Saturday, August 16, 2008

Finally! A Food Tour Company in LA is Born! Welcome to Melting Pot Tours!

Having lived in Los Angeles since I was 5, you'd probably think it strange that I'd be happy to see a LA-based food tour company finally make its way here. After all, with me running my dining club, also called Pleasure Palate, for the past few years, I think I have a really good grasp on where to find good eats. Ethnic cuisine, fine dining and everything else in between is no problem. So why the excitement? It's simple really.

To me, the fact that a food tour company is now in LA will hopefully help people (primarily out of the Los Angeles area) finally recognize that LA is definitely a foodie town in its own right. In writing this blog entry, I've googled info about food tours in Chicago, New York and San Francisco, of which I found several in each city. Now if you google food tours in Los Angeles, one tour company will come up and they go by the name of Melting Pot Tours, run by sisters and co-owners, Lisa & Diane Scalia.

Do you know what else is great about having a company like Melting Pot Tours around? Wit
h LA being as big as it is, it's intimidating getting to know the dining scene. What Melting Pot Tours could offer is a way to help local residents get a chance to step out of their comfort zone and/or even their own neighborhood to start exploring the culinary bonanza that abounds in LA County. The same could be said for visitors or tourists, who may share the same intimidation factor of trying to weed through the LA's extensive foodie landscape. With a food tour, they can get a taste of LA to start and like local residents, this opportunity could also springboard them into wanting to learn more about what Los Angeles has to offer to the discerning diner.

After reading about Melting Pot Tours on both Eating LA's blog and Teenage Gluster's blog, I was more than ready to check it out, so this morning I embarked on their Farmer's Market and 3rd Street Food Tour. First off, when I met both sisters, Lisa and Diane, I absolutely loved their energy and passion for what they were doing. The tour started at the original Farmer's Market where we first heard a little history of how the Farmer's Market started and how it came to be in its present state.

After that, the tasting bounty started at Bob's
Doughnuts where we had doughnuts, of course. What was great is that it just wasn't about the food, it was also about a little bit of history and/or information about that particular food stall or restaurant. For example, I learned that Bob's Doughnuts employees start making doughnuts at 4:30 am and that they are made from yeast. At Monsieur Marcel, we sampled cheese, olives and bread, but were also told the strange tale of the Caviar Cheese. Nope, I'm not going to give the story away. You'll just have to find out yourself when you go on the tour. Sampling stops were also made at Thee Bakery where we had Monkey Bread and Littlejohn Toffee for housemade toffee.

We also made some stops where we didn't have a tasting, but we learned a little more information about a particular vendor. For example, at Huntington Meats, they actually bring their lamb in whole from Colorado and break it down there and that way, they get all the best portions for their customers. Huntington Meats is also where Nancy Silverton has a special hamburger blend made just for her, but is also sold to other customers. At Light My Fire, some of their hot sauces are so hot, you actually have to sign a waiver before purchasing them. Blanche Magee of Magee Nut House, noticed the gathering of the farmers to sell their wares in 1934 and was the first to sell them sandwiches. Stop by there to watch employees make fresh peanut butter onsite.

One little tidbit t
hat I learned about Brazilian BBQ that I also want to share before I start talking about our experiences on Third Street. When we got to Pampas Grill, we were able taste their deep fried yuca fries, a couple of their BBQ meats and their cheese bread. However, Diane shared with us from the owner of Pampas Grill that we should split the cheese bread, add a little hot sauce and then put the meat in the bread -- just like a Brazilian BBQ slider. Yum! I'm definitely going to remember that the next time I dine at a Brazilian Churascarria.

Pampas Grill was the last of our tasting journey at the Original Farmer's Market. Afterwards, we took a stroll down 3rd Street where our guides gave us some info on some of the storefronts and the
restaurants that lined the street for future reference. Our first tasting stop on the 3rd Street was at the Little Next Door where we had freshly baked that morning French macaroons. I enjoyed my lavendar macaroon to the last bite. Following the macaroons was a delicious Chinese chicken salad from Joan's on Third and then we visited Le Labo, French Perfumerie.

You're probably thinking what does a French Perfumerie have to do with a culinary tour? Well, as explained by our guides, the appreciation we have for our meal is in large portion due to its aroma. If food smells appetizing, that's half the battle. Instead of a food tasting, we did more of a sensory tasting where we got to sniff
oils that are foodie-based and included individual samples of cucumber, cloves, grapefruit and a few others. Le Labo is interesting in that after talking with you, they will recommend a fragrance and than mix it for you right there onsite to take home. By the way, for each city, Le Labo has a shop, they'll develop a fragrance specific to that city that can only be purchased at that particular shop. Their Los Angeles fragrance will be coming into their shop in a couple of weeks, if anyone is interested.

The rest of our tasting tour included visiting the fabulous Cook's Library where you can browse over 7,000 cookbook titles, a tea sampling at Chado Tea Room and finally, soba noodles and sushi at Mishima, a Japa
nese food manufacturing company-owned Japanese restaurant. The entire tour was approximately 3-1/2 hours as was mentioned in their tour description. Dress comfortably and wear comfortable shoes. What was nice is that for those of us who didn't want to walk back from Third Street, Lisa and Diane took care of everyone's bus fares.

Overall, I really enjoyed my experience. Of course, the tasting part was wonderful, but even more than that, the great information that the sisters gave throughout our tour was really helpful. Also having some of the owners of the various shops come out and talk briefly to us about their business and their food was definitely a bonus. In the end, I am really looking forward to finding out what else Melting Pot Tours has in store for all of us and hopefully through them, locals and visitors alike will start getting a better appreciation of the wonderful LA foodie culture.

To see pics, go to:

Melting Pot Tours
P. O. Box 844
Manhattan Beach, CA 90267

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