When we travel, food is an amazing way to experience a new place. It can connect you with the community you’re visiting, tell you about a location’s history and help you experience the culture. After working in culinary tourism for many years, I’ve seen firsthand the connections and memories created by sharing food-focused experiences. The next time you travel, whether you’re venturing down the road or across the world, follow these tips for cooking up the most delicious culinary tour on your trip.
Things to Consider Before You Go
Do some research:
- Is the area known for a specific dish or style of food? Where is the best place to get that dish or cuisine?
- Are there any famous food/drink establishments in the area? If so, is it something you’d like to try?
- Google the establishment for articles or blog posts. Food writers/bloggers are great at giving tips and tricks for visiting famous foodie spots.
Ask your hosts
Hotels, rental hosts, local tourism boards… they’re all in the job of making sure you enjoy your experience. Reach out to them before your trip, tell them what you’re into and get all their recommendations.
Check community calendars.
The local tourism website, newspaper or Chamber of Commerce are great ways to find fun events. I’ve bought day of tickets for beer festivals, pierogi festivals, and more. Sometimes you’re just in the right place at the right time. You can also use community calendars to see if there are any markets. Farmer’s or Maker’s Markets are a great way to discover local flavors and makers of things. Schedule your walk-through around brunch or lunch time.
See what’s popular on Instagram.
Search by location or the #name of the city you’re going to and see what comes up. If there’s a culinary tour (with decent reviews) wherever you’re headed, book yourself a ticket. If possible, go on the first day you’re in a new place. A good food tour will not only introduce you to some great local flavors, but will also show off an area’s history and culture. The tour guides are locals, so not only will they know a lot about where your tour is taking place, but they’ll usually have some excellent suggestions of other places to eat and drink. When you go on a food tour early in a trip, it can help you orient yourself to your surroundings, make you feel more comfortable and hopefully leave you with additional things to do (and eat) on your trip.
Tips for Once You’re There
Sit at the bar for at least one dinner and chat up the bartender. I have always gotten solid recommendations this way.
Don’t book every meal in advance. Leave some space to stumble upon a hole in the wall or try out some of the recommendations you might pick up from locals.
Google Maps is a great resource if you need to quickly find an establishment worth trying close by. Usually there are some themed and/or featured lists that are either based on use reviews or completely user generated. If a place has a decent number of positive reviews, it’s a good sign. One of the best meals I had in Ireland was a tiny fish and chips restaurant that was barely big enough to seat my group of seven. We had the place to ourselves, the food was amazing and I would never have found it without Google Maps.
Create Your Own Food Tour
If a formal food tour isn’t in the cards, or you want to go on a foodie-style adventure in your own hometown, here’s how to create a walking food tour:
- Pick one neighborhood or walkable area
- Choose 3-4 spots
- 1-2 for cocktails/appetizers
- 1 for entrees
- 1 for dessert
Plan to share everything on your culinary tour. Be prepared to be flexible. Consider doing it on an off night. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays tend to be a little busier for restaurants. But if you don’t mind a little waiting and are cool with snagging whatever seats become available first, you’re in for a fun and delicious adventure no matter when or where you try this.
Bon Voyage and Bon Appetit!
Sarah Kurtanich is a Fertility Awareness Practitioner and Health Coach on a mission to help shift how menstrators move through the world. Previously, she has served as the Chief Eating Officer at Taste Frederick Food Tours, the co-host of The Mustache Mesa podcast, and a Wild Woman Project Circle Leader. She believes in enjoying your food, taking care of yourself and doing things that make you feel good. She and her husband call Frederick, Maryland their home with their daughter and golden retriever.
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