Food & Wine

Sierra College event offers taste of the area’s finest

Fundraiser features 25 restaurants, 30 wineries
By: Paul Cambra, Features Editor
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A Taste of Excellence
What: Wine and food tasting gala
When: 6:30-10:30 p.m. Saturday, April 27
Where: Sierra College (Campus Center, Café), 5000 Rocklin Road, Rocklin
Cost: $100. Proceeds benefit the Sierra College Foundation which funds internships, the Student Emergency Fund and scholarships for former foster youth.
Info: (916) 660-7020,

What are they eating on Downtown Abbey these days? Crumpets and mash?
Whatever it is, it’s probably no match for the fine foods to be had at Sierra College this Saturday, as the 9th annual “A Taste of Excellence” takes place to raise funds for scholarships and the internship program.
But those well-heeled Brits will at least be there in spirit.
“Each year we come up with a theme that’s popular during the year,” said Sonbol Aliabadi, director of the Sierra College Foundation. “Everyone is so interested about Downtown Abbey so the night will have a glamorous old British look and feel to it.”
But while the Crawleys and Granthams are drinking German Rieslings and French Clarets, here in Rocklin it’s all about California wineries, 30 of them in fact.
“We have a fabulous wine consultant, Marcus Graziano from Capital Cellars in Roseville,” Aliabadi said. “He helps us choose them. We feature five to 10 Placer County wineries each year.”
And then there’s the food. At least 25 local restaurants step up to the plate each year to help the foundation, donating their time and product.
“We’ve been doing it five or six years,” said Ty Rowe, owner of Bootleggers Old Town Tavern & Grill in Auburn. “It’s one of the organizations we like to support. It’s a good organization and a fun event, they do it nicely.”
Rowe has not decided what he will be serving that evening. He’s done desserts the last couple of years.
“They always seem to be heavy on the entrees and short on dessert,” he said. “I’m thinking about doing a lemon curd and fresh berries.”
Jim Bril, owner of the Monkey Cat in Auburn, said he will serving seared ahi at the fundraiser.
“I’ve been doing it about seven years,” Bril said. “A lot of the faculty and regents are my customers and they look for marquee restaurants in the area. It’s a great benefit. It’s amazing what they do for the kids, they have lofty goals. And it’s a pretty well-heeled crowd, they raise quite a bit of money. I pick and choose what I do, and that’s the one I do every year.”
When Aliabadi organized the first “A Taste of Excellence” nine years ago, she was looking for an event to showcase the college and the excellence of education it offered the community.
“Something to bring the community members onto campus,” she said. “A friend raiser as well as a fundraiser.”
The response has been good. They typically get 450 to 500 people to attend. At $100 a head, that’s a lot of money that goes to help a lot of students. The proceeds go toward internships, the Student Emergency Fund and scholarships for former foster youth. This year’s focus is on the internships, as they hope to double the amount they already fund.
“It costs the college $250 to place a student in an internship program,” Aliabadi said. “It’s a class, a unit, so it has to have faculty attached to it. With such heavy corporate sponsorship, it’s a win-win if we were to offer 200 additional opportunities for students. That’s our goal.”
Donors have the opportunity to “Fund an Intern” where they can sponsor a set number of students.
A lot of the internships have led to jobs, she said, and one student beneficiary who has a job now will be there talking about their experience
In addition to the food and wine, there will be live and silent auctions. Wells Fargo is the presenting sponsor. Sutter Roseville is the event sponsor. Other major donors include Kaiser Permanente, Thunder Valley and Vanir Construction.
“We have more than 35 sponsors, ranging from $500 to $25,000,” Aliabadi said. “There are at least 40 community members involved, this is their time they are giving us and we appreciate their hard work. We have to thank our community business partners, frankly our entire community for supporting the college. We couldn’t do it without them.”.