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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Lip Smacking Foodie Tours has planned the perfect night for you


A Tour for Your Taste Buds

Lip Smacking Foodie Tours has planned the perfect night for you

Story by Bob Gourley

Photography courtesy of Lip Smacking Foodie Tours


A lively group sat in the patio of the old John E. Carson Hotel at the corner of Sixth and Carson Street on a recent fall evening. A half dozen women, all from North Dakota, were in town for the Jimmy Buffet Concert. A Pennsylvania couple was ready to observe the Red Bull Air Races at the speedway. Along with this reporter, we were all assembled for a gourmet walking/restaurant tour of the one of the most exciting places in the city: East Fremont Street. The burgeoning area is filled with trendy bars, restaurants, and places to be seen. 

Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, invented by owner Donald Contursi, has been in business for the past year and half. They not only feature downtown tours, but food hikes on the Strip as well.

With our walking shoes comfortably on and a brief introduction from Contursi himself, we were on our way to the first stop on the three-hour experience, called the “Downtown Lip Smacking Tour.” Along the way, Contursi talked about the incredible influence Zappos Founder Tony Hsieh has had in the renaissance of the area.

Our table was nicely set as we were quickly seated. For those who purchased the cocktail option, the Smash was promptly delivered, consisting of Four Roses bourbon, blackberries, fresh limes, and mint. Next up was a beautiful plate of signature dishes, including a chicken meatball with jalapeno cilantro pesto and shaved Parmesan. Devils in a Horseback, a bacon-wrapped date stuffed with truffled goat cheese and almond, was well received. Another sampling was In the Gnudi (baked ricotta, truffled fig jam, toasted almonds, cranberry, and walnut crostini). The final irresistible offering was a chicken and red velvet waffle slider with one of the lightest buttermilk waffles I have ever tasted. A battered fried chicken breast accompanied by red pepper remoulade-slaw and vanilla maple syrup finished it off nicely.

With smiles on our faces, it was time to leave and take the short trek to the next stop, Itsy Bitsy: Ramen and Whisky. The lively space not only has an expansive list of ramen dishes, but the appetizer fare is full of favorites too. The selected cocktail was Sake-To-Me, a creative mix of sake, lemongrass, cucumber, and mint. The first food plate was filled with a very light and airy snow crab hand roll. A shrimp pot sticker was a winner and the Japanese sweet corn, quickly delivered after being briefly flash-fried, was consumed quickly by the dining entourage. The last selection was a steaming bowl of ramen with an enticing strip of pork belly, a boiled egg, noodles, and miso broth. Even though we wanted to finish it all, Contursi warned us to save room for more food and drink to come.

There are several popular bars in the area, but Inspire might be the best of them all. Not only will you find a spacious big windowed room that overlooks Fremont Street, but the roof area that features live entertainment and comfortable seating is another place to hang out. They also have a 125-seat theater for intimate screenings and live shows. The mixologists’s knowledge is evident with a signature Moscow Mule that was served with just the right mix of ginger beer and lime juice.

After the all-too-brief visit to Inspire, the last stop on the culinary tour awaited us: Glutton, helmed by Bradley Manchester. The friendly servers described the philosophy well: all dishes are made to order on an ever-changing menu that may not have some entrees if fresh ingredients are not obtainable. The fare arrived on a wood plank: Ahi Tuna Tacos embellished with sweet chili, zuzu, guacamole, frisee, and pickled Fresno pepper definitely got our lips smacking. Braised Pork Flatbread was a creative combination of fontina cheese, bordelaise, and pickled fennel. Wood-Charred Broccoli was a talking point enhanced with homemade butternut hummus, caper, manchego, and coleslaw. Pickled tomatoes were served with whipped ricotta, basil, and grilled bread. Apple cobbler, served in an individual skillet, included vanilla ice cream and rum raisin butter sauce. Caramel Corn Profiteroles were stuffed with homemade popcorn ice cream, salted caramel and peanuts, and concluded the proceedings in style.

If you have never had a chance to partake in a culinary tour like this, you definitely should. Lip Smacking Tours is a great choice. You are guaranteed a fun evening of food, drink, and friendly banter from like-minded folks who enjoy exploring new culinary stops without having to wait for a table.


Lip Smacking Foodie Tours


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