Last week I wrote about traveling the world, via your palate, while the rest of you is planted right here in the Piedmont. On the other hand, since we live in a bona fide culinary destination, it's no surprise that local tour services have sprung up.
Associate Arrangements LLC runs the Triangle Food Tour (319-5674, www.trianglefoodtour.com). They launched a walking food tour of downtown Raleigh last spring, and now they've branched out to downtown Chapel Hill and Carrboro. The tours feature stops and tastings at seven to nine local establishments, and each stop "provides an opportunity for the group to rest a bit and have a small tasting, usually of the venue's signature item or some other specialty of the house, and hear firsthand from a chef, owner or another responsible person on site about the establishment, comments on their menu and what makes it unique," said Peter Eckle, president and CEO. Cost is $28 per person, plus a service charge, and reservations are required. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro tour debuts March 21. That one is already sold out, but another one is scheduled for April 4. The next Raleigh one is March 28, and a Durham tour is in the works.
Another company, Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours (943-1231, tastecarolina.net), began this month. This company plans to take participants behind the scenes while introducing them to the food community's best restaurants, farms, farmers' markets, bakeries and specialty stores. Tour guides will give a historical, architectural and culinary account of the area with an emphasis on its food history and renaissance. Those attending will feast on local flavors; tastes will be offered at almost every stop.
Taste Carolina saunters through downtown Raleigh on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons; visits downtown Durham on Saturday afternoons, and checks out Chapel Hill-Carrboro, from Franklin Street to Weaver Street, on Fridays. Cost is $37 per person. There's also a Carrboro-only tour on Saturdays, and two different "whole hog" barbecue tours.
Some local restaurants are doing some traveling of their own. The Q Shack (240-4043, www.theqshack.com) has expanded to Carrboro, at 302 E. Main St., in the spot briefly held by Crawdaddy's. And Chapel Hill's West End Wine Bar (450 W. Franklin St., 967-7599, www.westendwinebar.com) is expanding to a second location in downtown Durham, with a spot in West Village at 601 W. Main St. It's targeted opening date is April 1.
Meanwhile, the N.C. Department of Commerce's Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development points out that North Carolina is one of the top five state destinations for culinary travel. They mentioned this in a release announcing our local finalists for the James Beard Awards, which are considered the Oscars of the culinary world. They include Dennis Quaintance, Nancy King Quaintance and Mike Weaver, who own Lucky 32 in Cary, Magnolia Grill's Ben and Karen Barker, Nana's Scott Howell, Lantern's Andrea Reusing, Bill Smith of Crook's Corner, and Chip Smith of Bonne Soirée. Finalists will be named March 23.
Know about a fun food happening in the Triangle? Send it to Now Serving at firstname.lastname@example.org.