Monday, February 7, 2011


These tours are the latest trend in cities all over the U.S. and even some foreign countries. They are in essence strolling tours of 1-3 miles through city neighborhoods where one samples fare from various unique restaurants and food vendors while learning some history/background about that particular area. My friend and cookbook author, Phillis Carey, says her favs are in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

How does one find out about these tours? They are becoming so popular that AAA's Westways Magazine devoted a two page article to them a few months ago. has them included in their things to do recommendations. One can also Google "food tours" for the area you are interested in. The time frame is usually 3 hours with prices varying from @$50-99 per person. Discounts can often be found on websites such as Groupon and Goldstar-that's how I found my first one. Pricey you say? Remember it is like eating a meal. You will walk away full and often tote leftovers for later so be sure to bring a bag. Also, wear comfortable walking shoes and dress in layers depending on time of day and your area. Above all, bring your appetite. You won't be disappointed and you will be impressed with the variety.

"A TASTE OF DOWNTOWN" in San Diego's East Village area just north of Petco Park and east of the Gaslamp Quarter was my first tour. Since tours usually run 7-10 people our group of 7 made ours a private tour. Our tour guide met us at a nearby parking lot corner with bottled water and off we went. First stop was Bread on Market in a building from the 1880's. Upon entering we found a table set for us with a sampling of their breads and sweets in a plastic carry out container. We toured the facility, tasted and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves-a good beginning and a place I'd return to in the future. Close by was our next stop at a family owned Mexican restaurant, Valentine's. We continued on for falafel and kebabs at the corner of 9th and Market at Doner Kebabs, . At 744 Market we enjoyed Asian modern fare at J Wok, Yummy! We were definitely getting full. Around the corner we stopped at Venissimo Cheese(additional locations in Del Mar and Mission Hills) for different cheeses with very different tastes and textures accompanied by a glass of wine. We sampled Fromage D'Affinois (sweet and buttery),Drunken Goat(tangy), Ewephoria(sweet and candy like) and Saint Agur (spreadable blue good with pears or on lamb chips)Our host explained other cheeses to us while showing her wares. Additionally we sampled any additional cheeses we wished to. Fun and educational! But we were not done yet. How could you have room for more you ask?Well, our ending was most impressive at JSix,, 616 J Street where we were treated to an absolutely decadent huge semifreddo composed of chocolate, caramel mousse, pretzels and peanuts with coffee or tea. Waste not, want not-we did indeed find room. Alas, the walk back to the car was not enough to work off all those calories. At almost every restaurant we were given discount coupons for return visits-definitely a perk. For more information and reservations go to or call 619 5174930.

Off Kathy and I go to beautiful downtown Laguna Beach one HOT sunny day in September. Though we found plentiful free parking in a lot close by I would imagine later in the day, weekends and especially Summer it would be a difficult task. We walked to a Mexican restaurant,La Sirena, a local favorite and our meeting place, where our tour guide,Robin, met us and introductions were made. The customary bottled water was distributed and our first sampling of guacamole, chips, and tacquitos began with a big YUM.

Walking on we visited the world's smallest church , a candy store with WAY too many varieties to list, and healthy sub shop,Gallo's, on the corner of Coast Highway where we split a turkey sub.

One of our favorites was the next stop, the Sun Dried Tomato American Bistro & Cafe, 361 Forest Avenue, Excellent soup and fare.

Ever onward we sampled food on the go at Zinc Afe and a small gourmet store Richard Frank,on the way to the Laguna Culinary Arts Center.

(our guide)

Once there wine and cheese tasting were on the agenda. We stopped in for a bit of history at the Laguna Historical Society cottage.

While I am not a beer affecianado Kathy enjoyed the tasting at a local establishment in town.

Then we strolled down Pacific Coast Highway to Pizza Lounge, 397 S. Coast Highway, for some al fresco dining. The speciality of the day was their white pizza-secret white sauce, fresh grilled chicken, chicken sausage and zucchini-fabulous!

By this time a cool down is really welcomed so our last stop was sooooo refreshing. The Dolce Gelato store where our pleasant server offered up as many samples of their delicious flavors as we wanted... mmmmmm kiwi strawberry for me! Memories of Laguna's greeter in statue form bids us adieu opn our way out of town....but not before some shopping at those cute stores we passed along the way!


