magazine | Food & Drinks | Private Dining / Restaurants

14 Bucket List Culinary Experiences Around the World

We’ve traveled the globe in search of the finest foods, the best wines and most exquisite, over-the-top culinary experiences on earth. Pack your bags, check that bucket list box and come hungry. Plan an intimate dinner for two underwater or fly private to your own private party in Spain. These meals would make even Thomas Keller clear his calendar. 

Reporter: Harmony Walton

32-Courses

Honolulu, Hawaii
You read that right – 32-courses… of sushi! A 10-seat omakase-style restaurant (meaning leave it up to the chef) owned by Japanese sushi master, Keiji Nakazawa serves two seatings per night at Sushi Sho, located in The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach. During this VIP-dining experience guests enjoy what feels like a never-ending feast of Edomae-style sushi, with a variety of up to 40 different types of fresh fish and varying temperatures of rice. Each course is served in the intimate setting of the sushi bar via reservations made well is advance (up to a year out during holidays). Plan your Hawaiian honeymoon or vacation around this meal and your trip will wrap with one unforgettable finale.
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Under the Sea

Hurawalhi Island, Maldives
Dining under the stars is a romantic setting to say the least, but what about dining 5.8 meters under the sea? Hurawalhi Maldives, an adults-only private island resort is home to 5.8, the world’s largest all-glass underwater restaurant. Set on the coral reef of the Lhaviyani Atoll, the destination is something to marvel at even before the food! But the meal is quite memorable too. A 7-course, 3+ hour dinner that consists of local seafood delicacies and desserts will delight you while turtles, rays and an array of colorful fish keep you company. Spend the evening for two in this reverse aquarium or celebrate in this spectacular spot for an intimate event (16 lucky guests only).
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Train with Top Chefs

Homer, Alaska
Open just May through September, celebrate a birthday or enjoy a family vacation in Alaska while learning to cook at Tutka Bay Lodge’s family-run cooking school. Guests create three-course meals from a selection of global menus while learning the skills and trade secrets of some of the globe’s finest chefs (all trained at Le Cordon Bleu). The best part? The 11-acre property houses its school in a 1940s crabbing boat. Guests get to experience the beauty all around while never departing from that vacation vibe. Whether you want to take a three or four-day cooking intensive or simply brush up on your skills in a class or two, expect to partake in some foraging in the wilderness, learn about local Alaskan ingredients and of course be served a selection of fine wines while you dine. This may be school, but it’s even more even fun than you had in college. 
Photo: Sweet Bocas
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Catch and Cook

Panama
If true participation is luxury to you, then head to Panama’s Caribbean waters for a day of adventure catching yellowfin, bigeye tuna, wahoo, snapper and other local favorites before enjoying your prize catch for dinner that evening. At Sweet Bocas, guests are invited to deep sea fish, day or night, on their 30-foot motor yacht and select which of their catch to serve for dinner. The property’s in-house chef, Wilmo Ordoñez, a true culinary master, delivers fine (and of course fresh) fare prepared á la minute over a wood fire outdoors or in the villa’s premium gourmet kitchen. The setting, the presentation and the meal will be hard to beat. Dinner has never been so fresh (or fun).

DoNut Disturb

Palm Desert, California
If your staycation or bachelorette getaway takes you to the desert of Southern California, plan for a few extra calories courtesy of the JW Marriot Desert Springs Resort & Spa’s DoNut Disturb room package. The executive chef and executive pastry chef on property dispatch a 10-pound donut delivered to your room for some much-needed morning-after carbs. The 3-feet by 1-foot donut arrives dressed in millennial pink frosting, covered with candy sprinkles and edible glitter accompanied by a collection of pink milkshakes. A “DoNut Disturb” door hanger is left on your doorknob so you won’t be disturbed once your food coma sets in.

Still hungry? No matter where you go, a chef’s table within the kitchen walls at fine dining restaurants throughout the globe is always a good option to elevate your evening… especially if you can’t score a reservation at these over-the-top culinary experiences.
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Blend Your Own Bottle

Carmel-By-The-Sea, California
Have you ever fantasized about packing up and purchasing a vineyard to spend your days harvesting grapes and making wine? Well, now you can, for a day anyway. Carmel Valley Ranch is a 500-acre summer camp-inspired resort complete with a 4-acre vineyard ripe for the picking. Your group can take part in one of their signature events for creative competition – the Blend Your Own Bottle challenge. The goal: create your very own wine blend. The group splits up into teams of 4-8 people, and each team works together in sipping their way to a balanced blend of three grape varieties. Next: the Marketing Challenge. The vintners turn into the marketing team and design and produce a label for their bottles. They present the label to the group in a 30-second commercial. Teams are scored and awarded based on creativity, time management, following directions and having fun.
Photo: Il Salviatino
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Truffle Tasting learn more

