Posted July 27, 2016 | By Kristl Story
My Food Tour Travel Diary
My love of food and travel has taken me on 23 food tours, and I’m sharing a little nibble of each one to give you a glimpse inside the wonderful world of food tours. Come along, there’s delicious food to discover and local stories to be told.
1. Austin, Texas: Rocket Bikes Food Tour gets the honor of being my first food tour and my only bicycle food tour. I’d visited Austin many times, and I thought I knew everything about Austin…the good places to eat, the history and the weirdness. After our first stop, I realized that I only knew the touristy parts of Austin. We quickly (thanks to the electric bikes) got off the beaten path and into the East Austin neighborhood for our first experience at a food truck.
2. New York, New York: Now that I’ve decided food tours are the best way to explore a city, it was time to choose a food tour in New York, and this was no easy task. New York has 34+ food tour companies, so choosing just one was difficult. Being a pizza lover. I was tempted by the Pizza Tour but ultimately chose Foods of New York’s Greenwich Village Food Tour. New York style pizza, an Italian deli, stories about tenement living and fabulous architecture gave us a glimpse into this great neighborhood. Yes, there’s more to a food tour than just eating.
3. Cozumel, Mexico: A popular cruise port that we’ve visited many times, so rather than opting for the usual water sports and being lovers of Mexican food, the Cozumel Chef Food Tour sounded like the perfect choice. Authentic foods in tiny hole-in-wall, non-touristy restaurants really made us feel like locals.
4. London, England: I’d been to London 30 years ago, and my memories of the food were…bland, bland, bland. When planning this vacation, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do a food tour of bland foods but then I read about London Food Lovers Soho International Tour. According to their website, “Soho is the place to learn about London’s incredible international food scene,” and their tour did not disappoint. We discovered ethnic eateries as we walked along tiny, charming streets. My favorite was the fresh pasta from the Italian grocery, and I’ll never forget the story of the home that used to be a brothel which now displays this sign.
5. London, England: I love chocolate. In fact, I could eat an entire 1 pound box of chocolates in one sitting! If you love chocolate like I love chocolate, Chocolate Ecstasy Tours will satisfy your craving. Award winning chocolates, decadent truffles, the Queen’s favorite chocolates, the best cup of hot chocolate and an interesting lesson on cocoa beans.
6. Paris, France: If I had to pick my favorite food tour, Secret Food Tours would win the prize. This food tour was different than the eat, walk, repeat that I’d grown accustomed to. Instead, we shopped the markets, learned about the foods and gathered our food for a picnic…very French! I think I could live on a French baguette, cheese, wine, macarons and a few crepes too!
7. Chicago, Illinois: My food tour travels had convinced me to start West Palm Beach Food Tours, and I traveled to Chicago to work with food tour consultant, Shane Kost of Chicago Food Planet. Of course, taking a couple of food tours was the most delicious part of the training! A trip to Chicago would not be complete without a slice of deep dish pizza and Chicago Food Planet’s Gold Coast/Old Town Food Tourintroduced us to the best deep dish pizza in town at Lou Malnati’s.
8. Chicago, Illinois: Food Tours in big cities are a chance to get out of the downtown and into the neighborhoods, and that’s exactly what we did on Chicago Food Planet’s Bucktown-Wicker Park Tour. The highlight for me was hot chocolate from Mindy Segal’s restaurant (FYI – Mindy won the James Beard award for best pastry chef). Hot chocolate on a cold day was welcome by this Florida girl.
9. Dallas, Texas: Everything is bigger in Texas including the portions on Dallas Bites Bishop Arts District Tour!
10. Savannah, Georgia: The Savannah Taste Experience Food Tour was everything a great food tour should be…delicious food, entertaining stories and a tour guide full of Southern charm! They offer multiple tours, and I can’t wait to go back!
11. San Juan, Puerto Rico: The menus in San Juan were in English, but I still had no idea what to order. Flavors of San Juan Food Tours was an excellent introduction to a foreign cuisine and beautiful Old San Juan. I didn’t like everything on the tour, but that wasn’t the point. I wanted to be able to knowledgeably navigate a menu. My biggest surprise was the flan. When I learned that flan would be our dessert, I was a bit disappointed…it’s the only dessert I don’t like. Guess what? Puerto Rican flan is different from Mexican flan. It’s more like cheesecake rather than the egg custard like taste of Mexican flan. So yes, I do love flan as long as it’s Puerto Rican!
12. Brooklyn, New York: We enjoyed our first New York Food Tour with Foods of New York, so we decided to explore Brooklyn with them. Brooklyn is BIG, and this tour takes you by bus so you can experience the many diverse neighborhoods and ethnic cuisines. We saw Hasidic jews and learned about their traditional dress, we ate Polish pierogies and knoshed on a Cuban Sandwich, we admired colorful street art and the gentrification of neighborhoods, and of course…we had pizza!
