“But what is cocoa butter?” That was the one unanswered question of the night and soon-to-be-running joke at “Taste the Chocolates of the World Before Making Your Own,” a preview event from SideTour, a New York transplant that offers one-of-a kind classes, tours and various “experiences” for the adventuresome city buff with $20–$100 to spare. Vipin Goyal, 36, conceived the idea after a six-month world-traveling expedition with his wife. When they returned to New York, they were struck by the routineness of their daily life. “When we were traveling, we were always exploring, always discovering,” Goyal says. “But when we came back to New York, it was the same five bars, the same five restaurants with the same five people.” SideTour, officially launched in June 2011, provides an antidote to that boredom, with hundreds of opportunities to have a home-cooked meal with an investment-banker-turned-monk, say, or to go boating with a veteran sailor. “It’s about connecting people with talented and passionate experts,” Goyal says.
After enjoying much success in New York (a story in The New York Times, meeting Mayor Bloomberg), Goyal says expansion to other cities was only natural. Pilsen chocolatier Uzma Sharif was one of the first Chicago hosts on deck to provide an intimate experience, giving a personalized chocolate-making lesson complete with free samples and plastic cupfuls of port. The cozy grouping (most experiences range from 8 to 12 people) creates an intimate atmosphere and fosters that feeling of exclusivity and being in the know we all secretly crave. As for the origin of the name, Goyal explains, “The hosts don’t do this regularly; you’re going through the side door.”
SideTour launches in Chicago on Monday 15. Visit sidetour.com for details.