WHY A FOOD TOUR?
“There is no sincerer love than the love of food”-George Bernard Shaw. One of our travel rituals is participating in a food tour whenever we visit a new city. Why, of all things, a food tour you may ask? The simple answer to this is my love for food, discovering new cuisine and unearthing local gems, i.e. restaurants/eateries when visiting a new town. Its been 8 food tours (Portland, Santa Fe, San Francisco, Madrid, Seattle and Miami, Washington DC and Mexico City) and counting, so here is a quick guide to everything on food tours and why you should experience at least one, especially if you are one of those for whom the world revolves around food, travel and appreciation of new culinary experiences.
FOOD TOUR SYNOPSIS FOR THE CURIOUS
Food tours are like a manna from heaven for the gastronomically curious, which keeps on giving! The general format is this: you book a tour beforehand, get instructions via email on time and venue, show up at the right time to a motley crew of 8-10 people with a very friendly tour guide at the helm of affairs and then walk along for a good 2-4 hours, stopping by various restaurants/shops/vendors to sample their wares. The tour is always in a loop, i.e. the guide starts and finishes at places close by, so you will be returning to your starting point at the end of the tour, which is often a popular landmark in the city. For more details see the pointers below for a memorable food tour experience.
FOOD TOUR GUIDELINES
1) They sell out fast, so book online in advance! They are almost always nonrefundable, unless due to circumstances specified by the tour company, so please be aware of this when you book the tour.
2) Please read the instructions VERY CAREFULLY while booking the tour and also after you get their email. Food tours often involve quite a bit of walking (added bonus of getting a mini city tour) and so please wear appropriate footwear and be dressed in layers depending on the city and weather. For public food tours (since private ones are available too and are more expensive), please ARRIVE AT YOUR VENUE ON TIME! Being late is discourteous to fellow foodies and creates a lot of hassle for the guide who is on a schedule. So for the sake of everything polite and decent, please plan ahead and arrive on time. In case something goes terribly wrong (like cat eating one half of your face or you being stuck in the eye of a tornado), remember to have the tour guide’s phone number handy (they usually provide that in the email). Same goes for the rest of the tour, please be a decent courteous human through and through. Remember, this is a social/group activity and is meant for everyone to have a good time. No squabbling, complaining, tantrum throwing or being a pain in the royal butt. Please also bring your table manners with you. Once again, save the food tour email which has precious information, figure out how to reach the venue sightly early, don’t be late, be pleasant, and enjoy!
3) Very important point here, i.e. the food aspect of these tours-a lot of food tours accommodate reasonable dietary restrictions/choices but some may not given the nature of the tour. So if you have food allergies or are vegan/vegetarian/pescaterian etc please call the agency or read the information section on the tours to see if they at all accommodate for any dietary restrictions in your group.
4) Different food tours offer different experiences, so its best to again, read the information on their webpage properly (I cannot stress enough on the read part due to general lack of commonsense that we see abound). For example, if a tour says bite sized samples enough for a light lunch, that sentence means exactly that-”light lunch” which may be OK for some and leave some famished like a pack of wolves. In other words, for such cases, have a bite or two before you leave since you will be walking quite a bit and burning off calories as well. The good food tour companies are awesome in being very descriptive of the nature of their tour, so you will have a good idea of what may be in store for you.
5) Food tours are not only about food, but also about local businesses and history behind local food practices. They are an excellent segue into learning more about a new city and its culture. Best of all, food tour guides provide you valuable nuggets of information and recommendations for other great places to see, eat at and have fun in their town. So please pay close attention to their gabbing.
6) Generally food tours start with a list of places/businesses you will be visiting on the tour which has information on many other local eateries as well. This piece of paper is like Nero’s jewels, please do not part with it! This is perhaps the second most awesome thing about food tours that they are kind enough to share all their local favorite dining spots with you, without you having to move a muscle or frantically searching on the net!
7) Food tour guides are the friendliest folks on earth. They cater to a crowd’s whims. appetites, questions and other annoying things with great gusto. Please don’t be a douche and do tip them handsomely at the end of the tour for providing you such a great experience.
OUR FOOD TOUR EXPERIENCES AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Overall, food tours are a great way of connecting with a new city via its food and getting a glimpse into what locals eat. Some tours are pricey, some not as much, but its a once in a blue moon experience and must be had. So please leave your stinginess at home, loosen your purse and waist strings a bit and have a gala time chomping through awesome bites. We’ve been through 8 food tours so far and barring two in Portland and Washington DC, which though amazing left as a bit underwhelmed for its very steep price, the others were simply awesome sauce. Savor Seattle (a food tour through Seattle’s bustling Pike Place Market), Miami food tour through the art-deco district and the Ultimate Spanish Food tour (via Devour Madrid food tours) were some of our past tours, all three being big hits! As for San Francisco, I can vouch for Chris Milano’s foodie adventures since we joined one of them and really liked it! The other one is by Edible excursions, which I have heard very good things about but am yet to try. They have food tours across the bay in Oakland and Berkeley as well. Our latest food tour was in Mexico city where we paired up with Eat Mexico, a reputed food tour company to savor street food. It remains one of our best food tour experiences to date. Read about our Miami food tour here and Mexico City Food tour here. For more food tours in Asia and Europe, read this excellent Athens food tour guide, Chinatown Singapore food tour guide here and this Copenhagen food tour guide that you can create on your own!
So that is concludes my review on food tours. I really do hope that you get to experience one on your next travel. Steve Jobs, in his famous Stanford convocation speech said “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”. I simply say, “Stay Hungry, Stay Curious. For good food”.
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