Nothing beats experience. We go way beyond the Michelin guide and tasting menus to find the world’s best food and drink experiences to gift your loved ones (or yourself) this holiday season.
Finding the perfect gift, especially for a food fanatic, can be tricky. There’s a good chance they’ve been to most of the best restaurants in town and have all the kitchen gizmos and gadgets they could possibly need. But fear not—sometimes the best gift of all isn’t a thing they can unwrap but rather an amazing food experience they’ll never forget.
As every corner of the world becomes more and more accessible through technology and increasingly affordable transportation options, experiential travel is less the exception and more the rule for many. It’s no longer good enough just to taste that Burgandy or Iberico ham. Seeing where it’s made and establishing a personal connection to our favorite foods and drinks has become equally important. and industry leaders have taken note.
From hospitality groups to restaurants, travel technology, and even museums; brands have been capitalizing on the growing demand for unique, exciting (and social media-friendly) food and drink experiences. We’ve rounded up some of the most amazing offerings among them—from the affordable to the extravagant—to gift your friends and family this year.
Maggot-infested cheese? Bull testicle? Sheep eyeball? A disgusting meal is truly in the eye of the beholder, and this freaky food experience proves it. The exhibit has a permanent home in Malmö, Sweden but is often on the move with limited engagements in cities like Las Vegas and Nantes, France (see here for more info). The exhibit, created by psychologist Dr. Samuel West, features foods that may seem unfamiliar, and perhaps even grotesque, but despite a sensational name aims to expand the idea of what’s acceptable to eat, and educate visitors about alternative and eco-friendly food sources. Visitors to the exhibit can see, smell, and even taste such items as Peruvian Frog Smoothies and Chinese Mouse Wine at the grand finale tasting bar (yikes….or yum?)!Buy Now
Looking to rub elbows with some of the world’s best chefs like Tyler Florence, José Enrique, and Eric Ripert? For one incredible weekend in October, Dorado Beach, A Ritz Carlton Reserve—consistently ranked one of the world’s best resorts—hosts a spectacular culinary weekend with chefs of both local and international fame, who flash their wares in cooking demos, tasting parties, seated dinners and more.
For the past several years the inimitable José Andrés—who was instrumental in feeding displaced Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria—has helmed and headlined the weekend. If you go, be prepared to be surprised mixing and mingle with these culinary giants (as the wine starts flowing so do the stories). And hey, you might even catch Jimmy Fallon singing an impromptu duet with Chef Andrés. The food is the real star though and proves a wonderful mix of local cuisine made by some of the island’s top chefs, and food prepared by the international superstar guests. Take this year’s seaside paella lunch prepared by José Andrés himself or pulled pork arepas made fresh by Chef Lorena Garcia.
Tickets start at $1,900 per night, which is no chump change but includes some of the most luxurious lodgings and thoughtful hospitality you’ll find anywhere in the world. Check back for an official announcement on dates, lineup, and schedule of events for the Culinary Getaway 2020. If you can’t wait that long, Chef Eric Ripert is hosting a similar culinary spectacular along with José Andrés, Andrew Zimmern, Stephanie Izard and more at the Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman in January—which you can book now.Buy Now
Celebrating 111 years, Dukes of London is truly a stalwart of one of the great drinking cities of the world. The historic hotel bar is home to some of the world’s best (and most expensive) martinis, and upon request, guests can receive a special Martini Masterclass hosted by legendary barkeep Alessandro Palazzi, who has been shaking cocktails there for over a decade! Palazzi will guide wannabe mixologists through the history and art of the martini, including the nuances involved in choosing an ideal gin or vodka, through to the perfect finishing garnishes. Guests enjoy canapes during their class; a minimum of four persons are required for booking.Buy Now
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a freeform, often self-guided and days-long tour of the 13 bourbon distilleries in Kentucky. Each distillery, like Maker’s Mark, Jim Beam, Buffalo Trace, have their own unique tour and tasting experience, and you can do the trail in whichever order you want. To keep track of where you’ve been and where you haven’t (considering all that drinking) you might want to bring along this sharp leather Kentucky Bourbon Trail passport which you can have personalized for the Bourbon trailblazer in your life. Buy Now
