Have Food, Will Travel

For centuries, mothers have admonished their children to not play with their food but local foodie-turned-tour guide Alan Brown encourages just the opposite. As co-founder of Bucks County Food Tours, he wants participants to not only play with their food but he wants them to get to know the artisans involved in the behind-the-scenes production. By trade, Brown is a filmmaker for the NFL so how does one make the leap into the world of food tourism? Some might call it divine intervention. He met business partner Lynne Goldman at their local synagogue and the two soon discovered they shared a passion for all things culinary and, shortly thereafter, a concept for a local, customized food tour was born.

Not so long ago, vacationers would plan trips around visits to historical landmarks, amusement parks or adventure destinations. Then the nation shifted its focus to a new trend-food tourism-as more people found themselves interested in learning to prepare yellowfin tuna in a sushi-making class than visiting Yellowstone National Park. Cooking classes, vineyard tours, and food lectures increased in popularity and became a segment of tourism unto themselves. In operation for a mere three months, Bucks County Food Tours’ business has steadily increased as people become more conscious of not only the food they consume but its provenance as well and that kind of awareness delights Brown.

“It’s about connecting people to these amazing farmers and artisans who have been doing this kind of thing for years but were largely unknown,” he says.

As a fairly new Pennsylvania resident, I was intrigued by the company website’s promise of a “personal tour of the finest food products in Bucks County”-a discovery of sorts since many patrons, even residents, aren’t familiar with many of the stops along the tour’s route. Brown and Goldman offer specialized itineraries for small groups of meat lovers, vegans, cheese aficionados, even pizza perfectionists on a quest to learn how to craft the perfect pie. Brown shies away from the notion of conducting large-scale, hokey tours; he prefers intimate groups of about 6-8 participants in an effort to get them to genuinely interact with each other and the purveyors. The intimacy of the small group tours, he notes, also lends itself to the feeling of exclusivity-like being let in on a really titillating secret.

On a gorgeous Saturday morning, I meet Alan Brown in the parking lot that serves as the meeting spot for the day’s tour. As its name implies, the ‘Mixed Bag of Bucks’ tour treats participants to a guided van ride through the scenic backroads of Bucks County, stopping at a hodgepodge of farms, markets and produce stands as Alan and Lynne offer personal accounts and anecdotal tidbits along the way. Their narratives, quirky and informative, feel much more like a conversation amongst friends than a rehearsed monologue and give insight to just how well this pair knows the area and the food artisans who call it home. Lynne is as likely to recount a story about a hilarious run-in with a group of cyclists at a local post office as she is to tell you where to get the best donut peaches.

During a stop at Milk House Farm Market, as we all clamor to get our hands on some of the forty-two varieties of tomatoes and other fresh produce, Brown hangs back-wistfully staring at baskets of vibrant vegetables laid out on a wooden table just outside the market.

Quietly, he murmurs, “Beautiful-just beautiful.” And I couldn’t agree more.