Little Ethiopia Food Tour highlighted in the Washington Times
The District has moved well beyond its old reputation as the capital of bland meat-and-potatoes dining, but it's still not known for its ethnic cuisines. That misperception needs to change, says Jeff Swedarsky, director of DC Metro Food Tours(www.dcmetrofood tours.com). Take Ethiopian cuisine. The metro area boasts at least three dozen Ethiopian restaurants -- more than in any other metro area in the country. According to the Embassy of Ethiopia, more than 100,000 Ethiopians live in the area. So DC Metro Food Tours last week offered its first Little Ethiopia tour.
"The Ethiopian community here is the biggest in the country, and the restaurants are amazing," says the high-energy, late-20s Mr. Swedarsky while walking up Ninth Street Northwest toward the intersection with U Street -- the epicenter of the local Ethiopian community -- on a recent rainy-day tour. "We want to convey that." It seems he and his two tour guides, Sarah Parker and Natalie Kaften, have succeeded in doing just that. The five tour-takers are all smiles as they experience everything from kitfo (spicy raw beef) to injera (the cuisine's ubiquitous spongy flatbread) at five different but proximal restaurants featured on the tour, which costs $50 per person and takes up to four hours.
"This is awesome," says Michelle Early, a self-described foodie and veteran food-tour-taker. "[Without the tour] I would never have walked into these places. But now I'll feel comfortable bringing friends here. And I'll know what to order." For example, Ms. Early has learned to order the delicious sambusas -- triangular pastries filled with beef or lentils -- served at Little Ethiopia restaurant, the tour's second stop. Tour-takers also experience a traditional coffee ceremony there in a setting reminiscent of traditional hut homes: Circular straw roofs and lanterns hang over each table; the tables and chairs are low; intricate wood carvings hang on the walls. "I need to pace myself," Ms. Early says as she enjoys the sambusas, which are similar to samosas but much bigger and more filling.
That's right; there are another three restaurants to go, and Ethiopian food is delightfully full of butter; spices, such as chilies, garlic and cardamom; and injera, which tends to swell in the stomach.
But before the group heads to the next stop, all are treated to Ethiopian coffee, roasted and served by waitress Halen Taddese, who's dressed in traditional garb. Her white dress (habesha qemis) is made of wide cotton strips (shemma) sewn together and embroidered at the collar and around the waist and hem with the colors of Ethiopia: green, red and yellow.
After Ms. Taddese, who sits on a small wooden stool close to the floor, has roasted the beans - using a small electric burner and pan - she walks up to each guest so he or she can enjoy the coffee's fragrance. "The smoke from the coffee beans is considered a blessing," says guide Sarah Parker.
On that note, it's time to leave Little Ethiopia -- which carries the name many Ethiopians would like the city to give to this area of U and Ninth streets in the Shaw neighborhood; they have failed so far to persuade politicians and many longtime residents, who favor names such as "Black Broadway" -- and head to the other restaurants and a surprise visit to an Ethiopian record-CD store, Nahom Records.In the end, the tour is as much about Ethiopian culture in general as it is about its cuisine in particular. That is as it should be, Ms. Early says. "There's no way you walk away from this tour without having gained a greater appreciation for the Ethiopian community," she says. Adds Mr. Swedarsky: "I think the Ethiopian community is overlooked a little. These are some of the hardest-working entrepreneurs I've ever seen. They're living the American dream, and we're benefiting from it. They're part of what makes D.C. special." And yummy.
The Capitol Hill Culinary Experience Begins
DC Metro Food Tours presents the Capitol Hill Culinary Experience; a fully guided walk detailing the neighborhood’s 200 year existence through food, history, and architecture. The three hour event brings small groups from Eastern Market to the Washington Navy Yard to learn about the area’s history, residents, and cuisine. Groups will enjoy a variety of dishes from selected local restaurants that reflect their specialties while remaining true to the neighborhood’s culinary history.
The Capitol Hill Culinary Experience will begin on Saturday April 18th at 2:00pm. Selections will include Anglo-Indian cuisine, soul food, traditional empanadas, regional seafood specialties, Salvadorian beverages, and Eastern European Jewish desserts.
DC Metro Food Tours offers historic walking tours and culinary events that highlight the cuisine of locally owned and operated restaurants, in Washington DC area neighborhoods. To find out the latest information on any of our activities or to purchase tickets, check out www.DCMetroFoodTours.com, or call 800-979-3370.
DC Metro Food Tours in Food and Beverage Magazine
DC Metro Food Tours is highlighted in the February issue of Food and Beverage Magazine. The article highlights our tours as well as several others around the country. Click the link below to read the article.
