The best places to learn how to cook on vacation

Get your hands dirty as part of the local food scene

Maybe your idea of cooking is ordering GrubHub. Perhaps it's whipping up one of your famous fiesta party dips (read: salsa and cream cheese, topped with cilantro if you're feeling fancy). Or if you're a bit more ambitious, it could be creating a seriously tasty meal from Blue Apron or some other delivery dinner kit.

Whatever your competence level in the kitchen, we can all agree that it's pretty satisfying to sit down to enjoy something you've personally created. And if you're not too confident in your culinary skills, it's always comforting to have a better cook guiding you throughout the process.

But, in all honesty, who among us has the time to learn how to cook with a mentor in real life? YouTube cooking demonstrations will do in a pinch, but real, hands-on, intimate cooking lessons often take more time than we are willing to devote to them during our busy weeks.

That's why vacation cooking lessons are the perfect holiday activity. You'll get a feel for the local food, are relaxed enough to enjoy a leisurely afternoon spent chopping and sautéing, and you'll leave the lesson with a sense of accomplishment and a full belly (Unlike days spent sucking down fruity drinks under a beach umbrella, where your biggest sense of accomplishment comes from remembering to reapply sunscreen in the afternoon). Not to mention that some of your best vacation memories will come from memorable meals. Here are some of the top vacation cooking lessons in the world.

Ain't nothing like pasta and sauce made from scratch

Pasta lovers, this one's for you

Cooking Vacations is one of the most popular companies offering cooking classes in Italy. Choose from a variety of classes and combination lessons and tours to really connect with the local flavors. You can choose from virtually any region in Italy, from Tuscany to the Amalfi Coast and anything in between. If you're interested in an immersive cooking vacation, they offer multi-day classes and excursions like the Slow Cooking Positano, an eight-day program that takes you to meet artisan bread bakers and pastry makers. It also includes five hands-on cooking classes that demonstrate the art of "slow cooking" in Italy.

If you're looking for a shorter, less immersive experience, try one of their One Day Cooking Classes and Market Tours. Chef Stefano's class in Genova is perfect for those dying to make their own ravioli, pansoti, and gnocchi from scratch. If you're in Umbria, check out Chef Patrizia's Umbrian Organic Kitchen class, where you'll get to use produce straight from her garden in the Assisi countryside to whip up traditional Umbrian fare like stringozzi pasta or umbrichelli in salsa di Trasimeno.

Soothes your soul and warms your belly

Fresh and healthy Vietnamese fare

Vietnamese food is well known for its slurpable pho (pronounced "fuh"), a belly-warming noodle soup found in both street carts and upscale restaurants. But Vietnamese food has far more depth and variety to it than fragrant soups. Bun cha, Cao lầu, Bánh mì–the list of delicious eats goes on and on. If you're traveling to Vietnam and want to experience the local delicacies in a hands-on way, check out the Ho Chi Minh Food Experience: Vietnamese Cooking Class and Market Tour. This five-hour tour kicks off at Ben Than Market, where you'll meander past stalls piled high with traditional Vietnamese cooking elements like leafy herbs, rice noodles, spices, and fresh vegetables. Your guide will share stories about this legendary market (one of the oldest in Vietnam), and after purchasing produce you'll head to the Vietnam Cookery Center to begin your four-hour Vietnamese culinary adventure. Other options include Sabirama Cooking Class in Hội An, a favorite in this UNESCO world heritage city. Not only will you enjoy an immersive cooking experience, but you'll also get to indulge in a massage and a boat ride up the Bon Thu river.

No matter where you end up, you'll surely return home with an appreciation for the simple, yet incredibly delicious, Vietnamese cuisine.

Wake up and smell the crawfish

Laissez le bon temps et la bonne nourriture rouler

New Orleans is a city reeling with temptation and its foodie culture is no exception. Locally made sticky sweet pralines dissolve on your tongue and fuel your sugar rush, and you can't swing a Mardi Gras beaded necklace without hitting a restaurant or café selling po' boys. All of this makes it the perfect environment for a cooking class or two. Try the New Orleans School of Cooking, where you can either enroll for a hands-on class, or watch in rapt admiration as a master chef cooks up some authentic N'Awlins eats. Try your hand at shrimp and artichoke soup, crawfish étouffée, or some simple red beans and rice. Just don't forget to save room for the iconic New Orleans dessert: bananas foster.