Food, drink and scandalous tales- get ready for savory stroll number 3. Eight of us met at Horton Plaza in front of the Lyceum Theater, and off we went following our guide,Paloma, through the streets of the famous Stingaree District, formerly known as one of the main red light districts in Southern California and home to more than 120 brothels at one point . In the 19th century you would have heard ship horns in the bay approaching the wharf, seen retail clerks sweeping their stoops, horses trotting along the dirt streets and women hooting at sailors from tiny windows. That was the gaslamp area.

As we walked along the brick streets we noticed things that we hadn't before . For example, each of the historical buildings has a numbered plaque on the outside relating to their date in gaslamp history. We never usually glanced upward to notice a missing balcony on a building, but our guide directed our attention to these details and related the story to go with them. We listened to the history of the area's establishment beginning with Horton's puchase of acreage. Can you imagine accumulating massive acreage downtown for a little over .25??? Do you know how the "stingaree" area got its name? We do! Best history lesson ever.... Apparently there were so many ways one could be "stung" in this area i.e. being kidnapped, robbed, gambling losses that they outnumbered being stung by the rays in the bay. Be sure to ask about the 11th step and the colored marbles.

The gaslamp is home to more than 100 unique restaurants of different ethnicities and we stopped to sample a few. Our first stop was Krust Pizzeria, a local favorite , where we were given a choice of three gourmet pizzas, hand tossed New York style. Very good. Next was Tequila 100., 619-233-2838, for an excellent strawberry margarita accompanied by yummy Mexican antojitos . Beer tasting followed at the Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery,, where they have one of a kind hand crafted beers. Their passionate brewmaster walked us through the tastes and brewing process of 5 different kinds of beer. Waddling down to our next stop, San Diego's #1 Indian restaurant, Royal India,, 619-269-9999, we plated up a selection from their sumptuous buffet. What is a tour without dessert you ask? Last stop, Kim's Popcorn & Creamery featuring Crunch Time, gourmet quality popcorn, located at 611C K Street,, 619 338-0048. This is one of the only places to serve homemade ice cream using all natural and real ingredients-very popular with the locals. We sampled the ice cream , frozen yogurt, AND the white chocolate popcorn! To die for.

If your interest is piqued you can book this tour at , 619-233-8687 or go to the website which features other tours of San Diego. Discounts are sometimes offered through I learned a lot about the area that I didn't know (nor did most of my friends)and it is always great to find out of the way giid restaurants .

I have been pleased with the three tours I have been on thus far. They are a great way to find out of the way places that might otherwise get overlooked in pursuit of the more advertised and popular restaurants. Other Southern California food tours include: Melting Pot Food Tours including tours of Farmer's Market/West Third Street Food Tour and the Old Pasadena Food Tasting Tour, Also there is Six Taste-Downtown Los Angeles, New Chinatown, Thai Town, Santa Monica, Delicious Dumpling, and Little Tokyo, As of this writing I have just discovered another through in Old Town Orange-one is a food tour with history and one is a food tour with an art walk. Check them out! From now on I will be sure to check out tours for areas that I vacation in and who knows? I might even organize one of my own someday!!! Bon Appetit!

the beer tasting at a local bar before we sat down outside at Pizza Lounge, 397 S. Coast Highway, All of us gorged on their special white pizza which consisted of their white sauce, fresh grilled chicken, chicken sausage and zucchini. Did I say we were stuffed yet?
Our last stop was a welcome cool down at Dolce Gelato where our delightful server let us sample as many flavors as we desired. For more information see
I have been pleased with the two tours I have been on thus far and found it to be a good way to discover out of the way places that I might have neglected on my way to more well known and publicized restaurants. Other Southern California food tours include: Melting Pot Food Tours with their tours of Farmer's Market/West Third Street Food Tour and Old Pasadena Food Tasting Tour , Also Six Taste-Downtown Los Angeles, New Chinatown, Thai Town, Santa Monica, Delicious Dumpling, and Little Tokyo, To be sure I will check out tours for different places I visit while vacationing. Who knows.... I might even organize one of my own!!

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