“People are not aware of what lies beyond the monuments and museums, and how much there is to explore in terms of food and other cultures,” affirms Jeff Swedarsky, founder of DC Metro Food Tours. “Although things are generally more challenging during a recession, especially for companies providing luxury items like tours and excursions, many people are still making the trip to our nation’s capital. Although their trips may be shorter, we aim to provide added value for the visitor.
Swedarsky sees his tours as a reflection of how the District’s restaurants and shops are extensions of the people who live there. By combining regional specialties with eclectic cuisine, he not only endeavors to capture the capital’s history but also the changes in population (through immigration) that has shaped DC neighborhoods he describes as “diverse, charming, beautiful, and historic all at once.” Though he provides memorable sensory cultural feasts for visitors, it is equally important to him to help maintain the success of the District’s food institutions.
“It is important for our tours to remain popular with visitors because they support our local restaurants and food establishments,” he points out. “Our local chefs, restaurateurs and food artisans benefit by gaining a wider customer base, of both tourists and locals that may not have known they existed. Their marketing is bolstered through word of mouth, articles and other forms of media. Most importantly, they make money each time our groups go through, and I make sure to compensate them well for their time and the food they serve.”
ďI work with DC restaurants to create dishes that are unique to those places, and meals not on the menu that highlight local specialties,Ē Swedarsky comments. ďWhat (food pros) will get a different feel, not just about that part of the city, but about the restaurant, what makes it tick and what inspires the owners and chefs creatively, hearing their story or their history in the area. It is certainly a different perspective of a restaurant than one would have if he simply came in and had menus handed to him.Ē
2009 Season starts March 7th
Our second season has started. Old Town Food Tours will be available beginning March 7th on Saturdays and Sundays, and by April from Thursday to Sunday each week. Stay tuned, our Capitol Hill Culinay Experience will be available in April. People interested in Joining us on Capitol HIll can reserve tickets in advace via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Startupnation HB 100 Winner
DC Metro Food Tours won an honorary mention award at Startupnation's annual contest (Category- Yummiest). Thousands of companies signed up for a 3 month long competition. We are happy to be recognized by Startupnation.com, and hope to continue our successful winter into a great second season.
Additional Food Tour Dates released for fall 08
Due to popular demand, the Old Town Alexandria Tasting and Historic Walking Tour is now available all week long during October and November. Tours will start at 1:00 each day and will last between 3-3.5 hours. To learn more about the tour, click here. For ordering information through Zerve, click here.
Alexandria Gazette Packet
July 24- DC Metro Food Tours was featured in the weekly newspaper's Entertainment section. See the link below or click here for the story.
Groupon news and DC Metro Food Tours now on Twitter!
First of all, I want to thank everyone who signed up for the Eastern Market Food Tour deal via groupon, and to welcome you to our company. I want to make sure everyone is able to claim their seats.
We will begin accepting date requests at 7am Tuesday morning. If you have a specific date in mind and will place you based on when you email us. We have a bunch of days available so we will work with you to make sure to get a good date. And donít worry, they are all good dates. The reason we like weekday evenings is because we really get to enjoy the market without all the extreme crowds. The vendors can cater more to us, and itís a much more relaxed environment.
We will post the Eastern Market Food Tour dates this weekend, so make sure to stop by to figure out what works best for you. Any questions, just email me.
We are really excited to bring you our first market tour- and think everyone is going to love it. For those of you who have been to eastern market, you realize its not huge- thatís part of the reason we love it. Wondering how we managed to have a food tour in Eastern Market? Well, soon you will know! If you havenít been in Eastern Market before, you are in for a treat- it is easily one of my favorite places in DC.
In other news, we are now on twitter. Join the fun and follow us @dcfoodtours. We will be tweeting promotions, discounts, and events. So sign up, and tell your friends! Each week we will offer great giveaways as well!
The Foods of Eastern Market Food Tour will be operational at the beginning of August
We are closing in on our final runthrough on the Foods of Eastern Market Food Tasting Tour. This food tour is different than our other offerings- as we don't sit when we eat, and we taste food rather than have small plate.
I need to remind people this is part of our 6 part Market Tours series which will bring you to many of the Washington DC area's markets. The market tours will have a different feel than our normal food tours. They are created to truly experience the diverse, unique market scene that exists in the area.
Intersted in test driving the Foods of Eastern Market Tour before anyone else?? We have room for 3 test subjects who get to see the final run through of the tour, and want it to be you. If you are interested email me here!
p.s. I know you can't comment on anything yet. We are working that issue and should have a real working blog up soon. Until then, this is all we got.
Eastern Market Reopens after 2 years
Eastern Market, Washington DC's beloved fresh market is reopening after a devastating fire destroyed it in April, 2007. After the fire, the city quickly responded by building a temporary structure to house the vendors.
