By April Brooks-Dresman
On a sunny, mild summer San Diego afternoon, I entered Downtown Vista with a commemorative glass, Sip & Taste Stop map and a gold coin in hand to an array of sounds– live music drifting through the air; sights– a sea of colors, a bustle of people, strollers, and kids dancing to Greg Douglas Band, rockin’ jams and, finally; smells– a cornucopia of culinary delights and libations served up by local chefs, craft brewers, distillers and wine makers.
Welcome to the 11th Annual Taste of Vista, where each chef hopes visitors will ultimately cast the gold coin vote for their culinary sample as the favorite bite. On June 20, 2019, only one will be named the favorite– winner of the Golden Fork award.
Last year, I reluctantly attended for the first time because I am a vegetarian. If you are a local you know that our town is heavy on meat themed restaurants, so I usually give these events a pass. I found however, this event offers up a fun night out with live music, an occasional veggie option, delicious desserts and drinks, great conversation with chefs, drink masters and fellow “gastro buffs”. As was the case last year, I turned up late at 6 pm, with aching feet from work and hungry, hoping for some vegetarian tastings.
Luckily, right away the live music had me bopping along and I found Ciao Ristorante offering ziti and sauce with capers and olives, bruschetta and a light, tasty cream puff with chocolate sauce. Next I hit Mothers Provisions where I had a peppery, savory seasoned bruschetta on a crispy crusted bread- It was delicious. I almost gave my coin here. But having just arrived, I saved my final decision for later. Out on the street I heard ravings about the “waffles”, so I headed to Sunrise Cafe for a fresh, hot waffle with strawberries and cream– just like home.
I passed many Taste Stops with long lines and people raving about the samples. I watched with jealousy as my friend enjoyed sample after sample of marvelously presented, exotic samples containing meat. I should mention, and am sorry that I missed the entire “new downtown” area of offerings because of my aching feet, I forgot there was a shuttle and was pressed for time. What I didn’t miss, and to my vegetarian delight, was the CSA where I signed on for local farm fresh produce delivery right to my door.
I came upon Vista Way Cafe for bread pudding with buttered rum sauce– one of the best bread puddings I’ve ever had–on my list for a coin. Next, Flying Pig, to my surprise I wasn’t offered meat but instead a fresh banana “pudding”. Each sample was beautifully presented in a little cup, a healthy dollop of light creamy pudding with a fresh banana floating inside and finished with crumble topping. Expecting a pork entry, I asked why there was no meat entry. They replied everyone expects they offer pork. They chose to showcase their ability to create “delicious, freshly made meals using locally sourced ingredients in the Southern style”. This meticulously prepared dessert did exactly that. Oh my goodness!– I placed my coin.
Resigned I wouldn’t find more veggie options in the area, I moved onto the Sip Stops. To my dismay, the wine stops had very long lines and with limited time, I opted to move on. I sampled beers from Booze Brothers, Eppig, Belching Beaver, Prohibition, Wavelength and Ebullition, Mead and Cider from Twisted Horn, and a rye whiskey from Henebery. My favorite sip stop was Ebullition. They offered 2 delicious options: a strawberry honey Pale Ale and a chocolatey Porter aged on fresh vanilla which could be poured together for a “Neopolitan” — so clever and delicious! This place aims to please, “give them a shout out from the area you hail from with the drink you miss and they will work on it”. For example those from UK or the East coast can find a classic Black and Tan or a Snakebite.
I enjoyed a mild Summer night in town complete with sounds from 3 different live musicians/bands, talked to many creative, passionate chefs and libation masters, signed up for CSA farm fresh delivery to my door and tasted some good food and drink. This vegetarian went home drunk on sugar from carbs, desserts and beer and ate a quesadilla. I will attend again next year, perhaps having eaten something first.
So did a meat inspired dish win this year’s award? No, a good old fashioned just like home cooked option did– the one I heard so many murmurings about that I sought out the booth.
This year’s Golden Fork Award Winner is Sunrise Cafe and their fresh, warm waffle with strawberries and cream– Taste of Vista, taste of home, yum!