Tag Archives: Food Tour

A Taste Of Naples ~ Margherita Pizza And Negroni di Fortunato

 “People who love to eat are always the best people”… Julia Child knew that food brings people together in the best way possible.  Now we have a new fun and delicious way to bring people together in Roanoke, Virginia.   Tour Roanoke recently announced that they will add A Taste Of Naples at Fortunato in Roanoke, Virginia to their food experience repertoire .   Tempt your tastebuds with an afternoon filled with Neopolitan Pizza,  Negroni Cocktails, fun and intriguing conversation and wine.  Here’s  10 of the best  reasons to share this food experience with friends, family and colleagues:

fortunato sparkling fizz

  1. POP THE CORK! A glass of Frizzante (gently sparkling Italian wine) sets the stage for your Taste of Naples experience.

2. TEAM BONDING IN THE KITCHEN! Fortunato’s Chefs will show you all how to stretch and toss pizza dough, then top it with fresh aromatic ingredients to create magically delicious pizzas. You will enjoy noshing on the pizzas right after they come out of the 1000 degree wood-fired oven!

fortunato oven

fortunato pizza pizza

3.  GOURMAND GUIDES! Curious about Neapolitan pizza, Italian liqueurs and craft cocktails?  Your tour guides, chefs and bartender are bursting at the seams to share their knowledge of the history and lore of Italian food and how it fits into the Roanoke food scene. Thank you to Fortunato’s Chef Jeff Farmer for giving us a fabulous Naples Experience!

fortunato book

Fortunato BartendarFortunato cocktail fire

4. Fortunato’s Bar Manager and Bartender extraordinaire Jackie Gentry will teach you to mix a brilliante Negroni cocktail.

Jackie showed us how to flame an orange twist. Flaming releases the citrus oils from the fruit.   After the flame burns out, rub the peel around the rim of the glass and put a larger strip of peel into the cocktail to serve.

fortunato gin

fortunato cocktail shaker

Fortunato cocktail

Fortunato Amaro

5.  YOU MUST TASTE AMARO! In Italian Amaro is the word for “bitter” and it will get your taste buds attention! An syrupy Italian liqueur made from herbs (rhubarb, chamomile, cardamom, saffron, myrrh and orange peel to name a few). Amaro is often drunk as an after-dinner digestif.  It has an alcohol content between 16 and 40 percent!

6.  LOVIN’ LOCAL! Attending the Taste of Naples Food Experience supports two local businesses: Fortunato and Roanoke Food Tours.

fortunato wine

7. STELLINA! The coziest cocktail bar nestled up next to Fortunato. Open Wednesday – Saturday 5 p.m. until last call. After all that fun stroll over to Stellina and enjoy another Negroni di Fortunato or choose from the extensive list of craft cocktails.  As noted in a recent New York Post article… These 10 tiny bars will give you the world’s biggest buzzes: “The hallmark of a good bar is its ability to make us feel a little less lonely by the time we leave. The hallmark of a good bartender is to bring that feeling to a simmer before sips meets lips. This little Virginian star achieves both.”  (article by Perri Ormont Blumberg)

Fortunato sign

8. THE PEZZO FORTE!  You can come back on Wednesday evening for  half price pizza.

9.  It’s easy to book your reservation…here’s the link: https://www.roanokefoodtours.com

Phone:  540-309-1781 or 1-800-656-0713. A Taste of Naples will be available in early 2018.

10.  Remember…


Santé !

fortunato painting






Fun and Frolic In Your Own Backyard ~ Food Tours!

If you want an excuse to visit a city close by or far away…

or you would like to entertain out-of-town guests with little fuss…

or just looking forward  to slowing down and relaxing while you are served fabulous food all afternoon…

my recommendation is to take a food tour and have a bunch of fun!!!

cropped-hotel-roanoke-2.jpgFood Tours have become very popular all over the world and chances are that you can find a tour as close as your own backyard. Don’t limit yourself to just one tour ~ enjoy a craft beer tour,beer deschutes 2

a Sunday brunch tour…with Bloody Mary’s made with local ingredients perhaps…

bloody mary

a historical and cultural food tour or a wine tour. Since I’ve participated in many of our local food tours I thought it would be helpful to share these 10 tips to keep in mind when planning a tour:

  1.  Let the Food Tour company know about any food allergies or food preferences (vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.).  They should be able to accommodate at least the most common food restrictions.
  2. Take a friend or friends to enjoy the experience with you and take lots of photos to enjoy and salivate over after the tour. A food tour is the perfect way to entertain out-of-town guests…you can enjoy their company, feed them well and you won’t have to do any cooking!

