Taste of Oceanside
Updated: Oct 19, 2021
After selling out in 2019, Downtown Oceanside’s premier culinary experience is back for the seventh year.
Story by Lola Sherman / Photos by Road West Photography
Local chefs are eager to share their culinary delights with resumption of Taste of Oceanside the first weekend of October.
MainStreet Oceanside’s popular Downtown Oceanside craft food and beverage celebration will run from 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 2.
This year’s event will feature 29 restaurants offering food and 14 businesses with beer and wine, much of it crafted locally. A $45 ticket buys food tastings only, and a $60 ticket provides both food and drinks.
The event was a sellout when it last was held, in 2019, with 1,000 tickets sold. It started in 2014 with 600 tickets sold.
At that time, some restaurants farther from the Downtown core had to set up booths in vacant parking lots, but then MainStreet contracted for free trolley service to take ticket holders to various locations throughout the area, giving the restaurants themselves a chance to shine.
Two double-decker buses will circulate throughout Downtown this year. Participating restaurants run the gamut from newcomers like Carte Blanche Bistro & Bar and Orfila Tasting Room & Kitchen to longtime establishments like Venetos Cucina Italiana. And 333 Pacific will offer samples from its new chef, who came aboard in March. Here’s what the chefs had to say:
CARTE BLANCHE BISTRO & BAR
This new 180-seat restaurant wasn’t open yet the last time Taste of Oceanside was held. It anchors a new residential/parking structure called SALT at Cleveland Street and Civic Center Way.
Brandon Ross, one of the partners, said the French name refers to the “blank slate” with which the restaurant began — hoping to offer something different.
It’s not a French restaurant per se. It combines cuisines.
Ross said his family owns Mexican restaurants in the Old Town area of San Diego and has learned from study of that cuisine its many French influences, dating back to the French invasion of Mexico in 1864 under the aegis of Napoleon III.
“The concept has been accepted,” Ross said. “The local Oceanside community seems to love it. A lot of people come out and try us. So far, the feedback has been really good.”
Chef Alex Carballo was born and raised in Mazatlan, Mexico. He attended San Diego State University and has 20 years experience as a chef in San Diego.
He noted that Mexican cuisine differs from region to region — what is served in Mazatlan differs from that popular in Mexico City and in Oaxaca, for instance.
“I love food,” he said when asked why he chose to be a chef.
He said he loves the balance he can achieve. “People always say that you eat with your eyes,” Carballo said, so he tries to make the food he prepares both look good and taste good.
He’s thinking of fixing his favorite tacos for Taste of Oceanside. They’re made of duck with mole sauce.
Carte Blanche is open for lunch Tuesday-Friday, for dinner Tuesday-Sunday and for brunch on Saturday and Sunday.
ORFILA TASTING ROOM & KITCHEN
At 221 N. Cleveland St., Orfila Tasting Room & Kitchen is just down the same street from Carte Blanche and also is located in a residential complex, Pierside North.
According to a coffee table-style book on the Orfila Winery in Escondido, it was established as the San Pasqual Winery in 1973 and purchased by retired ambassador Alejandro Orfila from a winemaking family in Argentina in 1994.
Luke Morganstern has been the chef since it opened here in October of 2019.
With the opening of new hotels and other Downtown businesses, Morganstern said, Orfila has been “busier than ever.”
Morganstern said the restaurant specializes in fresh food — from his favorites, the seafood caught offshore, to the produce purchased Thursdays at MainStreet’s Oceanside Morning Farmers Market.
He calls the food at Orfila “California coastal and American cuisine” with “maybe a little bit of Mediterranean too” and says he tries “to keep it simple — and to make everything delicious — and healthy, too.” He offers both vegan and gluten-free dishes.
Morganstern is a graduate of San Diego Culinary Institute and previously worked at the iconic L’Auberge Del Mar and Dolce Pane e Vino in Rancho Santa Fe.
He’s long lived in Oceanside and says “even on my days off, I hang out here.”
Morganstern’s thinking of serving either duck sliders or maybe shepherd’s pie for Orfila’s Taste of Oceanside offerings. Morganstern will also be providing an array of appetizers for the Taste of Oceanside VIP Experience on Friday, Oct. 1. See page 8 for more info.
Orfila Tasting Room & Kitchen is open noon- 8 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday and noon -9 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
VENETOS CUCINA ITALIANA
Although chef and owner Pino Bottalico took over the Italian-themed restaurant at 608 N. Coast Highway only four years ago, he said its history in Oceanside goes back into the 1980s.
Bottalico may be relatively new to this city, but his background in the hospitality business goes all the way back to when he was only 8 years old.
There’s a framed photograph on the wall in the bar showing Bottalico as a child working in a bar in a small town in the poorer southern region of his native Italy. The six children in his family all had to work, he said — for 25 cents a week.
Bottalico previously owned Pino’s Cucina Italiana restaurant in The Lumberyard, Encinitas, where he said he helped create a Taste of Encinitas event in that city in 1997.
He, too, specializes in cuisine from various regions of his home country.
The menu is expansive and full of choices from antipasto appetizers to veal or chicken parmesan to pasta dishes to desserts like homemade tiramisu.
