As Lori Durante leads a small, sweating pack of culinary tourists east on Atlantic Avenue on a recent Saturday afternoon, she breaks her swift stride momentarily to point across the street, toward Johnnie Brown's, a burger and barbecue joint in Delray Beach.
"Johnnie Brown's was named for Addison Mizner's famous pet monkey," Durante says before resuming her brisk pace and leading the group to its next tour stop at Scuola Vecchia Pizza e Vino, peppering the remaining walk with other tidbits about the ever-changing landscape of downtown Delray Beach.
Durante, director of the Museum of Lifestyle & Fashion History, is the creator and guide for the museum's thrice-monthly Taste History Culinary Tours. The next tour is planned for 11 a.m. Saturday and will include multiple stops in Delray Beach and Boynton Beach, many of which involve tasting regional and international cuisine.
During the course of the three-hour-plus tour -- which Durante invited Clean Plate Charlie to join, gratis, on June 23 -- attendees were bombarded with dozens of factoids about Florida, regional history, local businesses and buildings, and the roots of various traditional and modern cuisine. These are the kinds of random bits of knowledge (the Dutch helped introduce cookies to America, a bonafide Margherita pizza must include all three colors of the Italian flag, and so on) that are useful for dinner parties and bar trivia nights.
The three-to-four hour tours are conducted mostly via air-conditioned bus, with Durante narrating on a PA system from start to finish and providing time for questions at the various tour stops. Several blocks of walking are always included and the tour takes place rain or shine, so it's important to dress for the weather and wear comfy walking shoes.
There are three tours each month. Every third and fourth Saturday, the tour covers Delray Beach and Boynton Beach. The second Saturday of the month ventures north to Lake Worth and Lantana -- a recent addition to the Culinary Tours' repertoire. At least two restaurants or food venues are included in every tour, in addition to historical points of interest, like churches, hotels, and parks, as well as markets and urban gardens. The museum works with a rotating roster of venues but the locations for each tour are kept under wraps until the day is underway, so that each tour unfolds as a surprise, Durante explained.
The museum has long led narrated bus tours of southern Palm Beach County, but when they added a culinary component last year, the tour dates sold out for months. The summer is an ideal time for locals to give it a whirl and learn about the region, in addition to out-of-the-way culinary destinations. Find a photo diary of the June 23 tour below.
All Taste History Culinary Tours depart from the parking lot of Boynton Beach Mall. Participants should meet at the east Macy's entrance. Tickets for the Taste Culinary Tour of Historic Palm Beach County are $35 per person and are available online, here. Spots are available for the tour this Saturday and for Saturday, July 28, as well as dates in August and into the fall. Call 561-734-5467 or 561-243-2662.