Food tours are by no means a new thing but they’ve certainly gotten better over the years. Since Airbnb launched its experiences a few years ago this tapas tour of Barcelona’s incredible gothic neighborhood called “Tapalicious” has racked up a near-perfect 4.9 out of 5 stars in over 500 user reviews. There are countless food-based experiences to book through Airbnb in just about every major city on earth so be sure to check them out during your next adventure.Buy Now
For the quaint of heart, you can gift a stay at a secluded waterfront cottage on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, where owner and local Pamela Barefoot will personally teach you how to catch and cook blue crabs from the dock that abuts the cozy home. For crabbing, Barefoot says the best season is June through September.Buy Now
For the bacon-lover who can handle a knife (and isn’t squeamish), gift a butchering class like the one at Philadelphia’s Kensington Quarters (two locations), where the kitchen team shows amateurs expert techniques for carving the various cuts and how to cook them. The restaurant takes care of booze and food with an open bar as well as charcuterie and snacks. Folks even get sample cuts of pork to take home—a total steal at just $35 dollars per person. And don’t worry, this little piggy has already met his maker by the time you get there.Buy Now
Ever craved a gentle giraffe kiss while you were noshing your morning eggs and toast? Of course you have! At this outrageously charming hybrid inn and animal sanctuary in Kenya, you can live the dream. As guests eat their morning breakfast, giraffes, who freely roam the grounds alongside other exotic animals, sidle up expecting attention—and snacks, of course. Just watch this video and immediately book a stay for a VERY special someone in your life.Buy Now
Thomas Keller is America’s most Michelin decorated chef. In this in-depth tutorial on Masterclass, he’ll walk you through some of the techniques that made his restaurants like Per Se and French Laundry so iconic. Specifically, the downloadable class walks students through the preparation of fish and other seafood, how to cook using a sous vide as well as some of Keller’s favorite desserts. Pair this masterclass with a sous vide stick for the perfectly themed experiential gift.Buy Now
How would you like to set sail on an intimate food journey with a James Beard-selected chef sharing his or her cooking and culinary know-how and ingredient-shopping secrets along the way? On various culinary-themed cruises throughout the year and across various regions, these chefs will be aboard a series of Windstar Cruises (official cruise partner of the James Beard Foundation), sharing their passion for local cultures and cuisine inspired by local ingredients. Most cruises are accompanied by a beverage expert (like a rum master in the Caribbean) as well. Fewer than 310 passengers per voyage ensures plenty of interaction and no lines. Specialty cruises run from as close as the Windward Islands to as far away as Tahiti!Buy Now
This is a surprisingly little-known secret among folks living in and visiting Chicago—a city known for its tall buildings and deep pizza. At Skydeck Chicago, the towering observation deck atop 110-story Willis Tower, you can snag an incredible three-course, two-hour deep dish pizza dinner with sweeping (perhaps nauseating) views of the city and mouth-watering grub delivered by the iconic Giordano’s, who have been making the good stuff since 1974. Make sure to book well in advance as they generally have just four slots per night, and be sure the recipient isn’t afraid of heights!Buy Now
New York’s Tipsy Scoop has been making liquor-infused ice cream for some years now, much to the delight of, well, just about everyone, and now offers boozy ice cream making classes in their East Harlem production facility. At lively classes, held twice a week, you’ll learn how to make the more popular boozy ice cream flavors, like dark chocolate whiskey salted caramel and bourbon vanilla, as well as build ice cream sundaes—and of course, take home two of the pints you make in an insulated tote! Gift certificates available.Buy Now
All the fun and know-how of a private cooking class from world-class chefs, in the privacy of your home or apartment. The Chef & The Dish brings Michelin-level culinary masters into your kitchen via video chat, from places as far away as Italy, Japan, Singapore, Spain, New Orleans, Turkey, Thailand, and more. Cost for classes for two starts at $299, plus $50 for each additional person, making a 4-person class as little as $100 per person.Buy Now
For more great gift ideas, see our Gourmet Food and Drink Gift Guide, and our Best Kitchen Gadgets, Tools, and Appliances Gift Guide.
Related Video: DIY Holiday Gifts—Insta-infusions
Header image courtesy of The Safari Collection.