Photo #7 Soup and Sandwich

3. Think about the weather – if it’s too hot or too cold for you then most likely you won’t enjoy the tour. Take the tour when the weather suits you.  Plan ahead for rain or inclement weather. Take a  rain slicker and/or an umbrella if needed. Always wear comfortable shoes appropriate for walking.


4.  Become familiar with the food tour’s cancellation policy. The  policy should be clearly stated on the food tour’s website.

5.  Review the food tour’s website and look for words such as “local”, “history” and “culture” and references to the eateries you will visit on the tour which is usually evidence that the food tour company is working closely with the local food experts to give you a unique and enjoyable experience. If you can’t find the information you are looking for on their website,  just ask the food tour company…they are happy to answer questions and provide all information needed for you and your guests to have a fabulous tour.

chocolate paper 4


6.  On-line reviews about the food tours can be helpful such as Trip Advisor. Expect to taste something different on the tour since the restaurateurs enjoy highlighting their specialties on the tours ~ peanut soup served with homemade spoon bread in a miniature cast iron pan at the Hotel Roanoke in Roanoke, Virginia  is just one yummy example.

7.Make sure the walk is not too long or strenuous for you.  Also make sure transportation is provided on wine and craft-beer tours or have a designated driver so you can maximize your fun quotient on the tour.

8. Check (on the food tour’s website) to see if gratuities are accepted by the tour guides.  At the end of the tour take time to complete an on-line review of the tour.

9. Allow plenty of time for the tour. You don’t want to feel rushed as you enjoy your last spoonful of gelato or morsel of fresh coconut cake!

10. Fall in love with food tours…allow yourself a little extra time in the city you are touring for sight-seeing or shopping. Then plan a return trip to visit as soon as possible!

Please visit Roanoke Food Tours website for food, craft beer and wine tours in Roanoke and Lexington, Virginia:


river and rail salad

In addition..Four Food Tour Feel Goods:

  1. In many cases you will be supporting a local small business that operates the food tours.
  2. You will also be supporting local restaurants, cafes, eateries and wineries and when you return home you can encourage others to visit the places you enjoyed the most.
  3. The food tour may provide coupons at the end of the tour so you will be able to enjoy those on a return visit.

cheese store

4.You may meet someone fascinating such as the lady I met that owns the cheese shop in Lexington, Virginia…the cheeses she sells in her shop are AMAZING!

Meg Hall is the owner of Cheese To You, Fine Artisan and Curated, Name-Protected Cheese.  As she explains, her expertise is cheese and she continues to broaden my understanding of cheese through travel and education. I am a member of the American Cheese Society, and regularly attend the Society’s conferences and professional development seminars. I’ve  also completed the Master’s Cheese Class coursework at the New York City’s Artisanal Cheese Center.




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Lexington, Virginia ~Love Local Food Tours!

Red Henred hen risottored hen blackberriesred hen wine

Our Lexington, Virginia food tour continues…this tour was packed with so many delicious and delightful eateries that I cannot fit all of the information into just one post! For a review of the dessert specialties offered on this tour please visit: https://beckysbubblesblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/26/food-tour-lexington-virginia-how-sweet-it-is.

One of my favorite stops on the tour was The Red Hen Restaurant has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Southern Living and Virginia Living Magazine.

Chef Becca Norris who owns the Red Hen Restaurant with her husband Chef Matt Adams shared with us their philosophy of farm-to-table: “Good food is not meant to be thrown in a  truck. It should be picked and eaten.”


Becca graciously served us Risotto with Mushroom Duxelles with Pecorino Cheese in local pottery bowls.  She happened to have just picked some blackberries so she shared those with us too.

Please visit the Red Hen blog ~ great content and delicious photos!!!


Martini signred hen wine

Our risotto was accompanied by a lovely 2014  rosé wine from Barren Ridge Vineyards in Fishersville, Virginia.  Chambourcin, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Vidal Blanc grapes blend perfectly into a beautiful pale pink dry rosé. Bright strawberry notes. A beautiful summer wine!

Stonewall Jackson gardenbeets

The Red Hen Restaurant gets many of their herbs and some fresh heirloom produce from the historic Stonewall Jackson House garden located across the street from the restaurant.

Red Hen at Home

Meal Kits prepared by the Red Hen’s Chef Matt Adams are available at the Blue Phoenix Cafe and Market  in Lexington, Virginia. The kit includes all of the ingredients you’ll need for a delicious meal with step-by-step instructions to prepare the meal.


