Food & drink experiences to whet your appetite

Date Posted: 02/05/2012

Pictured: Your group can experience Rick Stein’s Padstow Seafood School in Cornwall. Photo credit: VisitBritain and Martin Brent.

Whether you live to eat or eat to live, there are a whole host of food and drink experiences out there for groups to indulge in, from cookery workshops and demonstrations, to culinary trails and foodie-themed holidays.

Do-it-yourself

From learning to prepare canapés to producing a three-course gourmet meal, truly immerse your group in a foodie experience by arranging a cookery workshop or demonstration.

Billingsgate Seafood Training School in London offers day or evening sessions of seafood preparation and cooking for groups of between eight and 28 people. Watch a fish cooking demonstration or cook a three course menu comprising a simple starter, fish main course, and fruit-based pudding. Once prepared, groups can cook and serve their food, before finishing with lunch or supper.

While standard dinner parties are also available, Rick Stein’s Padstow Seafood School in Cornwall offers a ‘cook your own dinner’ evening for pre-booked groups of up to 20 people. The evening consists of three demonstrations and two practical sessions, after which participants can enjoy their meal at the large table overlooking the Camel estuary.

From cup cake decorating and chocolate working to pork-pie making, a host of hands-on experiences are available for anyone booking a group visit to the Shropshire Food Enterprise Centre - a state-of-the-art facility boasting a centre of excellence for regional food and drink. Enjoy a tutored tasting, experience a food and wine matching session, and learn about the food and drink produced in the region.

On safari

Butchery workshops, wild food forays, fishing trips, and bread making; Suffolk-based company Food Safari aims to provide food and drink experiences for groups that go beyond a traditional cookery school.

Free Range Pig in a Day comprises a visit to a pig farm, before butcher Gerard King provides tuition on how to butcher a side of pork. Groups will then invent their own sausage recipe, learning how to fill and link the sausages before tasting the results.

Seafood lovers can encounter the thrill of finding lobsters and crabs in the pots on a river boat trip at Orford. Groups opting for this safari experience will see how oysters are cultivated and visit a traditional artisan fish smokehouse; before learning how to open oysters and carve smoked salmon after lunch.

New for 2012, Food Safari also offers a day experience of preserving summer fruits and vegetables from its productive garden, with participants able to take their homemade jams, jellies and chutneys away with them.

Follow the foodie trail

Any foodies planning a group trip to Lancashire can embark on the award-winning Ribble Valley Food Trail and explore the area’s culinary delights from Michelin Star restaurants to exceptional local producers.

Available to download here, a dedicated map has been created to help people explore the trail. Highlights include Mrs Dowson’s Ice Cream; Leagram Organic Dairy, bringing the art of cheese-making to life; and Cowman’s Famous Sausage Shop, boasting 76 varieties of sausage.

Further south, Herefordshire boasts a dedicated Cider Route, enabling group travellers to pinpoint and visit a host of local producers. The origin of some of the world’s most famous brands, including Bulmers and Westons; the history and traditions of cider-making can be seen at various venues during the Big Apple celebrations in October, and at the county’s Cider Museum.

Just desserts 

For those with a sweet tooth, Chocolate Ecstasy Tours will introduce your group to new tastes and chocolate tips throughout the streets of London. Sample the experimental creations of up-and-coming chocolatiers, and learn about the origins of this sweet treat on the Chelsea Tour. Alternatively, the Evening Chocolate Tour, hosted in Soho, enables participating groups to taste the best of chocolate in all its forms, including truffles, bars, brownie and ice-cream, finishing with a chocolate cocktail.

Groups keen to get hands-on can discover the art of chocolate making with The Chocolate Cellar. Run in Liverpool city centre and at Claremont Kitchens on the Wirral, sessions are conducted by experienced chocolatiers and include the two-hour Dabble Workshop, three-hour creative Workshop, and full-day Chocoholic Workshop.

Cheese boards are a popular alternative for those who prefer savoury to sweet, so impress guests at your next dinner party and brush up on your cheese knowledge with a tutored tasting experience at La Fromagerie in London. With regional tasting menus reflecting the season, the produce and the producer, groups of up to 80 can enjoy a memorable tasting experience.

