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The Great Food Cities of the World
6-Session Evening Course

Special Reception on June 5

Evening Course

Tuesday, January 16, 2018 - 6:45 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2945
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Six distinct world centers of food Bologna, Buenos Aires, London, Lyon, Tokyo, and San Francisco (Top left to Bottom right)

SPECIAL SALES ADVISORY: Anyone who purchases this 6-session course will enjoy a special reception on June 5, featuring specialties associated with the six cities.

Individual sessions are also available for sale by clicking on the listed dates below. However as of January 11, 2018, the special reception is no longer available to June 5 session single ticket buyers (the ticket price only includes the featured lecture).

What are the elements that make a city a world gastronomic citadel? In some cases, ready access to superb ingredients and centuries of evolving knowledge about how to use them. In other cases, the specialness of the cuisine is a product of the unique ethnic and cultural blend that results in new flavors and cooking methods. In some cities, cooking traditions are rooted in colonization or conquest, with the conquered often prevailing when it comes to setting the agenda—and the table—as to how people eat.  

Food expert and passionate culinary historian Fred Plotkin has identified six very distinct places that are, in their own ways, world centers of food and drink. Three are the capital cities of their important nations, while the other three are extraordinary in that they are surrounded by superb agricultural resources that influence what food is available and how it is cooked. In every case, these cities promise tantalizingly delicious subject matter for Plotkin’s commentary accented with mouth-watering photos. 

Plotkin is the author of six cookbooks and has been a finalist for the Julia Child and James Beard awards. His food writing has appeared in Gourmet, Bon Appétit, The New York Times, Food & Wine, FT, and Daily Telegraph.

JAN 16  Bologna

Italians say that the two best food cities in their country are their own hometown—and Bologna. This is Italy’s undisputed capital of gastronomia, with fresh handmade pasta such as tagliatelle, tortellini, and lasagne being only the most famous food. Ingredients in Bologna derive from the cow and the pig, with extraordinary dairy products, salumi, and more. The food culture of Bologna, including its outstanding markets, is remarkably evolved and its citizens are conversant about food and cooking in ways unheard of elsewhere.

FEB 13  Buenos Aires

The cosmopolitan capital of Argentina draws from Italian, German, British, Spanish, Arabic and native cultures. Its beef is nonpareil, yet Buenos Aires also has superb fruit and vegetables, outstanding wine, wonderful dairy products, and sweets prepared in ways that borrow from the city’s diverse cultural heritage. Less noted is the fact that Argentina has a long coastline teeming with fish, which is increasingly taking its place next to beef and lamb. Few cities benefit so completely from homegrown foods, making Buenos Aires both self-sufficient and also supremely well-fed.

MAR 6  London 

The notion of British cooking has been the timeless butt of jokes, but in reality London has long been a world culinary capital. As the chief city of an empire, it drew on ingredients from everywhere to create a cuisine that has been immensely influential. Fish, seafood, beef, and lamb are all first-rate. London is the capital of the world wine trade, as well as a trendsetter in beverages, such as tea and coffee. The city also boasts its own traditional dishes, some wonderful and others eccentric, that contribute to its fascination as a place to eat well.

APR 10  Lyon

Although Paris is the capital and a city with a lot to admire in terms of food and wine, it is Lyon and its surrounding towns that truly excel when it comes to the care with which ingredients are grown. Pork products of every kind are extraordinary, and there is outstanding poultry, splendid fruits and vegetables, and some of the world’s best wines and cheeses all within easy reach. Lyon combines the most traditional cooking methods of its grandmothers with those of three-star chefs whose restaurants are booked many months ahead. 

MAY 8  Tokyo

The capital of Japan is, to some people, the best place in the world to eat right now. The local cuisine ranges from simple to elaborate, yet the extreme skill with which it is cooked makes it stand apart. Tokyo has the world’s largest fish market and more Michelin-starred restaurants than any city. It also has cuisines from around the world, prepared with the assiduous care that the Japanese demand. 

JUNE 5  San Francisco

Some people could make the case for New York, New Orleans, or Los Angeles being America’s foremost food city, but San Francisco draws from some of the best farms in the world for its fruit, vegetables, meat, and dairy products, along with the bountiful Pacific for fish and seafood. Many of the world’s top wines are made nearby. It is a multi-ethnic city, with prominent Chinese, Italian, and Latino communities contributing their own approaches to the way people cook and eat. San Francisco also excels in classic American food, made better by superb ingredients and knowledgeable cooks. SPECIAL NOTE: As of January 11, 2018, the course's final reception will no longer be available to June 5 session single ticket buyers.

6 sessions


Pasta Bolognese
Tortellini pasta filled with ricotta and parmesan cheeses tossed with a hearty Bolognese meat and tomato sauce.

Argentine Beef Empanadas
Crisp pastries with a savory and spicy meat filling.

Ploughman's Scones
Savory cheddar-and-herb scones filled with sliced ham, apple slices, and mango chutney.

French Cheese and Charcuterie Board
A selection of French cheeses with sliced saucisson, salami, and country paté, served with cornichons, Dijon mustard, and accompanying breads.

Yakitori Chicken Skewers
Japanese-style grilled chicken on bamboo skewers brushed with a soy, mirin and sake glaze.

Roasted Beet and Avocado Salad
Roasted golden and crimson beets, avocado, arugula, dates, and almonds with crumbled goat cheese.

Miniature pastries and cookies, such as macarons, raspberry financiers, cannoli, matcha green- tea cookies, chocolate-truffle brownies, dulce de leche tartlets, and lemon-glazed shortbread cookies.

A selection of white wines

S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)