The Austin Chronicle


By Virginia B. Wood, December 20, 2002, Food

One More Gift Idea

Well, until last week, I just thought I knew what I wanted for Christmas! Don't get me wrong, I still want a HearthKit for my oven and that fancy double boiler in the Williams-Sonoma catalog, but the new big ticket item I've discovered has me wishing there was a real Santa Claus in my life. But I'm getting ahead of myself, and this piece of news really isn't about me at all. Early in the fall, Austin culinary consultant Cathy Cochran-Lewis and Central Market Marketing Director Melissa Porter took a two-week culinary tour of the Greek Isles. As lovely as that sounds, it was really a working vacation for the ladies, who were traveling to learn something about the business of culinary tours themselves. For the past year or so, Cochran-Lewis and Porter have been researching and developing a culinary travel program for Central Market, and now they're planning to put what they learned in their travels to good use. Not content to rest on accolades for both the food store and the nationally renowned cooking school, Austin's No. 1 foodie tourist attraction is adding culinary tours to their line of services. Central Market has announced travel plans just in the nick of time for Christmas gift giving.

The first tour will take guests to the Mexican state of Oaxaca from March 8-16, 2003, where they'll visit the Seasons of My Heart Cooking School operated by former Austinite Susana Trilling. Trilling is the host of a popular PBS cooking series and author of a companion cookbook. After living and teaching in Mexico for more than 10 years, she has become an expert on the foodways of the indigenous people of Oaxaca. She'll be sharing her extensive contacts in the area's markets, molinos, chocolate factories, and home kitchens to insure Central Market's guests an authentic Oaxacan culinary experience.

Next up will be a visit to San Francisco's Chinatown with Martin Yan, April 24-27, 2003. Television personality and author Yan is enlisting his favorite Chinatown chefs and friends to provide tour participants with an unforgettable experience. From the tour base at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, guests will enjoy an authentic Chinese banquet, spend a day with Yan in Chinatown, take cooking classes and cultural walks, plus eat lots of dim sum.

The final tour of the season is a cruise up the coast of Alaska, June 5-12, 2003, featuring cooking classes and commentary from Portland restaurateur/author/cooking teacher Caprial Pence. Pence always teaches to packed, sold-out classes when she makes her annual appearances at Central Market, and this tour gives her legion of fans the opportunities to attend more of her classes and visit with her during the cruise. The tour is booked with the Radisson cruise line and offers a special discount rate for Central Market customers.

According to Cathy Cochran-Lewis, these tours are only the beginning, there are several more in the planning stages, including the possibility of visiting chef Anne Willan at her chateau in France at some point. Enterprising Santas looking for more information about prices and tour bookings can call 866/826-2433 or visit the Web site at

More Tamales

No sooner had we published a list of local restaurants that will be making tamales for the holidays than I received a notice about a new line of gourmet tamales currently available at both Whole Foods Markets. Tamale Molly is a Santa Fe, N.M., company that makes gourmet vegetarian tamales in an enticing variety of special flavors that got rave reviews from readers who tasted them in the store last week. Check them out.

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