Temecula Grapevine

Your source for Temecula, CA and Southwest Riverside County lifestyle, events, & area information

A look back–Holiday Taste of Old Town Temecula leaves great flavor, introducing locals to top restaurants, shops, and spices in December 2013

Old Town Spice and Tea Merchants at Holiday Taste of Old Town Temecula (c) Crispin Courtenay

On December 11, 2013 the Holiday Taste of Old Town Temecula showed for the fourth year in a row that this is one of the best kept local secrets of the Temecula Valley. About 200 locals showed up on a Wednesday night in December, as Old Town Temecula opened their doors, showcased their wares, and showed all just what Temecula’s oldest district is made of.

Spices lined up like toy soldiers at Holiday Taste of Old Town Temecula (c) Crispin Courtenay

For $25, visitors received a map of the many participating restaurants, specialty shops, businesses, and had four hours from start to finish to taste, sample, and revel in all that Old Town had to offer, and hopefully carry that feeling with them into the new year.

Holiday colors at Old Town Spice Merchant (c) Crispin Courtenay

“The Holiday self guided tour starts here (at the Old Town Spice Merchant), or at The Bank of Mexico Restaurant. Each store will showcase a bit of what they do best. We’re offering our mulled wine, gingerbread cookies, while Parea up the street will showcase some of their new menu items. Wineries have either a free glass, or two-for-one pours. It’s different in every store, always up to the shopkeeper what to do for the visitors,” said Sue Del Bono, Spice Merchant owner. “This is a great tradition for families, groups of friends to get together and drink in the season, exploring little known parts of Old Town Temecula.”

Celebrating at Old Town Spice Merchant, Holiday Taste of Old Town Temecula, 2014 (c) Crispin Courtenay

The Holiday Taste of Old Town offers a slice of life in Temecula, with shopkeepers, wineries, and restaurants opening their doors for a peek behind the curtain. All the while, carolers sang, and smiles with a healthy dose of holiday cheer were the flavor of the night.

David pouring Wiens Cellars at Palumbo Ristorante during Holiday Taste of Old Town Temecula (c) Crispin Courtenay

Indeed, fans of the underground Holiday Taste of Old Town Temecula started calling Del Bono in early October. “We have gift bags for the first entrants to collect when they get here. Filled with special treats and coupons for the participating businesses. People love it, and look forward to it well in advance, now.”

Tasting warm soup and wines at Palumbo Ristorante Holiday Taste of Old Town Temecula (c) Crispin Courtenay

“From one end of Front Street to the other, we’ve been to all.” one party goer said. Sampling and savoring led to shopping for many on that chilly night in December, as well as plans for stores to visit more frequently. One bit of advice for those who come to the event?

Wear your walking shoes.

Magnets and other gifts available while tasting cheese at Temecula Valley Cheese Shop for Holiday Taste of Old Town Temecula (c) Crispin Courtenay

Looking back, the first stops on 5th Street had the senses reeling. Old Town Spice Merchants, of course–one step inside and the aromas will leave you on your knees.  Parea Old Town, showcasing the new Greek menu in this artsy gallery type restaurant location, offered delicate mushroom tartlets, tiny promises of delectable meals in our future. Palumbo’s Ristorante, as always, had guests lined up to sample Fagioli, sharing their patio with Wiens Cellars Wine, and tastes of some of their winter’s best.

Serving up delicious cheeses at Holiday Taste of Old Town Temecula, 2013, Temecula Valley Cheese Shop (c) Crispin Courtenay

Across Front Street, The Bank of Mexican Food Restaurant, pausing to sample cheeses at Temecula Valley Cheese Shop, and I almost decided not to go anywhere else. The creamy tang of delicious Shropshire English blue cheese is the stuff of dreams.

Tesoro Winery tasting at Holiday Taste of Old Town Temecula Valley (c) Crispin Courtenay

On to Tesoro for a glass of something deep, red, and bold, and sassy. Next stops were Old Town Sweet Shoppe

Young Tristan enjoying ice cream that is sure to turn his mouth blue at Holiday Taste of Old Town Temecula (c) Crispin Courtenay

If you haven’t been, you haven’t let free your inner child in far too long.

Row upon row of delicious treats at Old Town Sweet Shoppe at Holiday Taste of Old Town Temecula 2013 (c) Crispin Courtenay

Allow me a moment to digress while remembering the flavors of perfect holiday fudge, and I think my counterpart for the evening may have tried fudge covered bacon.

Candy at Old Town Sweet Shoppe, Holiday Taste of Old Town Temecula 2013 (c) Crispin Courtenay

I’ll stick to the candy. I am not that brave. Or am I?

Old Town Sweet Shoppe at Holiday Taste of Old Town Temecula (c) Crispin Courtenay

Old Town Root Beer Company is another long time favorite. Now run by the daughter of its founder, still perfecting the Root Beer secret recipes, and serving up delicious fizzy beverages of all kinds and flavors–vintage revered as much as wine for some discerning palates. Our once coveted original bottles of Dr. Pepper are now selling for over $60 per six-pack. Probably better left in memory at those prices… or for a very special occasion.

Old Town Root Beer company at Holiday Taste of Old Town Temecula (c) Crispin Courtenay

Soros Mediterranean Grill for delectable hummus, and a healthy dose of Papa Soro. Three types of hummus, and fresh and crisp pita chips that were a wonderful salty antidote to the sugary confections of the night.

‘Papa’ at Soro’s Mediterranean Restaurant at Holiday Taste of Old Town Temecula 2013 (c) Crispin Courtenay

The Lavender Company, As well as Incr-Edible Cupcakes.

Incr-Edible Cupcakes at Holiday Taste of Old Town Temecula, 2013 (c) Crispin Courtenay

Let’s pause there, a moment, shall we? while I recall some of the best cupcakes I’ve tried since A. J.s Baking Company. These Cupcake Wars winners might be on to something.

From there, across the street to the Bank of Mexican Food, which always serves up the Holiday Taste of Old Town Temecula right. There, tortilla soup warmed the stomach as the night turned colder, as did a healthy taste of flavored vodka, thanks to these fine young ladies.

Vodka Girls serving up flavored vodka at The Bank of Mexican Food at Holiday Taste of Old Town Temecula 2013 (c) Crispin Courtenay

Finally, our last winery stop was Lorimar.  Walking into this Old Town Wine Tasting room is definitely a high point. There’s music, smiling staff, a bar packed with a Wednesday night crowd who obviously loves wine. We bellied up for a bit, and chatted up our server. Okay, we might have enjoyed Lorimar almost as much as the Cheese Shop.

Server at Lorimar Holiday Taste of Old Town Temecula 2013 (c) Crispin Courtenay

Lorimar wine tasting at Holiday Taste of Old Town Temecula 2013 (c) Crispin Courtenay

Tis the season. See you in 2014, Holiday Taste of Old Town Temecula (c) Crispin Courtenay

Strolling both Front Street, and the many side streets in between, got us off the beaten path and into those little known gems for those new to the Old Town Scene. 5th street is now flooded with restaurants, many supplied with the spices on hand at the delicious Old Town Spice Merchant. Looking back, we came, we tasted, and we went back to shop for stocking stuffers and unique local gifts. This even remains the perfect way to start the holiday.

“We raised over $500 for Rancho Damacitas right before Christmas,” Del Bono said. “It’s a fantastic way for all who love Old Town Temecula to enjoy the holidays, and we look forward to doing this years to come.”

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About Ashley Ludwig

Ashley Ludwig is an Editor for Patch News, Orange County and Los Angeles. She is also an inspirational romantic suspense author.

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