Avital Ungar, founder and owner of Avital Tours, first became serious about the finer points of life while living in Paris and the quaint town of Aix-en-Provence in Southern France. After drinking wine at three in the afternoon as per the cultural norm and gorging her way through the countryside, Avital returned to the United States and began reading “Wine for Dummies” with the hope of adding an academic wine approach to her informal wine education. Now, years later, Avital is a certified sommelier.
A UCLA graduate, Avital studied Art History, French and Mandarin Chinese but wishes she could have majored in Chocolate. Returning to her hometown of San Francisco after living in Shanghai working in the Chinese Contemporary art market, she began to pursue her interest in art and food professionally. She has been leading artisan food and wine tours for the past four years. She has served as a judge at the 2011 International Chocolate Salon and was most recently featured on the Travel Channel.
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Harley, born on Harley Street in London (no, his parents weren’t bikers) and then raised in New York, went on to study at UCLA and then Stanford but eventually landed himself in France. As a teenager he’d been a voracious reader of Ernest Hemingway, so when he finally arrived in Paris, he thought he’d be eating mountains of oysters downed by barrels of wine. But he quickly discovered that was a mirage, quit his job at the art gallery, and hitchhiked all over France, eventually finding work on a vineyard until the harvest, and then went to work on a jam farm. It was then he realized he travels to eat.
Harley has traveled through India by motorcycle, down the Amazon by boat, through the Middle East by walking, and tasted the food from every street corner he could find. He now jokes that he’s had parasites from every almost every continent, and regrets nothing.
He is currently a documentary filmmaker but is a foodie the world over. He loves San Francisco and the innovation and creativity chefs are exhibiting. No wonder he’s a perfect fit to lead our Mission District Food Tour!
Melissa’s food journey began the moment she was born – picking the most delicious raspberries and sweet peas growing in her grandmother’s front yard and devouring them on the spot. Growing up in an edible garden, we guess you couls say she was the kid that “ate dirt”. At age 12, she connected not only with the land but also with the sea and ate her first sushi. Melissa had quite the palate at a young age and understood the value of fresh local ingredients.
But Italy has always had a special place in her heart. In college, she worked at a fresh pasta shop peddling tortellini and linguini but her true love is pizza. Growing up in New Jersey surrounded by Italians and mobsters, of course it’s no surprise that she’s pizza obsessed. Melissa is so obsessed that she once got in a heated discussion over a parking spot in front of Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn and waited in line for 5 hours at Pizzeria Bianco in Arizona.
No wonder she leads our Little Italy North Beach Food Tour!