La Rue du Chocolat is one of the stops on the Chocolate Walk as part of Laguna Beach Foodies' food tours (Coastline Pilot / March 15, 2012)

To many of us, food may be, well, food, but there are a lot of serious foodies in Laguna Beach for whom food is a passion and a cause célèbre, and even a way of life.

However, do not dare confuse Laguna Foodies with the Laguna Beach Food Group.


FOR THE RECORD:
[An earlier version of this story referred to one of the groups as Laguna Beach Foodies. The actual name is Laguna Foodies.]

The Food Group is an offshoot of Transition Laguna Beach, and its mission is to promote locally grown produce and to help people build "victory gardens" in their backyards. It also partners with some local restaurants for common dining experiences to teach its principles.

In other words, if you want to change your "footprint on the planet" — and that includes using as little energy and waste as possible — then the TLB Food Group is for you. But its fare might not be for every taste, unless you are a kale lover.

If, however, you want to enjoy dining perks and "food walks" at some 180 of the city's sumptuous eateries — and know that you are contributing to the pantries of hungry families — then by all means check out Laguna Foodies at http://www.lagunafoodies.org.

The Foodies group was founded in 2008 and just launched a new Food Tour program. For $35 to $85, diners can get an expert-guided tour — and tastes — of some of the major and even minor players in the food business in Laguna Beach. (They even promise some "secret" locations!)

The month of March features a Chocolate Walk and a Sushi Stroll. The tours take three to four hours, during which intrepid diners visit a multitude of spots to satiate their appetites. And then apparently walk off the calories. That's a win-win.

Chocolate Walks take place at 6:30 p.m. every Thursday and include some sweet spots. The $45 cost includes samples at some 10 confectioneries.

Sushi Strolls are held at 4 p.m. Sundays, beginning at the Lifeguard Tower at Main Beach, and the stroll takes in six sushi purveyors, and includes sake and beer pairings for $65.

Attendees should meet 15 minutes before take-off time.

It does sound like fun, although good walking shoes are obviously a must.

Spokeswoman Sarah Edwards says she came up with the Food Tour concept as a free sampling promotion project for the restaurants, but that just didn't fly in Laguna. Restaurants are hurting right now and were not signing on to a program to give away food. But once they got paying customers involved, they dove right in.

The number and type of Laguna Foodies participants is astonishing: Everyone from high-end sushi spots, world-class restaurants and intimate dining experiences jumped on board. Even some coffee houses and taco places put in their chits.


FOR THE RECORD:
[An earlier version said The White House restaurant was part of Laguna Foodies. It is not.]

Tours are led by the chefs and barkeeps, and Laguna Foodies boasts that more than 10 different languages are spoken on the tours, showcasing the city's international culinary flavor.

"We always end somewhere fun with live music if possible," Edwards said in an email. "Our guides talk about Laguna and its history, but truly the walks are more about the food then they are about town history."

She also highlighted private tours for birthdays, couples' and girls' nights out, as well as upcoming tours featuring a meditation walk and vegetarian dishes as well as one allowing dogs.

"It's about getting out in Laguna Beach, enjoying food and promoting local eateries and creating awareness of what we have and being mindful that there are kids in Orange County that are hungry and we can help," she added.

Heck, it's as if "The Chew" crew suddenly walked out onto Main Beach.

Edwards says the goal for 2012 is to get every single restaurant in Laguna Beach to sign up for Dine Out for No Kid Hungry, a national event that takes place Sept. 16 to 22 and benefits Share Our Strength, a group that funds the Community Action Partnership of Orange County. The group runs a food bank and also helps needy families got food stamps and nutrition education.

But if forking over your hard-earned greenery for a dining treat isn't in the cards for you right now, you can always opt for the "do-it-yourself-the-Laguna-way" approach and grow your own.

Transition Laguna's website is transitionlaguna.org. The group can help you on your way to food self-sufficiency and strictly fresh organic produce.

But who says you can't do both? In other words, have your fun and eat from the garden, too. After all, it is Laguna.

CINDY FRAZIER is city editor of the Coastline Pilot. She can be contacted at (949) 302-1469 or cindy.frazier@latimes.com.