Taste Of Huntington Beach 2015: A Look Back At Our Chow Down
It's Sunday, April 26, and we're excited to attend the 15th Annual Taste of Huntington Beach, with its delicious lineup of restaurants and fundraising mission. All proceeds benefit the Friends of the Children's Library, which absolutely warms our hearts. Since you can't possibly do it all, here's a smattering of our experience.
Walking toward the gates, we're bemused by the band, which is belting out a rendition of Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls." Oh boy, time to make the world go 'round!
Before we can figure out how to enter, a volunteer approaches, tears our ticket stubs, and ushers us through the gates. This entire event is organized and run by a team of volunteers.
The first thing we notice is the long line for Slater's 50/50. They have quite a reputation in delivering bountiful soulful burgers, and the smell wafting from the grill is like a recruiter for self-indulgence.
Not sure we can handle the heavyweights just yet, we skip over to Solita where we're offered a cup of Grilled Corn Elote, which is corn that is wood-grilled with butter, chipotle salsa, California chilies, cotixa cheese, and green onions. A simple concoction that is fresh, crunchy, and delicious. So much so that it wins the restaurant first place in the appetizers category. At Solita, staffers cut the corn off the ear and mix all the fixin's tableside—nice!
Next up is Red Table, who we already favor based on their ability to exude coolness. They offer a Pork Lollipop and Truffle Mac & Cheese. We enjoy the offering and file it under tasty—and cool.
Keeping momentum, we belly up to Sandy's, who are handing out wooden nickels for future discounts. (Fun!) We're offered a Black Tiger Prawn on a bed of sweet potato chorizo hash with corn puree and olive oil. We cannot put this plate down and would give a million wooden nickels for another. Judges apparently share our palette and slap a second place ribbon on the entree.
We excitedly step up to Ballast Point to try their Grunion Pale Ale on tap. It's ice cold, light, and so refreshing, hence the note to ourselves and to you: "try again." It also won third place behind Riip Beer Company and Green Flash Brewing Company.
In the groove and fully acclimated, we take a good look around and notice people of all ages, casually dressed, enjoying the food, music, and conversation.
Stepping up to Riip Beer Company we learn that they are opening a new location at Pacific Coast Highway and Warner Avenue, near Tsunami Sushi. We're also informed that the parking lot is being reconfigured to aid in the flow of traffic. Double yay!
Back to food, we take a delicate and delectable bite of poke from Mahé and a enjoy a simple and delicious carnitas taco from their sister restaurant Ola Mexican Kitchen, which is slated to open at Pacific City in November. Super!
We stop and talk with Watertable and agree that they have a lovely presentation as well as amazing rosemary roasted almonds. We learn that they make fresh bread at the restaurant throughout the day, with which they seduce their guests. They scoop up third and first place awards for the appetizer and booth decor categories, respectively.
We have our very first experience with Shades and surprise ourselves by quickly devouring their bold and rightful choice of serving their Smoked Bacon Peanut Butter & Stout Beer Jelly sandwich. This is a huge hit! The Hilton eatery scores second with its appetizer offering.
Roaming through the tents, we take note of the large silent auction fundraiser, consisting of rows and rows of gift baskets, getaways, paintings, and other items. There are also small and large business freebies, like totes, pens, sunblock, lip balm, and more.
Wanting to add a splash of wine to the mix, we try Graveyard Vineyards, a family-owned vineyard located in San Miguel, CA. Reasonably priced but not local, shipping is easy and usually goes out the next day. We may be placing an order very soon for: V-2013 - Syrah - Paso Robles.
We then run into friends, who invite us to their VIP table. We walk to a large grassy field where we meet Party Jones, who do a spectacular job entertaining the crowd. Aside from the VIP tables, chairs, and umbrellas, we note that several people have set up their own picnic spots using blankets and beach chairs. Kids and their parents are dancing in the grass. So sweet!
Our VIP friends announce that they will definitely be back next year. They paid only $20 more for their VIP tickets ($85 vs. $65), which include early entry, complimentary champagne and hors d'oeuvres, a commemorative wine glass, a tote bag, and free valet parking.
Rested and ready, we hit up Ritter's twice, firstly for the clam chowder and secondly for their famous pan roast (a tomato-based creole cream dish served with rice and trinity, add sausage). We congratulate them on their newly acquired liquor license and tell them how much we dig their walk-up window. They're later awarded first place for their entree.
We then go "coco nuts" for the Coconut Amber Ale from Four Sons Brewing. The subtle smell of coconut with each sip gently reminds us that summer is coming.
We roam through the tents and pick up a beautiful orange lassi from Curry & Kabab Bistro, a refreshing and popular Indian drink consisting of a chilled yogurt and mango blend. (We highly recommend their weekend brunch buffet, featuring bottomless mimosas.)
Finally, we line up at Slater's 50/50 for some love and sympathy. For what one may consider a full-size hamburger, they show us, unconvincingly, it's only a quarter-size. It's their signature bacon burger (50 percent ground bacon, 50 percent ground beef), pepper jack, a sunny-side up egg, chipotle adobo mayo, and brioche. We are happy and we are done.
Thank you, Huntington Beach and all attendees, for another generous and successful event. More than 2,200 people came out to support youth literacy, a near record number that raised $37,500 for the Children's Department of the HB Public Library. According to Taste of HB Chairman Dan Page, "That figure is nearly a 20 percent increase from last year's event." There were zero complaints and zero empty bellies. View the complete list of winners here.
Mark your calendars for next year's Taste of HB, slated for Sunday, April 24, 2016!
P.S. Bubba Sweets, thank you for allowing us to sneak home the cutest, most delicious mini red velvet cupcake. So very sweet of you.
Editor's note: This post has been updated with final numbers from Taste of HB 2015.