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IMG_3639I love tacos, and always look forward to attending Share Our Selves’ “Wild & Crazy Taco Night.” This year’s soiree was once again a treat! Twenty-three Orange County chefs and their staffs gathered at the SOS offices in Costa Mesa to create taco combinations you probably never dreamed of. And, I want to tell you, I tasted every one of them, and they were all fabulous!!

One of my favorite chefs is the Golden Truffle’s Alan Greeley (see photo with his amazing GM Letia Short). He always creates such delicious tacos, and this year his Brazilian taco wrapped in a banana leaf featuring a tortilla filled with cactus, cheese and chiles topped with a beef and pork chile and green chile salsa verde was no exception. Alessandro Pirozzi of Alessa and Mare Culinary Lounge fame created an octopus and sea urchin version in a fennel salad with a spicy lemon vinaigrette, and along those same lines, Five Crowns’ Greg Harrison offered a charred octopus taco with spicy sauerkraut, cilantro and chorizo. Is that exotic enough for you? Or, how about Primal Academy Catering’s Paul Buchanan’s Lindner Ranch bison taco with smoked onion marmalade and Gladys Farm greens in a pasilla and lime avocado cream? If you like hot dogs (and I do!), you would have loved Sol Cocina’s Octavio Flores’ Sonoran hot dog taco with bacon, onions, pickled jalapeños, cheese, and lime sauce. Yum! Taco Asylum’s Greg Daniels’ taco choice was BBQ beef tongue with spicy bacon, BBQ sauce, cheddar cheese, watercress and a ruffled potato chip, while  Manny Gonzalez’s choice from Taps Fish House and Brewery was a crispy rabbit confit taco topped with spring veggies on a carrot chipotle tortilla. Chris Powell of Orange Hill Restaurant opted for a guajillo orange-braised goat taco with shaved jicama, mandarin orange and a creamy cilantro pesto, and Island Hotel’s David Man chose a lamb taco on garlic naan bread with cucumber raita.

Pork was the choice for two chefs – Richard Mead of Sage and Canyon fame with his braised pork tacos on crispy corn tortillas with roast poblano peppers, carmelized onions, Oaxacan cheese, cabbage, red chile juice, and pickled jalapeños, and Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach’s Jose Rodriguez’s pork belly verde taco with roasted corn, vegetable escabeche and cotija cheese. Two chefs chose chicken, with Rasta Taco’s Lou Tista crafting a Jamaican jerk chicken taco with red cabbage and roasted mango, cilantro cream sauce and Scotch Bonnet salsa, while Flavor Rush Taco Truck’s Ted Rodriguez created a chicken with tropical mango salsa taco. Four chefs chose beef as their meat ingredient – The Catch’s Nelson Barillas’ roasted brisket corn tortilla taco with chipotle-spiced sauce and Queso Oaxaca topped with spicy pickled vegetables, Andrei’s Yves Fournier’s chipotle-braised beef short rib tacos with mushrooms, goat cheese, pickled carrots, cipollini onions, and roasted pineapple-habanero chile salsa, Newport Rib Company’s Salvatore Gonzales’ slow roast tri-tip corn tortilla tacos with sour cream cinantro salsa and green hot salsa, and Red Table’s Louie Jocson’s steak tartare taco with soy-ginger vinaigrette, wasabi creme fraiche, chives, roasted macadamia nuts, and tobikko caviar.

Fish was not forgotten as The Quiet Woman’s Lynne Campbell chose mesquite grilled swordfish tacos with cilantro slaw and chipotle cream, Newport Beach Plaza’s Mark Gagnon served sake salmon on a wasabi wonton crisp with daikon dragon salad, Yard House’s Carlito Jocson chose a squash, onion, tomato, serrano guisado taco with shrimp chorizo and chipotle habanero creme, and Franco Barone from Il Barone Ristorante served shrimp and spaghetti vegetable tacos with fava beans. Marco Zapien from Melissa’s Produce opted for a veggie taco with Dutch yellow potatoes topped with kale sprouts, leeks and carrots. Dessert tacos were served by Rachel Klemek from Blackmarket Bakery with her yummy chocolate, banana, butterscotch tacos with salt and pepper marshmallow garnish, and Arti Anand from Vijay’s Cheesecakes, who created a chocolate chipotle cheesecake topped with chocolate ganache.

Tequila sponsor Tres Sietes Tequila served up some mighty tasty margaritas, a muddled strawberry and cucumber and a grapefruit and jalapeño combination (it was delish!) The event drew 675 guests and netted an estimated $70,600 to support the SOS Aid Project, which helps feed Orange County residents at risk of going hungry. All in all, it was a very satisfying affair with fabulous tacos and a sense of knowing you were helping those in need.

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