Culinary Adventures: A taste for thrills

Watch top chefs sparkle on the Riviera, spice up your travels in India, take the Slow Food pulse in Italy, and don't leave all the rum to the pirates in the Caribbean. Caroline Stacey suggests some autumnal gastro treats
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The Independent Travel

1. Gordon Ramsay in New York

When the 520 all-suite London NYC Hotel, designed by David Collins, opens in the autumn its trump card promises to be the 50-seat Gordon Ramsay at The London. Head chef Neil Ferguson has worked with the great Scot at several of his restaurants, and will replicate the peerless French style that has earned Ramsay so many stars in London.

Go for it: With the hotel and restaurants opening in the autumn, as yet there is no official reservation line. More information from LXR Luxury Resorts on 001 877 597 9696 or visit thelondonnyc.com.

2. A pungent taste of India

Western & Oriental Travel's A Taste of India is a gastronomic tour with expert guides who aim to open up the mysteries of many of the sub-continent's distinctive styles of cooking. Starting in Madras with Tamil cuisine, the journey continues on to Karaikudi for a dinner of Chettinadu specialities, followed the next day by an introduction to the unique sights, smells and tastes that make up the food of the Syrian Christian community. There are visits to spice plantations, an overnight cruise on a rice barge through coconut groves, with an onboard dinner of creamy coconut Keralan dishes, followed the next day by a feast of seafood from the Indian Ocean. In Cochin, famous for its pepper, there will be a demonstration of Keralan cooking. Then it's on to Delhi for a showcase meal of rich and pungent Punjabi food, followed by a journey across the Ganges Plain on the Shatabdi Express to Lucknow. The last supper of kebabs will make the modest-sounding meal something to remember.

Go for it: From October to April from £3,949 per person based on two sharing. (0870 499 0678; westernoriental.com).

3. Slow Food in Piedmont

The Slow Food movement began in Piedmont with the aim of protecting and promoting distinctive, traditional, small-scale food production. Every other year in Turin, capital of Slow Food's Piedmontese heartland, the Salone del Gusto in the vast Lingotto exhibition space brings together artisans and speciality food producers from around the world. The vast market has stalls where the people responsible for exceptional cheeses, rare breeds meat, real ales, protected fisheries, and all manner of precious delicacies present their produce. With a packed programme of talks and food and wine tastings, the expertise and commitment under one roof is thrilling - and mouthwatering.

Go for it: Salone del Gusto, Piedmont, Italy, 26-30 October. Admission €20 (£14.28) non-members, €14 members; five-day pass €60 non members, €40 members. (00 39 0172 419 711; slowfood.com).

4. Feast in the Welsh streets

The Abergavenny Food and Drink Festival has the most imaginative and appetising programme of any British food festival. As well as the best of English and Welsh, with The Independent's Mark Hix doing his bit for British food and The Independent on Sunday's Richard Ehrlich raising spirits by showing how to make the perfect Bloody Mary, this year other guests include Giorgio Locatelli, Cyrus Todiwala, and the bamboo flautist and cook Guo Yue, talking about the foods of their native Italy, India and China. You can attend tastings and masterclasses, and then meet some of the most charismatic characters in the food world during the weekend. Debates on the issues of the day are welcome. The streets of the Welsh market town will be thronged with a feasting crowd and inside the Victorian market hall you can eat and buy everything from paella to sheep's milk ice cream.

Go for it: The Abergavenny Food and Drink Festival runs between 16-17 September. Saturday £5 adults, £1.50 children, Sunday £4 and £1, family ticket £9.50; weekend family ticket £18.50. (01873 850805; abergavennyfoodfestival.com).

5. Sample pure Irish genius

The latest venture from Richard Corrigan, the London-based colossus of modish Irish cooking, opens in County Kildare in September. He'll be the guiding hand in the kitchen at his new restaurant, The Old Mill, where diners will discover his flair for cooking earthy and traditional produce. The 70-seat restaurant at Lyons Village on Dr Tony Ryan's County Kildare estate is part of an epicurean idyll bringing the best Irish produce and talent together. As well as a regular farmers' market there are butchers' and bakers' markets, so Lyons Village should become a great showcase for Irish food in all forms.

Go for it: The Mill Restaurant and Café La Serre, The Village at Lyons, Celbridge, Co. Kildare, Republic of Ireland. ( 00 3531 6303500 for restaurants; villageatlyons.com - website still under construction).

6. See the Thai garden grow

As any cook knows, the fresher the ingredients the better the result. So there's no more satisfying sight than a neat vegetable plot - perhaps especially so at the organic farm at the Four Seasons Resort in Chiang Mai, which produces its first harvest in September. Guests will be able to borrow a mountain bike and pedal 2.5km to see many of the herbs, vegetables and fruit that make Thai food so special. Students from the hotel's cookery school can pick their own produce to use in their classes as well as shopping in local markets. The cooking school has also introduced sessions for children. And guests who don't want to cook can eat in the dining pavilion on the farm.

Go for it: Four Seasons Resort, Chiang Mai, Thailand. A three-night Thai culinary package costs from $1,680 (£887) per person (based on two sharing) including accommodation with breakfast, two cooking school classes, local market visit, optional fruit carving course, and airport transfers. (00800 6488 6488; fourseasons.com).

