Cassidy has been leading walking tours through the Willy Street and Atwood neighborhoods for the past couple of years. This year, she added a popular brunch biking tour in partnership with Madison B-cycle. Participants of the tours walk, or bike, from business to business, sampling the east side's finest nosh.
The Holiday Artisan Food Tour is a showcase of the local food artisans in the Common Wealth Development business incubators in the Willy neighborhood. Vendors include Potter's Crackers, Quince & Apple, Lala's Nuts, RP's Pasta, Yumbutter, Underground Meats, Wisco Pop, Calliope Ice Cream and NessAlla Kombucha. Cheesemakers from Landmark Creamery and Holland's Family Cheese will also be in attendance.
In the tour's inaugural year, participants squeezed into the production facilities of startup producers, listened to owner stories and sampled products. Each behind-the-scenes visit brimmed with fascinating details on what it takes to start and maintain a food-based business. Q&A sessions went well past their allotted time as tour-goers engaged and indulged their curiosity concerning some of Madison's favorite edible products.
Cassidy says she was inspired to start the tour to help connect the community: "We're lucky to live in a community so rich in local food producers," she says. "Many of us enjoy their products, purchase them regularly and feel proud to support them. But we don't often get a chance to meet the people behind the scenes. Seeing the producers in their work environment, hearing their stories and giving them a chance to share their passion with us is a unique and wonderful opportunity."
First-year tour participants were also treated to a surprise preview of Bill Anderson's Crème de la Coulée cheese CSA.
This year, Organic Valley and the Willy Street Co-op are sponsors of the tour, which will end with a silent auction and live music at Old Sugar Distillery. Proceeds of the auction will benefit Eat For Equity and the Fritz Food Pantry at the Goodman Community Center.
Tickets for the tour are $60, and can be purchased online. Participants will also be able to pre-order any of the products sampled at discount prices.
Cassidy notes: "These producers have poured their hearts and pennies into their businesses. When you see that, their products taste even more delicious, and you feel even more compelled to support them. It builds an even closer connection."