Happy Girl Tasting Tours: A delicious exploration of Downtown New Bern
We entered The Chelsea around lunchtime. Beth exchanged nods with the manager, who launched an immediate flurry of activity.
In the time it took us to walk through the front door, our table was set and we were seated. Moments later, the servings arrived – ice cold beverages and generous portions of The Chelsea’s signature dish, Shrimp & Grits – served up by a doting Chelsea staff.
That’s about what you’d expect from someone who goes by Happy Girl and who leads tasting tours of Historic Downtown New Bern (Happy Girl Tasting Tours).
A tasting tour is not a new phenomenon. Foodie towns all over the world have them. But for now, Beth Hardy has carved out a locally unique niche in a town well-known for great food.
Beth, like many, is not from New Bern, but she has fallen in love with it. She lives downtown (on a boat) and has turned her gifts of storytelling and friendliness into an opportunity for folks to get to know the town a little better, and for local businesses to introduce the fruits of their labor.
“I sold a historic home in Snow Hill. I just decided I didn’t need it,” said Beth, who has been in New Bern for five years.
She stayed on her brother’s boat at the New Bern Grand Marina for a short time, got a taste for marina living, and bought a 38-foot boat of her own, one dock over from her brother.
“You meet people from all over the world here,” she said. “I grew up in Greene County. You’d meet a new person maybe once a year. Here it’s about one a week.”
Beth’s philosophy is to, in her words, “make your own fun wherever you go,” which she has proven with Happy Girl Tasting Tours. Her exuberance for her newfound home she enthusiastically shares through her business.
“I think we have it all right here,” she said.
A three-hour tour (must-resist-saying-the-Minnow-would-be-lost) takes in an excellent variety of Downtown New Bern’s dining ambience.
We started at 11 a.m. at Bear Plaza, where we rendezvoused with Beth. It was Mother’s Day Weekend and there was an antique car show filling downtown streets. Downtown New Bern is a happening place, but this weekend was extraordinarily busy.
We were joined by another couple, and off we went, Beth telling stories about New Bern and its downtown, including its quirks and features.
First stop: Bella’s Café & Catering on Middle Street for a jolt of coffee and a selection of fresh-baked muffins to share, including pistachio and chocolate-chocolate chip.
Next up was The Chelsea, and after that, a quick stop at Living Well Down East, a new health food store off Middle Street that was offering up samples of organic sorbet.
From there we cut through the grounds of Christ Church (whose stories could take a whole day itself), down Bed & Breakfast Row on Pollock Street, to Persimmons Waterfront Restaurant, where we were promptly seated outside on the deck, overlooking the expansive Neuse River.
Persimmons offered up a sampling of Southern gourmet dishes including Fried Green Tomatoes with Pimento Cheese, Brussel Sprout Salad, and Jalapeno Hushpuppies, with beverages to order.
From there we made our way back to Middle Street for a decadent, gluten-free chocolate fudge pie and coffee for dessert at Baker’s Kitchen.
Rounding out the tour was a wine sampling at Savi’s Wine Shop on Pollock Street.
If you go, dress for the weather and wear comfortable shoes. The tour is $65 per person and well worth it. You will come away well fed, well exercised, and a little bit more knowledgeable about North Carolina’s first Capital City.