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SoCal food tours provide unique experience

March 10, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
With Six Taste Food Tours, guests get to walk among skyscrapers and feast. Founder Jeff Okita has created several walking tours throughout Southern California that focus on food.

The Downtown Los Angeles Food Tour route is their most popular, according to Okita. Participants get a taste of the area's diverse food selection, as well as learn about the ongoing revitalization of the downtown area.

"You're going to get to meet proprietors of restaurants. You're going to be able to try foods that maybe are even off the menu and made especially for Six Taste guests," said Okita.

The half-day walking tour arranges generous tastings at about six different eateries, such as the modern Thai cuisine offered at Soi 7 restaurant. Some of the highlights offered include freshly breaded calamari, spicy tofu pad thai, whiskey marinated ribs, fried pineapple rice and the very special Kobe beef dish known as the "Crying Tiger."

"The beef is so tender, when the tiger took his first bite, it was so delicious it made him cry," explained Okita.

Soi 7 gladly welcomes the food tour guests because it encourages locals, as well as tourists, to visit and explore.

Another tasty stop is Syrup Desserts, located on Spring Street, which is lined with beautiful trees as well as historic and cultural landmarks. Once inside, dive in to banana Belgian waffles, Big Man cupcakes, red velvet Ding Dongs and multiple varieties of gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches.

"We want to be the Willy Wonka of grilled cheese sandwiches," said manager "Stan the Man."

A warm, gooey concoction drizzled with agave and powdered sugar was just one of the many sweet treats the Six Taste tour guests are treated to.

"This is my favorite," said Celeste Perez of Six Taste. "On the inside it has raspberry and brie and on the outside it's just this amazing croissant."

Syrup Desserts invites guests to return to their shop at another time and hang out upstairs in the lounge, stacked with board games, books and other playful distractions.

A new spot called Two Bits Market has joined the renaissance. The owners carefully select the specialty items which include all organic produce, natural and bio-dynamic wines, as well as local and imported high-end products.

"We do a really good job. We take a lot of pride in the cheese," said owner Corbett Miller.

When Miller moved in two blocks away a few years ago, he recognized the need for a shop like Two Bits Market.

"Our original goal was just the organic, clean food for downtown Los Angeles," said Miller.

A deli counter was added, stocked with responsibly-farmed meats and fresh fixings. Six Taste Food Tours guests can enjoy some of the scrumptious signature deli creations, which may include the Doubloon (smoked turkey, house aiolo, provolone, red peppers and basil puree) or the Ruble (corned beef, Swiss cheese, house slaw and Russian dressing).

My favorite is the Lira (prosciutto, Black Forest ham, hot copa, pepperoni, salami, provolone, banana peppers and red wine vinegar).

"I would definitely suggest people come to the tours hungry. You're going to get a lot of food on the tours," said Okita.

Come hungry and with an open mind.

"By the time they're done here, they have a whole new perception of downtown Los Angeles, which is terrific," said Miller.

Other Six Taste Food Tours are available in Santa Monica, Thai Town, Little Tokyo, Arcadia and West Hollywood. (It's tourism and service, so please make sure to bring money to tip your tour guide afterward!)