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JAN-FEB 2017

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48 J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 7 C ulinary curiosity continues to captivate our culture, and many people today are looking for foodcentric experiences when they travel. Affi nity groups can attract a lot of travelers and, perhaps, some new members by offering culinary tours to tasty destinations. But the mechanics of a food- focused trip are substantially different than those of a tra- ditional group tour. We spoke with representatives of two destinations with great food cultures — New Orleans, Louisiana, and Columbus, Ohio — and gathered fi ve tips for helping you plan culinary trips for your group. 1) TAKE LOCAL FOOD TOURS. Trying to arrange culinary experiences in cities you don't know well is a daunting task. But many destinations now have local tour companies that specialize in culinary expeditions that showcase the fl avors of the city. "New Orleans Secrets off ers a Magazine Street foodie tour where you will fi nd some of the culinary giants in the city, including James Beard Award winners," said Kristian Sonnier, vice president of communications and public rela- tions at the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. " ey can also take you to the French Quarter to some of the grand dames of creole dining for the quintessential New Orleans experience." In Columbus, a company called Columbus Food Adventures can customize its off erings to large groups. " ey can do afternoon tours or even all-day tours," said Roger Dudley, senior tourism sales man- ager at Experience Columbus. " ey can really act as a receptive operator to do the whole culinary side of Columbus." C A R E E R C O R N E R a defi ning feature 2) INCORPORATE FOOD-THEMED ATTRACTIONS. Travelers can only eat so much food in a day, but epicureans will enjoy visits to attractions that are focused on the culinary arts. In Co- lumbus, that means shopping at Crema Nut Company, makers of or- ganic peanut butter, as well as tours of Anthony omas Chocolates. " ey make the buckeye, which is our staple here in Columbus," Dudley said. " ere is a catwalk on the second fl oor so you can overlook the produc- tion area and see how chocolate is made." e food culture in New Orleans off ers plenty of attractions as well. One of the most prominent is the Southern Food and Beverage Muse- um, where exhibits trace the history of creole and Cajun fl avors of Louisiana, as well as other regional traditions from throughout the South. In addition to learn- ing about the food itself, visitors are introduced to the farmers, fi shermen, hunters, processors, in- ventors, chefs and businesspeople who contribute to the Southern food scene. 3) TAKE COOKING CLASSES. Many food enthusiasts relish opportunities to get their hands dirty preparing food when they travel. An ideal way to provide that experience is to take your group to a cooking class. "Right next door to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum is Isaac Toup's new restaurant with a performance kitchen," said Sonnier. "It's 20 seats in a box shape with the chef in the middle. You watch the chef prepare everything; then you can get behind the stove yourself." Top: Beer tasting in New Orleans, courtesy New Orleans CVB Bottom: Group cooking class, courtesy Experience Columbus BY BRIAN JEWELL make local foods interest tours CULINARY SPECIAL

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