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Local tours aim to showcase Halifax's diverse food culture

The Neighbourhood Food Tours allow residents to explore many of Halifax's unique communities with an all-inclusive walking food and drink excursion
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Neighbourhood Food Tours chief curator Alexander Henden

A company is hoping to spread the city’s wealth of local delights among fellow residents with a set of Neighbourhood Food Tours.

Created by the people behind Curated Food & Drink Magazine, the Neighbourhood Food Tours have been specifically designed to connect “people to the best places to eat in Halifax” — and so far, the epicurean excursions have been a hit.

“It’s been all locals that are interested in knowing more about restaurants and neighbourhoods, and maybe discovering some new restaurants or new dishes that they have never had before,” says chief curator Alexander Henden,  “We’ve had numerous people who really had no idea of some of the stuff that is going on.”

Starting up in July after a slight delay due to the May-long pandemic lockdown, the Neighbourhood Food Tours are a set of four gastronomic pilgrimages targeted at hand-picked dining options in various neighbourhoods from Downtown Halifax to Spring Garden Road to Quinpool Road and the North End as well as a seafood tour.

“Our focus in the beginning was really to develop quality tours as opposed to marketing and figuring it out as we went along,” says Henden of the approximate three-hour dining treks. “Now we are starting to market it more and we are starting to fill up tours more.”

Curated Food & Drink Magazine was already involved in planning food-related events before this summer. Having run the East Coast Cider Festival for the past few years, Henden says Curated had long been eager to get more involved in event planning and food tours.

“We thought about doing them about three or four years ago,” explains Henden, noting various distractions would sidetrack the idea. “(But) after the lockdown came, the idea of it resurfaced and we decided this time around we would move forward with it.”

For about $100, Curated’s Neighbourhood Food Tours supply all the food and drink for up to ten people — or as many as 14 for private bookings. As well, Henden will guide each afternoon walking tour with the website’s promise to “learn lots of cool stuff along the way.”

“We don’t do any dinnertime stuff,” adds Henden, saying it’s better for restaurants to host tours in-between their peak hours. “We typically visit six stops (and) there’s a menu set for each one and there’s a bit of neighbourhood history but the main focus is the food and drink.”

Henden says that although the pandemic played an influential role in rejuvenating the Neighbourhood Food Tours idea, COVID-19 didn’t necessarily drive Curated’s decision to specifically put the spotlight on local restaurants.

“There is obviously a need on the restaurant end but a lot of their challenges have to do with staffing and capacity and things like that,” says Henden of the pandemic’s pressure on local restaurateurs. “(But) people are going to the restaurants — we’re just trying to shift people over to the local restaurants where things tend to be fresher, there tends to be more local beer and wine on the menu, more farmers and producers are represented proportionately than they would at like Boston Pizza or Jack Astor’s.”

Henden says people are certainly becoming more aware of Halifax’s growing reputation in gastronomy. He only hopes that with his Neighbourhood Food Tours, even more Haligonians will recognize how far the city’s local restaurateurs have come in recent years.

“We hit above our belt here. We are recognized in the same breath as Ottawa and maybe not quite Toronto but the top food cities in the country,” says Henden. “Now it is our time to have this diverse food culture.”

For more information on the Neighbourhood Food Tours, visit the website.

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