Since coming onboard as Seaside Community Development Corporation's new Director of Public Relations and Marketing, Lori Smith and the SCDC have sought to boost the visibility of the town’s eclectic eateries.
Smith regularly sends out invitations to travel writers and food critics around the country to come to Seaside and experience what it has to offer. One of the country's top food critics, John Mariani, recently agreed to come.
"With him coming to town for only one day, we decided to get everyone together and let everyone be a part to get the word out about what we have to offer here," said Smith.
Mariani was the honored guest at the very first Taste of Seaside held Oct. 17.
A reception for Mariani was held in Bud & Alley's herb garden pavilion, featuring an array of hors d'oeuvres such as Guatemalan-style beef stew from Amavida Coffee, pulled-pork sliders and tuna dip from Barefoot BBQ, raw oysters on the half shell and steamed royal reds from The Shrimp Shack, and shitake mushrooms from Raw & Juicy.
Fifty or more guests sipped champagne and sauvignon blanc as they sampled and mingled.
Some chose to save themselves, however, and the sit-down dinner did not disappoint.
Diners filled up two dining rooms at the sold-out event, said Smith.
Appetizers consisted of Bud & Alley's signature jumbo lump crab cake, which was kept company on the plate by Great Southern Café's soul rolls.
Diners chose between Bud & Alley's roasted whole pompano, Great Southern's shrimp and grits ya ya, or Bud & Alley's roasted chicken breast for an entrée.
Fisher Vineyards' Mountain Estate Chardonnay, and Belle Glos Clark & Telephone Vineyard Pinot Noir accompanied.
The evening topped off with an assortment of sorbets, gelatos, chocolates, and Bud & Alley's warm berry crumble.
Looking back on the event, Mariani said he enjoyed the "very fine dinner," and added that the steamed royal reds were the best he has ever eaten.
This was not Mariani's first time to visit Seaside.
"He was here eight years ago and a lot has changed since then," Smith said. "Our restaurants are working to become better and the best."
Mariani is a journalist who began his writing his writing career in 1973 for New York Magazine. He is a columnist for Bloomberg News and publisher of "The Virtual Gourmet." He is a three-time nominee for the James Beard Journalism Award, and the author of 12 food books, including "The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink," "The Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink," and "How Italian Food Conquered the World." He pens Esquire’s “Best New Restaurants” column and he has compiled his annual "Best New Restaurants In America" issue for Esquire for three decades.
Mariani signed copies of his new book, “How Italian Food Conquered the World” at the dinner and the next day at Sundog Books.
Seaside founder Robert Davis said, “We are delighted that one of America’s top food writers visited Seaside and sampled fare from our local restaurants. A Taste of Seaside gave our guests the opportunity to meet Mr. Mariani and try the wonderful restaurants offerings that help shape our town.”
The main restaurant that helped shape the town was Bud & Alley's, which Davis heralded, meeting owner Dave Rauschkolb when he was just 24 years old, when Seaside was still in its infancy.
Also recognized was Seaside Neighborhood School's first principal, Rosemary Williams, and the school's first board chairman, Billy Buzzett. These notables were recognized as a portion of the proceeds from the dinner are to be donated to SNS's school garden project.
Smith said the hope is to make A Taste of Seaside an annual, or even bi-annual seasonal event.