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  • Annabelle Christine

Taste of Spring 2024: Oceanside in Bloom

Photo by Kailoa Powers

Oceanside celebrated its vibrant new downtown at the first annual Taste of Spring, a retail and dining experience featuring thirty-three stops, from Whitlock’s mom-and-pop style surf shop to MICHELIN Star restaurant Valle.

“Not only do the seasons change but our guest’s palettes change, so we are always tweaking things,” said Roger Browning, who co-owns The Flying Pig with his wife, Aaron. “Other places might change their menu four times a year, we might change ours once a week.” The Pig, as it’s affectionately known by locals, is a mainstay on Mission Avenue, and the proud home of Oceanside’s first female executive chef, Samantha Parker. 

A self-paced walking tour, the event allowed guests to meet all-star entrepreneurs, chefs, bartenders, healers, artists, and musicians who, like Parker, have helped transform downtown Oceanside into one of southern California’s most alluring destinations.

Tremont Street’s Russ Bruhn welcomed guests to Strawberry Shack with a classic strawberry shortcake—but made sure they didn’t leave without sampling his latest innovations like pineapple mango ice cream and chocolate-covered candied oranges. Bruhn’s passion for sweets is matched only by his meticulous attention to detail. “I use a refractometer that measures the sweetness in things,” he explained, “So for example when we get a batch of strawberries, I take it out to the farm, squeeze the juice on it, and gauge how sweet they are. The strawberries have different sweetness at different times in the year, so we always adjust things accordingly.”

Photo by Kailoa Powers

Strawberry Shack wasn’t the only stop celebrating spring with fruity flavors. Cococabana, a Carribean-style bar, paired their ceviche with a chile-infused mezcal watermelon mint cocktail, the “O’side Rider.” Meanwhile, Oceanside Alternative Medicine & CBD’s owner Michelle Collins-Giberti spent the afternoon pouring cups of orange passionfruit guava CBD tea as she educated guests on her custom healing oil blends. The shop also hosted its weekly open mic session, managed by resident artist Sevid.

Sevid moved to Oceanside from Orange County and quickly fell in love with the downtown area. “People, strangers, were so friendly, smiling at me,” he shared, “I thought, ‘Who do they think I am?’ like they mistook me for somebody else—but it was just like that everywhere.”

Guests also gathered for an open mic session at Pannikin Coffee & Tea’s back patio at the historic Bunker House, built in 1886, while sampling lemon, pecan, and vegan granola bars. Across the street, Taste of Spring’s title sponsor, SALT, opened two of their fifty-two condominiums for tours. “People aren’t aware unless they come down, Oceanside isn’t just a military area anymore,” said real estate agent Clint McKinnon. “There are a lot of rental apartments downtown, but here you can actually buy a condo two blocks from the beach and build equity affordably.”

Several attendees said they wished Taste of Spring lasted all weekend. Tickets sold out, and downtown is already preparing for its hallmark fall event, Taste of Oceanside, which is set to be an even larger celebration of the district’s remarkable culinary scene.

“It’s all organic the way people come together and support each other here. And the more people that arrive, the more vibrant it’s going to be,” said Gumaro Escarcega, MainStreet Oceanside’s CEO, “This is just a taste of what Taste of Oceanside is going to be.”

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