Food, The Muse, Weeklies

The Taste of Boston: The experience of a Boston Foodie Tour

From liquid-nitrogen milkshakes to a plain old lobster roll, there’s no better way to explore the culinary world of Boston than with a Foodie Tour.

BROOKE JACKSON-GLIDDEN/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Led by founder Audrey Giannattasio, Boston Foodie Tours explore various corners of the city in search of James Beard award-winners and Food Network favorites. Giannattasio’s 2-year-old company hosts three-to-five-hour walking tours in Beacon Hill, Harvard Square, the North End and on the Greenway, and it continues to expand as time goes on.

On this particular tour, Giannattasio was accompanied by a tour guide in training, Genevieve Forde, although most tours are led by Giannattasio alone. Each tour includes an appetizer, a variety of small sample entrees and a take-away dessert, along with a tour of the surrounding area.

The Greenway Tour, which starts at the Marriot Hotel on the Wharf, where Giannattasio leads the group out the door onto the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, a promenade and park that begins at the North End and ends near the Leather District. The Greenway is the perfect place for any cultural tour of Boston — it naturally leads pedestrians past pieces of art, memorials, gardens and, lucky for BFT, food trucks.

The first stop on my tour was Grilled Cheese Nation, a Food Truck Nation staple that offers grilled sandwiches and soups for Financial District foodies. The “Brie Me Up” sandwich, a grilled cheese complete with sliced pear and the famous French cheese, was the intended first dish on the tour — except Grilled Cheese Nation ran out of brie. Instead, Giannattasio chose to serve a classic BLT. The bacon mimicked the crispiness of the bread, and the pesto mayo added an important textural contrast.

The next stop should have been Silk Road Barbecue, another food cart featured on Cooking Channel’s “Eat Street,” which serves a lamb curry that is extremely popular with customers. Again, the promised dish was unavailable because this time because the cart was nowhere to be found. Although the food truck community can be inconsistent, Giannattasio said that she still enjoys partnering with the street vendors around Boston.

“The food truck community is such a pleasure to work with,” Giannattasio said.

In between stops, Giannattasio shared personal tips and fun facts about the culture, food, and the overall city of Boston that she has picked up from personal experience and through the connections she’s made through her business. Beyond the food samples themselves, tour guests left with the secret to a perfect grilled cheese, dates and times of various other food events and even the names of artists around the Boston community.

The tour continued on to a celebrity restaurant. Jason Santos, a former “Hell’s Kitchen” contestant, opened Blue Inc. last year, which was named one of Zagat’s “Hottest Restaurants of 2011.” Giannattasio lead the tour into the dining room, which can only be described as “cool.” Sous-chef Brad Shannon joked with the guests as he mixed liquid nitrogen milkshakes, made with homemade ice cream, cooking-torched marshmallows (a whimsical edition to a chilly drink) and house-made root beer syrup. The result was a steaming tumbler filled with a silky, sweet milkshake far from anything you’ll find at Dairy Queen. The milkshake was enough to make the tour an unforgettable experience, but the personal touch of watching Shannon cook, share anecdotes and advise the young foodies in the group elevated the tour from an ordinary outing to a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The tour went on to James Hook & Company, a Boston favorite since 1925. Three generations of Hooks have sold lobster to Bostonians, and the lobster roll at James Hook is just as timeless. Any foodie will tell you that a lobster roll does not need much: a soft yet sturdy baguette, a light aioli and lots and lots of fresh lobster. The James Hook lobster roll is that sandwich, overflowing with sweet and tender lobster meat.

From there, the tour circled the City Hall Farmer’s Market, sampling breads and nuts from a variety of vendors. Stopping at the farmer’s market allowed tour guests to stock up on goodies, while also finding vendors around the Greater Boston Area to visit. The tour also stopped at a food truck with which most Boston University students are familiar, Clover Food Lab — a completely sustainable vegetarian food truck. The tour made a brief visit to Crumb Bakery for a take-home cupcake dessert, and finally the tour ended at James Beard Award-winner Jody Adam’s restaurant, Trade, for flatbread.

Tour guests watched chefs prepare tasty and creative flatbreads while Giannattasio took final feedback from her tour guests. It was obvious that Giannattasio was anxious to improve, open to constructive criticism and ready for new ideas. The flatbread was superb, but the exchange of ideas, the mutual sharing of information about food and culture in that last meal lasted longer than the flavor of manchego and lamb.

“To really understand a culture, you need to understand the food,” Forde said.

The Boston Foodie Tours are a work in progress, but if you’re looking to understand the culture of Boston, the tastiest and most comprehensive way is through a food tour.

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5 Comments

  1. Loved this review! What a fun experience this would be. A definite must-do for anyone who has an opportunity.

  2. Nice work, Brooke! This was a really fun experience. 🙂

  3. Nice job, Brooke. It sounds like a really fun way to get to know the city, and have some good food at the same time.

  4. Mary Thomas Rick Thomas

    Delicious review Brooke!
    I could taste that lobster roll.
    Great job bringing those people and your experiences to life.

  5. Nice article Brooke! Deb and I would love to take that tour!