Being an evolving foodie, my restaurant “wish list” is about as long as my arm. I’m always adding new places I’ve heard about, old standbys I’ve never managed to visit and even the one-taste-wonders to which I dream of returning. Sometimes it’s inspiring; other times it’s just plain overwhelming.
And it never seems to solve the ever-present conundrum that arises when my husband says, “What do you want to eat?”
But a great way to cross a few of your top choices off your list is with a culinary tour. I used to think that sort of thing was only for tourists, but why let the out-of-towners have all the fun? A culinary tour allows you to get intimate with some of your must-visit restaurants, whether you’re visiting a city for the first time or celebrating your 20th year of residency.
Which is why I was super excited to be invited to take a tour with Culinary Connectors.
If 12 courses in three hours sounds a little daunting, never fear; each Culinary Connectors tour is led by an expert who is happy to hold your hand and pour you another glass of wine. If 12 courses in three hours sounds like bliss, you’ve definitely come to the right place.
Each chef or owner takes time to personally interact with the members of the tour—plus, the restaurants change nearly every week, as do the menus based on seasonality—so each tour is absolutely unique. Our first stop was Bácaro Venetian Taverna on Pearl Street. Seated at a long table, the 12 of us started to chat and get to know one another as our servers poured our first glass of wine of the day to accompany the swordfish carpaccio with lemon vinaigrette, followed closely by Spanish shrimp and octopus and then papperdelle with braised short ribs and porcini. Did I mention that this was only our first stop?
From there, we ventured out into the suddenly very bright sunlight and made our way down the road a bit to Bombay Bistro. Owner and chef Paul Gill seemed genuinely thrilled to see us.
“Please come in!” he exclaimed. “Act like we’re related!”
And by all accounts, it’s how he and his wife Pari treat everyone who sets foot in their colorful carnival of a restaurant. Gill explained his many years in the restaurant industry as he brought out dishes of shrimp korma, chicken tikka in an eggplant sauce and fork-tender boneless beef short ribs in a fragrant sauce of green and black cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, garlic, cumin and more that made me wish I were Indian. He extolled the virtues of his new mixology menu as he poured us glasses of Indian beer and a ginger liqueur that was dangerously good. He even walked us all the way to our third destination, Salt.
Located in the venerable Tom’s Tavern space at the corner of Pearl and 11th, Salt is making a valiant effort to live up to the epic history of the space they occupy as well as make it their own. We sampled an arugula pesto and goat cheese flatbread from their farm-to-table menu whose ingredients probably traveled less distance than I did to reach the table. A bite-sized taste of executive chef Kevin Kidd’s signature chocolate salt tart and a tour of the historic space were a perfect way to wrap up our hedonistic taste of some of Boulder’s best.
5 Tours to Taste:
1. Culinary Connectors
Offering tours of Denver and Boulder restaurants as well as gourmet market tours and special events. culinaryconnectors.com
2. Local Table Tours
Tour some of the 100-plus restaurants in downtown Boulder or see the largest farmer’s market in Colorado with a guide. localtabletours.com
3. Foodie Food Tours
When in Aspen, check out the Local’s Bites Tour, which visits six or seven restaurants and shops. foodiefoodtours.com
4. New World Sports
Hop on a bike in Fort Collins and spend half a day peddling between courses at five of the city’s best local restaurants. newworldsportsllc.com
5. Savor Each Glass
Take a chauffeured tour of the North Fork wine country and round it out with a wine class or a food and wine dinner. savoreachglass.com