Delicious Honeymoon Ideas

Martha Stewart Weddings, Fall 2009

In "A Moveable Feast," his affectionate homage to expat life in Paris, Ernest Hemingway wrote that the daily experience of wine and food together is a "great giver of happiness and well-being and delight." We couldn't agree more -- which is why a honeymoon that prioritizes the taste buds makes perfect sense to us. 

Here, we suggest four extraordinary culinary adventures for the bride and groom who know their pho from their farfalle, who are more comfortable in the kitchen than in the nightclub, who aren't afraid to wield a cleaver, and who consider foodie a term of endearment. From great hotels and top-notch restaurants to fun cooking schools and guided wine tours, these vacations are as filling as they are fulfilling. 

Will you choose California's Napa Valley, whose early rough-and-tumble Wild West ranches eventually gave way to sophisticated, seriously good winemaking (not to mention excellent restaurants)? Or will you hole up in Tuscany, where the fertile hillsides, covered in lush vineyards and orchards, are emblematic of Italy itself? How about zesty, lively Oaxaca, Mexico, where the open-air spice markets and indigenous heritage will entice you? Or historic Hoi An, Vietnam, where you'll lose yourself amid tropical gardens, winding canals, and fragrant street-food stalls? Just follow your tastes, and you're sure to choose the right foodie-moon for you.

Tuscany
Those who dream of the good life in Italy more likely than not envision a landscape that is specifically Tuscan: a mesmerizing countryside of sun-splashed villages, acres upon acres of vineyards and olive groves, and food that's proudly and passionately rustic. 

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Experience the storied part of the Italian countryside with Organic Tuscany, which offers one-day and weeklong cooking classes in a villa on a farm in the Chianti region of Tuscany. Instructors Manuela and Tina will teach you how to pair biodynamic wines with local ingredients, as well as how to make traditional Italian dishes like risotto and sformato, a baked egg dish that is similar to a souffle.

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Amazing cuisine is one thing, but couple it with an idyllic locale and you've got something that's pretty close to heaven. Trattoria da Orlando -- on the small, sea-swept peninsula of Monte Argentario, which juts off the Tuscan coast -- sits high over the water and serves up breathtaking views, along with just-caught regional seafood. (Via Breschi 3, Porto Santo Stefano, 39-0564-812-788) 

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Head down to the picturesque harbor in Maremma's Castiglione della Pescaia, where the river Bruna hits the sea and fishing boats mingle with yachts. After strolling along the historic seaside town's beach promenade and lagoon, make your way to the fish market for an amazing selection of fresh catches of the day. 

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In Chianti, don't miss the chance to roll through the magical landscape of wineries, vineyards, and hill towns with Bicycle Tuscany. Owner and guide David Charnes provides every guest with a hybrid touring bike -- handmade in Italy, naturally -- for a relaxed, meandering 12-mile ride to a local winery and olive orchard. The best part? The fee also includes a three-course lunch and gelato at a Tuscan restaurant, as well as a convenient van shuttle service to and from Florence. (bicycletuscany.com) 

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L ' Andana is renowned chef Alain Ducasse's luxury inn in Castiglione della Pescaia; this coastal village faces the islands of Giglio and Elba, where Napoleon was exiled. The bucolic, history-laden retreat is situated on a 1,240-acre estate that was once the hunting lodge of the Duke of Tuscany during the 18th century. It has its own vineyard and wildlife reserve crisscrossed with hiking trails, as well as three pools, a 6,000-square-foot spa, and a luxurious 115-foot yacht for sails along the beautiful Mediterranean coast. And needless to say, its restaurant, the Michelin-starred Trattoria Toscana, is beyond excellent. If you prefer to stay more inland in the Chianti area, consider booking a room at Castello di Spaltenna, a real medieval castle (dating back to the year 1030) with spacious accommodations, a tennis court, and indoor and outdoor pools.

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Hoi An
If you have a yen for Southeast Asian flavors, then you need to plan a trip to Hoi An, Vietnam. Long an important trading port in the region, the historic city is celebrated for its skilled custom tailors, breathtaking beaches -- and distinctive, delicious noodles. 

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A visit to Vietnam is simply incomplete without a yummy, steaming bowl of pho. You'll learn how to make this iconic beef noodle soup and three other classic Vietnamese dishes at the Red Bridge Restaurant & Cooking School. The deluxe day package includes a chef's visit to the Tra Que organic herb gardens and a walk through the lively local markets.

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In a French colonial building in the historic part of town, Trinh Diem Vy's Morning Glory Street Food Restaurant and Cooking School serves favorites such as cao lau, a soup with soy-simmered pork, bean sprouts, croutons, fresh herbs, and chewy noodles that are made with water from the town's centuries-old wells. A downstairs bar serves traditional Vietnamese drinks. 

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Visit the Central Market in Hoi An to sample the exotic, colorful array of fresh local ingredients, including star anise, sesame rice paper, and banana flowers; the spice ladies there sell everything from curry and chili powders to coveted saffron. And when your produce basket is all filled up, browse for yards of fine silk in your favorite color; then consider having a dress custom-made by one of the city's many expert tailors. 

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Take a bike ride led by Hoi An Travel through timeworn streets to the home of a local lantern craftsman -- Hoi An village is famous for its traditional lanterns -- and check out the colorful wares. You can even learn how to shape and decorate your own. The fee also covers a classic Hoi An lunch.