Bottalico maintained a delivery and takeout business during the pandemic and has been giving a free bottle of wine with dinner orders.
“I take care of my people,” he said. “It was not a good time for everybody,” he said. “We do whatever we can to be happy.”
John Ruiz is the new executive chef on the block at this fine dining steak and seafood restaurant.
He’s hoping it soon can reopen for lunch as well as dinner.
“It’s a weird time” in the aftermath of the pandemic, said Ruiz, who’s only been in California since January of 2020.
He was born in the Philippines and grew up in Hawaii, first on the Garden Island of Kauai and then he spent the past dozen years on Oahu. He moved here to be a chef at the Omni Resort, but then the pandemic shut down that opportunity.
He said he “grew a passion for all food” in childhood and calls his own cooking style “Pacific cuisine,” specializing “in seafood and everything in the Pacific Rim.”
At 333, he said he’s been “really busy like everyone else” due to a labor shortage created by the pandemic. This ongoing shortage has led some longtime Taste of Oceanside participants like Masters Kitchen and Cocktail to bow out this year.
Ruiz isn’t sure yet what he will prepare for Taste of Oceanside but thinks it might be an ahi tuna on a toasted brioche roll. He also likes a type of milk bread dish.
He said he participated in a kind of food fair, not unlike Taste of Oceanside, at the Modern Honolulu Hotel in Hawaii, where 13 to 15 chefs brought special offerings.
“What a great way to get to know the community a little better,” he said. “You get to showcase new things coming on, what’s trending.:”
Find out more about Taste of Oceanside and see a full list of participating Taste Stops, Sip Stops and Beverage Sponsors at www.tasteofoceanside.com.
TASTE OF OCEANSIDE EVENT DETAILS
Oct. 2, 2-5 p.m.
Come taste your way through Oceanside’s exciting food and brew scene — one bite and sip at a time. Walk or ride your bike to each participating venue — or take a double-decker bus — to sample local handcrafted cuisine and, optionally, beverages by the restaurants, brewers and wineries that have made Oceanside one of the leading foodie destinations in North County San Diego. Explore Downtown restaurants and businesses along the way while enjoying musical performances throughout the district.
In all, enjoy 31 food and 14 beverage tastings at Taste of Oceanside this year, including offerings by new restaurants and tasting rooms, including Bliss Tea & Treats, Camp Coffee Company, Carte Blanche Bistro & Bar, Craft Coast Beer & Tacos, Curry & More Indian Bistro, The Green House, Le Citron, Mangia e Bevi, Pacific Coast Spirits and Seaborne Coffee. In addition, get ready to try not just one but all of the restaurants of Downtown Oceanside’s new resort hotels, Mission Pacific Hotel and the Seabird Resort: Piper, The Rooftop Bar,The Shore Room and Valle.
Taste of Oceanside tickets are limited for this rain-or-shine event. Available at Tasteofoceanside.com and the Main Street Oceanside office, 701 Mission Ave., advance food tasting tickets are $45, and food and beverage tasting combo tickets, $60, for attendees who are 21 and over. If any tickets remain the day of, they can be purchased for $50 and $65 at the attendee check-in booth at 1 p.m. at Civic Center Plaza, 300 N. Coast Highway.
On Friday, Oct. 1, the Taste of Oceanside VIP Party also will be returning from 5-8 p.m. See page 8 for more info.
A portion of proceeds from every ticket sold will be donated to the North County Food Bank. Based in San Marcos, the North County Food Bank provides food assistance to working-poor families, fixed-income seniors, low-income military families and children living in poverty throughout North County.
Taste of Oceanside will continue to promote zero waste in Oceanside by giving a reusable spork to attendees, as well as a reusable sip cup to attendees who purchase combo tickets. These commemorative gifts will prevent over 10,000 cups and 21,000 utensils from going to our landfill.
MainStreet would like to thank event sponsors Green Oceanside, City of Oceanside, Frontwave Credit Union, Oceanside Adventures and Energy Upgrade California for their support.
TASTE OF OCEANSIDE VIP EXPERIENCE
Oct. 1, 5-8 p.m.
From an elevated evening on an ocean-facing rooftop to a fun-filled afternoon at local restaurants and shops, treat yourself to a weekend full of the very best of Downtown Oceanside! Returning for 2021, the Taste of Oceanside VIP Experience offers attendees of Downtown’s premier culinary experience back-to-back tastings with the Second Annual Taste of Oceanside VIP Party on Friday, Oct. 1 and the Seventh Annual Taste of Oceanside on Saturday, Oct. 2.
From 5-8 p.m. on Oct. 1, the Taste of Oceanside VIP Party will return to the rooftop of Pierside South with special guest chef Luke Morganstern of Orfila Tasting Room & Kitchen. Enjoy appetizers by Orfila, cocktails by Señor Grubby’s, desserts by Bliss Tea & Treats and live music by Saxophonist Jason Brown.
Limited VIP tickets, which include food and beverage combo admission to Taste of Oceanside on Oct. 2 from 2-5 p.m., are available for $125 on TasteofOceanside.com.