In Santa Barbara there’s a fundraiser as old as Beyoncé and Natalie Portman. That’s Taste of the Town, heading into its 32nd year for the event this September 8, as it keeps raising money for the Arthritis Foundation. If you ask honorary cochair Tina Takaya from Opal Restaurant what makes this, of all the noble Santa Barbara fundraisers, special, she says, “It’s the very first one. We’ve had 32 years to shore it up. For instance, this year I got them to change to really good wine glasses. Great wines deserve great vessels to drink them from. These are glasses you’ll want to take home.” Indeed, the great wines will be poured from more than 40 local wineries, including stars like Au Bon Climat, Beckmen, Cargasacchi, Dragonette, Foxen, Jaffurs, Margerum, Presqu’ile, Qupé, and Whitcraft.
But then there’s food, too, all spread amid the shaded alcoves of the Riviera Park Gardens, with its breathtaking views over the city. In the food-tasting side of things, too, it’s a list at least 40 strong, including newcomers like Anchor Woodfire Kitchen & Bar, Finch & Fork, and Toma, and old-timers like Chase Restaurant, New West Catering, and Michael’s (as in Hutchings) Catering. The event isn’t over until the last Ca’ Dario sage sizzles in butter alongside one of its ravioli.
There will also be more room this year, too, as the usual Connoisseurs’ Circle gala meal will happen two days before on September 6, and not concurrent with the main tasting. “Every year we get more efficient, more, fun,” Takaya says. “People felt they ended up at the tail end of the main event after the Connoisseurs’ Circle meal, so we pushed it back this year.” That meal will feature the cooking of Chef Patrice Martineau from El Encanto and crazy goodies like a sea urchin canapé and an appetizer that runs as follows: marinated tartar of hamachi, baked sweet pepper, minted hummus, Mojave raisin, and Greek yogurt. Does it even begin to matter what the main is after that?
Takaya and her husband, Richard Yates, have been cochairs for seven years now because, she says, “This event always felt like an important one. Arthritis hits almost everyone [actually, one in five adults] and lots of children, too. But if they get the help they need, it’s easier for them. It’s very inspiring working with all the people at the Arthritis Foundation. They’re joy to be around.”
Dine deliciously, drink delightfully, and fight arthritis at the 32nd Annual Taste of the Town, Sunday, September 8, noon-3 p.m., at the Riviera Park Gardens (2030 Alameda Padre Serra). Main event tickets purchased in advance are $125; tickets at the door are $150. Call (805) 563-4685 or visit tasteofthetownsantabarbara.org/wp.