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Escazu Chocolates, Raleigh, North Carolina, Tony Infantino Photography

Courtesy of Tony Infantino Photography

Sample handmade truffles after a tour of Escazu's chocolate factory in Raleigh.

There’s no better way to experience a place than through its local cuisine—and the Triangle area of North Carolina is no exception. This geographic region is a renowned foodie hotspot, internationally admired for its high-energy culinary scene and trendsetting restaurants. Southern cooking is a big influence in these contemporary kitchens, which twist classic comfort dishes into imaginative new creations daily. With such a dense cluster of world-class restaurants, innovative menus and award-winning chefs in all three cities, it’s no surprise that food is one of the best reasons to visit the Triangle area—and what better way to sample all that the area has to offer than on a guided walking tour?

Created to show off the best of each city’s culinary treasures, these food tours have become some of the region’s most popular attractions. Participants are treated to delicious food and behind-the-scenes glimpses of high-end restaurants, mom-and-pop eateries, local markets, notable bars, breweries and gourmet specialty stores. The tours take place during the restaurants’ off-hours—that lull between lunch and dinner when business slows and kitchen staffs have a little down time—so participants receive the full attention of chefs and owners. Sample haute cuisine while the chef himself explains how it was made; learn about ingredient sourcing in an area well-known for its adoption of the slow-food movement; and admire the beauty of the downtown areas as you walk from place to place with your guide.

Triangle Food Tours has a relationship with more than 50 locally owned restaurants and visits between 6-8 establishments on each 3-hour Saturday afternoon tour. These walking tours are offered in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill/Carrboro and Cary and are limited to a maximum of 10 people in order to provide an intimate experience for all involved. You’ll learn not only about the food but the history of the city as well, as historical stories are included throughout the walk. Explore all five downtown districts in Raleigh and discover hidden culinary gems in Durham; sample ethnic foods from Indian to Turkish and experience a great cross-section of what each city has to offer. You’ll be full and satisfied at the end of this tour and will undoubtedly have found a restaurant to return to for a full meal later. Tickets are $30.50 and should be purchased online several days in advance to guarantee availability.

Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours offers treks through Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill/Carrboro. Each tour lasts about three hours, covers 2-3 miles and visits between 6-8 delicious establishments. On the Raleigh walk, the group often stops at Escazu Chocolates to tour the small chocolate factory alongside its owners. You won’t be able to resist indulging in a little made-from-scratch chocolate as you learn how it’s created here directly from the bean—one of only a handful of factories in the U.S. to do this—and you’ll definitely want to take home a bar or two for later. In Durham, taste the famous grilled pimento cheese sandwiches at Parker and Otis while conversing with the owners about its ingredients and history. And in Carrboro, the chef at Acme will treat you to a little something special using fresh ingredients purchased specifically for tour guests that morning at the nearby farmers market. You’ll sample pecan pie, converse with wine experts, browse through exquisite fresh produce and more on this popular walking tour. Tours in all three cities are offered every Saturday afternoon or during the week by special arrangement.

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