‘Taste of Homer’ invites public to sample variety of local food

Looking for something tasty to eat and drink, but can’t decide which of Homer’s top-notch spots to visit? Wonder no longer. 

With samplings from 19 different participating vendors, the Taste of Homer 2013, held at Wasabi’s beginning at 4 p.m. Saturday, is designed to fit the bill.

“I had thought about the possibility of a food event this spring and sent out some letters to all the food establishments in Homer, saying, ‘If you’re interested in launching this concept, there’s a meeting,’ and I set the date and time and the ball just started rolling,” said Amy Martin, owner and operator of Vagabond Café.

The result is an open-to-the-public tasting event that shines the spotlight on Homer’s culinary community.

“We had about six different establishments get together and start talking about ideas and how this could be formed and how it should come together,” said Martin. “The whole concept was to create a food event that featured food establishments. And not just food establishments. There is such wonderful food that comes out of Homer.”

Martin visited a similar event in Arizona several years ago, and has since discovered food events are offered in Seattle, Wash., Portland, Ore., Scottsdale, Ariz., and other major cities across the country.

“It’s a common thing in the Lower 48,” said Martin. 

When she looked around the southern Kenai Peninsula — the crops harvested in local gardens, seafood harvested from Kachemak Bay, award-winning wines and beers and the growing reputation of local eateries — Martin said she wondered “How come Homer doesn’t have an event to highlight all this?”

Nineteen vendors are participating in what Martin hopes will become an annual event. There is no financial cost to the business that participate.

“Their cost is their food and their energy they’re putting forth to make this happen,” said Martin. “That’s more than enough.
During planning discussions, possible locations for the event were considered.

“(Wasabi’s) is such a gorgeous venue. It has a beautiful view and is a sexy restaurant and, as we kept throwing ideas out, this is what we came up with,” said Martin.

Plans for Saturday call for arriving guests to visit the vendors’ areas as they choose.

“It’s a moving event. No one has a specific table,” said Martin. “Guests come in and meander and socialize and taste at will.”

The tastings continue from 4-8 p.m. Beverages, in addition to those offered as part of the event, will be available for purchase from Wasabi’s. A silent auction will be held throughout the afternoon and early evening, with a live auction at 8 p.m. to benefit the Farmers’ Market.

For those not wanting to make the drive out East End Road, the Homer Trolley will provide transportation between the parking lot of Farmers’ Market and Wasabi’s between 4-10 p.m. 

“That’s included in the ticket price,” said Martin of the trolley transport.

Timing for Taste of Homer 2013 takes advantage of the Bed and Breakfast Association of Alaska’s annual conference, which is being held in Homer today through Saturday.

“We’re expecting 40 people from all over the state,” said local organizer Don Cotogno, owner of Timber Bay B&B.

Held at the Elk’s Lodge, registration is Thursday, with speakers and workshops throughout the day on Friday and Saturday, a banquet on Friday and the Taste of Homer on Saturday. The conference’s keynote speaker is Jay Karen of the Professional Association of Innkeepers.

“He’ll be speaking more than once, and be addressing how Gen X and Gen Y people are traveling versus us old people,” said Cotogno.

It’s been several years since the state bed and breakfast association held its annual meeting in Homer. Homer is represented on the association’s board of directors by Vice President Juxia Scarpita of Halcyon Heights and Cotogno, the board treasurer. Karen Harris of Alaska Garden Gate B&B, located between Palmer and Wasilla, is the board president, and Caroline Valentine of Camai B&B in Anchorage is the secretary.  

Registration for the conference includes the ticket price of the Taste of Homer, said Cotogno.

Judging by the interest being generated by Taste of Homer 2013, an event designed to define what “farm to table” really means, Martin anticipates Saturday “is going to be a great evening.”

And it’s just the beginning.

“The goal is to bring it back, make it a yearly event, have it grow and change,” she said. “When we’re done with this year, we’ll see what we can do bigger and better for next year and keep it going.”

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.

Taste of Homer 2013

Where: Wasabi’s, 59217 East End Road

When: 4 p.m., Saturday

Tickets: $35 in advance, available at the Homer Bookstore, Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, Homer Farmers’ Market, Land’s End Resort, Wasabi’s or online at tasteofhomer.com. Admission at the door is $40.

Event includes:

• Silent and live auction benefiting Homer Farmers’ Market;

• Live music by Holy Santos Gang;

• 19 vendors: A la Carte Café, AJ’s Old Town Steakhouse and Tavern, Bear Creek Winery, Boss Hoggs, Captain Pattie’s Fish House, Fresh Catch Café, Fritz Creek General Store, Homer Brewing Company, Jakolof Oyster Company, KBay Roasting Company, Land’s Resort-The Chart Room Restaurant, Red Bird Sweets, Seafoods of Alaska, Homer Farmers’ Market, Homestead Restaurant, Two Sisters Bakery, Vagabond Café, Vida’s Thai Food, Wasabi’s

• Homer Trolley will provide transportation between Farmers’ Market and Wasabi’s between the hours of 4-10 p.m.

More information: tasteofhomer.com and facebook.com/tasteofhomer

Bed and Breakfast Association of Alaska Annual conference

Where: Homer Elk’s Lodge, 215 W. Jenny Lane

When: Thursday-Saturday

Registration fee of $170 includes keynote speaker Jay Karen of the Professional Association of Innkeepers; banquet at the Homestead Restaurant on Friday; Taste of Homer 2013 on Saturday; workshops and speakers.

More information: Call Don Cotogno of Timber Bay B&B, 235-3785 or visit alaskabba.com.