Eastern Market continued on as the tenants took their place in the temporary 'east hall' and continued to serve the Washington DC community. At the same time, the original south hall was meticulously renovated and updated over the course of nearly two years.
The grand reopening of Eastern Market is commemorated by a day long celebration on June 27th. For more information, see the official Eastern Market website.
I am very excited to see the doors open at Eastern Market. I remember being there the Sunday before the fire, enjoying one of my favorite chicken empanadas, thinking how lucky I am to be in a city with such a place. Mayor Fentyís commitment to rebuild the market made shortly after the fire was a relief- but we knew it would be a long road ahead.
Come join us in celebrating this wonderful occasion. If you canít make it on the 27th, be sure to check out the facility sometime soon.
DC Metro Food Tours in the Washington Post Express
On July 17th, The Old Town Food Tour was reviewed in the Washington Post Express Weekend Section by reporter Rachel Kaufman: Click here for the story or see below.
D.C. on the Hoof: Metro Food Tours
COMBINE A PASSION for food, a love of history and a freshly minted MBA and what do you get? Mostly, a very full stomach.
The new DC Metro Food Tours takes tourists and locals on gastronomically oriented walking tours of D.C. hot spots. The company so far focuses on Old Town Alexandria, but the owner has plans for expansion.
Participants meet in Old Town, and founder Jeff Swedarsky, 27, plays tour guide. On a recent tour, he neglected the King Street strip (since, he says, tourists don't need help finding the main drag) in favor of off-the-beaten-path spots. His group of nine visited four restaurants as well as Alexandria landmarks like Christ Church and the Torpedo Factory. At Union Street Public House, Swedarsky and his group dined on oysters Rockefeller and beef ribs; then guests learned about the first owner of the historic building (Captain John Harper, said to have fathered 29 children).
Swedarsky and his wife, Sharone, make almost too-chipper hosts, but their perkiness is infectious. Both Swedarskys eagerly join in the conversation and the food. At times, Swedarksy, who eats on his own tour, was the most enthusiastic diner of the bunch. "It's kind of been a dream of mine" to start this business, he says, and his wonder at local history is unparalleled. "I can't believe how many things have happened here," he says.
Swedarsky still has a day job with the government but wants to take DC Metro Food Tours full time: "My goal is to have a big retirement party with a banner celebrating 'His Four Meritorious Years of Service,'" he jokes.
So far, the tour seems to deliver. On one recent weekend, Virginia residents were as satisfied with the tour's selections (which vary week to week) as a group visiting from New Jersey.
At the last stop on the tour -- the spicy-scented Old Town Coffee, Tea and Spice -- guests noshed on jelly cake before dispersing one by one. Were friendships forged, were grand dissertations on culinary history digested? No, but sometimes a little knowledge and a stuffed belly is all you need.
» DC Metro Food Tours, Sat. & Sun., 1 p.m., $52, book at Zerve, 800-979-3370. (King Street)
Gift Certificates Available for Father's Day!
Don't know what to get dad? Consider a DC Metro Food Tours gift certificate. They are the same price as our tour tickets but can be redeemed for any tour during the 2008 season. For more information, email us at email@example.com with the subject line "gift certificate".
Old Town Alexandria Tour Available on Sundays
June 1, 2008
Due to popular demand, the Old Town Alexandria Tasting and Historical Walking Tour will now be available on both Saturdays and Sundays. The tour will include the same attention to detail as the Saturday tour, as well as a variety of unique dishes paired to expand the pallette.
You can sign up for any DC Metro Food Tour up to 48 hours prior to its start.
April 26, 2008 Press Release:
Tourists and locals throughout the DC area will soon have the opportunity to experience unique culinary delights hidden within the streets of Old Town Alexandria, courtesy of DC Metro Food Tours.The company’s first offering, the Old Town Alexandria Tasting and Historical Walking Tour, will visit some of the best locally owned and operated restaurants within the area. Highly trained tour guides will take small groups through a selection of hand picked restaurants on two tours in Old Town. Each tour will stop at different establishments to sample various specialties. The restaurants on the tour were painstakingly chosen to represent a variety of local flavors that would appeal to a wide audience. Restaurants on the tour have regional acclaim as well as a strong local following, and range from small casual “hole in the wall” to hip, trendy hangouts. Jeff Swedarsky, the founder of DC Metro Food Tours, explains the inspiration behind the food tours: “We want this tour to be unique, and different than the other tours offered in Old Town. Since there are so many places to eat in Old Town, it is difficult, for both visitors and residents, to know what to try. We want to promote our area’s local favorites to a much larger audience. We want to show everyone some of the special dishes that can be found in our beloved city”. Tours will begin May 3, 2008 and will run each Saturday. The Old Town Alexandria
Tasting and Historic Walking Tour will be held between 1:00pm and 4:30pm.
Want to learn more about our current tours? click here!