Parts of Europe are primed for truffle hunting, an age-old outing in nature that reconnects you to the wilderness via a big business enterprise. If you’re off to Italy this year, stay at the grand 15th-century villa now hotel, Il Salviatino and spend a day just outside of Florence trekking their 12.5-acre grounds with their certified truffle hunter (and Edda and Maga, his mater truffle hunting pups). Black truffles grow year-round here, so plan on lots of success and a bag full of edible treasure to take back for the chefs at La Cucina del Salviatino to use to prepare a truffle tasting meal with the day’s finds. A little hard work never tasted so good.
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Photo: cattan2011
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Royal-Worthy Dining

Versailles, France
Scott Dunn USA can arrange just about any over-the-top culinary experience one can imagine (and a few you probably couldn’t). Case in point, how about a private jet to France for dinner at the Palace of Versailles? Their after-hours private dining experience includes an exclusive meal prepared by the team of Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse and is inspired by the 18th century meals of Louis XIV. Expect a few surprises along the way and a modern twist on the meal for today.
Photo: Maja Petric
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Harvest in Tuscany

Tuscany, Italy
Imagine spending the day in Italy with the Ferragamo family. That sounds special enough. Then add in the once-in-a-lifetime experience picking grapes with the family during fall harvest in Tuscany and the day just got even better. Stay at the Ferragamo estate and 11th century borgo turned luxury hotel, Il Borro and you’ll pick from their acres of vines, sip wines of years past and celebrate with an Italian BBQ when the not-so-hard work is done. And if the experience is one you want to repeat, consider spending time in their olive grove next!
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Cooking for the Soul

Prepare recipes that focus on the core principles of healing and health-consciousness during Ayurvedic cooking classes at Switzerland’s Giardino Hotels. Visitors learn the ancient Indian art of healing the whole body through the mind, body and spirit with an introduction to Ayurvedic cuisine. This is one vacation you won’t feel guilty about indulging on. 

Or stay stateside in Southern California at Cal-A-Vie Health Spa where guests are encouraged to dine with purpose. Here you’ll participate in a wellness program that includes cooking (and eating) techniques to help the body digest and even learn what cookware protects the body from harmful toxins in your kitchen. Each meal here might be calorie-conscious but it certainly doesn’t taste that way! The chefs treat their guests like royalty and honor their fast friends with foods good for the body and soul. For a new foundation to take home long after your vacation is complete, cook with longevity in mind after you’ve been trained by the best at Cal-A-Vie.

Earth Oven in the Sacred Valley

Cusco, Peru
Peru has certainly made its mark on the global scene for culinary excellence in recent years. An exotic mix of flavors and meats you might not be familiar with in the states have become fan-favorites for vacationers there. For a truly authentic experience, venture out in the picturesque Sacred Valley with JW Marriott El Convento Cusco for a meal prepared in a Pachamanca or earth oven (a hole dug in the ground for an ancient-style of cooking). Ingredients are wrapped in banana leaves and placed on heated stones before being covered under the soil. The chefs later unearth the meal and welcome guests to participate in this Incan celebration of life, with or without a local Inca priest to give thanks to Mother Earth for the meal enjoyed. The setting and the style of cooking is something not to miss. 
Photo: Daniel Norris
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Spain by Private Plane

Spain
Take up to six friends for a celebration of food and wine through Spain as you travel via private jet for a food tour that includes tapas in Seville, cooking lessons in San Sebastian and delectable dishes and dining in Mallorca. Scott Dunn USA curates a Spanish culinary tour to match your taste (buds) and allows you to check another box on your bucket list. For those that have done it all, this experience awaits you.
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A Sweet Escape learn more

Ojai Valley Inn is not only home to a world-class spa and resort, but an apiary for thousands of bees in residence. Guests can partake in a hands-on beekeeping experience and local honey tasting amidst a lavender-filled wildflower meadow. Not only will you delight in a sweet treat, but guests receive honey-filled parting gifts and a chance to make a difference during their stay.   
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Photo: Paul Hermann
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BBQ Bootcamp

Solvang, California
If fine dining to you is getting your fingers dirty with the richest sauces and eating al fresco on wild local game, then a visit to Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort’s bi-annual BBQ Bootcamp is a must-do. The three-day experience immerses you in the art of BBQ as you learn from experts at the famed Hitching Post II and this season, the award-winning author and TV host Steven Raichlen too. From homemade caramel on the grill and custom spice blending to jam-making, you can even opt-in to wine tastings with local Santa Barbara County winemakers to pair with your sausages fresh off the grill. A highlight of this food fest is the final morning’s breakfast ride. Rise and shine for a 45-minute horseback ride past a 100-acre lake to a campfire and western setting where guests partake in one final feast before departure.

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