There is no better way to explore a new area than to take a food tour and here are my five reasons why: 1. You get to eat. 2. You learn about the history and culture of the area. 3. Sometimes you get to pet adorable and/or overweight kitties. 4. You get to walk off whatever you indulge in. 5. You GET TO EAT. But after taking a few tours in NYC and Australia, I started to wonder…what makes a good food tour good? What are the elements that must exist in order for you or any other person in the world to have a good time? The conclusion I’ve come to (thanks to the help of my Gastro Tourism class in grad school) is that for a food and/or drink tour to be successful, there needs to be a story to engage the audience and make them care. For instance, take the McLaren Vale wine and cheese trail tour I took while living in South Australia.
The concept was great, a self-guided tour with suggested wines try to at local wineries, and food pairings provided by a local cheese shop. You might remember it from this post. To make a long story short, the wine and food pairings were awful, no one at the wineries talked us through the tastings, the driving maps to the wineries were horrible, and there was no story to guide us through the tour–no reason to pay attention. The first NYC tour I took with The Enthusiastic Gourmet was exactly the opposite, and not just because there was an actual tour guide for that one. The guide went out of her way to incorporate local history and culture into the food tour, showing us where the first European immigrants lived when they moved to New York City, and how that affected the food shops that appear in the area. A trip to a bialy shop led to a discussion on Kosher cooking habits and taboos. Every food we ate lead to another area of discussion, another little tidbit about food or NYC history or culture that was fascinating, and of course, we got to eat while listening. In this case, multiple stories that related directly to the food we ate helped engage the audience and gain interest.
The second NYC food tour I took was this year with the Foods of NY group had less stories, but the stories were still there, and incredibly interesting. The tour guide was also very knowledgeable about food and the area in general, as well as the histories behind the different food shops we stopped at. This tour did not rely so much on the history of the area that we were in as it did on the history of the places we visited, which made for a different but equally enjoyable food tour. What do you think? Have you been on an awesome or crappy food tour? What made it successful or fail? Happy Gastro Friday, everyone! ~LTG!