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Play gourmet while winter whistles

Email|Print| Text size + By Richard P. Carpenter
Globe Correspondent / February 5, 2006

There are all kinds of travelers -- young, old, adventurous, and sedate -- but chances are they have one thing in common: the desire to eat and drink well on the trip. Fortunately, it is easy to quench that desire with offerings like the following:

A significant part of the Montreal High Lights Festival, Feb. 16-26, is its cuisine. In addition to performing arts and a celebration of light, the festival will have several food-related events at various locations, with nearly 50 chefs coming to town to present special menus. Participating restaurants will also feature the creations of the guest chefs. Many restaurants will also be participating in a prix fixe lunch program where you can dine on exotic food for $11.95. For cheese lovers, the Fête des fromages d'ici, Feb. 23-25 in the Grande-Place of the Complexe Desjardins will let you savor several styles.

For details, visit, click on your choice of language, and then The Wine and Dine Experience.

The Mount Washington Valley Ski Touring Center in Intervale, N.H., goes crazy for cocoa during the annual Chocolate Festival, Feb. 26 from 11 a.m to 4 p.m. Participants cross-country ski, snowshoe, drive, or even walk from inn to inn along groomed trails, indulging in hand-dipped chocolate strawberries, chocolate truffle cheesecake, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate pretzels, hot cocoa, and many more delights. Festival passes are $20 and include a trail pass, event admission, and a button for admission to the Winter Carnival events.

Call 603-356-9920 or visit

For residents and visitors alike, the first BostonUSA Winter Restaurant Week will be March 5-10. More than 90 dining spots will offer three-course prix fixe lunches for $20.06 and three-course dinners for $30.06. Other culinary events include the Boston Wine Festival at the Boston Harbor Hotel, with wine-themed dinners and seminars through April, with events costing $70-$295; and the seventh Old Town Trolley Boston Chocolate Tour Saturdays and Sundays through April for $65 a person, highlighted by a visit to the Chocolate Bar Buffet at the Langham Hotel Boston.

You can link to any of the above events by visiting For information on a Chocolate Experience package at the Langham that includes an overnight stay and begins at $280 a room, call 800-791-7764 or visit and click on Special Packages.

Maybe you like to make the mouthwatering meals? Throughout the year, the Inn on the Alameda in Santa Fe and the Santa Fe School of Cooking offer a package called Muy Sabrosa, which means ''very tasty." Lasting two hours, the class includes recipes, instruction, and a demonstration of the menu, followed by a just-prepared lunch. Rates range from $310 to $750 for two and include two nights' accommodations, the cooking class, a continental buffet each morning, an afternoon wine and cheese reception daily, and a 20 percent discount at Ristra restaurant.

Call 800-984-2122 or visit You might also want to check out the inn's culinary package beginning at $150 for the annual ARTfeast event, Feb. 23-27.

''Fine Irish cuisine" is no longer a contradiction in terms, and one of the most popular dining areas is Dublin's Temple Bar enclave. Trouble is, most restaurants there are pricy. One exception, according to is Café Gertrude, at 3-4 Bedford Row, with a simple but tasty menu, featuring items such as potato cakes grilled with herbs and onions and topped with bacon, smoked cheddar cheese, and salsa; and chicken breast focaccia sandwiches with roasted sweet peppers and mozzarella. Entrees begin at $15.50.

Paris and food go together like crepes and lemon sauce. Your Great Days in Paris, based in Medford, will be offering Paris Culinary Treasure Tours this year on May 4-14 and Oct. 5-15. Sally Peabody and Allen Kalik will lead participants on stays in a three-star hotel, a daily multicourse meal and coffee, and all tastings, tours, and admissions to culinary artisans' ateliers. Also included are hotel taxes, Metro tickets and passes, van transport to Reims, tours of two champagne cellars, and a one-hour Seine cruise. The land-only price is $2,850.

Call 781-391-6183 or visit

In Portugal, Epiculinary offers a weeklong cooking program at Refugio de Villa in the Alentejo region, an hour from Lisbon. The food-tour company's seven-night program, offered year round beginning on Sundays, features hands-on cooking lessons, market visits, and excursions to nearby villages. The price of $2,995 includes accommodations at the Refugio, lessons, excursions, transfers to and from Lisbon, as well as taxes and service.

Call 888-380-9010 or visit, where you will also find information about a $675, four-day cooking trip in Northern Ireland.

Of course, you can take exotic dining too far. The Geographic Expeditions newsletter (at recently listed 15 unusual eating experiences, but it is probably sufficient to cite just one: turtle-food soup, tasted on a Li River cruise near Guilin, China. The diner reports: ''The whole claw was in the broth. That poor guy didn't win any races by being slow and steady."

Mardi Gras cruise
This year's Mardi Gras celebration will have special meaning to the struggling city of New Orleans. RiverBarge Excursion Lines lets you take in three days of the hoopla, with the R/B River Explorer serving as your hotel, and then go barging along the Mississippi, visiting attractions along the way, with the trip ending in New Orleans for an overnight stay. Rare on the River Mardi Gras Mambo takes place Feb. 26-March 2. All-inclusive prices range from $1,695-$1,850 per person.

Call 888-GO-BARGE, ext. 1, or visit

Finding a dream job
Could going on vacation lead to a new career? VocationVacations is a website dedicated to vacations on which you often get hands-on experience in a job you are interested in. In this instance, however, you pay them for your work. An example: If you have always wanted to be an actor, a Broadway/off-Broadway program features two days of one-on-one mentorship for $1,199. Visit

Vegas podcast
If you're into podcasting, Five Hundy by Midnight will fill your ears with information about Las Vegas doings and deals. You can also get a lot of information from the website.


When not included, hotel taxes, airport fees, and port charges can add significantly to the price of a trip. Most prices quoted are for double occupancy; solo travelers will usually pay more. Offers are subject to availability and there may be blackout dates. Richard P. Carpenter can be reached at

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