Sleep
Fifteen minutes from Hoi An is the palm-fringed paradise of The Nam Hai, an all-villa beachside resort on 85 acres of tropical gardens on the South China Sea. Guest suites are palatial, with floor-to-ceiling windows, day beds, and outdoor showers; many have their own infinity pools and private butlers. At your request, they'll even send a chef to prepare a romantic dinner at your posh pad. If you can tear yourself away from your suite, you'll find a spa, three pools, and two gourmet restaurants competing for your attention. More affordable rooms can be had at Life Heritage Resort Hoi An, located near the historic town center along the Thu Bon River; it features a spa and 94 bright, modern rooms with private porches. Yoga classes, walking meditations, and tai chi lessons are all offered at this hotel, which devotes an entire page on its website to "Life Philosophy."

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Napa Valley
The most famous wine appellation in the United States, Napa Valley is the gold standard when it comes to American winemaking, and for good reason. The perfect complement to the region's vino obsession? A sophisticated and thriving foodie culture. 

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Get up to speed with the local and sustainable food movement by taking a course at Cooking with Julie, which offers a changing menu of classes in the Napa Valley. In the spring and summer, chef-owner Julie Logue-Riordan teaches "farm to table" classes that include tours of the local markets and tastings at nearby wineries; in the fall and winter, sessions focus more on skills and techniques in the kitchen.

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Can't get a reservation at Thomas Keller's famed French Laundry? Instead, head to Ad Hoc, his more casual, family-style establishment in the town of Yountville. For considerably less, you'll enjoy dishes like fried soft-shell crab and herb-crusted lamb sirloin. Tip: The evening's menu is posted by 2 p.m. on the website.

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Oxbow Public Market is a delightful destination to browse food stalls and assemble a picnic. You can get everything from charcuterie, cheeses, fresh-baked bread, and cold-brewed iced tea to designer cupcakes, handmade chocolates, and organic ice cream.

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An intimate new state-of-the-art winery, CADE, by the folks behind the acclaimed PlumpJack Winery, offers twice-daily private tours of its mountaintop grounds and innovative winemaking facilities (by appointment only). Afterward, you'll be treated to three small plates, each paired with a wine, in the sleek, sunlit tasting room, which has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the valley. Husband-and-wife hospitality team Kent and DJ Nielsen also offer evening cooking classes upon request. 

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Bardessono is a recently opened green-chic hotel in the picturesque, pedestrian-friendly town of Yountville. It's designed as a tranquil oasis of "conscious luxury": Solar panels and geothermal walls power the place, and each of the 62 suites doubles as a private spa, with deep soaking tubs for two, hidden massage tables, and outdoor lounge areas. Old redwood wine barrels and salvaged Monterey cypress were used in construction, recycled glass tiles line the bathrooms, and plush organic cotton linens cover the beds. For a fun, more affordable option, book a stay at Napa Valley Railway Inn, which sits on old, unused train tracks and features nine vintage railway cars repurposed into a cool and quirky inn. Like Bardessono, it's located in Yountville, which means convenient access to all the best wineries -- as well as restaurants -- in the region.

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Oaxaca
It doesn't have the cachet of Cabo San Lucas, the nightlife of Cancun, or the buzz of Mexico City, but Oaxaca has an appeal all its own. A historic colonial city, the destination boasts a town square, beautiful old churches, and a rich culinary tradition. 

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In the Zapotec village of Teotitlan del Valle, 15 minutes from the city of Oaxaca, Casa Sagrada offers weeklong and half-day cooking classes and market tours. Bilingual instructors (so you can brush up on your Spanish) teach you to prepare specialties such as a Teotitlan mole, tamales wrapped in banana leaves, and chorizo sausage.

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Set in a restored 18th-century colonial home just blocks from the zocalo ("town square" in Spanish) Casa Oaxaca El Restaurante is one of the best in the region. Chef Alejandro Ruiz Olmedo serves what he calls nouvelle Mexican cuisine; innovative dishes include squash blossoms stuffed with fresh cheese and honey, and grilled jumbo shrimp topped with garlic sauce and hierba santa, or Mexican pepperleaf.

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In his book of essays Mornings in Mexico, D. H. Lawrence described Central de Abasto, Oaxaca's expansive market, as giving off an "extraordinary" noise : "It sounds as if all the ghosts in the world were talking to one another." Truly, a stroll through it is a sensory experience that shouldn't be missed. Amid the boisterous market's many food stalls is Mole Oaxaca, which offers moles ground and mixed while you wait. 

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Oaxaca is ancient, but Monte Alban is prehistoric. Tour one of the grandest archaeological ruins of Mesoamerica with Turismo El Convento de Oaxaca. The site, six miles outside of the city, is flanked by monumental staircases and hundreds of stone terraces. A full-day tour includes lunch and stops at villages such as Coyotepec, known for its potters who work with black clay. 

Sleep
The Camino Real Oaxaca is built in the Spanish baroque tradition, with terra-cotta ceiling tiles, frescoes, carved-stone archways, and courtyards blooming with bougainvillea. The 91 rooms (from $350) look out onto the town and interior gardens; on weekend nights, live music can be heard at its patio bars and restaurants. If you want something more intimate, try the seven-room Casa Oaxaca. Its roof terrace, with views of Santo Domingo Church, makes for an ideal spot to start -- and end -- your day.

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