7. Line up for a London debut

Joel Robuchon, one of the greatest chefs of the past 20 years, broke the mould in Paris with his no bookings, no tables L'Atelier. Diners queue, sit at a counter facing the kitchen and relish brilliant little dishes such as avocado fondant with tomato coulis, caramelised quail with puréed potato and white truffles and basil and lime sorbet with peach. Robuchon brings his dining revolution to London on 7 September, spread over three floors. L'Atelier, at ground level, is for informal, speedy fuelling of the most exquisite sort; La Cuisine on the first floor will offer more conventionally structured meals in a 60-seat restaurant that feels like dining in the kitchen - chestnut veloute with caramelised foie gras and langoustine carpaccio are typical dishes; and on the top floor will be an intimate bar serving finger food of the most manicured variety. If it's more convenient to join a queue in New York than London, L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon also opens there in September.

Go for it: L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, 13-15 West Street, London WC1 opens 7 September. (020-7010 8600; robuchon.com).

8. Go mad for the Madeira magic

The island of Madeira might sound like a place to take a granny or a great-aunt for a tipple - but that's part of its appeal. It also has some of the best Portuguese food concentrated in its Quintas, a collection of 16 hotels, ranging from designer billets to ancient country houses. They're charming and often rather quaint, especially the former golf club tea house, and the whole island, like its fortified wines, feels ripe for rediscovery. All the Quintas have gardens, be they full of botanical plants or doubling as banana plantations, and the style of food ranges from local Madeiran and Portuguese specialities to the Portuguese-influenced cuisine of Goa. The five-star Quintas das Vistas' Gastronomic Food Package includes shopping in the market with the chef, as well as cooking lessons, meals at other Quintas, and an information-packed tour of John Blandy's Madeira Wine Company, with a bottle of Madeira wine and honey cake to take back home with you.

Go for it: Prices for the Gastronomic Experience start at £487 for a four-night stay or £720 for a seven-night stay. (00 351 291 203 420; quintas-madeira.com).

9. It's a rum do in the Caribbean

Johnny Depp isn't part of the package unfortunately, but the first Rum & Food Festival in St Lucia at the end of October promises plenty of Jack Sparrow and his sort's favourite refreshment in the Caribbean, and proof that the spirit is too good to be left to pirates to enjoy. The festival is based in Rodney Bay Village, which for three days will be a hive of activity with cookery demonstrations; tastings of more than 24 rums from all over the Caribbean in the Rum Pavilion in town; demonstration kitchens; a cookbook shop; a cigar-rolling station; rum boat cruises to the Pitons; and live musical performances from Third World, Monty Alexander and Arrow, among others. Just the way to warm up for winter.

Go for it: The Rum & Food Festival, Rodney Bay Village, St Lucia, from 26-29 October (foodandrumfestival.com). Tickets for all four days cost $500 (£294) per person for all festival activities (but not for accommodation), including three dinners and VIP tickets to concerts. Seven-night packages to Coco Palm Resort at Rodney Bay Village are offered by Kuoni from £665 (based on two sharing) including flights from Heathrow, and bed and breakfast accommodation. (01306 742222; kuoni.co.uk).

10. The joy of dining in Helsinki

Europe's most northerly capital celebrates its growing restaurant scene with the Eat & Joy Helsinki festival over the last week of September, which has over 40 restaurants taking part. Helsinki is a relaxed and manageable city to walk around, so it's easy to work up an appetite. The diet is healthy, with lots of fish, especially herring, sea buckthorn and tangy yellow cloudberries used in contemporary ways by a new generation of chefs. For classic dishes, head to the 1930s gem the Sea Horse on Kapleenikatu; tuck into seafood at the modish artists' hangout Elite on Etela Hesperiank; or try reindeer and snow grouse at Lappi on Annankatu. To coincide with the festival, a new guide to the 50 Best Restaurants in Finland will help make choosing where to dine easier.

Go for it: Eat & Joy, 28 September - 8 October, all over Helsinki. For details, see eatandjoy.com and 50bestrestaurants.fi.

The best for feel-good dining: Oliver takes Fifteen to Oz

Jamie Oliver's Fifteen Foundation was set up in London in 2002 to give disadvantaged young people a chance by training them to be chefs. The formula, a Fifteen restaurant where they cut their teeth before moving on to other jobs, has been successful in Amsterdam and Cornwall. The next Fifteen restaurant opens in Melbourne in September. Fifteen, basement, Austral House, 115 Collins Street, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Bookings from 11 September. (00 61 2 9 555 2285; fifteenmelbourne.com.au)

The best for gourmet France: Make a meal of Mougins

Where else but France would you expect to find 62 chefs, with two or three Michelin stars, demonstrating trends in gastronomy - and play a game of pétanque? In September, the village of Mougins in the south hosts the International Festival of Gastronomy and Arts de Vivre where the chefs include some big names in France: Paul Bocuse, Alain Senderens, Pierre Troisgros and Gaston Lenôtre. From 23 to 24 September. Entry to the festival €10 (£7). (00 33 49 375 8767; mougins-coteazur.org).

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