If creole and soul food are more your style, check out Casa Pelican B&B and Cooking School. Chef Karen Duncan teaches up to 10 students in each casual cooking class, where attendees learn how to cook Cajun, creole, and other local dishes. She even offers a New Orleans Jazz Brunch class where you'll learn how to whip up mouthwatering carbs like beignets (deep fried dough topped with powdered sugar) or pain perdu (fried french toast).

Muy deliciosa!

Spice up your vacation with some Mexican cooking

Mexico is good for more than just sunny beaches and margarita-fueled nights. Its cuisine is as varied as its tequila options, and visitors may leave with a new love for rose petal ice cream or mole negro Oaxaqueño (Oaxacan black mole). At the Oaxaca Cooking Class, eager foodies will convene at Casa Crespo, a beautifully restored colonial-era home in the historic district, for three hours of hands-on cooking under the attentive eye of dedicated instructors. You'll create a four-course meal with the other attendees and get to enjoy the fruits of your labors at the culmination of the class.

Wherever your wanderlust takes you will probably have a cooking class or two nearby. Try one for a memorable activity that will leave you satiated and a bit more educated than when you embarked upon your trip.

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There are several things about wine that can confuse the average person. If you haven't spent the last few years of your life learning everything there is to know about wine, you can be forgiven for picking up a box of the good stuff every now and then. However, if you want to know a little bit more about how to choose a good bottle, we can help you out. We've created a beginner's guide to picking a bottle of wine so you can enjoy yourself a little more.

Know What Type of Wine To Choose

First things first, you're going to need to decide the type of wine that you're looking for in order to narrow your search. Are you looking for a red, white, sparkling, or rosé? The choices may seem overwhelming, but try to focus on what foods you'll be pairing the wine with. Reds go great with heavier meals like red meat, while whites tend to lend themselves towards lighter dishes like fish and cheeses. If you'll be drinking the wine on its own, consider what you've tried in the past and what type you tend to gravitate toward.

Know How Much You're Willing To Spend

It's no secret that a penchant for wine can become an expensive hobby. If you're just getting into the idea, don't waste your time or money with the extremely pricey bottles. A good place to start looking for decent bottles of wine is somewhere between the $10 and $30 price range. This will keep you from buying something too low quality without breaking your bank in the process.

Read the Labels Closely

A good bottle of wine will often give tasting notes right on the bottle. Because everyone's palette is different, you may not get the same notes when you try the wine, but it's a good place to start. Choose something with tasting notes that you already enjoy like berries or cocoa and try to see if you get any hints of that as you drink. The labels may also tell you about the wine's acidity, or how tart it is, and the wine's body, or the way it feels in your mouth.

A beginner's guide to picking a bottle of wine can only go so far without being overwhelming. The next part of your wine journey will need to be undertaken on your own. Try various types of wine and see what tastes best to you—that's what wine is really all about.

Distillery tours went on hiatus in 2020, but there are high hopes for 2021. While bourbon leaps immediately to mind when thoughts turn to distillery tours, interest in other spirits and how they're made is increasing. Here are a few of the best tours to thrill tequila lovers.

Tequila Herradura

Ride in style on the Herradura Express, a distillery sponsored train ride that runs from Guadalajara to the town of Amatitán for a distillery tour and tastings, followed by lunch featuring live entertainment. The train then takes visitors back to Guadalajara by evening. Herradura is housed in the last tequila-producing Hacienda in the world, Hacienda San Jose del Refugio. Casa Herradura will be closed for visits and tours until Mexican health officials declare the coronavirus emergency over.

La Rojeña

Producer of Jose Cuervo, La Rojeña has a train of its own called the Jose Cuervo Express (currently on hiatus due to COVID-19) to bring visitors to the oldest distillery in the town of Tequila. Jose Cuervo offers distillery tours, tastings, and tours of the agave fields. Mundo Cuervo (Cuervo world) also has its own hotel, Solar de las Animas. Check for COVID-19 hours and restrictions before booking.

Casa Sauza

Founded in 1873, Casa Sauza offers four levels of tours including a visit to the La Perseverancia distillery, a visit to the Quinta Sauza estate, and for those willing to spend more, barrel tastings and a barbeque or a three-course meal. Casa Sauza is on hiatus until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, but should go on the distillery tour bucket list.

