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Susan Axelrod

Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business for 15 years before turning to journalism. By day, she is the social media editor for Portland Press Herald. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs, preferably followed by a cocktail or a Maine beer. Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or On Twitter: @susansaxelrod

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Posted: November 6, 2013

Go on tour to find Portland’s best food and drink

Written by: Susan Axelrod

A food and drink tour of Portland may seem like something designed just for visitors, but if you want to learn about this city’s new restaurants, food producers, breweries and distilleries — or want a distinctive experience you might not get on your own — don’t turn your nose up at letting a guide lead the way.

Portland Taste Tours is the latest enterprise to offer both tourists and locals insider access to the city’s much-heralded food and dining scene. These five operators offer a variety of tours year ’round: wine walks through the Old Port, progressive dinners at top restaurants, Happy Hour tours and brewery excursions — popular for celebrating special occasions, entertaining out-of-town guests, or just for something different to do on a Friday night.

Portland Taste Tours

Mary Soule of Portland Taste Tours at The Grill Room (Photo by Tyler Aldrich/Machigonne)

After two years teaching and traveling in Asia, Mary Soule returned to her native Portland and was leading tours for Dishcrawl, a national franchise, before launching her own enterprise this fall. Her plan is to do one “memorable, well-organized tour” a month, in a progressive dinner format. “Portland has changed so much and I think 70 percent of that is due to the restaurant scene, which has drawn creative, energized people to the city. I want to do this here because I love Portland.”

Traveling Beer Dinner
A progressive dinner in cooperation with The Maine Brew Bus for Portland Beer Week, the dinner will begin at Rising Tide Brewing and continue to Outliers Eatery, Little Tap House, Portland & Rochester and Love Cupcakes. Food will be paired with beer from Rising Tide.
Wednesday, Nov. 6,  5 to 9 p.m.
// buy tickets

Taste of Congress Tour
A progressive dinner stopping at four Congress Street restaurants where participants will have a chance to interact with the chefs.
Wednesday, Nov. 13,  7 to 9:30 p.m.
// buy tickets

We did it

For Portland Taste Tours inaugural tour last month, I tagged along for a progressive dinner at all four of chef Harding Lee Smith’s restaurants:

A night out at ‘The Rooms’ with Portland Taste Tours

Maine Foodie Tours

A Maine Foodie Tour guide discusses lobster anatomy at Harbor Fish Market on Custom House Wharf (Press Herald file photo)

This well-regarded, five-year-old service has been touted in the Boston Globe and received a certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor. A variety of tours on foot, via trolley and bus are available. Tours in Bar Harbor and Kennebunkport are offered June-October; the following Portland tours are generally year ’round, except when icy sidewalks are an issue. Check the website for a complete schedule:

Sips, Smugglers and Speakeasies: A Happy Hour tour
Fridays and Saturdays at 2:45 p.m.
Explore Portland’s cocktail scene and learn about the city’s Prohibition history on these 2 1/2 hour walking tours featuring “clandestine watering holes of the past.”
21 +
// buy tickets

Old Port Culinary Walking Tour
Fridays, 12:30 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays 10:30 a.m.
A “leisurely stroll” through the streets of the Old Port includes samplings of lobster or crab, cheeses, smoked seafood, scones and Maine wild blueberry preserves, whoopie pie, chocolate truffles made with potatoes and locally made beer. Tours last about 2 1/2 hours.
All ages
// buy tickets

First-Class Food Sherpa Tour
Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m.
Interactive, intimate tours that stop at 3 restaurants, 3 specialty food producers and a bakery, these tours last 2-3 hours and accomodate just 6 people.
6 people, interactive, intimate
All ages
// buy tickets

Dessert First Tours
Saturdays, Nov. 9 and 16, 2 p.m.
As the old saying goes: Life is short, so eat dessert first. This tour stops at five Portland chocolatiers/pastry shops and lasts about 2 hours.
All ages
// buy tickets

The Maine Brew Bus

On board Lenny the Brew Bus (Photo by Shannon Bryan)

Launched a year ago by Zachary and Allison Poole, assisted by tour leader Don Littlefield, these lively, informative tours visit breweries and distilleries, showcasing Maine’s exciting craft beer and spirits industry.
No alcohol is allowed on the bus.

The Local Pour Tour
Fridays, 12:30 to 4:30 p.m.
The tour starts at The Thirsty Pig on Exchange Street for beer sampling with sausages. Board “Lenny” the Brew Bus for stops at  Maine Mead Works, Bunker Brewing Co., Urban Farm Fermentory and Maine Craft Distilling
// buy tickets

Beast of the yEast
Saturdays, 3 to 6 p.m.
This tour spotlights Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood, often called yEast Bayside for the growing number of “fermenting” businesses that have been established there. It stops at Rising Tide Brewing Co., Maine Craft Distilling, Bunker Brewing Co. and Urban Farm Fermentory.
// buy tickets

The Casco Fiasco Tour
Saturdays, 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Take a leisurely trip to Allagash Brewing, Sebago Brew Pub (where lunch will be served), Bunker Brewing Co. and Rising Tide Brewing Co.
// buy tickets

We did it

With beer experts Don and Zach as our guides, we bopped from brewery to meadery to distillery, as the wheels on Lenny the brew bus went round and round.

From here to beer: On tour with The Maine Brew Bus


Maine Beer Tours

Maine Beer Tours crew and guests with their new bus (Photo courtesy of Maine Beer Tours)

Mark and Nichole Stevens started their business in late summer, 2012. Adam Callaghan, a cicerone (beer sommelier)l helps lead the tours, which start in front of Portland Lobster Company on Commercial Street. Tours include a snack — soft cheddar pretzels from Pretzel Logic Gourmet, paired with locally made mustard. Participants may consume alcohol on the bus.

Friday tour
11:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Tour stops at Rising Tide Brewing Co., Maine Craft Distilling, Sebago Brewing and Shipyard
// buy tickets

Saturday tour
10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Tour visits Allagash Brewing, Rising Tide, Maine Mead Works and Bunker Brewing
// buy tickets

Saturday Hoppy Hour
3:30 to 6:30 p.m.
A quicker trip, stopping at Rising Tide, Bunker Brewing, Shipyard and Urban Farm Fermentory
// buy tickets

Wine Wise

Erica Archer of Wine Wise (Maine Today file photo)

Certified Wine Expert and sommelier Erica Archer offers a variety of wine education events, including walks, sailing on Casco Bay and at restaurants.

Big Bold & Beautiful Reds wine walk
Saturday, Nov. 30: 3-5 p.m.
Stops at four restaurants in the Old Port
// buy tickets

Wine Walk in the Old Port and Brunch
Sunday, Dec. 1 and Sunday, Dec. 29, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Not just wine but brunch too, with drinks and food at each stop.
// buy tickets

4th Annual Sparkling Wines & Champagnes: A New Year’s Eve Primer
Thursday, Dec. 26, 6 – 8:30 p.m.
This is not a tour, but an educational event at a single location, TBA.
// buy tickets

We did it

Shannon Bryan learns that there’s more to wine education than wine drinking.

Getting smarter by the glass: Wine Wise events


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