Examples of meal kit menus:
Arctic Char w/ Fingerling Potatoes, Cherry tomatoes, Dijon Crème & Dill
Serves 2

Moroccan Skirt Steak, Harissa Spiced Coucous, Chermoula, & Kalamata Olives
Serves 2 – 4

BBQ’d Pork Kebabs w/ Cilantro Lime Rice
2 – 3

Grana Padano Crusted Organic Chicken Breast w/ Yellow Squash, Basil & Caper Linguini
Serves 2 – 3

We had the pleasure of visiting the Blue Phoenix Restaurant on our tour…

salad phenoix

Wow, you know the chefs are special when they put an edible orchid on your salad. This lovely plate was served at the Blue Phoenix Restaurant.  All Vegetarian All the Time with lots of vegan and gluten free options.  We enjoyed the Counterfeit Crabcake ~ hearts of palm – zucchini cakes served on a bed of spring mix, local tomatoes, red onions and house-made Chesapeake Sauce.


Another marvelous restaurant that is included on the tour is the Southern Inn Restaurant.

neon sign

Neon signs are no longer allowed in Lexington proper, but this one was grandfathered in since it had been hanging in front of the Southern Inn Restaurant since 1932.

fried chicken

As gals of the south, my grandmother and then my mother made the best fried chicken, but the Southern Inn makes the BESSSSST fried chicken!  It is marinated overnight in buttermilk and then double-breaded before frying.

A fun fact about Lexington is that there are rumors of ghosts ~ to be expected in a historical city.  On the tour be sure to ask your tour guide Amelia about the friendly children ghosts in the Southern Inn kitchen ~ so much fun!

wine 2

Rockbridge Winery created this wine label especially for the Southern Inn.


Southern Inn’s wine list is a pleasant surprise:


electric carelectric car charging station

There were surprises around every corner in Lexington as we noshed our way through this iconic city.  As we listened to our tour guide tell us about the history of Lexington, we found this “Gem” (the name of this electric car is Gem!) parked behind one of the older brick buildings with it’s charger station nearby.  1930 meets 2016!  Isn’t this car cute? Actually it is a great utility vehicle!


pure eats photopure eats

Hamburger Place Pure EatsPure Eats hamburger

Pure Eats Restaurant (1930’s renovated cottage style gas station that used to be a Pure Oil) serves the General ~ Bold Rock Cider and OJ ~ the Pure Eats version of a Mimosa and the Keydet ~ Bloody Mary Mix & Devil’s Backbone ~ Pure Eats version of a Red Eye.

We sampled the BEST hamburger at Pure Eats. They are known for the “Best Burger in the Shenandoah Valley”.  Lucky college students that have this eatery right down the street!

As their menu explains:  We serve fresh, local, single-steer hamburgers from Buffalo Creek Beef, processed here in Lexington at Donald’s Meats.  Topped by melted Swiss, Cheddar, American or Pepper Jack cheese and served on a toasted kaiser roll with your choice of lettuce, grilled onions, raw onions, pickles, tomato, mushrooms, jalapenos or thick-cut bacon, this is as good as a burger gets.  


Sides include golden beer-battered fries, sweet potato fries, beer battered onion rings, fried mushrooms, fried pickles and Rt. 11 Chips.


Movie sign

Sign on street corner from the movie Sommersby  that was filmed in Lexington in 1993, starring Jodie Foster and Richard Gere.

More to come about this FABULOUS tour in future posts…


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Food Tour – Lexington, Virginia – How Sweet It Is!

food tour sign

 Welcome to the first in a series of blog posts about the Lexington Food Tour that I enjoyed with my bubbly friend on Saturday. The tour treated us to all kinds of healthy and delicious foods followed by fabulous desserts.  Life is short…so let’s eat dessert first!


shoes Amelia

To start the tour us gals need shoes the color of sherbet…these lime sherbet shoes belonging to our fabulous tour guide Amelia are appropriate walking shoes for the tour.

food tour shoes

My shoes the color of rainbow sherbet are not appropriate for the tour. Fortunately I did not wear them on this walking tour.

robert e lee hotel

We started our tour at the Robert E. Lee Hotel, home of the Rocca Bar and Restaurante. On this particular day the restaurant graciously offered samples of Zeppoli…delicious ricotta fritters, powdered sugar and nutella sauce on the side…to visitors who happened by. The people in this town are so friendly!



When was the last time you saw one of these?!  Pay telephones in booths in the Robert E. Lee Hotel lobby.

pure eats photopure eats

One of our stops on the tour was this  1930’s cottage style gas station that used to be a Pure Oil. The current building (photo on right) still has many original details including the blue tile roof and the “P’s” on the chimney. Since 2011, the building has housed Pure Eats Restaurant.


