Local - it's more than a buzz word. One of the best ways to localize destinations for attendees of a meeting, event or incentive trip is to off er food and drink tours. By foot, on bikes or in a chauff eur-driven vehicle, immersion excursions are the perfect fi eld trip to experience culinary Colorado. Here is a rundown of popular tours around the state by region.
Local Table Tours
When Melissa Ryman, program manager for Realize Colorado, handed over the meeting planning reigns to Megan Bucholz, founder of Local Table Tours, she had no idea that her group of 90 people would be in for such a treat. “On our first stop we went to Bru in Boulder and had the place to ourselves,” says Ryman. “The chef prepared a tasting of the entire menu for the group. Each table was preset with a charcuterie board, which included a candle made of butter. Both herself and her guests and I felt like royalty.”
The rotating tour of 30 in each group visited three Boulder hot spots: Bru for a generous gastronomic tasting, a brewery tour and tasting at Upslope, and a final beer tasting at Finkle and Garf, with chocolates and sweet treats from Piece Love and Chocolate.
Bucholz’s deep level of knowledge and trusted relationships allow for a choice of 60 establishments to choose from for private tours. Her newest venture is a coffee, waffle and chocolate tasting in Fort Collins. The highlight of the tour is Nuance Chocolate in Old Town. Owner Toby Gadd is a bean-to-bar chocolatier who specializes in single-origin chocolate.
Year-round private tours in Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins can accommodate up to 90 guests. Custom tours are available in Spanish.
Lindsey Prime, owner of Taste of Denver, says “food-and-drinks tours are the most exciting way to become a local in three hours.” Participants get to know Denver’s best tasting experiences with an extra-virgin olive oil tasting at EVOO or a chance to nibble on Mercantile’s sheep’s milk cheese from chef Alex Siedel’s farm in Larkspur. Tours take place at lunchtime, happy hour for cocktail tours, and early evenings are reserved for the Taste of Larimer tour.
The newest afternoon tour, Boozy Bites, includes five drinks with complimentary small plates for noshing. Favorite drinks spots on the walking tour include whiskey cocktails at Avelina Restaurant; beer flights at Wynkoop Brewing Co.; a bubbly champagne cocktail at Corridor 4; and a hands-on cocktail demonstration in the Crimson Room speakeasy. “Guests on our original tour were asking us for ideas on top spots for cocktails. They were looking for a real Denver experience, but didn’t know where to find it,” explains Prime.
Taste of Denver corporate and networking tours accommodate up to 45 people and are typically a walking tours.
Samantha Wood, owner of Rocky Mountain Food Tours in Colorado Springs, loves to show off the best of southern Colorado’s food scene. “Our restaurants are shaping the direction of the city,” she says. One of her “piéce de résistance” locations is the new Four by Brother Luck restaurant featuring a custom dessert by owner and chef Brother Luck, who has appeared on “Chopped” and “Bobby Flay.”
When Mary O’Melia of O’Melia Signature Events in New Jersey booked a tour for 35 last May, guests experienced a “real showstopper,” says Wood. They were picked up at The Broadmoor and treated to custom menus of lobster at Bonny and Read and filet mignon at Famous Steak House, complete with wine pairings and live music.
“Our guests loved learning about the history of Colorado Springs while enjoying some of the best food the town has to offer. The tour guides, whose knowledge of local history was impressive, were great at interacting with our guests one-on-one,” says O’Melia.
MOUNTAINS & WESTERN SLOPE
Lois and Howard Stern, owners of Tasting Telluride, have lives that are woven into Telluride’s historical transition from a mining town gone bust to a thriving ski town, which began when they moved here in 1972. “We get to share the history that we have lived,” says Lois. “These are the stories that are not in history books or museums.” The couple can seldom make it down the street with a tour group without a friend and local resident stopping to share a story about Telluride. “Our best compliments are from guests who say they now see Telluride as locals, through our eyes,” she says.
As residents and former restaurant owners, the couple weaves both history and flavor into their tours. For instance, at Brown Dog Pizza, tour guests learn the secrets of a three-day process when making a Detroit-style, deep-dish pizza that has won awards in the U.S. and Europe. “This is something they would have never seen as a customer,” says Howard. Above all, the Sterns say they specialize in a relaxing dining experience, rather than a grab-and-go tasting.
Grandeur is never out of style in Vail, and the tours from Vail Valley Food Tours are no exception. Owner Matthew Timmerman believes there is no better way to get to know Vail than through its food and breathtaking outdoor activities. For those seeking a way to burn calories in between tastings, a downhillguided bike food tour spans restaurants from East Vail to Eagle, with trailers available for little ones.
A Vail five-course, farm-to-table tour might include duck confit and butternut ravioli from Terra Bistro finished off with Europeanstyle pastry from Alpenrose café and bakery. “Guests are never surprised by the number of out-of-town chefs who moved here to cook for us,” says Timmerman. Tours for up to 30 people can be offered on alternating days during a three-day span for larger groups.
Colorado’s fruit basket region is the ideal place for food tours. Taste buds come alive when Tyler and Rebecca Jones take groups on a walking tour of Grand Junction’s downtown. “At each stop, guests learn about each business with behind-the-scenes information and a greeting from an owner, manager, chef or other knowledgeable staff member,” says Rebecca. Popular spots include 626 on Rood, Rockslide Restaurant & Brewery, olive oil and balsamic tastings at Bella Balsamic, and painting and wine tasting at The Palette.
While tasting and strolling, guests get acquainted with the history of Ute Indians and explorers like Kit Carson and Captain John Gunnison. “As we walk between locally owned businesses, the tour guide entertains the group with fun stories of Grand Junction’s Wild West past,” she says. Private tours are available for groups of 12 and up.