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‘Recipe for success’: Community enjoys local bites at Taste of Laguna

Broadway restaurant cooks Izaac Vasquez, Edward Pak and Ambrosious Juong at the Taste of Laguna.
Broadway restaurant line cooks Izaac Vasquez, Edward Pak and Ambrosious Juong, from left, work fast as they cook meatballs for the masses during the Taste of Laguna Food and Music Festival on Thursday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

A little more than a month after the Festival of Arts Fine Art Show and the Pageant of the Masters wrapped up, the community returned to the Festival grounds to enjoy the culinary arts.

The Taste of Laguna Beach gave attendees an opportunity to sample light bites from 22 local restaurants on Thursday night.

The Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce and KX FM 104.7, the local radio station, partnered to put on the event, which served as a fundraiser for both nonprofit arts organizations.

A miniature creme brule cone heated with a culinary torch by Splashes pastry chef Julian Beese was a hit.
A miniature creme brule cone heated with a culinary torch by Splashes pastry chef Julian Beese was a hit during the Taste of Laguna Food and Music Festival on Thursday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Sandy Morales, the president and CEO of the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce, said that several restaurants earned honors for their tasty treats. The Best Overall Bite went to Broadway by Chef Amar Santana for sherry-glazed meatballs.

Short-rib cigars, prepared by Hotel Laguna executive chef Craig Strong, were named the Best Plated Dish. Strong also supplied black pepper ash to mimic the act of depositing a cigar in an ashtray.

The Best Vegetarian Dish went to Harley (Chef Greg Daniels) for its roasted cauliflower offering, and the Best Dish for a Sweet Tooth award went to Nirvana Grille (Chef Lindsay Smith-Rosales) for goat cheese ice cream.

Craig Strong, chef from Hotel Laguna, cooks for guests during the Taste of Laguna Food and Music Festival.
Craig Strong, chef from Hotel Laguna, cooks for guests during the Taste of Laguna Food and Music Festival on Thursday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Harley will have been in Laguna Beach for three years in November, Daniels said. The Taste of Laguna is an important event to him because it is a hyper-local gathering, one at which he sees familiar faces.

Daniels and crew brought a couple of menu items to the Taste of Laguna, but the roasted cauliflower has been a hit from the beginning.

“It was one of the most popular dishes on our menu from the get-go of the restaurant,” Daniels said.

Greg Daniels prepares roasted cauliflower from Harley's Laguna Beach restaurant during the Taste of Laguna.
Greg Daniels prepares roasted cauliflower from Harley’s Laguna Beach restaurant during the Taste of Laguna Food and Music Festival on Thursday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

NOVA and Tino Productions provided live music as people put their palates through a taste bud explosion.

Morales said the event had more than 1,200 attendees. In addition to helping themselves to delicious food, guests for the evening were able to bid on weekend getaways, private chef dinners, golf packages, autographed memorabilia and more. Alyssa Hayek, the general manager of KX FM, said the silent auction raised more than $40,000.

“It was amazing to see the Laguna Beach and Orange County community enjoying a wonderful evening at the Taste of Laguna Beach,” Morales said in an email. “The beautiful venue and fabulous food was a recipe for success! We thank our sponsors, Taste committee, Chamber ambassadors and community volunteers for making the 2021 Taste of Laguna Beach a success.”

Guests enjoy small plates from the Wine Gallery during the Taste of Laguna Food and Music Festival on Thursday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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