Katie Simon and Tony Georgetti entered the brightly lit Casserole House on Telegraph Avenue on Tuesday, making the Korean restaurant their first stop on the night’s tasting adventure. A spread of Korean side dishes (banchan) and two plates of vegetable pancakes (jeon) were available for the two to help themselves.
“I have a special affection for spicy food,” said Georgetti, an El Cerrito resident, as he savored the homemade kimchi made of pickled vegetables drenched in a spicy red sauce. “I like food that causes me physical pain.”
The two then joined the hundreds of people who weaved in and out of restaurants along Telegraph Avenue on Tuesday for the sold-out second annual Taste of Temescal—an event celebrating a smorgasbord of culinary delights.
“We’re trying to highlight the transformation of Temescal,” said Darlene Drapkin, executive director of the Temescal Telegraph Business Improvement District, which organizes Taste of Temescal. “The icing on the cake is that it delivers proceeds to needy nonprofits.”
Drapkin said just ten years ago, the majority of the restaurants involved with the event didn’t even exist. But, then, a surge of businesses started opening up, including Dona Tomas and Bakesale Betty. She credits the influx to increased amenities and beautification projects such as new planters and banners.
Some chose to walk to each of the 23 participating restaurants—including Barlata Tapas Bar, Kansai Sushi Bar and Tara’s Organic Ice Cream—while some hitched a ride on one of the two yellow two-seater pedicabs available for rides up and down Telegraph Avenue.
For $30, locals were given samples of each restaurant’s signature items like the tea leaf salad and samosa soup from Burma East or the heirloom tomato and cucumber gazpacho from Dona Tomas.
In an effort to go green, Drapkin said businesses were required to use compostable serving items. Blue compost bins were located on nearly every corner.
As people mingled along the sidewalks, they were entertained with the musical acts of DJ Crimson and The Dime, Los Malcriados and Salane. At the end of the night, raffle prizes, all donated by businesses along Telegraph Avenue, were handed out—from $100 gift certificates to one of the participating restaurants to a free hair cut at 17 Jewels Salon and Spa. The restaurants were also more than happy to be donating their samples for the event.
The nonprofits receiving partial proceeds from ticket sales are Emerson Elementary, Claremont Middle School, Good Cents for Oakland, Lion’s Center for the Blind, Women’s Cancer Resource Center and Oakland Tech High School Parent Teacher Organizations. The six nonprofits each provided a team of volunteers to help with checking tickets while also providing support for the businesses who all remained open for regular business during the event hours.