THAT’S PRETTY MUCH how I start work every Saturday and Sunday, because I have the greatest gig on Earth: I lead walking food tours of downtown Asheville, North Carolina!
What is a walking food tour? It’s more or less what it sounds like: I walk with a group of up to 17 patrons to several downtown Asheville eateries, where we all indulge in delicious samples of food and beverages. Or as I tell my patrons, “We walk, we eat, we walk, we eat, etc. etc. rinse, repeat, until we’re all so full, we kinda wanna die… and then the tour ends!”
In between eateries, I rattle-off a constant stream of facts, stories, and jokes about Asheville, as well as opinions about restaurants, cafes, ice cream shops, and nightclubs as we walk past them. I answer questions from the patrons, and blather on-and-on about Asheville’s past, present, and future growth, including how the food scene came to be what it is today. I talk about everything from how many hotels are being built (and more importantly who’s running the restaurants in those hotels!), to why there are statues of pigs and turkeys in Pack Square. I even tell the glorious story of the ill-fated “Downtown Mall.” The patrons love it all, and I have learned something about myself: I seem to have a never ending supply of things to say about food and Asheville.
Food tours happen in every major American city, and Asheville is lucky to have several, some of which leave city limits to forage and frolic in field and farm, but Asheville Food Tours is the original walking food tour of downtown. I learned everything I know from the best food tour guide ever, Paddy Riels, who is fun, and informative, and really loves his job. He smiles, jokes, laughs, cajoles, and knows every person in downtown Asheville. He’s like an ambassador to the food scene, or just a friendly local, who likes to show off his town, and fill hungry people with great food. My kinda guy!
Asheville Food Tours is a small company owned by Chris Ortwein… a name you gotta love because “ort” means “morsel of food,” and “wein” is German for wine, and that’s exactly what a food tour involves: A splash of wine here, a little nosh there, a pleasant stroll through a beautiful city with a local resident who knows a thing or two. When we’re lucky, the chefs come out to chat with us! A food tour can and should be a very special experience.
As a food writer, as well as a guide, and patron of several local food tours, I recommend food tours very highly!
Asheville Food Tours run daily April through December. Visit ashevillefoodtours.com for tickets, tour schedules, and more info.