A Tour at Home: City Tasting Box Features Local Products 

From barbecue sauce to popcorn, City Tasting Box offers a true taste of Memphis.

When her City Tasting Tours stopped because of the pandemic, Cristina McCarter decided to fight back.

She began boxing.

But not in the pugilism sense. She and Lisa Brown started City Tasting Box, featuring products ranging from barbecue sauce to popcorn — from "local restaurants and local food artisans," McCarter says.

click to enlarge Cristina McCarter and Lisa Brown
  • Cristina McCarter and Lisa Brown

City Tasting Box will begin shipping boxes to the public on 901 Day — September 1st.

McCarter created City Tasting Tours four years ago. "It's a food tour company where I will take people — visitors and locals alike — to different restaurants in Downtown Memphis," she says. "They get to meet the chefs. I also share with them historical facts and landmarks of the city."

When COVID-19 hit, McCarter decided to "expand the City Tasting brand" a little farther. "I couldn't do tours anymore."

City Tasting Box seemed like the perfect direction. "We can ship them nationwide and really put Memphis and its culinary scene on the map — and give people something they physically can taste."

She told her idea to Brown, who is with the Memphis Transformed nonprofit. "She really liked it. And she comes from more of a corporate background." She could see the potential of one day making the business even bigger, "instead of just a local thing."

click to enlarge food_img_7724.jpg

Brown appreciated McCarter wanting to help local restaurants. "I love the 901 push behind it all," Brown says. "And it's a smart way to create new business."

McCarter started with "those who already packaged their things, were already selling them in grocery stores."

Makeda's Cookies butter cookies were first. "Then I thought about the farmers market and the other chefs I wanted to work with."

Other products found in City Tasting Boxes include Rendezvous barbecue sauce, Fry Me Up seasoning from Tamra "Chef Tam" Patterson of Chef Tam's Underground Cafe, Grecian Gourmet Greek vinaigrette, The Commissary barbecue seasoning, Jacko's Pepper Jelly mango pepper jelly, Pops Kernel Gourmet Popcorn sweet caramel popcorn, New Wing Order buffalo sauce, B Chill Lemonade, Nine Oat One granola, Cane and Herb rosemary-infused simple syrup, Thistle and Bee honey, My Cup of Tea tea bags, and chef Justin Hughes' Wooden Toothpick spicy peppercorn blend.

"They were all very supportive of this," McCarter says. "They saw this as another way to help with their revenues and get the word out. It's a win-win for everyone."

"It's a way to project their brand," Brown adds.

They now offer three boxes: the Official Memphis Travel Box ($74.99 for seven items), Support Local Box ($64.99, six items), and the Ultimate Support Local Box ($119.99, 12 items).

Customers sometimes will get "little pieces of artwork" with their order, McCarter says. This month, the first 100 people who order the Memphis Travel Box and the first 50 who purchase the Ultimate Box will receive a Get ARCHd Memphis retro skyline wooden block.

McCarter began promoting the boxes in July. "I reached out to my City Tasting Tours audience and shared it with them. Then we started making local media posts: 'Hey, we have this cool box coming. Stay tuned.'"

They launched the idea August 14th.

Though City Tasting Box is "exclusive to Memphis-made products — Shelby County, at least," McCarter says, "We are thinking in the near future of expanding to other cities."

But, she says, "The market is going to always be growing here in Memphis. There are a bunch of food artisans out there that we haven't approached."

Response has been great, Brown says: "Everyone is thrilled. The support has been amazing. People think this is such a great idea. It's all about Memphis. You know how Memphians are. We love to tout. We want the whole world to know who we are."

For more information on City Tasting Box, go to citytastingbox.com.

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