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Taste of OC will return

After being gone for more than 15 years, the event takes place June 16 and 17 at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine.

May 12, 2012|By Sarah Peters

The Taste of Orange County will return in June after a more than 15-year hiatus, an event producer confirmed this week.

Not only is the countywide, five-star culinary festival emerging from retirement, but artisan cocktails, locally brewed beer, sommeliers, cooking demonstrations, celebrity chefs, arts and musical entertainment are in the festival's corner this time around.

"With the explosion of restaurants and chefs and food and wine, we do [festivals] all over the country in individual cities," said Judy Gray, one of the event's producers. "But we really need to do something all together. The time has come again. I think this is going to shine a light on how the culinary scene has grown and what it has to offer."

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The two-day festival will be held June 16 to 17 at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine.

It previously was held in an industrial complex's parking lot near the Irvine Spectrum Center, Gray said.

While it's not clear why past festival organizers hung up their aprons, Gray said the new organizers have a comeback in the works, with plans extending five years out.

"We've already gotten the response from the restaurants and the chefs," Gray said. "Now it's just if we get the response from the community that we're looking for. We want everyone to come out and explore."

About 30 restaurants and chefs countywide will be represented at the festival, she said.

Among those are A Restaurant (Newport Beach), Andrei's Conscious Cuisine & Cocktails (Irvine), Katsuya (Laguna Beach), Montage (Laguna Beach), Red Table (Huntington Beach), Haven Gastropub (Orange), Pascal Restaurants (Newport Beach and Costa Mesa), Sundried Tomato Café (San Juan Capistrano and Laguna Beach), the Cellar (San Clemente) and the Ranch Restaurant (Anaheim).

"Orange County has a great culinary scene," said Anita Vanaman, executive director of the Orange County Tourism Council. "It's just a great way to showcase the O.C. brand."

Foodies represent a new wave of culinary tourism and are among the many who come to Orange County annually for a multitude of reasons, she said.

"Our brand, as the OC Forever Summer, we are a fabulous, world-class destination for visitors," Vanaman said. "We have the best of the best in O.C. You have everything right here: theme parks, world-renowned shopping and dining, miles of beaches — everything."

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