The ultimate attraction for a foodie like myself is the Savory Faire food tour, part of CityWalks, which came highly recommended by many internet sites. I was so excited to be invited on this original St. Augustine food tour and it turned out to be the highlight of our vacation. My family, as well as four others, joined guide Shawna and we embarked on this 3 hour, award-winning, walking tour in St. Augustine. The tour makes five to six culinary stops for food and/or drink.
Our first visit was a quick walk to the Old City House Inn & Restaurant, where we were taken into a beautiful courtyard adorned with lovely orchids and fragrant flowers. The Inn dates back to 1873 and is one of the premier Bed and Breakfasts in town. Our plate at Old City House contained a small piece of succulent lamb atop a bed of cabbage risotto that would knock your socks off. It is rare that I eat lamb ( it is just psychological), but this was melt in your mouth goodness and the creative risotto recipe would be an addition to my recipe book had they offered it.
Next, we took a stroll through the Lightner Museum to sample food at their elegant Cafe Alcazar. We dined in the spot that once held the largest swimming pool when the Alcazar Hotel was operational, circa 1887. The sampler they had waiting for us consisted of hearty Mediterranean foods: creamy hummus, tomatoes, cucumbers, pita bread, and olives, plus classically prepared escargot with white wine, garlic butter, and minced herbs.
We detoured through Ancient Olive, a bonus stop, where we sampled olive oils, balsamic vinegars, spreads, honey, and pepitas. My family really enjoyed this stop and made a purchase, of which they offered a small discount since we were on the tour. We also stopped at a wine store that provided us a small orange wine sample as well as a sherbet like frozen drink that was quite tasty.
Athena, the premier Greek restaurant in town, might have been the favorite stop on the tour. We were welcomed by the friendly staff and treated to pure deliciousness on a plate with their Saganaki, basically burning goat cheese. The waiter flambéed the cheese in brandy then dowsed the fire by drizzling lemon juice over it. It is customary for the crowd to cheer Opa! as the cheese burns. The dish was served with fresh pita bread and it was mouthwatering! I really expected that to be the only thing we received at this restaurant but they surprised me by bringing out small plates of gyros, perfectly cooked and tzatziki sauce that was fantastic (eyes rolling back in my head now).
The final stop for the food portion of the tour was to the opulent Casa Monica Hotel where our group had a private room in their lavish Costa Brava at 95 Cordova Restaurant and shared grilled shrimp, Papas Bravas with tangy smoked paprika tomato aioli, and a traditional charcuterie platter. The fig bread with manchego cheese, quince jam, and Italian meats was delectable. I was a happy camper! At this stop, my husband and daughter tried the chocolate martinis which they purchased from the bar. I found the thick wooden furniture, white leather chairs and couches, and Turkish light fixtures to be exquisite. As Blake said, “very Game of Thrones-ish”.
Dessert was a big thumbs up at Claude’s Chocolates where we were treated to a 60% chocolate sample, their best selling caramel sea salt bon-bon, and a chocolate and vanilla soft-serve ice cream with a decorative chocolate garnish that was a delightful touch!
I wish to give Shawna a big shout out for entertaining us with historic facts and friendly conversation in addition to timing the food presentations so perfectly. We enjoyed her wit and personality which made us feel as if we had known her forever. She is a real asset for the company.
For those wishing to participate, the Savory Faire food tour is $49 per person and includes a swag bag with some goodies to take home as well. In addition, for $19 per person, you may also add on a wine sampling that includes 4 glasses of paired wines at different establishments. My best advice is book it now and come hungry; we had not eaten all day when we arrived for the 1:30 tour and were incredibly stuffed by the time we finished. Our group was treated like VIP’s at each establishment and we did not have to wait for food or service.
FYI: The Alcazar Hotel was built by Henry Flagler and was a health center and stomping grounds for the rich and famous. The freshwater pool was the focal point and was built in the center of a four story high building that had a retractable glass ceiling that could be cranked open to see the stars. The second story was home to the musicians and non-swimming guests and a ballroom completed the third floor. Pictures of the hotel and swimming pool can be located as you enter the Lightner Museum.
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