Have snacks, will tour

Urban food tours feature the best of local grub

June 25, 2007

Food has plenty of obvious careers: chef, caterer, cookbook author, restaurateur, farmer, grocery vendor.

Less obvious is the job of epicurean concierge. The gig? Introducing visitors to the local food scene, wherever that might be. And as the summer travel season warms up, these folks are hitting the streets.

San Francisco’s Lisa Rogovin compares her chosen career to being in a food fantasy camp. Most days, Rogovin ushers tour groups around town, studying and sampling San Francisco’s abundant culinary scene. Her groups (they range widely in age and number) wander around the bustling Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market, attend cooking courses with local chefs, and indulge in the dishes at nearby restaurants serving local, sustainable cuisine and wine.

Though she was the first to brand herself an epicurean concierge, Rogovin is not the first to offer such services. Since 1999, Foods of New York Tours has provided New York City visitors with personalized three-hour tours of the shops and restaurants in local food hot spots, such as Greenwich Village.

The city of Chicago also keeps a few “food concierges” on staff; their jobs include making restaurant suggestions and pointing out good ethnic groceries. (They do not, however, make restaurant reservations.)

And here in Portland, David Schargel’s “Epicurean Excursions” feature walking — and eating — tours of the city, with an emphasis on locally sourced fare.

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