The Taste of Laguna Food and Music Festival returned Thursday night, with a sold-out crowd enjoying the bites, sights and sounds on the grounds of the Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach.
A premier fundraising event for the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce, it brought more than 30 local restaurants and vendors to the site, and for everyone involved, it fostered a sense of community.
Erin Slattery, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, said the organization hopes to raise more than $100,000 through fundraising.
Admission was limited to 1,000 people, and there was also a silent auction with about two dozen items.
“It’s an event to share our businesses with the community,” Slattery said of the Taste of Laguna. “It’s to show our businesses, and more specifically our restaurants. Obviously, we want to give them the best of themselves so that all the guests say: “This is where I’m going to make my next reservation”. [or]”This is where I want my next birthday party – at this restaurant I had this amazing experience with at Taste.”
One appetizing table led to the next, as patrons had their choice of delicious dishes. From tacos to sushi and more in between, restaurants shared the limelight – and stomach space – as attendees made their way through the rows.
Rodrigo Ceja, Hendrix’s head chef at Laguna Niguel, brought a creation of rotisserie ribs combined with truffle scallop potatoes and a cone-style shallot red wine reduction.
“You can see the community,” said Ceja, a Costa Mesa resident. “[The attendees] see the chefs, because we are always behind the scenes. They can finally see who is actually cooking the food and what we are talking about. We kind of get to explain this a bit more, so that’s always the fun part of these events.
Another element Ceja said she enjoys at events like the Taste of Laguna is the ability to read people’s faces, taking into account a person’s first reaction when tasting their food.
After getting their fill, festival-goers were able to burn off some calories on the dance floor, as the Mighty Untouchables took the stage and performed many popular hits that the crowd sang along to.
Deborah Paswaters, an artist who created works on location, said she could feel the rhythm of live music in her brushstrokes. She used a live art model as a reference while producing a piece inspired by Athena, the goddess of war.
“I’ve worked alongside the Chamber of Commerce for several years, and I love when art can become philanthropy,” said Laguna Beach resident Paswaters. “I’ve worked with many charities over the past 30 years, and I’ve seen the power of what can happen when art comes into play, and so I feel so honored when I can have live art, as well as donating artwork and creating a sort of full circle by connecting the community to our community businesses.
“It’s wonderful because that’s where the real creativity happens through chefs, musicians and artists. Everyone creates. It’s almost as if competition doesn’t exist among true creatives.
Paswaters donated a work from his Goddess Series and a personal sketch session for the silent auction.
Ed Steinfeld, a radio personality with Laguna Beach station KX FM 104.7, said he felt the event brought a sense of community not seen since the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think 2020 has ended that sense of community and that willingness to talk face to face with someone. [while] breathing their air and not being afraid to catch something from them,” Steinfeld said. “It was the first time in two years that we were all completely free to do it again.”
Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.