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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

From Las Vegas to Chicago, From Sushi to Pizza, Best Food Tours for Post-Pandemic Travel

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Guided food tours are the best way for traveling foodies to experience just about every city in the world. You can try more different things and learn more than you could by choosing just one place to eat on your own, no matter how good it is, and you’ll usually find hidden gems that you won’t find through research. .

I have been a food writer for two decades, author of a New York Times bestseller on food, and I was a food columnist for America’s biggest newspaper for many years, and frankly I know a lot about food. But you can always learn more, especially with a local insider perspective, so I’m a big fan of signing up for food tours in cities when I travel. Of course, I haven’t traveled for a year, but with a vaccinated light at the end of the tunnel, I hope to be back on the road soon, and when I do, I’ll be hungry for the dishes and places I go. missed.

I’ve done these outings from Tokyo to Taipei, New York to New Orleans, and there were a lot of highlights, but the best food tour I have ever taken was in Las Vegas, brought to you by Lip Smacking Food Tours, which I wrote about. here in detail at UKTN two years ago. The very creative and practical founder, Donald Contursi, is a food industry veteran who has leveraged his connections in the city to give customers privileged access to some of the best and most popular restaurants in Las Vegas – the ones that you might not be able to do otherwise. go behind the scenes, experiences and always signature dishes without skimping or pointing.

“It started for me with the desire to present the best food in town,” Contursi told me, “but then I was like, hey, this is Vegas, so why not be a VIP? We get the best tables with no queues and no waiting. “

His company offers several different tours with different themes, from Boozy Brunch to Savor The Strip, and focuses on different neighborhoods around Sin City, so even regular customers like me have something new to look forward to. Most are fairly affordable and great value for what you get, but the best-kept secret in its arsenal is a one-of-a-kind, one-of-a-kind Ultimate Steakhouse $ 800 per person tour. A Carnivore Bucket List event, this one is only offered to small private groups, and includes three stops at A-List red meat locations, which last time I checked included Bazaar Meat, by world renowned chef Jose Andres, Jean Georges Steakhouse by star chef Jean Georges Vongerichten and the city’s newest hotspot, Scotch 80 Prime. A sample of the best meats on the planet, and not just beef including house aged beef, a genuine imported A5 Wagyu Japanese rib eye, a slowly smoked domestic Wagyu brisket from California’s Mishima ranch, with bone in Tomahawk Ribeye , foie gras, Iberian Bellota ham, and steakhouse-style seafood, including Maine lobster, white shrimp, Spanish octopus, and Alaskan king crab.

The company received extremely rave reviews and tons of press worldwide, leading Contursi to create similar Lip Smacking Food Tours in Seattle, Santa Monica, San Jose, and Vancouver.

Last June, as the pandemic was mounting, Contursi launched a sister operation, Finger Licking Foodie Tours, self-guided but fully planned versions of its pillars, with the same logistics, but for private groups of two barely to enjoy without contact. with guides or foreigners.

The Finger Licking Foodie Tours model is more flexible, allowing you to choose your departure time and date rather than relying on a schedule of scheduled tours, and each itinerary includes nine or ten different dishes at three excellent and organized restaurants. Tours last two to two and a half hours and cost $ 79 to $ 150 per person, with a ton of food included, enough for afternoon tours to duplicate lunch and dinner. The four options include downtown Las Vegas, the city’s Arts District, its excellent, but potentially confusing Chinatown, and an all-Aria resort tour that lets you stay completely under one roof while discovering the dishes of Michelin-starred chefs and awarded by James Beard. .

But the bigger news, as leisure travel seems to pick up, is Contursi’s latest offering, an expansion in his hometown of Chicago. The just announced Deep Dish Pizza Tour kicks off this week – of course on National Deep Dish Pizza Day (April 5). It’s an absolute must for pizza lovers visiting the Windy City – especially East Coasters who despise deep dishes, likely because they’ve only had chain or frozen versions. The Real Thing, a Chicago specialty, is great, especially when it comes to Contursi’s four powerful icons. One of the hassles of deep dish pizza is the time it takes, both to get into those flagships, which can have long queues, and then to wait for the pizza, which can take 45 minutes. minutes or more to cook. The Finger Licking Foodies Tour model takes you around it all and lets you compare different signature takes on the city’s iconic dish at four legendary locations in just two and a half hours.

This self-guided tour offers the most efficient, easiest, and deepest way to dive deep into a deep dish. Like its Las Vegas ancestors, the tour allows patrons to skip the usual queues for a table and long cooking times. Instead, you’ll be instantly seated with VIP service and pizza delivered fresh from the oven in just 10 minutes. Designed especially for those strange times we live in, the tour is exclusive to you and your guest dining companions. It comes with an innovative virtual guide providing information about each restaurant visited. Best of all, you definitely won’t leave hungry and you can take the leftovers with you.

The route hits a Who’s Who of the deep dish: the original Pizzeria Uno, which claims to have invented the dish and certainly spawned its most famous chain, though no other place rivals this one; Gino’s East on Superior Street, known in the pizza world as the place to see and see for its celebrity clientele; Giordano’s on North Rush Street, with its twist in the form of a stuffed two-crust pie; and Lou Malnati, my favorite, famous for its rich, decadent buttery crust. All of Lou Malnati’s flavors are exceptional, but they are best known for their unique take on sausage, with a single plate-sized sausage patty that covers the entire circumference of the pie. While in almost every other city, pepperoni is the most popular garnish, Chicago loves its sausage, and at all four stops, within walking distance of each other in the vibrant Magnificent Mile, you’ll get half a cheese. , half-sausage pie, for the incredible opportunity to judge the city’s most beloved owners side by side.

Shipping costs $ 75 per person – with tips included. An optional $ 45 drink package offers a different Chicago Craft Beer pairing at each stop. I’ve been to all four establishments, I’ve been on tour with Contursi, and I can’t think of a better way to get what so many travelers say they want on vacation, a real sense of place.

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