Park City Food Tours experience cuisine, art and history
January 9, 2015
One way to experience the culture of an area is through its food. Other ways include visiting local museums and art galleries.
This is what Park City Food Tours does, said founder Shirin Spangenberg,
"I thought how cool it would be to take a group of people from the top of Main Street and make our way down and hop into some restaurants for a taste of their cuisine," Spangenberg told The Park Record. "In between those stops, I thought it would be nice to stop in at the Park City Museum and some art galleries along the way."
So, Spangenberg started the Park City Food Tours in 2012.
"I was a docent for the Park City Museum for a couple of years and I had heard about a tour that included food," she said. "Since Park City has great restaurants on Main Street I thought this would be a great idea."
Spangenberg added the historical and artistic element because of her knowledge of Park City, which she has called home for 21 years.
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"I have been involved in everything from the chamber, various open-space committees and am on the board of the Park City Restaurant Association," she said. "Since I work closely with the museum and have been a docent there, I do know quite a bit of Park City history, and the history of the West, for that matter."
During the winter, Park City Food Tours are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning at 3:45 p.m.
"They usually last about three hours, but depending on how much fun we’re having, a tour can stretch into four hours," Spangenberg said.
The tour format is simple.
"We visit restaurants, taste some of the food and get a feeling of what the restaurant is all about," Spangenberg explained. "We get to learn about the history and concept of the restaurant and get to know a little more about the ambiance and the décor as well as some of the specialty dishes."
"We have about 30 restaurants on Main Street so we have a plethora to choose from," she said. "And in my opinion, dining is supposed to be an experience. It’s not just about the food you taste, but how it’s presented and served."
Spangenberg added stops at the museum and art galleries to give participants a rest between tastings.
"I found that when we visit the restaurants, the group does start to get full, so if we visited these other places, it would break things up and become more entertaining," she said. "During the stops, we can talk about history and enjoy some art while we wait for the food to digest, before moving on to the next restaurant."
Over the past 30 years, Park City has become a culinary destination, according to Spangenberg.
"When Deer Valley come into town in the 1980s, it brought Park City up a level when it came to food," she said. "People could go skiing and then return to eat some amazing food in the resort’s fine restaurants.
"That spilled onto Main Street with other restaurateurs such as Bill White opening Grappa and such," Spangenberg said. "Today, we are extremely lucky with the talent we have at these places. Chefs at the Bistro, Riverhorse and Silver and the Wasatch Brew Pub make these incredible dishes."
When she sets up a food tour Spangenberg selects and contacts the restaurants she wants to visit.
"I schedule the restaurants a season at a time," she said. "In doing so, I try not to pick two restaurants that serve the same cuisine."
She also combines casual eateries with fine-dining establishments.
"That works the best," Spangenberg said. "It keeps the price down and has been the most successful with the participants."
In addition, she doesn’t tell the restaurants what to serve.
"I tell them to put their best foot forward and they do," Spangenberg said. "The chefs get very creative, so I don’t know what we’ll be served. That is exciting for me because there are amazing things that come out of these kitchens."
Spangenberg can accommodate between four and 12 people per tour.
"I originally wanted to do 16 people, but that was like herding cats," she said, laughing. "We also can schedule special tours on the other days of the week."
The winter tours are $67 per person and that includes the tour and the food.
"I can’t offer alcohol because of Utah law, but if people want to have wine or something like that at the restaurants, they can purchase those drinks on their own and enjoy it with the food," she said. "We time it with reservations so we don’t have to do any backtracking up the street, to make it easier on the participants, especially those who are here from a lower altitude."
In addition to the food tours, Spangenberg is starting a Gazing and Grazing tour. The first will be held on Friday, Jan. 16.
"This is a tour where the group will enjoy meat and cheese plates at different Main Street galleries," she sad. "During these tours, a gallery owner or assistant will come and talk to us about the art that is in the galleries while we enjoy some little morsels. That’s kind of special because when someone tells us about the art who knows the artist, we develop an emotional connection with the piece."
One of the fun things about these tours is the lack of a dress code, Spangenberg said.
"Many people who dine in these places have been skiing all day and just show up with their bibs on," she said. "So when people ask me what the dress code is, I tell them they can dress up if they want, but they don’t have to. However, I advise against heels, because we do quite a bit of walking downhill."
For more information about the Park City Food Tours, visit http://www.parkcityfoodtours.com . For more information about Gazing and Grazing Tours, call 435-640-6371.
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