after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

City Food Tours: Educational AND Fun

with 3 comments

t says: Part of g’s birthday present was to go out for a Philadelphia “food tour” run by cityfoodtours.com.  The company puts together visits to a few locales throughout Philadelphia, and tourists are escorted from site to site (all are within walking distance), taught a thing or two about food at their destination, and given samples.  The tour I chose was “Flower Show” themed; we were going to learn/taste cheese, tea, and chocolate with a special focus on incorporating flowers and herbs.  Unfortunately, g fell ill, and we ran into the one super-negative about cityfoodtours: the tickets are non-refundable and tickets cannot be applied to any other tours than the one scheduled.  Thus, if no one used my tickets, then we would have wasted all that money.  In my opinion, this is an absolutely ridiculous policy.  Because of this, g informed me that we needed to either find someone to give the tickets to or find someone to go with me; she refuses to waste money (she feels the same about food).  I mass-emailed and texted some friends, but no bites.  Then k made the mistake of signing into gmail and saying that she was free, but didn’t want to go by herself (cm was working or studying or something).  After a few minutes, g managed to persuade (i.e. brow-beat) her into going with me.  It was the start of another t and k adventure (like Zahav lunch)!

3/2009, Saturday 3pm, Party of 2, “Flower Show Tour”.  We showed up at DiBruno brothers, where we were greeted by our slightly over-enthusiastic, but friendly guide, who happens to be an owner of the company.  However, he did make the mistake within the first 10 seconds of meeting me by making a comment about my glasses that I found offensive – he said something like, “nice hipster glasses”.  Such an accusation is dangerous – I have many friends who hate hipsters.  Also, I’m not a hipster and these aren’t hipster glasses; neither my glasses nor I are “ironic” (or cool) enough.  The tour guide redeemed himself later on by commenting that “every halfie is hot”, including me.  I say he redeemed himself because in retrospect, it’s a hilariously generalized statement to make; however, at the time, k and I had no choice but to sit there with our awkward turtles in silence.  What was also funny was that he assumed that we were married, (which led to another awkward turtle).  We are … but not to each other!  Overall, k and I both think he was quite a character and did a reasonable job teaching and guiding, although k was not amused by the name game in the beginning (when he made everyone introduce themselves as an icebreaker) or by the “canned jokes”.  Personally, I think it’s better than no attempt to get us to open up and laugh.

Our first “stop” was at DiBruno Brothers.  I was kind of weirded out because the group didn’t have a designated sitting area, rather, we just stood near the cheese the entire time.  Basically, it looked like we were a group of normal shoppers who happened to be standing around the cheese case in a circle.   The thought that crossed my mind was, “Gee, I wonder if this entire project is a dude taking us around to different places to shop for stuff – with no actual coordination with the sites, themselves?”.  It turns out that there was some coordination, as each site had an “expert” who could tell us more (in about 10-15 minutes) about what we were going to taste.  So, at Dibruno, our guide gave us a lecture/primer on cheese, including types of cheeses, the process of making cheese, whether eating rinds was safe, whether cheeses ever go “bad” (and what to do if mold starts growing on cheese), and a potential origin of cheese.  We also tasted a selection of four.  They were each unique, but there’s no way I can remember any of their names.  I did take the opportunity to buy a Pecorino cheese (I know – bboorriinngg) that should be tasty with our pastas later this week.  k couldn’t find hamantashen and was sad.

Our second was TBar, which was interesting because as little as I know about cheese, I know even less about tea.  Once again, we learned about the historical origin of tea, how tea was made, and the different types.  There was a little workshop on how to organize a planter containing different plants that one could use to flavor teas – it was a little boring (all he was doing was putting plants into the planter!).  Next time, skip the planter altogether and just have us pass around some fresh sprigs from the plants, themselves, so we can experience the aromas (and then give us some to take home in little baggies!).  We tasted four teas – I liked the lavender-cream tea – but k preferred the rooibos (which is not technically “tea” but we still call it “tea”).  I picked up a small sample of “chocolate tea” (i.e. black tea and chocolate) for me as well as a sample of “white bliss” for my ailing wife (it was described as tasting like peaches – g likes peaches!).

The third was Naked Chocolate.  Anyone who knows me knows that I love Naked Chocolate.  Those caramel-stuffed waffles are amazing.  The same deal – we learned about chocolate and then ate some chocolate.  Although I did have to miss out on some of the learning (I had to buy more time for the parking meter), what was said about the care, techniques, and specificity that Naked Chocolate pursues in their chocolate really raised my opinion of them as a legitimate source of chocolate treats.  Our tour guide’s opinion of Max Brenner’s chocolate outpost in Philadelphia, however, was less than favorable (but I see his point).  Very interesting how, like wine, cheese, and tea, there is a world of chocolate snobbery, too!  We got to take home lots of chocolate, so I’m super-thrilled.  ALSO, there are Irish potatoes at Naked Chocolate!  Who woulda thunk it?  g says they taste good, so we’re happy to see them.

In summary, check out city food tours – I think they’re a great introduction to foods you may not know a whole lot about and was a good fun activity to do.  Don’t expect a rigorous education or a classroom environment – basically, it’s some guy who leads a group of people around to different establishments, introduces them to the broad category of products (e.g. cheese, beer, chocolate, tea), and arranges for a sampling of those products.  The tour guide was good, the tastings highlighted differences well, and I have a lot of leftover chocolate, so I’m happy!  I know that g would have especially loved the tour, so I’m sure that we’ll go again (that’s right, it’s good enough to go to more than once – but a different tour of course)!  Special shout-out to k for coming out last minute – you’ve made g sleep easier knowing that nothing went to waste!

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Written by afterdinnersneeze

6 March 2010 at 9:40pm

3 Responses

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  1. I was supposed to go on this tour last Tuesday but on Monday they called me and said they weren’t able to get a tour guide for that day. I was so bummed! I also kind of thought it was unprofessional of them. If you’re advertising a tour as available, someone should be able to lead it. Is this not someone’s full time job? But I’d been on a tour with them before and really enjoyed. Good with the bad…..

    Caitlin

    7 March 2010 at 11:55pm

  2. t says: You know, I am wondering just how big/small this operation is. But you’re right – that is a little lame. How come they can reserve the right to cancel on you at any time, but we can’t cancel on them (without losing our money!)? But I hope the tour that you actually went on was fun! Where’d you go?

    afterdinnersneeze

    8 March 2010 at 8:25am

  3. It was essentially the same thing, but Capogiro instead of TBar. At Capogiro, we did a “guess the flavor” kind of thing. Naked Chocolate did give you so much chocolate! That alone made it worth it. I’m kind of curious to try the cheese and beer tour. I’d like to know more about beer and what I do and don’t like so I can be a better orderer.

    Caitlin

    9 March 2010 at 8:19am


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