Foodie Underground: Hyperlocal Food Tours in Boulder

ColumnLocal Table Tours in Boulder show us why this Colorado town is a foodie hotspot.

Food tourism is nothing new, after all, how long have people gone to Paris in search of fresh baguettes? But as the internet continues to make the world seemingly smaller and inexpensive air travel flourishes, culinary tourism is on the upswing. But culinary tourism isn’t just for gourmands in search of authentically made foie gras or taking the legal steps to ensure that a sense of national food identity isn’t lost, showcasing food is just as important on smaller, local scales.

A local business in Boulder, Colorado is proving that point. Established in 2010, Local Table Tours brings small groups on a culinary walking tour to locally owned restaurants in the heart of this Colorado foodie hotspot. Owner and local food blogger Megan Bucholz launched Local Table Tours after a friend went on a food tour in Seattle and encouraged her to launch a similar venture at home.

With a lot of local residents from the nearby Denver area taking part in her tours, Bucholz has built her business to not only explore food, but benefit the local businesses of Boulder. “The idea of the tour is that at the end you get to decide where you want to return because I want to drive business back to the restaurants.” Her tours include downtown dining tours, market-to-tables tours and even more coffee-centric ones for the caffeine obsessed, because as it turns out, Boulder has a lot to offer.

Compared to New York, San Francisco or Seattle, Boulder is small, but it’s quickly becoming a foodie stronghold, even named Bon Appetit‘s Foodiest Town in 2010. “If you’re into food come to Boulder because you can experience so much in such a small place and the quality is phenomenal,” says Bucholz.

Part of that comes from the creativity and ingenuity of the local culinary crowd; Boulder’s mere location requires some thinking when it comes to food. “We’re in a tough region, our growing season is short. A lot of people want to embrace the farm-to-table approach but if you do you need a strategy,” says Bucholz, pointing out that some restaurants end up storing certain foods so that they’ll have it on hand in the future. She cites the well renowned Salt as an example, noting that last year they stored apples so they could serve them in February. “That takes serious planning.”

As with many aspects of the food movement, it’s easy to assume that these types of tours draw a crowd already obsessed with food and well versed on food issues, but on the contrary, Bucholz welcomes tour participants that come from all kinds of backgrounds, foodies or not, allowing her tours to not only focus on locally owned businesses, but to become a way of educating about local food and agriculture. “I get a lot of guests on my tours that learn in the process,” says Bucholz.

And this is where operations like Local Table Tours have the opportunity to change how we think about food. As Bucholz is quick to point out, not every restaurant that she works with is farm-to-table, but being locally owned businesses they are all committed to a heightened level of awareness when it comes to food. One example she cites is one of her favorite chefs, Theo Adley, who last year opened The Pinyon. “He’s one of the people representing American artisanal foods, and doesn’t have a single thing that’s imported.”

Ultimately, it’s not about promoting one food over another, it’s about promoting a community that’s committed to serving good food and engaging a conversation that addresses food questions.

The advantage of being in such a progressive and creative food-centric town full of locally owned businesses? “It’s always changing. You go in today for dinner, you go in next week there’s something else. It’s never boring unless you’re going to the Cheesecake Factory for lunch,” says Bucholz.

Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’s weekly column at EcoSalon, Foodie Underground, discovering what’s new and different in the underground food movement, from supper clubs to mini markets to the culinary avant garde.

Image: krossbow

Anna Brones

Anna Brones is a food + travel writer with a love for coffee and bikes. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Catch her weekly column, Foodie Underground.