A few years back I took a trip to New York and signed up for a food tour, which is essentially an excuse to do nothing but walk around and eat good food for a solid few hours. It might sound strange at first – because 3 hours of eating food seems insane – but it’s not just a nonstop eating affair. You get to walk around a city, learn interesting tidbits about the neighborhood you’re in, and chat with people, all while sampling amazing food from different restaurants you (probably) wouldn’t have found otherwise. I honestly think food is just as much a part of experiencing a new place as the sights and attractions, so food tours are an awesome way to get to know a city better.
Not that long ago Avital Tours, which operates in San Francisco and LA, invited me to go on one of their food tours, and I immediately said yes because I was stoked to be able to experience another one. I’ve been to San Francisco more times than I can count but I’ve probably barely put a dent in trying all the food the city has to offer, so I figured a weekend trip was in order!
Avital offers tours to suit a bunch of different dietary needs, which is, IMHO, one of the best things about their company. My boyfriend Greg has Celiac’s disease, so we decided to go for the Mission District tour (not only does it accomodate gluten-free guests, but it’s primarily focused on Mexican food which is a MAJOR win in my book). We also added the cocktail option to our tickets, because duh, of course a food tour is going to be more fun with a little booze! (The cocktail option is one of my other favorite things about Avital Tours, if you couldn’t tell…)
The tour includes two appetizers, an entrée, and a dessert. Before you book your ticket you get a chance to see everything that could be on the menu for the day, but you ultimately don’t know exactly which items you’ll be trying until you show up. Our tour started out with Pork Belly Austin Breakfast Tacos and the West Coast Bloody Mary at West of Pecos, and lemme tell you, BEST breakfast tacos and bloody mary I’ve ever had (who knew tequila made such a good BM?!). Plus I swear the tortilla was homemade and the eggs must’ve had crack in them because the entire conconction was downright amazing. The gluten-free version (which you can see in the first picture of the post) was exactly the same but without the tortilla. Other highlights: we loved the western design of the restaurant, and the owner even came out to introduce himself which definitely gave the whole experience a more personal feel.
After tacos, our next stop was Mission Cheese. All the cheese here comes from different areas of the US. We got to try a couple different types of cheese – the Goat Gouda and the Fiscallini Bandaged-Wrapped Cheddar – with a saison from Sunset Reservoir Brewing Co. Did you guys know that beer goes super well with cheese? Because it really does. Also, that goat gouda…SO good.
Again, I was really impressed because our tour guide, Anna, was totally on top of the gluten-free thing and made sure Greg got cider instead of beer. And the cider (from 101 Cider House) actually deserves a shout out of its own; we’ve tried A LOT of different ciders and this one is hands-down one of the best, if not the best.
Next up was the main course at Gracias Madre, an organic, vegan Mexican restaurant. One of my favorite things about this place is their focus on from-scratch cooking, including homemade corn tortillas – as authentic as it gets. Our meal was a Sweet Potato Quesadilla with nacho cashew cheese, crema, pumpkin seeds, and cilantro, and while it was completely different than anything I’ve ever tried before, I have to admit it was pretty tasty. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be shunning meat and cheese anytime soon, but it’s also fun to try something new and unique! And really, who knew you could actually pull off a vegan Mexican restaurant?!
Our last stop was a visit to BiRite Market and Creamery, which, combined, are basically my idea of food heaven on earth. We met the manager/buyer at the market who told us all about what goes on there, and how they choose the best of the best fruits, veggies, meats, and other foods to sell at the market. We munched on the sweetest, juiciest strawberries you could ever imagine and wandered around the market for a bit; I wanted to buy a little bit of everything but “settled” (if you will) for some chocolate pot de crème which was totally out-of-this-world. Then we headed over to BiRite Creamery for some Salted Caramel Ice Cream. I’ve been dying to try their ice cream for years – literally – so I was SO psyched for this. And honestly, it was amazinnnng – super creamy and packed with an incredibly rich, almost-burnt caramel flavor. I’m just sad I didn’t get to try more of the flavors because I’m 100% certain they must be phenomenal.
All in all, the whole experience was a DELICIOUS blast, and I was really impressed by how well the tour was planned out and executed. I loved that the groups were small and the restaurants all cooperated with Avital to amplify the experience. We could come into each place as if we were any large group going somewhere to eat, with big tables reserved for us so everyone could sit down and relax with our meals. I also loved the emphasis put on learning more about the history of each place and the neighborhood as a whole. It didn’t feel like a touristy tour at all, but more like a “locals insider” tour, which is exactly what Avital aims for.
And here’s the best part! Avital Tours created a discount code specifically for Bright-Eyed Baker readers, so if you’re interested in taking a tour with them, use the code BrightEyedBaker to get 10% off. Even if you’re from the Bay Area, I highly recommend it!
Disclaimer: Avital Tours was kind enough to provide me with the opportunity to take a tour with them. Of course, all opinions are 100% my own, as always!