Lady of Grand Food Tours of the LES

Yesterday I was lucky enough to be part of a great tour of the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It was a food tasting tour with Jolie Warbet of Lady of Grand Food Tours. Jolie is the actual Lady of Grand, and is the brains and beauty behind the concept.
Jolie was born on Grand St. in the LES and as a child moved to New Jersey, but as soon as she could, she returned to the street she loved. As time went by her friends gave her the nick name "The Lady of Grand" because she was always giving people history of the area, and taking them around to check out all the hidden gems of the neighborhood. Specifically she enjoyed showing people her favorite food spots, so when the opportunity presented itself to actually turn her passion into a career she took it. What was born of that was Lady of Grand Food Tours.
The tour meets at The Essex Street Market, and it's first few stops are there. We first got to try the Spinach Pie at Boubouki. A tiny kitchen turning out amazing home made Greek food. The owner is an inspiration to food lovers everywhere. She left an office job, and started to cook HER food for a living! BRAVO! Best Spinach Pie I have ever had, and a little bit of a great Tomato Bread too!
Our next stop in The Essex Street Market was NI Japanese Delicacies. They are a husband and wife team that create mostly vegetarian dishes, that are new to a lot of American palates. What we got to try, and what was probably my favorite taste of the tour, was the Octopus Brow Rice Balls. Typically I am not a fan of the Italian style Rice Balls, but these were sweet and firm, with a wonderful flavor. If you like Octopus these are a must!
Next stop was the famous Brooklyn Taco. Maybe not quite a hidden gem for New Yorkers, but for an out of towner, it's a huge find! We got to have their Guaco Taco, which I had had before at The Hester Street Fair. It is all the goodness of Guacamole and Chips, but in a warm, soft corn torilla. A MUST if you get to the market or the fair.
After our taco we headed out to do a little walking and Jolie started to give us a little history of the hood as we strolled the street. Before you knew it we were able to get out of the rain and have a little beer to wash down the food we had been sampling. Jolie took us to Top Hops. A local shop that offers beers on tap as well as rows and rows of refrigerators that total more than 700 beers organized by the state they came from. So say you are from Maine, you can your friends can find a six pack of your fave local beer and share it at the bar or take it back to your hotel. Or, what would be better is to get some beers from around the country and set up your own tasting. The guys at Top Hops would be happy to help you out with that.
On we went to a 5 week old shop called Malt & Mold.

It's also a shop that sells beer, but also cheese, Knish, pickles, and mustard. Oh, also chocolate, and bread, and truffle oils, and cured meats. This place sells a little bit of everything, and even though it is a little bit out of the way, it's worth the trip. Look at this Knish with pastrami. Not something I would normally seek out, but WOW!
I have to say though... I am sure this is not their goal, but they have a salted caramel there that is CRAZY good!!! It was my fave thing I had there!

Our last stop was for something sweet. A little bit of France that landed right in the middle of the LES. It's Christian Vautier Le Concept. A little shop that is full of things that will do nothing but make you smile. I had a dark chocolate covered lemon and a Tequila Truffle. I wanted more, but was so full from all the other food from the last hour and a half.
Sadly that was the end of the tour...
Although all the food was great, and the neighborhood is always a welcoming place, the best part of this tour was the guide and the people. Jolie creates a vibe where you feel comfortable, and that leads to people talking to each other.  I knew no one on this tour, but have come home with 3 more Facebook friends and a few more followers on twitter.  That's what food is for; to bring people together,  and Lady Of Grand Food Tours is a great example of that point.
If you are coming to NYC you would be smart to check it out. At 50 bucks per person, it more filling than a typical brunch (and cheaper!).  Not only that, but you will have more fun!

Here are all the links you need;
Lady of Grand
The Essex Street Market
NI Japanese Delicacies 
Brooklyn Taco 
Top Hops
Malt & Mold 
Christian Vautier Le Concept 

Take the tour. Have some fun. Meet new friends. Have a full belly.
Nothing wrong with any of that!



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