California hotels hosting culinary classes and events

Hungry for a change of pace? Eat, drink and indulge your need to escape during a foodie weekend, a tasty trend sweeping the hotel industry.

You can compare flights of wine, learn how to make sushi or whip up a classic French dessert. Then retreat to the hotel pool, spa or tennis court for alternative forms of recreation. It's all part of your weekend itinerary.


The events, most of which are at high-end hotels, focus on food lovers who aren't content with simply dining at expensive restaurants. They're looking for an authentic experience and pointers that will make them more knowledgeable diners.

For example, at the sprawling Rancho Las Palmas resort, Epicurean Weekend events include three educational wine tastings, complete with a Napa versus Sonoma faceoff. The Rancho Mirage event, hosted by chef Sean O'Connell, is capped by a Sunday morning Bloody Mary brunch, with eight kinds of Bloody Marys. (866) 423-1195,

Among upcoming events in California:

Craft beer. At the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad, a quarterly Masters of Food and Wine program offers a rotating series of events. The June 24 event will feature a tour, led by executive chef Pierre Albaladejo, of the burgeoning craft brew scene in San Diego, with tastings, food pairings and a Brazilian barbecue-style lunch. (760) 448-1234, $65 a person.

Sushi. If you love sticky rice, California rolls and other types of sushi, here's a chance to learn how to prepare them yourself. Café Japengo, at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine, is holding hands-on sushi-making classes on May 12 and June 23. You'll learn how to handle sticky rice and form a roll, where to purchase sushi-making items and basic characteristics of various kinds of fish. Included are sake and sushi tastings, a sushi-rolling mat and all ingredients. (858) 450-3355, $60 a person.

Napa Valley wines. Study fine wines at the Eno-versity at the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, on the first Saturday of each month. "It's an opportunity to focus in depth on a specific wine region around the world or locally here in California," said Ian Cauble, the hotel's lead sommelier. The hotel will feature the wines of Napa Valley on June 2 and the wines of Italy on July 7. (650) 712-7040, $75 a person.

Tomatoes. Produce fans can go on tomato-picking excursions this summer at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. Beginning July 1 and continuing into fall, executive chef Chad Minton will be on hand Saturday afternoons in the resort's herb garden, where it grows a variety of produce for use in its signature restaurant Maravilla. Minton will coach guests on what to look for and will explain the varietals in the garden. That evening's meal will feature the day's selection. (805) 646-1111, No charge.

Cheese and sausage. At Napa Valley's Auberge du Soleil, you can sign up for hands-on classes on how to make cheese or sausage and salami as part of the resort's Artisanal Experiences with Cooks, Books & Corks program. The hotel, which offers a host of food and wine appreciation events, schedules the cheese and sausage courses for small groups. Participants learn how to make several styles of cheese and sausages, and then dine on the dishes. (707) 963-1211, Each six-hour course is $1,500 for up to four participants.

Farmers market. Stay for a few days or a week during Cal-a-Vie Health Spa's special celebration of flavorful, healthful food. The tony Vista spa's Culinary Week, May 20-27, will feature executive chef Jason Graham and his team offering in-depth cooking demonstrations and the how-to's of preparing healthful meals with flavor and style. Guests will visit the local farmers market with Graham, where he'll give tips on selecting fresh produce. Prices start at $4,195 a person for three nights, including meals, spa treatments, fitness classes and cooking demonstrations. (888) 373-8773,

Lavender. Enjoy a fragrant weekend this summer during the Carmel Valley Lavender Harvest Celebration. The July 14 event will be marked by Bernardus Winery & Lodge with a lavender-inspired lunch by chef Cal Stamenov, wine pairing of newly released vintages from Bernardus Winery and lavender walks around the grounds of the lodge, home to more than 1,000 lavender plants. (831) 658-3400, $115 a person.

Ceviche and gazpacho. At Saltbox Dining & Drinking, the new Kimpton restaurant in downtown San Diego's Palomar Hotel, chef Simon Dolinky has launched a cooking class series called Simon Says. The courses highlight his favorite seasonal ingredients; guests learn to create a dish or cocktail featuring his chosen theme. The upcoming summer series features ceviche June 30, gazpacho July 28 and corn Aug. 25. (619) 515-3003, $30 a person.

Abalone. Meet abalone farmers — and learn more about this shellfish — at Hyatt Carmel Highlands on June 9. The hotel, which overlooks the Big Sur coastline, sponsors a regular "Meet the Farmer" lunch series. The upcoming event will feature Monterey Abalone Co. farmers, who will explain the sustainable aquaculture methods they use to produce red abalone. After the discussion, chef Matt Bolton will show guests how to prepare a dish. A three-course abalone lunch will follow, including wine pairings. The event is in the resort's picturesque Pacific's Edge restaurant. (831) 622-5445, $75 a person.