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Carlsbad Tasting Tour Benefits Local Schools

Russ and Jordan Bruhn at the Taste of Carlsbad

By: JESSICA MUSICAR - For the North County Times

CARLSBAD ---- For three hours, locals and food lovers alike nibbled delicacies such as cheese enchiladas, barbecued shrimp and bruschetta from 27 restaurants in and around Carlsbad Village on Saturday.

Joined for the ninth annual Taste of Carlsbad, a fundraiser put on by the nonprofit Carlsbad Educational Foundation, the restaurants gave out samples of their cuisine to nearly 2,500 visitors.

Proceeds from the event benefit Carlsbad Unified School District programs, said Diana Aaron, the executive director of the foundation. Aaron said she hoped to raise $30,000 this year through ticket and drink sales.

"It's good food for a good cause, and it allows people to sample a lot of different restaurants in one spot," Aaron said.

The food tour was split into two portions, with 19 eateries from outside of the Village distributing samples in two parking lots on the corner of Carlsbad Village Drive and Roosevelt Street. Then participants walked to restaurants spread across three blocks of the Village, such as Vigilucci's Cucina Italiana, Le Passage and Hennessey's Tavern.

Samples ranged from simple to baroque, including Vigilucci's canapes, such as smoked salmon and capers nestled in an endive leaf, mushroom caps stuffed with crab meat, penne with marinara sauce or cups of sweet panna cotta.

Inside the parking lot, restaurants ranged from small establishments to chains, including Olive Garden, Pat & Oscar's, Sammy's Woodfired Pizza, and the Souplantation.

For many, the walk between restaurants and booths became a potentially messy balancing act of drinks, samples, maps and programs from the tour. Other participants sat at tables draped in black, where they snacked on samples while sipping beer and wine from the beer garden inside the parking lot. Artwork from Carlsbad students was also available for appreciation and purchase.

While slurping up spoonfuls of chicken gumbo from Mimi's Cafe, La Costa resident Stuart Brodsky said he and his wife, Ilene, were visiting the Taste of Carlsbad for the first time. He said friends recommended the event and he was impressed by the choice of fare and variety of participating restaurants.

"I like the community flavor of it, no pun intended," Brodsky said between bites of the soupy gumbo. "I would love to have a bucketful."

He added that the Taste of Carlsbad will help him decide which restaurants to patronize in the future.

In addition to helping a good cause, restaurant and shop owners such as Russ Bruhn, the president of the Carlsbad Gourmet, said the event also brings good exposure to their businesses.

Offering samples of "fruitzza," a dessert pizza with a strawberry spread, and meatballs dipped in strawberry-sweetened barbecue sauce, the Carlsbad Gourmet drew a long line of hungry people.

After delicately chewing a bite of the red and white fruitzza, Christina Dossola said the victual was surprisingly tasty.

"It's really good," Dossola said. "You can really taste the fresh strawberries,"

Dossola ---- who came to the Taste of Carlsbad with her husband, Fred ---- said this was their first time attending the event.

"Everything we have tasted," she said, "has been really good."

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