You may have noticed the title of this blog and wondered why I called it "Northwest" instead of something like "Portland Area." Well, for one, it doesn't roll off the tongue nearly as well, but the real reason is because I don't find myself bound to just Portland. If there is something cool to see or somewhere tasty to fill my gullet from, I want to check it out.
Our neighbors to the north - by that I mean Washington, but more specifically Seattle - do a lot of good things right. In fact, Pike Street Market is one of my favorites places anywhere to go simply because of the variety of places to nibble from in a relatively small area.
So last summer when we took our first staycation - isn't that a great word? - Wifey and I were browsing the internet looking for something to do and we came across a walking tour in Seattle where you get taste all sorts of foods from various local eateries called Savor Seattle. It was kind of funny, because we had run across them from some place before - probably linked off some kind of What To Do in Seattle page - and thought it sounded kind of fun, but then forgot about it.
We looked at it a bit deeper and it sounded interesting, and Trip Advisor told us it was well worth it, but we still hemmed and hawed about whether or not to spend the money for a day trip up to Seattle (can't bring Ruby there, that's for sure). We finally said what the hell - it'll be an experience.
We aren't necessarily the most outgoing of people, so stuck in a group of 12-14 for three+ hours was a little sketchy. But the food sounded good and the reviews were great, so we signed up.
It turned out to be a beautiful day in Seattle and we were exposed to places we didn't know existed but foods we had never tried. Who knew I would like truffles on my pizza? Or that mussels really aren't that bad? I mean, really? And Savor Seattle, I must blame you for my new addiction to real dark chocolate - in a good way of course.
The long and short of it is we had a fantastic time and would absolutely recommend the Gourmet Seattle to anyone, whether you live in Seattle or not, whether you visit Seattle once or a 100 times. It's fun, you learn stuff, and you get some fantastic food.
We made a couple trips back earlier this year to take a couple other tours - first the Pike Place Off the Beaten Path tour (where we found the magic world of fresh spices!) and then the Coffee and Chocolate tour (seriously, how could anyone not pounce on that one?!). Every single one has been fun, worth the cost, and given us a bevy of places to go back and explore on our next trip.
So, walking food tours are a good thing, right? Well, it's not all cupcakes and puppy dog tails.
Since we had so much fun on our first tour in Seattle, we came home and looked for one in Portland. Sure enough, there are walking food tours in Portland as well with Portland Walking Tours. They happened to have room in a tour two days later, so we booked that too, the afternoon version of the Epicurean Excursion.
This one was decidedly different than Savor Seattle's. We got plenty of little tidbits of food, but part of what made the Seattle tour so good was we got to interact with the owner or someone responsible at each place, to hear why they do what they do, why it's so good, and why we should come back. Each person's passion for their respective craft was readily apparent, as was Savor Seattle's clear goal of building truly beneficial relationships for both them and the restaurant/food stall/etc.
The Portland one? Not so much.
Sure, we tried some things distinctively local - who knew Rogue Brewery made spruce gin? - but at the same time only a couple of the places were set up like the Seattle version, where representatives of the company were available to explain and answer questions. For us, that was a key component and that was a stark contrast between the two. And not in a good way for Portland.
In the end, we felt a little like we didn't get our money's worth on the Portland tour. That was a little disappointing after how much fun we had in Seattle, but now we know, right? Since then we've been able to plan out our own little walking tours of the Portland area, just the two of us, and made some great little finds (with help from the Internet).
So if you want to do something like that in Portland, find a local to help you out. If you want to do that in Seattle, choose Savor Seattle.
And if you love yourself some food and want to get a feel for what any new locale has to offer, this would be a good way to do it, though I don't know how prevalent these are across the U.S. or internationally. Definitely something to look into. For us, we'll definitely check one out the next city we visit.