Hundreds of food lovers young and old attended the fifth annual Taste of Santa Monica food festival showcasing 40 local restaurants Sunday, September 17th, on the Santa Monica Pier.

Hosted by the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, the food festival featured live music, chef demonstrations and gourmet dishes from Santa Monica’s restaurants.

New this year were rewards cards handed to all attendees and returning was last year’s wine garden that featured 15 wineries showcasing 30 varieties.

The rewards card, which was distributed exclusively at Taste of Santa Monica, gives diners discounts to participating restaurants until March 16th, 2007.

Rewards card restaurants are Border Grill, Chef Eric’s Culinary Classroom, China Beach Bistro, Daily Grill Santa Monica, The Fairmont Miramar Hotel, Il Fornaio, La Vecchia Cucina, The Lobster, Locanda del Lago, Louise’s Trattoria, Ma’Kai Lounge, Monsoon CafÈ, Ocean & Vine at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, Ocean Avenue Seafood, Panini Garden, Perla at Sheraton Delfina Santa Monica, Rusty’s Surf Ranch and Sizzler’s Restaurant.

Youngs Market & The Estates Group hosted this year’s wine garden, as well as last year’s.

Nicki Dixon, from The Art Institute of California-Los Angeles, which is based in Santa Monica, put together the schedule of chef demonstrations.

Featured were chefs from Chef Eric’s Culinary Classroom making green Thai curry vegetables, Locanda del Lago making tartara di tonno, The Art Institute-Los Angeles making farmer’s market fruit gazpacho and The Victorian at Heritage Square making grilled chimichurri skirt steak with green beans in coconut sauce.

“We had some tantalizing presentations and charismatic chefs slated for the Demo Stage,” said Kathryn Dodson, president and chief executive officer of the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce. “We’re having a lot of fun putting the event together and expect the crowd will enjoy the show.”

In addition to these restaurants, the festival included Acadie Hand Crafted Crepes, Akwa Restaurant, Bravo Cucina, Bravo Pizzeria, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, California Pizza Kitchen, Cezanne at Le Merigot Hotel, Chez Jay, Duke’s Malibu, Edible Arrangements, El Cholo Mexican Restaurant, Famima, Gladstone’s Malibu, Hooters, I Cugini, Katsuya, Mariasol, P.F. Changs China Bistro, Panera Bread, Sinvino and Stefano’s New York Pizza.

The Wellness Community-West Los Angeles, based in Santa Monica, offered healthy baked goods at its booth. The nonprofit organization hosts support groups and programs for cancer patients and their families.