A Culinary Adventure, From Gardens and Markets to Restaurants and Home Kitchens
Oct 9, 2012
01:16 PM
Local Flavor

Take a Walk

Take a Walk

Fall is officially here; summer has come to its bittersweet end. I have no regrets. In fact, I had an awesome summer. One of the greatest parts of this summer was getting to know my favorite eastside neighborhoods better-—one bite at a time.

I enjoyed flaky pastries steeped with vanilla and lemon; fragrant soup, rich with the spices of North Africa; mouth watering steamed buns heaped with savory tender meat; and crisp-crusted fish, topped with a rich candlenut sauce infused with hints of ginger and lemon.

Though I frequent the Marquette and Atwood neighborhoods, I didn't often venture outside my familiar stomping grounds. That all changed when I launched a walking food tour business last year. This summer it really began to take shape. I led groups of friends, moms, families and business executives through the historic Atwood and Willy Street neighborhoods, across busy streets, to parks and even through pouring rain and thunder to sample various dishes at an ecclectic mix of restaurants.

In a nutshell, the tours take participants on a 1.5 to 2 mile walk through the neighborhoods, mixing history, samples of food, a chance to meet the faces behind the amazing food, and great company.

Someone asked me once if I ever get tired of going to the same restaurants. Never. Each experience is unique and amazing. I tried an eggroll-stuffed spring roll for the first time just last month at Ha Long Bay. I witnessed many people swoon at the first bite Mermaid Cafe's perfect quiche and Sardine's melt-in-your-mouth goat cheese appetizer.

For me, the most rewarding part of leading the tours is experiencing the dedication, love and pride that each owner, chef, baker, server and staff member puts into their particular restaurant, and into their community. As we sit at a table, or a bar, and taste the food that the chefs have showcased for us, we have the unique opportunity to listen to their stories.

Michael Ding from Umami tells us how their coveted dumplings are like those his mother made. Lisa Jacobson from Mermaid Cafe uses her map of Wisconsin to illustrate just where the cheese she uses came from (via milk from her sister's farm!), and Sone Inthachith from Lao Laan Xang relays the history of many Laotian immigrants, including his family, to Wisconsin.

I have always known that food connects and nourishes our community. Now, through the backdrop of  beautiful neighborhoods and amazing stories, I can taste it.

For more information on Otehlia's tours, go to aworldflavortours.com.

About This Blog

Writing has always provided an anchor for my passions, which focus deeply on food, dance, environmental conservation and culture. I grew up “helping” my dad cultivate a prolific garden that produced too many radishes and watching my mom make almost all of our food from scratch, including horehound candy. Meanwhile I took my first African dance class in high school, which ignited my continuing quest to travel to West Africa, via Europe and South America, to study dance.

Through my travels, I learned that we are all connected by food, and our basic need to eat. Since moving to Madison in 1998 to pursue degrees in conservation biology and dance, I have developed an appreciation for the richness of our local food community, and a great desire to share it with others. What started as a personal food blog, A World of Flavors, has since grown into a business teaching cooking classes and leading local and international food tours.

I look forward to sharing culinary adventures with you through my Madison Magazine blog Local Flavor and monthly Dining In recipe column.

  – Otehlia Cassidy
Follow Otehlia on Twitter @madisoneats

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