Taste of Lafayette supports civic, cultural, educational nonprofits
By Lou Fancher
At the 14th annual Taste of Lafayette, it's easy to do a good deed.
Savor a slider -- Niman Ranch beef cooked exactly to your liking -- nibble on onion spread and house-made pâté on a crusty baguette, or enjoy mac n' cheese with aged white cheddar bread crumb topping.
Courtesy of newcomers Bistro Burger & Grill, Reve, Sideboard Neighborhood Kitchen & Coffee Bar and longtime participant Lantern Catering, tempting tastes -- and others like them -- bring roughly 450 people to stroll the city's ever-expanding Restaurant Row. In partnership with the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, the 3.5-hour event May 17, is one of the Lafayette Community Foundation's largest fundraisers.
"Annual fundraisers like the Taste of Lafayette and the Lamorinda Garage Tour, along with the generous support of donors, help us to continue our biannual grant program, where we've given over $350,000 representing over 120 grants to local nonprofits since 1999," says foundation board member Teresa Gerringer.
In 2015, proceeds from ticket sales and raffle prizes added $7,000 to the foundation's coffers. Gerringer says the funds support civic, cultural, educational and environmental health nonprofits that contribute to Contra Costa County residents' quality of life year-round.
For Sideboard head manager Rod Duncan, Taste of Lafayette represents the ribbon at the end of a race."The 17th will probably be our second day open in the town: we're aiming to open May 16," he says.
With a well-established location in Danville and having already successfully completed a few events on the steps to the restaurant during the construction phase, Duncan isn't worried. "The town has been spectacular and this'll be a great way for people to see our vibe."
Sideboard's "vibe" in Lafayette will be similar in menu, style and decor to the Danville establishment, but will offer a few "just Lafayette" specialties -- soft-serve ice cream and custom soft drinks are the only two he'll "spill" before the opening.
Another newbie, three-month-old Reve, plans further inroads in Francophile cuisine.
Owner Laura Magu says they've had "a great reception" to their menu.
"We heard from the French community that they wanted more affordable French food. Our price point is in line with other restaurants. We're making it more everyday, casual." But casual doesn't mean wishy-washy on principles.
"French food is simple: no flour in the sauces," she says. "It's seasonal: you won't see spring peas in the fall. Our butternut squash soup was our bestseller, but now that it's no longer winter, that's over."
Bistro's Laleh Kazemi says she and her husband, Ali Kazemi, were attracted to Lafayette's family-friendly community. Operating in the former Susan Foord Café space on Mountain View Drive, she says foot traffic is lighter than in the downtown core.
"But once people come and taste the food, we have the customer as ours," she says.
Kazemi will use the Taste event to introduce a new loyalty program that earns one point for each dollar spent.
"Fifty points gets you a $5 credit. That, and mouthwatering sliders ... "
Lantern Catering owner/executive chef Rick Green provides a veteran perspective.
"We feed 400 guests in one hour. It's crazy high energy."
The Pleasant Hill-based caterer usually introduces a new menu item at receptions that bookend the tour, and Green says they're able to secure subsequent events due to the exposure.
The tour begins with a one-hour wine reception at Lafayette Plaza Park, at the corner of Moraga Road and Mt. Diablo Boulevard. Following the two-hour self-paced tour, the evening wraps up back at the Plaza with dessert and coffee, live music, raffles, and a silent and live auction.