As a resident of Encinitas for 30 years, I am embarrassed to admit that this was my first time to try the Taste of Main Street in downtown Encinitas 101, which was held this week. Most of the shops participated in the event starting from D Street to J Street where there is no shortage of eateries and stores of various kinds.
The tickets cost $35 each, which was well marked by the street and its participating vendors.
Each vendor name had a symbol next to it showing what the patrons could expect to sample. For example, a picture of a beer mug for beer, a wine glass for wine and a fork for food.
The beer and wine were served only in tasting portions and you could “sip” to taste, up to 10 at different locations, which was sensible.
My husband and I got started on time at 5:30 p.m. from J Street since it was closer to us. A new fish restaurant, the Fish Shop was just getting started with their preparation for their food, grilled shrimp, and there was already a line forming.
We decided to walk on to cross to the other side of 101. The Japanese restaurant served two pieces of California roll, the simple version, with a half-cup of miso soup, which was kind of bland, but understandable.
The Lumberyard Tavern had pulled pork in a bun to my husband’s delight.
St. Tropez served a bite-sized éclair, also to my husband’s instant approval. (I’m one of those people who can’t eat sweets until some food intake first.)
The spice store, which I have frequented since they opened, served wine and popcorn for food! I was glad at least that we didn’t have to sample some exotic chili powder for food instead. OK, moving on to the next stop, the famed pizza place.
Upon arriving, I was thoroughly disappointed to see that they were serving tiny cups of dessert. None of their famous ‘artisan pizza!’ Not even a bite.
My husband took the sample and loved it instantly, of course.
It looked similar to crème brulee with whipped cream on top, and yes, it was my fault that I didn’t bother to stay to find out what it was. Finally, I was happily relieved to see grilled vegetables, and chunks of grilled tofu and chicken served on large platters. It made me feel they were expecting us as their customers.
This was something close to what I had imagined that the event would be where the restaurants would serve something they’d be proud to serve, so the people would return for more in the future.
In conclusion, I was definitely off with my expectations for this event. Most of the participating restaurants served their most basic menu items such as rice, risotto, or pasta, which are not only very basic but also the cheapest. Some served ceviche made with some type of fish I’ve never heard of! They didn’t even give us any forks or napkins but told us to drink it, which I did, but I still could have used a napkin. We ended the tour back at the Fish Shop, where we were served two pieces of grilled shrimp, which was overly salted in my humble culinary opinion. Luckily, my husband wanted a full glass of ale at this point, which I took a gulp to wash down the salty taste. There was a musician who was singing a great rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Lay, Lady, Lay,” which wasn’t too bad of a way to end this interesting event night.
I am proud to consider myself a local in this beautiful town of Encinitas, which has become the Mecca of the summer tourists from all over the world over the past few decades. At the same time, I can’t help thinking that this tasting event on 101 was nothing more than a scheme to bring people out to walk and sample the very basic food items that wasn’t anything to write home about.
It was almost as if we were going from shop to shop, waiting in line, asking for their free samples, when in fact, we were the paying customers. I couldn’t help wondering if this was the best way to expose the stores on 101 or if it was a successful event by the city’s point of view. I am not so convinced that I would try it again next year.
Inkyung O’Connor is an Encinitas resident.