Tastes & Travel – Farm to Fork …First Hand…

Happy Cinco de Mayo…

How could I, a true foodie, resist the May issue of Gourmet Magazine, http://www.gourmet.com/, featuring 45 Memorable Cooking Vacations?

The cooking school options are worldwide, from luxury to adventurous.

Maralyn and I are fortunate to have tried a few of the healthy cooking schools Gourmet recommends, along with some others in Thailand Singapore, Chicago and New Orleans, not on this list. There is one that I recommend so highly, that I have been there twice.

The writer, Christian L. Wright is right when she calls Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico, a health farm http://www.rancholapuerta.com/.

The first time I crossed the border to discover Rancho La Puerta I knew that I had found a second home. I was so fascinated with the Chef, Bill Wavrin, his personality and his cooking, that Maralyn and I delayed the publishing of our book, Our Love Affairs with Food and Travel, in order to include Bill’s low guilt, healthy and delicious, fresh orange lime cheesecake recipe.

I recently returned to the ranch, now 68 years old, to experience the new cooking school and culinary center…La Cocina que Canta http://www.lacocinaquecanta.com/. Chef Jesus Gonzalez is personable, innovative and a sheer delight to know.

After a sunrise hike, I spent the early morning in the six acre organic garden, finding baby beets and chard in a rainbow of orange, purple, red and gold. Later we gathered in the Cocina to watch the chef perform his magic with fresh garden herbs, crispy greens and veggies freshly harvested from the garden… the true meaning of “farm to fork.” The joy of digging in an organic farm at sunup, then watching Chef Jesus turn raw food into a delicious meal, is the essence of Rancho La Puerta.

Guest chefs, such as Molly Stevens, the 2006 International Association of Culinary Professionals Cooking Teacher of the Year, are invited to cook and teach several times a year. Molly is the author of my favorite cookbook about slow food called Braising http://www.mollystevenscooks.com/books.php.

I met many men and women from every walk of life, who said they loved the heart healthy vegetarian cuisine. Yet, they ventured to Rancho La Puerta for other reasons. Favorite activities include the “Road to Wellness” lectures, sunrise hikes, stretching classes, yoga and deep tissue messages.

I was never idle, yet enjoyed a relaxed and balanced week… When not walking in the garden, cooking or hiking, I swam laps in the Olympic size heated pool, learned to make jewelry, read from the many books in the library, and danced my heart out in bare feet to the beat of African drums. Sometimes I simply lay in solitary silence in a hammock under a shade tree.

In the words of owner Deborah Szekely, founder of the ranch, “By day one feels the spell of the sun and the ever-blue sky, the vivid green trees and vineyards, the fragrant fields.”

Although Gourmet explored 44 other cooking schools, we are partial to Mexico’s explosion of diverse flavors.

Maralyn learned to perfect her mole sauce when she visited Puebla, Mexico. Maralyn stayed at the Mesones Sacristia www.mesones-sacristia.com and attended the cooking school they offer. She will be telling us more about Chef Alonso Hernandez soon in another post along with the recipe for Mole Poblano.

I am currently seeking out the legendary Marilyn Tausend at Culinary Adventures in the beauty of colonial San Miguel De Allende http://www.marilyntausend.com/. I cannot wait to walk the old cobblestone pathways with a camera or sketch pad. I will learn first hand the art of roasting chili’s.

What better way to celebrate the food, culture, cooking schools and the people of Mexico.