DIXON – Tourists look for a unique dining experience when they travel.
As Dixon continues to position itself as a destination, culinary tourism is becoming more important in drawing visitors, said Vicky Walter, Dixon Tourism president.
Dixon Tourism and Chicago & Beyond will host “The Experience of Culinary Tourism” on Thursday at Basil Tree Ristorante, 123 E. First St.
The workshop is the first of four throughout northern Illinois geared toward tourism officials, restaurant owners, travel writers, food critics and food junkies.
Also, Wednesday evening Dixon Tourism scheduled a “Taste of our Town” progressive dinner to showcase its restaurants for workshop visitors.
Turner said the tourism board asked several months ago to be part of a series of culinary workshops Chicago & Beyond was planning.
Basil Tree Ristorante owner/chef Mili Dalipi, chef Mark Fremke of Orom, and Bud Lefevre of Distinctive Gardens, along with representatives from Chicago & Beyond, will host a panel discussion starting at 9 a.m. on how to attract tourists.
A second part of the discussion will focus on the use of social and local media, including panelists from media outlets.
“This will definitely bring people from out of town. People from Geneva, Rockford and Galena are attending,” Turner said. “I don’t expect huge numbers for the first go-round.”
The “Taste of our Town” event will start at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Crystal Cork, 219 W. First St., for appetizers served by Touch of Thai.
The event will proceed to Gingko Tree Cafe, 216 W. First St., for a second course. Entrees will be served at The Next Picture Show, 113 W. First St., prepared by Timber Creek, Galena Steak House, and Salamandra’s, followed by dessert from Baker Street.
Turner said the idea of the progressive dinner was to entice visitors to stay the night in Dixon and spend some money there.
“If they are coming in at 9 a.m., we thought maybe some would come in the night before if we had something,” Turner said. “It’ll be easier for them and they can get a taste of our town and showcase our local restaurants.”
Bonnie Heimbach, executive director for Chicago & Beyond, said three other workshops are planned; one in Harvey focusing on ethnic food Sept. 18, one in Roselle focusing on serving local food and wine, and another in Chicago in September geared toward a large-scale market.
“Each workshop comes with its own theme and brand,” Heimbach said. “Restaurants are more and more a destination. One of the reasons people do travel, they are looking for that unique restaurant, whether it be a dive or diner, or fine dining.”
Turner said Dixon Tourism also published a dining guide complete with categories and a map of the city’s restaurants.
“It’s a perfect tie-in with this event. We’re seeing a growing surge in culinary tourism.”
For reservations for the "Taste of Our Town" event Wednesday or the "Experience of Culinary Tourism" workshop Thursday, call Dixon Tourism at 815-284-3496.
Reservations are $40 for Wednesday's event and $35 for Thursday's workshop.