seasonal and sustainable. The evening begins with an hors d’oeuvre and cocktail reception, followed by a sumptuous locally-sourced three-course meal paired with specially curated local wines. As much as possible, Chef Ibarra builds his menus around what’s best in Terranea’s own Catalina View Garden.
Catalina View serves as another part of the Land to Sea package, offering guests a chance to see up close where Terranea’s food comes from. Under Chef Ibarra’s direction, Terranea grows and harvests as much of its own food as possible, including avocados, honey, olive oil, lemons, limes, and herbs.
Ibarra leads Land to Sea guests on a tour of the eco-friendly, all-organic, hillside garden, which offers gorgeous views of the resort, the Pacific Ocean, and Catalina Island. The teddy bear-like Ibarra regales guests with stories of his culinary inspirations, picking produce and discussing flavors, sustainable eating, and organic gardening.
Terranea also produces between 300 and 330 lbs. of its own sea salt every year, and Chef Ibarra’s own sea salt conservatory is another stop in the Land to Sea package. Ibarra demonstrates his sea salt harvesting technique, which uses filtered seawater from Terranea’s own Abalone Cove. The Sea Salt Conservatory is very unique to Terranea, as Chef Ibarra explained, "“Before I began the salt project, I learned that nearby Abalone Cove received a 97 out of 100 points for water quality. . . . I sent a sample of sea water and a first batch of salt to the lab for analysis. The salt tested close to 27% sodium content (table salt is typically 40%), and it has more minerals than most salts. The lab chemist who analyzed the salt says it is one of the best he has tested.”
It takes an estimated three to five weeks for the sea water to turn into table salt and Ibarra closely monitors the entire process. After the sea salt demonstration, Ibarra serves guests an array of hors d’oeuvres featuring his many varieties of flavored sea salt. Depending on what’s seasonal, guests may try dark chocolate with sea salt, grilled pineapple and smoked sea salt, goat cheese crostini with sage sea salt, or cucumber, olive oil, and lemon salt.
The Land to Sea package also includes meals at two of Terranea’s eight award-winning restaurants and cafés: a farm-to-table lunch at Catalina Kitchen and a dinner and wine pairing at Mar’sel. And there’s no shortage of opportunity to eat something new and delicious at one of the other seven excellent dining spots in the resort, whether it’s family-style Asian fusion at Bashi, upscale gastropub Nelson’s, or the award-winning pastries and gelato at Sea Beans Café.
For the ultimate relaxation, the Spa at Terranea is featured on the Land to Sea package which offers food-centered spa treatments. There’s the delicious honey body scrub treatment using honey from Catalina View Garden, coconut oil, and brown sugar, followed by a Vichy shower and 30-minute massage. Or there’s the Seaside Renewal treatment, which features Terranea’s own sea salt. And guests can take home sea salt scrubs, including rosemary, smoked, and Meyer lemon flavors, and sea salt-infused bath soaps.
The Land to Sea package at Terranea is a good example of what you should look for in a resort’s culinary immersion package: a focus on what’s unique about your destination’s culinary culture, an up close, behind-the-scenes look at the foods your destination has to offer, and, of course, lots of delicious food. Says Chef Ibarra, “Terranea offers an all-encompassing epicurean package that highlights California coastal cuisine from land to sea. Participants enjoy customized and very personal interactions with Terranea's chefs. The package doesn't just create one experience for guests, but a whole weekend of learning and transformation.”
The Land to Sea package is designed for two and is offered on a limited basis. Upcoming packages are available in December 2016 and April 2017. Pricing begins at $1,600 per night, which includes all accommodations, dining, spa, and food experiences.
*This article was written by Rachel Wright. Rachel is a writer and a PhD candidate at Georgia State University. Her food obsessions include guacamole and cheese of any kind.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary accommodation, meals, and flight for the purpose of reviewing those services and discovering more about Terranea and the California Coast. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.