This past weekend saw a significant part of the Santa Monica Pier transformed into a place where God lives, culinarily speaking, with the increasingly renowned Taste of Santa Monica event, where dozens of dexterous devotees of delicious dishes gather to present samples of their skills to residents and visitors alike. This year’s event proved to be by far and away the best one yet, with more space, more tastes and a carnival atmosphere, that set a new standard for this annual gastronomic shindig.
With a sonic backdrop of tasty blues, courtesy of the brilliant Route 66, attendees were spoilt for choice with almost 50 booths to visit. From Mahatma Rice, with their sweet and simple rice samples, to The Art Institute Of California International students pumping out pristine pizzas, virtually every taste was catered for, and it appeared that there was a lot of tasting going on.
I arrived at “The Taste” about half an hour after the gates lifted at 1 p.m. and people were already eagerly rambling from tent to tent gleefully enjoying the generous samples available. I decided to take a clockwise route and taste as many attractions as I could, given that I only possess one stomach (trust me, it really is a challenge to enjoy all of the wares as there were so many on offer this year!).
Border Grill came armed with four dishes, of which I sampled an exquisite Potato Rajas Taco, and quite the most refreshing Pomegranate Lemonade, that continued to refresh me as I stopped at The Yard’s booth, where they spoilt me with a fresh fish taco. The Lobster never fail to impress, and they certainly put their best foot forward this year with a stunning Ceviche-Citrus and Chili-Marinated Catalina White Seabass with Fresh Market Vegetables and Homemade Tortilla Chips, that was tantalizingly tangy and delicious.
As I was enjoying the Chilaquiles (a delicately flavored mixture of shredded chicken, tortillas and egg) courtesy of Fig @ Fairmont Miramar Hotel, I happened upon a couple of friends, Debra and Grace, who were eagerly consuming the wares of Ocean Avenue Seafood, namely, the East and West Coast Oysters, and Bass Scallop Ceviche respectively, and they both exclaimed their appreciation. Debra joked that she felt like a judge on the popular television show Top Chef, whilst Grace mentioned that she had a penchant for the more direct approach of Hell’s Kitchen demon Gordon Ramsey (I really don’t know how well that would have gone down with the chefs at “The Taste!”).
Next, it was on to Rusty’s Surf Ranch, whose crab cakes were fresh and fun, and then a visit to the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company booth, where the hot and freshly Fried Shrimp and Hush Pups, served with Remoulade Dipping and Cocktail Sauce, stimulated my taste buds no end. Buddha’s Belly presented their exquisite chicken salad, and The Chart House had a perfect Coconut Shrimp and Ahi Nachos. As a “sweet tooth satisfier” I headed over to Vienna Pastry Inc. where I was spoilt with a more than satisfying éclair, yummy!
All in all, this year’s Taste of Santa Monica was evidently a resounding success. A beautiful day, a wonderful location, great music, samples of the best dishes imaginable, and a vibrant and joyful atmosphere, made this “taste” the best yet. Special kudos has to go out to The Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, that, under the stewardship of Laurel Rosen, has not only provided Santa Monica with another superbly produced event, but is redefining the role of an organization, that can traditionally, often be viewed as a moribund “business only” interest group, into an active city-wide advocate of unique quality entertainment, that cannot but help benefit the community in so many ways (including a facility to raise money for the Upward Bound House, WISE & Healthy Aging, OPCC and the Westside Food Bank) . Watch this space for the upcoming Cirque de Soliel for further evidence of the Chamber’s fervent enthusiasm for the promotion of joyful merriment.