For a factory to fork experience, The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company is reportedly the only cheese-maker left in Cheddar. Keeping alive the traditional art of Cheddar-making, group travel organisers can arrange a trip to the visitor centre, where you will see the cheese-makers in action from the viewing gallery. This can be followed up with a free sampling session at the taster bar. Groups of 30 plus will be given exclusive access when pre-booking a visit.

Tipples and tours

Those who enjoy indulging in the odd tipple can take advantage of the many tours and tasting sessions offered at vineyards, breweries and distilleries across the UK.

Biddenden Vineyard - promoted as Kent’s oldest commercial vineyard - has joined forces with Shepherd Neame Brewery to offer a joint Beers, Wines, Brewery and Vines tour, combining visits to both attractions. Alternatively try the Kentish Cheese & Wine tour, which includes a guided tour of the vineyard and winery, followed by a ploughman’s lunch and glass of wine before visiting Winterdale Cheesemakers for an insight of the dairy and cave.

If cider is your poison then why not arrange a group trip to one of the UK’s longest established cider companies. Sheppy’s Cider Farm in Somerset offers guided tours from May to the end of October, comprising a tractor and trailer ride, a visit to the press room and vats, and a tour of the on-site museum. Guests can then participate in a fully guided cider tasting to accompany a ploughman’s meal followed by apple crumble and custard.

Group holidaying in Scotland can sample its national drink at the Scotch Whisky Experience. The Edinburgh attraction offers tours based on three different levels of experience: a platinum and morning masterclass for the true Scotch whisky lover; gold for broadening the horizons of the budding enthusiast; and silver for first time whisky drinkers.

Group trips of 15 or more people are entitled to discounted rates on the Silver Tour admission price, which includes a whisky barrel ride through the production of Scotch Whisky, an introduction to the aromas in Whisky, a tasting glass to take away, and a wee dram of the hard stuff. A tutored tasting can also be arranged for groups of ten plus for a more in-depth experience.

Also suitable for Whisky lovers and novices alike, Vinopolis - London’s premier wine and spirit tasting destination - can host a group masterclass to help visitors discover the heritage of Scotland’s national beverage. Taste five single malts and blended samples, with the aid of a Whisky Ambassador to help you truly appreciate the experience.

Vinopolis also offers cocktail making masterclasses for anyone wishing to concoct their own creation. Under the tutelage of an expert host, gain an insight into bar culture and the art of bartending, before preparing your own cocktail masterpiece. Discounted group booking rates are available for pre-booked parties of eight plus.

Not all drink experiences are necessarily of the alcoholic variety. Cup of Tea offers tea tasting workshops from its rural base in Somerset. Refine your taste and learn about the history of tea and its origins, before sampling a selection of brewed beverages.

Themed holidays for food-lovers

Many tour operators offer a host of themed food and drink holidays for group travel organisers seeking a culinary experience further afield.

For a truly exotic experience, Travelsphere’s 18-day Grand Tour of India will immerse groups in authentic Indian fare, with the chance to sample lunch and enjoy a cookery demonstration at the home of a Keralan cuisine expert. September to March 2013 departures are available.

Short-haul, Travelsphere offers a 15-day Top to Toe of Italy tour, with the chance to join a half-day excursion to the hill-top villages of Castelli Romani. Groups will visit a local vineyard and enjoy an afternoon tasting the locally produced Frascati wine.

Groups holidaying in Italy can also enjoy the country’s gastronomic delights on Success Tours’s Home Cooking in Tuscany itinerary. As well as exploring the region’s pastoral landscapes, Renaissance art and medieval architecture, your group can uncover the secrets of Italian cooking.

Closer to home, Diamond Holidays offer a range of short breaks to cater for food lovers, and in particular, connoisseurs of the great British Afternoon Tea, which can be enjoyed at a number of historic hotels and houses in London and beyond. New to the programme for 2012 is the Waldorf Experience which offers a chance to stay in one of the world’s most prestigious hotels, The Waldorf Hilton in Covent Garden, and to enjoy an afternoon tea experience in the hotel’s Grand Salon restaurant. The package includes one night’s accommodation and breakfast at the Waldorf Hilton with full afternoon tea and guided tour of the historic hotel, which has played host to princes, maharajahs, diplomats and stars of stage and screen.

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