The annual Taste of Solvang has been kicked up several notches for 2016, and organizers are hoping locals take notice when it gets underway for the 24th year from March 16 through 20.
Since its launch in the early 1990s, much of the Taste of Solvang event has been repetitive from year to year. It opened with a dessert reception. The Tasting Trail was a selection of retail stores offering food. Attendees were predominantly tourists, with locals steering clear of downtown during the weekend.
Not anymore. There may even be more new events than repeat ones, according to organizer Susan Williams.
"It was time for some big changes. I think we've turned Taste of Solvang into an exciting event that the locals will enjoy as much as the tourists."
On March 16, there are Solvang Farmers Market Chef Walks coinciding with the Wednesday market. They will feature three of the town's top chefs: Seth Nathan, of Mad & Vin, David Cecchini, of Cecco, and Steven Snook, of the new First & Oak. Each will take a small group (8 to 12 guests) shopping through the market, and then back to their establishments for a multi-course tasting with wine.
Two new events are on tap for March 17. A Danish St. Patrick's Day dinner is the menu at Industrial Eats in Buellton. "It was owner Jeff Olsson's idea," Williams said. Or test your palate during the Blind Tasting Challenge at Wandering Dog Wine Bar in Solvang.
On March 18, the dessert reception has been replaced with Sip & Savor, a decadent evening of Danish-inspired food and beverages from local producers. Food providers include Succulent Cafe, Mad & Vin, Bob's Well Bread and Root 246. There will be wine from Kita, Buttonwood, Ferguson Crest and more; beer from Figueroa Mountain Brewing; spirits from Ascendant; and those super-trendy nonalcoholic shrub cocktails from Broken Clock Vinegar Works.
New on the Saturday schedule is a class on how to make the famous open-faced Danish sandwiches called Smorrebrod.
"Glenda Madrid, a descendant of one of Solvang's founding families will be teaching it," Williams said.
The Saturday Tasting Trail now has some of the town's most popular restaurants on the map. Stops include Chomp, Fresco Valley Cafe and Olsen's Danish Village Bakery.
The new Bubbles, Brews & Brunch takes over Sunday. The buffet brunch of the Solvang Veterans Memorial Hall will feature bottomless Kimcho Bacon Bloody Marys and Mimosas, along with Danish sausage and a biscuit bar.
Also new are winemaker dinners at Buttonwood and First & Oak.
"The food is so much better this year," Williams said. "Bringing in these wonderful first-time participants like Succulent, Root 246, Bob's and Mad & Vin, takes this event to a whole new culinary level."
Williams also shared a hint for locals.
"Use the promo code 'TasteLocal' and save $5 off tickets for Sip & Savor and Bubbles, Brews & Brunch."
For a complete listing of events and to purchase tickets, visit www.solvangusa.com and clock on Taste of Solvang.