13. Harlem, New York: Taste Harlem Food Tours is the perfect way to explore Harlem. Chicken & Waffles, Soul Food and an African market were the highlights. Harlem was not what I expected. Gentrification is happening at a rapid pace, and after a few hours with Jackie, you’ll appreciate Harlem’s past and have a good grasp on the future of this neighborhood.
14. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Rebecca of Twin Cities Food Tours reminded me why I love food tours…food tours make you feel like a local! Rebecca is a gifted tour guide and throughout the tour, it felt like we were walking around northeast Minneapolis with a friend who knew all the best restaurants in town and all the interesting stories about the food, the people and the neighborhood.
15. Asheville, North Carolina: The farm-to-table movement is alive and well in Asheville, and that’s the focus of Eating Asheville Food Tours. The tour begins with a champagne toast at a wine bar in a bookstore…how fun is that!
16. Amelia Island, Florida: If you like to eat and cook, Amelia Island Culinary Academy’s Farmer’s Market Tour and Cooking Class is for you! The tour begins by walking through the beautiful streets of historic Fernandina Beach on the way to the Farmer’s Market. Along the walk, Chef Bill adds plenty of interesting tidbits about the area and restaurants. After gathering fresh, local ingredients at the Farmer’s Market, we returned to the Culinary Academy for our cooking class and lunch. Chef Bill’s class is entertaining, educational and delicious! PS – We went back and did this tour again, and it was just as much fun! Different season, different produce, different recipes.
17. Colorado Springs, Colorado: You’ll work up an appetite after hiking in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, and when you’re ready to take a break let Rocky Mountain Food Tours introduce you to the best restaurants in town. You’ll feel like a VIP with personal attention from chefs and restaurant owners…what a treat! The Rabbit Hole is hands-down the most unique restaurant I’ve ever been to…take their Colorado Springs tour to find out why!
18. Dallas, Texas: Food Tours of America has put together a fun, educational and tasty way to explore a Farmer’s Market! The Dallas Farmer’s Market has a fascinating history and a promising future. Visit an authentic Tamalero (where they make tamales), learn about urban rooftop beekeeping from a local beekeeper, taste Texas pecans, explore an urban garden and take a picture on an vintage tractor. Everything is bigger in Texas including their Farmer’s Market!
19. Seattle, Washington: Our Pike Place Market Tour with Savor Seattle Food Tours gets the honor of being our second favorite food tour…quite an honor! The Pike Place Market is HUGE, and this tour hits the hot spots, and you don’t have to wait in line. You’ll finish the day with more than a full belly, you’ll remember the vendors for their stories and the market for it’s history. If you’re in Seattle, this is a must-do.
20. Cozumel, Mexico: If you want to feel like a local for a day, Josefina’s Market Tour & Cooking Class is your ticket. You’ll begin your day at the local open-air market learning how to select authentic Mexican ingredients. Then, it’s onto Josefina’s kitchen in a humble little home to learn how to prepare a Mexican Feast. I’m craving the sangria and guacamole we learned to make!
21. Falmouth, Jamaica: Jamaica Culinary Tours is everything a food tour should be…delicious food that tells a story of the people, history, architecture and culture. The most memorable moments were tropical fruit “show & tell,” dessert under a beautiful native tree, a tour of a historic home and of course jerk chicken with red stripe beer.
22. St. Augustine, Florida: Not all food tours are created equal, and I must say Savory Faire Food Tours ranks at the bottom of our list. In a charming, historic town like St. Augustine, this tour certainly has potential, but they have some work to do. There was no purpose or story as to why we were eating certain foods, and we were served hummus at 2 restaurants in a row…odd!
23. Delray Beach, Florida: I live just 30 minutes away from Delray Beach, but I’ve never explored the dining scene beyond the tourist traps. Thanks to Craft Food Tours for getting us off the beaten path and into small, locally owned restaurants. We ate delicious food, we met chefs and restaurant owners and we soaked up the vibe that is Delray Beach…Craft Food Tours really gave new meaning to “being a tourist in your own town.” PS – Being a native Texan, I was thrilled to finally find great Mexican food in South Florida at El Camino, and I’m still dreaming about DaDa’s Watermelon-Feta-Arugula Salad with a crunchy creme brulee topping and pesto. In fact, I’ve already made plans to go back to 3 of the restaurants, and I’ve purchased a blow torch to recreate that amazing Watermelon Salad. I think that’s the best compliment a food tour can receive.
Get off the boring sightseeing bus and get into the wonderful world of food tours!