Whether you have lived in Petaluma for years, have recently relocated here, or appreciate weekend visits to its charming downtown shops and restaurants Taste of Petaluma (TOP) is for you!  Taste of Petaluma is a culinary walking tour of downtown Petaluma’s best restaurants, shops, and galleries, coupled with a great selection of regional wines and beers from the boutiques to the powerhouses.

Mark your calendar for Saturday, August 25th (11:30am-4pm) because it is time to sample the best of what Petaluma has to offer.  Once you purchase your ten tasting tickets you are free to choose from 40 different downtown locations serving over 60 choices of food and drink.  I print out my map the night before the event so I can formulate a plan of attack that will bring me the most for my tickets.  (If you run out of tickets, extras can be purchased at the ticket sale locations.)  The list of restaurants is a who’s-who of Petaluma eats…Sugo, Everest, McNear’s, Cordoza’s, Maguire’s, Bovine Bakery, Petaluma Pie Company, TAPS, Tres Hombres, Wild Goat Bistro, Hiro’s Sushi, Viva Cocolat, Jacqueline’s High Tea, Velasco’s, Mi Pueblo, Petaluma Market, Powells, High Tech Burrito, Brixx, …just to name a few.  And for those restaurants that don’t have a downtown location, TOP finds a gallery or shop to host them, so this is truly a Petaluma wide event (Beyond the Glory – at Genesis Fitness; Trader joe’s and Springfield Place – at Riverfront Art Gallery; Tolay – at Sonoma Cutlery; Cowgirl, Pt. Reyes, and Clover cheeses – at Mayfield Company; Nick’s Cove – at Robindira Unsworth).  There are many exciting new additions to this year’s TOP, some are new to town, others are old favorites.   New to Petaluma are Social Club (gazpacho and crab salad), Velvet Ice (serving Real Maria’s Dolmadas, hummus, and gumbo), Rosso’s (burrata on bruschetta w/Prosciutto), Luma (grilled wild salmon), Pongo’s (BBQ Chicken Satay), Forget Me Not Cakes (mini cupcakes), Let’s Do Cake (tiramisu, lemon or chocolate salted caramel cupcakes), and Fallon Ranch (BBQ beef sliders.)  Petaluma staples but new to TOP are such favorites as Traxx Bar & Grill (at Tuscan Gardens), 101 Casino (at Blush), Wilibee’s Wine Bar (at Mayfield Company), and Avatar Punjabi, just to name a few.  And if there weren’t enough new and old favorites, there are two new sushi restaurants in downtown and both will be serving at TOP.  Paradise Sushi (the first all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant in Petaluma) is serving a sampling of three of their most popular dishes.  Andy’s Sushi is also serving a sampler platter and as always local favorite Hiro’s will be dishing out sushi too.  If sushi is your thing, this is a great way to try three of Petaluma’s best without having to fork out the dough for three seperate meals.  So strap on your strolling shoes, cinch up your eatin’ britches, and head downtown for a deep and diverse selection of the best that Petaluma has to offer.  It will be a delight to all your senses, but most importantly, your taste buds.

Taste of Petaluma is the brainchild of the Queen of Cuisine herself, Laura Sunday (also known as the “Chili Empress” when the Great Petaluma Chili Cookoff rolls around every spring.)  After attending “Taste of (insert city/town name here)” events all over the country, Laura felt that Petaluma not only deserved better, but could offer the best of Sonoma County through a better experience than just throwing a bunch of random food at you from cold and sterile tables inside a county fair pavilion.  As a fundraiser for Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater, Laura wanted to help the theater out, and also give the businesses of Petaluma a chance to show visitors more than a quant downtown.  By allowing businesses to serve food directly to TOP guests from right inside their own restaurant, they are better situated to serve fresh food and showcase their menu, location, service, and ambiance.  Moving into its 7th year, the event has been a huge success for participants serving their food, as well as those of us who want to try a lot of our town’s best restaurants, without having to risk the cost and time of a full meal.

My personal involvement comes on several levels.  When I first moved back to Petaluma after a 20 year absence, there were lots of new restaurants I wanted to try, as well as some old favorites that I want visit again.  TOP gave me an opportunity to try them all out in one afternoon, without killing my pocketbook and without committing months and months of Friday nights out.  Many of those first year “tastes” are still family favorites to this day.  (You have no doubt heard me rant about how much we love Sugo, Cordoza’s, Bovine Bakery, TAPS, Everest, and Petaluma Pie Company.  These were all discovered by various family members at various TOPs.)

I have also been lucky enough to be involved in TOP as a food writer.  To promote the event Laura invites local food writers and bloggers to join her for pre-event “Mini-Tastes” where we get to visit and sample to offerings of a handful of the TOP participants.  When Laura contacted me this year about doing “Mini-Tastes,” I once again removed the batteries from my bathroom scale and busted out my eatin’ britches.  The first Mini-Taste was attended by several local food bloggers, including my favorite restaurant owner and blogger, Annette White (of Petaluma’s Sugo.)  Who better to try new food with than the person who serves my favorite food in town?  Although that story will have to wait for another day, I will wet your taste buds by revealing that we visited Everest Indian (the best Indian cuisine in Sonoma County), Paradise Sushi (all-you-can-eat), Avatar Punjabi (an incredible mix of Indian and American flavors), Petaluma Pie Company (excellent savory and sweet pies), and Viva Cocolat (the best of local and international chocolates…need I say more?)

Advanced tickets for Taste of Petaluma are available at www.tasteofpetaluma.org, by phone through Cinnabar Theater (707) 763-8920, and in person at Gallery One at 209 Western Ave.  The price increases to $40 on the day of the event, which is still well worth the adventure you will experience in what is quickly becoming known as Northern California’s hottest culinary destination.