La Cofradia

The only tequila distillery with a hotel inside, La Cofradia offers many experiences in addition to distillery tours. Choose a hike through natural trails, biking, or horseback riding through the agave fields. Rooms made of giant tequila barrels sit among the agave plants for a unique stay. Visiting La Cofradia is sure to be a tour that thrills tequila lovers. Contact the hotel directly for information about lockdown closures.

A distillery tour offers education about tequila's history and manufacture. Bone up on your tequila terms and tips for choosing quality tequila before you go, so you'll understand what you're tasting.

We don't know how to feel about winter this year. Sure, nobody likes the cold and dreary months, but there's something special about the Holiday season that just seems to be missing. Maybe the thought of staying inside and cozying up to a nice book isn't very enticing given the last few months. The joyful winter wonderland that we usually associate with winter seems to be missing.

That's why our editors decided to take it upon themselves and spread some delight with seasonal meals, courtesy of HelloFresh. For those who don't know what HelloFresh is, it's a meal-kit delivery service with dozens of easy-to-prepare recipes to choose from. Simply select which meals you want as well as how many servings and a neatly organized cardboard box will arrive at your doorstep within the week. Nobody wants to go out in the Winter anyway, and with HelloFresh, you don't have to!

To celebrate the arrival of the coldest season, we decided to highlight some of our favorite (and heartiest) recipes from HelloFresh that are perfect for the Holiday season. Here are five wholesome and balanced meals that will warm you up in no time.

Veggie Loaded Kale & Risoni Soup

A hearty and warm soup is a Winter staple and this veggie loaded kale and risoni soup from HelloFresh absolutely hits it out of the park. All anybody wants during the colder months is to feel cozy and nurtured--just like the flavorful bowl of nutrients. Warm and creamy risoni compliments the seasonal veggies perfectly and the side of garlic bread is a sure-fire cure for any winter blues. With 22 meals to pick from each week, this one is sure to be a household favorite.

Cheesy Red Pesto Chicken Melts

Everyone is familiar with classic green pesto, but have you ever tried red pesto? Red pesto offers way more complexity and oomph than its green counterpart. It is incredibly bright with rich notes of umami, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh basil and garlic. This rendition also features hits of chargrilled capsicum for a little extra zest. You get the exact amount of each ingredient and seasoning, as well as super detailed recipe cards, that make meal prep a breeze. Spread it over a glistening chicken bread and sprinkle with cheese for delectable chicken melts.

Winter Risotto

Risotto is a great winter warmer. It's packed full of veggies so your body will light up like fire, but it's also silky, sumptuous and a real crowd pleaser. HelloFresh's Winter Risotto features a heart helping of kale that pairs perfectly with nutty Parmesan and crunchy walnuts for a robust taste. Did we mention that it also comes with fennel seeds sprinkled throughout? This unique seasoning adds a distinctive, yet delicious flavor to this classic winter staple. We know these meals are pretty hardy, which is why we love having the option to pause our subscription or cancel a week when need be.

Cheat's Italian Pork & Veggie Bolognese

A bolognese that only takes 30 minutes to make? Sign us up! This one is chock full of all the rich flavors of a classic Italian sauce. In fact, we're getting some serious Italian grandmother vibes with this recipe. Silky baby Spanish and grated carrots melt into a hearty meat sauce, offering a mouth-watering meal for anyone looking for a little zest. It's delivery quality, but much more affordable, plus you get to cook it yourself!

Smokey Mild Chorizo & Bean Chilli

Yet another clever twist on a weekday favorite! The paprika and garlic flavored cured sausage is a staple in our chopping baskets since it goes well with practically anything. Not only is Chorizo loved for its taste, but also for its ability to infuse sauces with its tantalizing flavor. This time around, HelloFresh has decided to spice up a classic bowl of bean chili with Spanish styling of a smokey mild chorizo. The end result? A mix of chorizo, red kidney beans, corn and avocado, and an irresistible flavor that everyone will love. This is just one of dozens of unique HelloFresh recipes you won't find anywhere else!

Gone are the days of trekking through the frigid cold just for a few groceries. Sign-up for HelloFresh today and get your ingredients delivered right to your doorstep. Time to start cozying up the right way, with a delicious meal and a nice cup of hot cocoa.

Update: Our friends at HelloFresh are extending a special Black Friday offer to our readers. Follow this link to get $90 off across 4 boxes including free shipping!