It's back this Sunday — Huntington Beach's own gastronomic event for the ages, the Taste of Huntington Beach. OK, so maybe I get extra excited as I'm returning as a judge, but even if I wasn't, I'd still be there to support this exceptional cause that benefits the HB children's library (and everyone at the event is a volunteer — all the money goes to the charity).
In case you've never been, a few of the facts: One price covers all you care to taste and sip, and there are more than 40 restaurants, 15 breweries and 30 wineries. OC favorite band the Tijuana Dogs will be playing. There's a terrific silent auction. And more.
It all takes place this Sunday, April 29, at the Huntington Central Park Sports Complex near the Central Library from noon to 4 p.m.
It was first held in 1999 at the library with about five restaurants participating. Soon, the event grew and was moved to the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort, then the new Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa, the largest indoor space in the city. Since 2008, the event has been at the sports complex to accommodate the demand.
More than 3,000 people are expected to attend, and if you'd like to get tickets, visit http://www.tastehb.com. (There's also a special VIP ticket that includes an exclusive 11 a.m. reception, a limited 2012 wineglass and early admission to the main tent.)
On another local food-related note, the Huntington Beach Marketing and Visitors Bureau recently published its all-new, all-inclusive Dining Guide for the city. It's the first ever HB guide of its kind and includes a list of more than 275 Surf City restaurants.
But it's much more than that. Steve Bone, president and chief executive of the bureau, told me he felt it was about time to start taking credit for the many interesting local restaurants to stem the sometimes prevailing attitude that "there aren't that many great restaurants here. That's a false premise, so we set out to not just include all of them, but to give them context, make sense of them and provide a fun, user-friendly tool for both locals and visitors to take advantage of the many incredible culinary opportunities this city offers."
Bone added, "In this city, we are blessed with a wide range of dining, far wider, actually, than any one of us knew prior to engaging in the process of publishing this dining guide. We are delighted to shout out to the world that, yes, we are different, and, yes, we offer fabulous 'eats.' And, yes, we always welcome suggestions from our locals on their favorite places — and who knows, maybe you'll end up in our next 'Meet the Locals' section!"
The guide is impressively put together and colorful, overflowing with images and information, and includes a lot of interesting opinions from locals and the very experts who prepare the food and own the restaurants. There's a helpful map, and everything is categorized in the back — it's even spiked with a series of mouth-watering recipes pulled from the menu pages of some of the most popular local establishments. And the range is amazing. From high-end steak, seafood and martinis to hidden gems popular for their burritos or homemade sandwiches, the guide delivers on every culinary level imaginable.
The Dining Guide is available at the Marketing and Visitor Bureau office, the HB Visitor Information Center (located at the base of the Huntington Beach Pier) and at various restaurants and hotels throughout the city. An online searchable page-turning version is also available at http://www.surfcityusa.com.
So pick up the guide, and by all means meet me at the Taste of Huntington Beach this coming Sunday. Who knows — we may be more of a food town than most people ever thought, myself included.
CHRIS EPTING is the author of 18 books, including the new "Hello, It's Me: Dispatches from a Pop Culture Junkie." You can chat with him on Twitter @chrisepting or follow his column at http://www.facebook.com/hbindependent.