The first SideTour event in Philadelphia started with house-made Limoncello, which one diner quietly remarked tasted like Tostitos Hint of Lime. But he had no complaints about the next four courses brought out by chef/owner Andrew Wood at the Center City restaurant Russet, which included umbrian-style salami and a slow-roasted suckling pig.
And everyone seemed pleased by what the chef presented as an digestif, after overhearing a few guests debate their edibility: the pig’s ears.
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The Russet dinner, a multi-course, pig-themed extravaganza complete with detailed explanations of the food and a tour of Wood’s charcuterie-preservation room, was a preview of the type of events SideTour is bringing to the city. The company, officially launching in Philly on Monday, already has a presence in New York, Chicago and Boston, where it “scouts hosts who are passionate about something, and helps them put together experiences,” says Andrea Li of SideTour.
Those hosts might be restaurateurs like Wood, muralists, blacksmiths, historians, or something else entirely. In New York, one regular host is a former investment banker who became a monk. He invites small groups to share a meal in his East Village monastery and learn about…monk life.
SideTour helps schedule, set up and market the events — and takes a cut of the profits — but hosts decide how often to hold events, how many people to invite, and how much to charge.
“95 percent of the guests are locals. It’s not for people who want a tourist experience, it’s for people looking for something hard to find,” Li says. “It’s a way to see a piece of the city you don’t usually have access to.”
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Toast to Tiki culture while learning how to make daiquiris and mai tais with Mike Treffehn of Franklin Mortgage and Investment Co.
Indulge in a suckling pig feast at Russet, with chef and owner Andrew Wood.
Paint with Mural Arts Program artist Betsy Casanma.
Tour Old City’s Colonial taverns and sip craft beers with beer historian Rich Wagner.
Get the insider scoop at the Philadelphia Museum of Art with artist Craig Stover.
Prices for SideTour events range from $20 to $80; the average is about $50. To see what’s on tap, go to http://www.sidetour.com/cities/philly.