How to Taste Without Breaking the Bank

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I know so many people who would love to enjoy and maybe learn a little about the culinary and beverage world, but it often seems so…out of reach. You either have to hit up a new expensive restaurant every week, or seemingly invest in fancy wine that you don’t even know will be good. It could seem like a never-ending hamster wheel of options and money, and it could be… unless you think outside the box a bit. There are ways to expose yourself to new wine, beer, and food without breaking the bank!  

 For starters, there are a ton of food/wine/beer festivals nowadays, anywhere you are. These events are my Disneyland. Pay for a ticket and get unlimited tastes? Sign. Me. Up. While these are the perfect ways to try a multitude of offerings from restaurants, winemakers, brew masters, etc., they’re often not exactly cheap. But, there’s a way to work the system: Literally, work it. Festivals almost always need volunteers to man stations- whether checking people in, pouring wine or beer, whatever. You often work for only a couple hours or half the event, and the rest of the time is yours. So you’ve not only just saved yourself the ticket price, but you probably met way more people than if you had come with your bestie or significant other, and you have time to enjoy the event yourself. I’ve poured at multiple festivals, including one that I had dreamed of attending for years but it was always out of reach financially. I end up having so much fun this way, I learn way more about the offerings, and I make friends. It helps that I’m a former bartender and I have my ABC card, but that truly isn’t necessary. Check event websites for opportunities, or just send them an email and offer!  

 My second suggestion is night school…kidding…well, kinda. With a wave of knowledge-thirsty consumers, I’m noticing a plethora of one-off classes available. These classes are super low key, affordable, accessible, and really fun. Restaurants, wine bars, shops, breweries- so many are offering classes that last maybe a couple of hours, and are focused on anything from a certain region to blind tasting. They’re intended for everyone, so don’t be intimidated! It’s usually a relatively small group as well, so you get a more intimate experience with whatever the focus is. I tend to find these classes by following restaurants and beverage companies on social media. It’s a perfect date night or hang with friends! 

 Then there are plenty of offerings that you may or may not have encountered before. Many wine shops offer small tastings for free, where they open a couple bottles from a producer or distributor, and pour some sips while they talk about the wine. If you want something more in depth (with a lot more wine), see if your local wine shop does ticketed tastings. Again, they’re usually very affordable for what you get, and they are a blast! You can also always check out a place that offers flights of drinks, such as wine bars, breweries, and distilleries. And while you’re at it, take a tour! You’ll get behind-the-scenes knowledge and a few tastes to boot. On that note, you’ll see that there is no lack of culinary-themed tours and classes on Airbnb experiences, TripAdvisor, and any other travel site. These are one of my favorite ways to experience a city- whether I’m traveling or in town!  

 Hopefully you’ve got some new ideas on how to dig into the vast world of food and beverage. And if geeky knowledge isn’t your thing, then at least you’ve got some new suggestions for an interesting activity! Cheers to always experiencing more!  

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As a Scout & Cellar Wine Consultant and full time Sign Language Interpreter, Laura believes in truly loving what you do every day. After leaving the actress life in LA, she moved to Nashville four years ago, and continues to find more that she loves about the city. Community is key to Laura, so don’t be surprised if she cooks you a meal, pours you a glass, and dives into deep conversation; you'll be friends in no time.