Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Peachtree Food Tours

"Increasingly, I've found food to be one of the deciding factors when choosing a new place to visit." That was said by Adam of Travels of Adam in a story titled, Travel for Food - The Importance of Food in Tourism.

I wholeheartedly agree with Adam on this matter and am thrilled to share with you a fantastic new way to experience Atlanta's food...John Hannula's new Peachtree Food Tours!

Peachtree Food Tour
Peachtree Food Tours, Cypress Street Pint & Plate

I started this post with a photo of a dish that wasn't on our first stop...because it's the best burger I've ever had in my life! This burger, Cypress Street Pint & Plate's Sublime Doughnut Burger, is made with two Sublime Doughnut doughnuts, applewood bacon and caramelized onions! 

Some of you may think that it was the bacon that made this burger so good. Of course the doughnuts were a significant feature, but the caramelized onions were magnificent! And our sip on this stop was a local beer. I always prefer local beverages (and locally grown food) when available—and it fortunately is in a LOT of Atlanta dining establishments.

Peachtree Food Tour
Peachtree Food Tours, The Varsity

Our tour started at a MARTA station in Midtown, easy for visitors to get to if they haven't rented a car for their visit, and it beats having to figure out parking!

Our first stop...The Varsity! This place is an Atlanta icon and a has a legendary provenance, and it's the original The Varsity and it's definitely "an experience!" To give you an idea, their brochure shares this: "Two miles of hot dogs, a ton of onions, 2,500 pounds of potatoes, 5,000 fried pies and 300 gallons of chili are made from scratch daily." 

I encourage you to read up on the restaurant's fascinating history, too. It may not seem like the most illustrious first stop, but believe me, you're in store for a memorable tour!

John was kind enough to answer a few questions about the tour. I asked him what was the catalyst for Peachtree Food Tours, given that it's quite different from his career. Here's what he shared:
"All three of my grown sons are entrepreneurs, never really having had a boss. So, I retired in 2008 as the Operations Manager for a small company that built luxury homes and in 2009 the conversations with each of my sons went something like this, 'Dad, you're too young to be retired. You should start your own company.' My response was typically, 'And what would that company do?  No more houses for me so what do you suggest?' Their retort was, 'We'll figure out something for you to do!"
Fast forward to September 30 of 2014, walking down Peachtree Street with my oldest son who has lived in the UK for the past 10 years. As we headed to lunch to enjoy the world's greatest burger, I was telling Todd why this burger was like no other burger, ever! He blurted out, 'Dad! You need to do a food tour!' One of the great perks of having a son with an MBA is that in one hour (and two beers), I had a business plan. Then we went to Villains and had a "Prohibited at Turner Field". Wow! Todd was laughing as he said it, but I got the message, 'Dad! This is a friggin' no-brainer! If you don't do a food tour I'm never coming back to Atlanta!'
The key to life is often in just the listening!"

Peachtree Food Tour, Livingston, Shrimp & Grits
Peachtree Food Tours, Livingston, Shrimp & Grits

Many of you know how much I enjoy Livingston Restaurant, in The Georgian Terrace. I was thrilled to learn that it was on that day's tour! And delightfully Southern that we would enjoy Shrimp & Grits! Our sip on this stop was a Riesling, which I rarely drink—I've not had many that I truly enjoyed—but this one was great and paired nicely with the Low Country dish.

In addition to a recent birthday brunch, dinner and drinks at Livingston has become a tradition for me before every show I see at The Fox Theatre, and other times just because.

Peachtree Food Tour
Peachtree Food Tours, Saint Mark United Methodist Church

As you can see from the photo above, we were treated to a tour of Saint Mark United Methodist Church, a church that I've long wanted to see the inside of. It’s beautiful.

Peachtree Food Tours is a delightful mash-up tour of food, drink, architecture and history.
When I asked John why he thinks that’s such a winning combination, he shared:


"I am convinced that today's information bombardment has created a much more sophisticated traveler, maybe not in the fine dining/wine aficionado sense, but in the 'I want the back story, I want to be entertained while learning, I want to easily relate the cost of the tour to the total experience, and I want to have something cool to tell my friends when I get home' type of traveler. My hope is that my guests have a really great story to tell others about the incredible, crazy, yummy, history-driven experience they had with John. Even if they only remember a third of what just happened to them!"

Peachtree Food Tour, Cypress Street Pint & Ale
Peachtree Food Tours, Cypress Street Pint & Plate

Valentine's Day! Let me tell you about a sweet treat that John has in store for this Valentine's Day tourees. After their food tour, he's treating them to a shopping experience! And that's not all. He's also giving tourees—complements of John himself—special gifts at EVERY tour stop! How sweet is that?! 

There are only a few tickets remaining, so if this sounds like something you want to do, sign up soon. Speaking of limited tickets, these tours are an intimate experience. There are only eight slots per tour, including John. You not only get to enjoy Atlanta's awesome cuisine, you're very likely to make a new friend or two.


Peachtree Food Tour, Three Taverns
Peachtree Food Tours, Three Taverns

Peachtree Food Tours is a tastes and sips experience. The sips range from local craft beer, such as the Three Taverns' White Hops we had at Cypress Street Pint & Plate, to wines, bubbles and other fun libations.

