Culinary tours are popular from Brooklyn to Portland, giving tourists and townies alike a window into food cultures they may be unacquainted with. Even Madison now has more than one food tour organization - Madison Food Explorers and Madison Eats, plus the Hop Heads beer tours.
Otehlia Cassidy of Madison Eats (formerly A World of Flavors) leads walking tours of eateries on Willy Street and Atwood Avenue; this year, for the holiday season, she's pulled together a sampling tour of a handful of local artisan producers. These start-up businesses have been making names for themselves within a stone's throw of each other on the near east side. "I thought that was a unique situation," says Cassidy, "and would make for a good neighborhood-style food outing."
Cassidy notes that food tours are usually found in larger cities "where there are many diverse neighborhoods that you can walk in. Madison has fewer areas where a walking food tour is possible, combining good food, interesting history and pleasant walking areas all within a mile or so. But one advantage is that because Madison's smaller, it's easier to talk to people and create connections."
The holiday walk, set for Wednesday, Dec. 5, with sessions leaving at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m., starts at the Madison Enterprise Center, 100 S. Baldwin St. There, behind-the-scenes looks at the production process will lead to sampling Potter's Crackers and Quince & Apple preserves. Cassidy notes there will be at least one cheesemaker there as well.
Then participants will walk to 1129 E. Wilson St., home to RP's Pasta and Just Coffee Cooperative, where presentations and samplings continue. The final stop will be the Main Street Industries incubator at 931 E. Main St., home to Yum Butter, Underground Meats and the Old Sugar Distillery. The whole route is about a half-mile.
Underground will make hors d'oeuvres and Old Sugar will pour a cocktail made with Quince & Apple syrup.
Next spring, Cassidy will be partnering with Trek's B-Cycle program, with B-Cycle brunch tours.
"There's an amazing interest in and support for our local food communities and producers," she says. "There's a sense of camaraderie between farmers, foodies, producers, chefs and even local organizations. That makes for a lot of possible ways for people to connect to our food community."
Sadly for the area's food-obsessed, another event is taking place on Dec. 5 at the same time: the monthly meeting of the Culinary History Enthusiasts of Wisconsin (CHEW), at 7:15 p.m. at the Goodman Community Center, 149 Waubesa St. Bruce Kraig, author of Hot Dogs Forever, will be speaking about the iconic American wurst, its various regional styles and its recent emergence as a base for "culinary art." And yes, there will be samples.
Moving: Sunprint Cafe, currently in the US Bank Plaza at 1 S. Pinckney, will be moving to 10 W. Mifflin in mid-January. The new version of the restaurant will serve breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday, as well as a Sunday brunch buffet and, within a couple of months of opening, dinner. Also new at Mifflin: beer and wine. Moved: UWSoHo food cart is now vending in front of Anchor Bank on the Capitol Square (West Main at South Carroll).