Los Angeles, the second largest city in the United States, offers culinary diversity waiting to be discovered by those who are willing to venture out beyond their neighborhood bubbles. A new crop of food tours centered around neighborhoods and ethnic cuisines allows Angelenos and tourists alike to further discover the city through its cuisine.
Six Taste Food Tours
Los Angeles Area
Six Taste food tours is the 2009 creation of two USC grads who share a passion for food. The name represents the six tastes of food: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent (spicy) and astringent (grape skins, green apples). Entertaining tour guides provide historical anecdotes along a four hour walking adventure featuring six to eight culinary visits.
With tours offered in Little Tokyo, Chinatown, Thai Town, Santa Monica, Downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood it’s easy to discover a new neighborhood or a new culture in an afternoon. For those with kids that can handle four hours of walking and grazing the Santa Monica Third Street Promenade tour or the Little Tokyo tour (for more adventurous eaters), are good options.
Following is a summary of the six stops visited during the Six Taste Santa Monica food tour as experienced by my family and me on a warm Sunday afternoon this summer.
The Rockenwagner Bakery is the first stop as you begin your food tour around the Third Street Promenade. The bakery started life in Santa Monica thirty years ago and while it serves soups and sandwiches it’s all about the bakery. Pretzel rolls and tri-berry scones offered with coffee or very tasty mint lemonade is served. If it’s too filling take your treats to go – you have five more stops.
Joe’s Pizza serves New York style thin-crust pizza in a cozy storefront on Broadway. Fresh ingredients and pizza by the slice keep a steady stream of people coming and going. On the tour, everyone samples cheese pizza and we test it to see if it’s truly New York style and yes, you can fold it in half and eat it.
Bay Cities Deli
One look at the Godmother sandwich made famous by the Food Network and you’re either in love or frightened. Can one sandwich really have so many ingredients and taste good? The answer is a yes and it’s simply the quality of the meats and cheeses and the crispy bread that make this sandwich work.
The bread alone has a thirty-six hour baking process and when you add the “works”: Genoa salami, mortadella, ham, cappacola, prosciutto, provolone, pickles, onions, peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, mayo, mustard and Italian dressing you end up with a large, colorful sandwich. We ate this picnic-style overlooking the Santa Monica pier.
The real dining begins at the Border Grill stop. This is where you realize that you need to pace yourself or you won’t make it to the end of the tour.
Start with three homemade salsas with chips; margaritas optional (and billed separately) but highly recommended particularly the jalapeno cucumber margarita which has a good bite to it. Move on to the homemade empanada with roasted plantains, black beans, poblano and cotija cheese. Next up is the Peruvian ceviche tostadita using sustainable fish with aji amarillo chile, ginger and lime.
We finished with another Food Network star, Potato Rajas tacos which is a tortilla topped with creamy potato, chiles, guacamole and pickled onion. And just when we thought we were finished, everyone received a bag of fresh baked cookies for the road.
The owner of Lago is from Bellagio in the Lake region of northern Italy. The restaurant is a white-tablecloth affair and wine is on your own if you’d like. Besides our starter soup, the dishes we tried were new to everyone and like no Italian food we had tried before.
We started with a tiny cup of pureed sweet corn soup with Dungeness crab on top. Next we were served Veal Tonnatoo which is roasted and chilled veal carpaccio in a tuna caper aioli sauce with micro greens and shaved parmesan on top. The tuna and veal are an interesting combination and most people either really liked it or it wasn’t their favorite.
The last dish, Pizzoccheri alla Valtellinese was the sleeper dish of the day. Made of wheat pappardelle pasta, roasted garlic, savoy cabbage, Yukon potato and a cheese fondue it doesn’t look appetizing. It looks like a healthy dish that you should like but won’t however it turned out to be the favorite of most people on the tour.
The last stop on the tour, Angelato Café for gelato, brings smiles to everyone’s faces. Over a hundred flavors tempt customers and it’s tough to choose just one. You can sample up to three flavors before the decision has to be made.
Before the tour group is dismissed the charismatic guide gathers everyone to summarize the food adventure and ask each participant their favorite dish. Then it’s off to explore the third street promenade on your own or perhaps a nice afternoon nap.
The Santa Monica Saturday morning tour includes a stop at the famous Santa Monica farmers market.