It sounds like a lot, but they're sips and after walking a mile and enjoying so many tastes, you've had a delightful, filling sampling of some of Atlanta's most fun and fine culinary offerings.


Peachtree Food Tour, Rum & Coke & Peanuts
Peachtree Food Tours

Our sip at Villains was a called "Prohibited at Turner Field". John will share the back story on this one, a story I'd never heard. It's fashioned after a childhood treat...salted peanuts in a bottle of Coca-Cola, but they use Mexican Coke. I believe I was one of the only tour guests who was familiar with this Southern "traditional" way of enjoying a Coke. Of course, when I was a kid, we never had it with bourbon, but I wasn't complaining as an adult.

Villains closed its doors shortly after I toured with Peachtree Food Tours, but the owners didn't vacate. They're reopening, very soon from what I hear, as Hi-Five Diner


Peachtree Food Tour, Kale Salad
Peachtree Food Tours, Asian Caesar Salad

I know that kale is considered to be a super food, but I've never really "enjoyed" it. Not until I had Villains' HAIL NERO, aka "Asian Caesar Salad". It's chopped kale, ramen "croutons", white miso dressing and chili flake…the best kale I've ever had!


There's great news for future Peachtree Food Tours tourees...when Hi-Five Diner opens in the same space, they're keeping the same sip and taste on the menu! So, you too may very well have the opportunity to experience a grown-up version of Coca-Cola & Peanuts AND the awesomely delicious Asian Caesar Salad! Seriously...It was so good that I wanted to lick the box!


Peachtree Food Tour, Spinning Rock
Peachtree Food Tours, Rockspinner

I've already shared with you that this is more than just a food tour. The food tour alone is fun, but John wouldn't have be only that. He wants his tourees to experience so much more. Our quick turn around Rockspinner was like being a kid again! 

Rockspinner—technically not the first made, but the first with that designation—was created by artist Zachary Coffin for the 2001 Burning Man. This 22,500 pound boulder is a wonderful piece of public art at the intersection of Peachtree and 10th Street. And just to clarify...yes, this giant rock spins! 

The obvious target audience for Peachtree Food Tours is out-of-town tourists, BUT, as a longtime Atlanta resident, I can say with great confidence that local tourists will enjoy this as much as someone from New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, and any of the other populated continents.

I asked John how he and Peachtree Food Tours would describe Atlanta's food philosophy. He said, "I like the iconic fried peach pie as a Southern start, and then moving on to some fairly sophisticated presentations of classic Southern food. I'm selling Peachtree Street and will continue to narrowly focus on what the South does for fun and fine food. That's a Peachtree Food Tours mantra."


Peachtree Food Tour, Chicken & Bubbly
Peachtree Food Tours, Max's Wine Dive

"Fried Chicken and Champagne...Why the Hell Not?!" is one of the first things you'll see when you visit Max's Wine Dive's website, in addition to a far superior photo of the same subject matter. I don't know why I didn't think of fried chicken and champagne...I love both. So sure, why not?!

There are a LOT of restaurants in Atlanta that do friend chicken, and many do it quite well. This was the first restaurant I've encountered that suggests a champagne pairing, but even without the champagne, their friend chicken is awesome! For the record, for our taste and sipping experience our sip was proseco, and quite a good one.


Peachtree Food Tour, Cafe Intermezzo
Peachtree Food Tours, Cafe Intermezzo

I'd been wanting to go to the relocated Cafe Intermezzo for a while, so I was thrilled that it was on the tour! I'd been visiting the former location on Peachtree near Collier Road and Piedmont Hospital—now Cafe M Rouge Bar & Bistro—since the late 80s. 

I always loved the European feel of Cafe Intermezzo, and John tells me that some of his international tourees have said the same of the new location of this dessert mecca! I forget the name of the dark chocolate dessert I enjoyed, but I fully recall that it was amazing!

The mile-long food tour isn't the end of the experience. One of the things that John does, that I think is brilliant and I do not recall happening after other tours, is that he sends a follow-up "Thank you" email. I've of course received thank yous, but it's the recap of the tour that you just experienced that's such a wonderful capstone of Peachtree Food Tours! 

In one of his earlier comments, John said, speaking to the immensity of the four-hour food tour, "Even if they only remember a third of what just happened to them", tourees will remember a wonderful time, and he's right. We experienced so much, that I would not have remembered everything. AND knowing that the recap email was forthcoming meant I didn't have to take notes...his recap email did that for me!

If you do find yourself basing a travel destination decision influenced by food, I for one think you'll be quite pleased if you choose Atlanta, and Peachtree Food Tours. I personally had the distinct pleasure of the company of fellow foodies, a history lesson on my beloved Atlanta, and a "Peachtree Food Tours" tour that I can hardly wait to repeat!

Get ready to, as John says, "taste...sip...explore!"

1 comment:

Lesli Peterson said...

Wow - this looks like fun. We certainly needed someone to step up to the plate and help us navigate the culinary magic within the city!