Sometimes it takes a Southern Girl to change things up a bit. I grew up a few hours away from Monterey, California. Monterey is a beach town along the California coastline. It is known for seafood and Italian cuisine. So, I was surprised to hear that after all these years, Monterey finally got its first food walking tour, Monterey Bay Food Tours. Created by an Augusta, Georgia native, Casey Aguilar.
At ALT Summit, I sat down with Casey to discuss her move to California and the creation of this business.
So as we sat at the Riviera in Palm Springs, we started with her story. Aguilar met her husband in Georgia. Her husband, Felipe Aguilar had lived in Monterey while in the Navy. Felipe and Casey went on a vacation to Monterey.
“Ever since I was a kid, I was always, ‘California Dreamin.’ When we came to Monterey, I knew it was home,” shared Aguilar.
She left her teaching job and she and Felipe came to Monterey. As they made Monterey a home, Aguilar started to think of her next career move.
Back in Georgia, her sister-in-law had a food walking tour. Aguilar started to take tours around Monterey to get the lay of the land. From there, she started to build relationships with local business owners.
On a breezy Sunday afternoon in April, I, along with my husband, got to taste the delicious food born from those partnerships.
I met Casey Aguilar and the other people that were on our tour. Aguilar explained a little bit of history of where we were standing. Then she leads us to our first stop.
Our first stop was this tiny wooden prairie looking house called, Joseph Boston Store. She had some jams and mustards from Happy Girl Kitchen and Gil’s Gourmet waiting for us. As we ate, the jams she talked a bit about the Happy Girl Kitchen business.
Then she dove into the history of the store. You see, this store was known as Casa del Oro, and was one of the first general stores in the Monterey area. Apparently, it held the first safe in Monterey which became the reason for its nickname “Casa del Oro” (House of Gold). Miners returning from the gold mines would arrange with Mr. Boston to store their gold in his safe.
As we tasted jams and olive oil from the Monterey’s Tasty Olive Bar, we looked around this 1850s general store.
Now after this stop, I thought to myself, maybe the food tour is just small bites. Oh was I in for a surprise?
We toured around Monterey for a bit. Nick, I and the rest of the tour learned about the Old Whaling Station and the first theater. We ended up at Aabha Indian Grill. I was a bit nervous as I am not a fan of spicy food, and Indian cuisine tends to be spicy.
We sat down together, which encouraged the group to chat with one another. We ate family style and after the samosa, butter chicken, and mango lassi we were full. Aguilar kept the conversation going among all of us on the tour. This was her business, her new home, and she wanted all of us to enjoy it.
We walked a few blocks down to a brand new cafe called Alta Bakery. It’s located in the Cooper Molera Adobe. My thought was, oh it’s a cafe, we will have coffee and a cookie. We were all full from the Indian food we just ate. Oh no, PJ the owner, treated us to paninis, mushroom bruschetta, large cookies, chocolate droplets, and a glass of rose.
We enjoyed these delights in the garden that is apart of the Cooper Molera Adobe. This location was by far the most gorgeous and relaxing. You can smell the fruit growing on the trees, you can hear birds chirping, you can walk around with your drink of choice and just enjoy the serenity of this new open space. We learned about the journey of opening this new place. It was labeled as a historical site, but nothing was there, just weeds. Needless to say, we all took home a box of goodies as we couldn’t finish the food.
At this point, we are all truly enjoying ourselves. I mean we just had a glass of rose. We walked next door, to the only non-Monterey local partnership, Fieldwork Brewery. Fieldwork is a Berkeley, California business, but they are California business and it was a great addition to the tour. We each had two pours of local beers, and then Aguilar surprised us. Heirloom Pizza was delivered to us via bike. Naturally, we stood out, as you can’t order food at Fieldwork. We couldn’t possibly eat any more. But we all indulge in one slice of Chicago style pizza. The fresh tomatoes danced on my tongue as I soaked in the sun, and continue to learn more about my fellow tour mates.
If the tour ended there, we would all been satisfied. But no, Aguilar had two more stops for us. What goes well with pizza, ice cream! We ate ice cream in the back room of Revival Ice Cream and learned about Revival’s process. They only sourced locally and in season ingredients. Therefore your ice cream is better for you and better for the environment. After our quick stop, we moved to Comanche Cellars.
Our final stop was wine tasting. We treated ourselves to some Pinot Noir and met Aguilar’s husband Felipe and their son.
As I drove home, I was thinking about all the work Aguilar put into her business, about all of the partnerships and the self-learning.
“I had to learn all the aspects of a business. I have no business background. I used SCORE, got a mentor and that helped bring my vision together,” Aguilar told us at ALT.
She is currently hiring her first tour guide and expanded the tour from Thursday and Saturday to Thursday through Sunday.
They say small businesses have to entertain and inform their customers. Aguilar has done both with Monterey Bay Food Tours.