Pure Eats DoughnutsPure eats doughnuts maple

Pure Eats Restaurant DELICIOUS doughnuts ~ made fresh every day in the restaurant. IF they have doughnuts left over at the end of the day they take them to the Security guards at Stonewall Jackson Hospital and Washington and Lee University. Now that is SWEET!

Pronto gelato


Although we were served  a lot of delicious food on the tour we were always ready for the next course because we knew it would be tasty and delightful and the walking in between the seven tasting venues gave us a little respite between bites. Our last course was Fig and Cardamom Gelato at Pronto Caffe & Gelateria. We enjoyed talking with one of the owners Franky who shared how he learned to make gelato in Italy – a fascinating story that you will enjoy on the tour. His teacher told him that Vanilla Gelato should “taste like a butterfly on your tongue”.

This lovely caffe also serves Espresso Affogato (1 flavor gelato “drowned” in espresso)  and Moscato Affogato (1 flavor gelato “drowned” in moscato wine) delizioso!  Over 15 types of gelato offered daily. Salads, soups and sandwiches are on the menu too.


gelato 2

 coffee sweetcoffee sweet cup

After the tour relax and have a cup of Lexington Coffee Roasters coffee…take some beans home to enjoy the next morning.  http://www.lexingtoncoffee.com/about-us


We were pleasantly full at the end of the tour but we wanted to take a little piece of Lexington home with us so we stopped at the Cocoa Mill Chocolatier to purchase some delightful and delicious chocolates to take home.  We brought a refrigerator bag with some bags of ice in it in anticipation of purchasing perishable goodies to take home. The Cocoa Mill Chocolatier makes award winning handmade artisan chocolates…received accolades from the Wall Street Journal, Bon Appetit, CBS Morning News and the Washington Post.


chocolate 2

If you love food…love the charm of Main Street…love friendly people…love local…you will LOVE LEXINGTON!  I will post more photos and memories from our Lexington food tour soon.


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Falling in Love with Food Tours!

Today I fell in love with my hometown, Roanoke, Virginia all over again by taking The Historic Downtown Roanoke Food and Cultural Tour.


My culinary crush began at “The Grand Old Lady” Hotel Roanoke (pictured above) where we were served their  legendary peanut soup and spoon bread pictured below. http://www.hotelroanoke.com/about/


As we proceeded on our tour our lovely and lively guide Amelia made good on her promise to combine the vibrancy of downtown Roanoke, its colorful past, plus our city’s impressive food culture into a unique experience.

downtown roanoke lebanease

Our next stop was Cedars Lebanese Restaurant where we enjoyed Sambousek (meat pies) served over Tabouleh. When we entered this restaurant we were greeted with warm aromas of lemon and Mediterranean spices. I will definitely frequent this restaurant using one of the coupons that was generously included in our tour pamphlet.


event_435462230Imagine our delight when we stumbled upon the Southwest Virginia Ballet in costume for the Cinderella! The photograph above (that’s our fabulous tour guide Amelia on the far right front) was taken by ExposureRoanoke.com at the Taubman Museum.


In between Taubman Museum and Billy’s Restaurant sits Appalachian Press (beautiful assortment of printed greeting cards available here).  This location was originally Ferris Grocery Store (note the name on the front step).



Billy’s Restaurant was an all-around favorite with our group.  We wet our whistles with Devil’s Backbone award-winning Vienna Lager.  Then we enjoyed Billy’s signature Shrimp and Grits (pictured above). This dish is made even more remarkable with a local twist ~ bits of Smithfield Ham!



At this point we were getting pleasantly full, not only with food, but historical information about Roanoke.  Since I am a native Roanoker, I was surprised to learn so many “new to me” tidbits of information about Roanoke.


 Our next stop was Firefly Restaurant located in the historical Downtown Roanoke Market Building. We were treated to Curried Chicken Mango Salad (pictured above). Firefly locally sources many of their ingredients.  They have an awesome juice bar!




 When my parents moved to Roanoke in 1952 their favorite (and actually only “fast food” choice) place to get a hamburger was the Texas Tavern. Fast forward 63 years and we are still enjoying this little gem of a restaurant which was also on our tour.



The Little Green Hive delighted us with strawberry, mango and banana smoothie samples.



 Our last restaurant stop on the tour was On the Rise Bakery and Restaurant where we enjoyed fresh coconut cake…yum!



Roanoke, Virginia, Star City of the South

The Historic Downtown Roanoke Food and Cultural Tour

order tickets from:



questions? call 540-309-1781



Photos from our fabulous Downtown Roanoke Market ~ lettuce plants and herbs are starting to “sprout” all over the market!

Looking forward to attending these tours too:

Historic Downtown Roanoke Sunday Brunch Tour

Roanoke Craft Beer Tour

Blue Ridge Wine Tour

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