Feasting on San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival

by Wendy Lemlin

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In recent years, San Diego has done a lot of growing up, gastronomically speaking.  What was once a culinary backwater, defined mostly by gringo-ized pseudo-Mexican  surfer grub, has blossomed with growing sophistication and appreciation for inventive cuisine, fine wines, craft beers —and direct collaboration between chefs and the farmers, ranchers, fishermen, winemakers and brewers whose labors provide the raw ingredients for the new excitement in local cuisine. And, in the last 14 years, the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival has been showcasing and giving impetus to this delicious maturation process in a multi-day event unlike anything else in the San Diego gastronomisphere. Because of its multi-faceted scope of events, San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival is my favorite local gourmet experience.

This year, San Diego Wine & Food Festival Festival, which runs November 12-19, is more eclectic than ever and has something for everyone who loves to eat or drink. From fermentation to fish tacos, from wine to wagyu, guests and participants can partake of events celebrating both the latest trends and the time honored favorites.

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The Grand Tasting

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Valle Wine & Food Festival Benefits Farm Workers and Earthquake Victims

By Wendy Lemlin

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   As anyone in the SoCal/Baja border foodie community knows, in recent years there have been a significant number of outstanding events in Baja California’s Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico’s smoking-hot wine region about 90 miles south of San Diego. But, the first annual Valle Wine & Food Festival, happening October 22, stands out as a must do, not only for the amazing quality of cross-border chef talent who will be participating —hosts Javier Plascencia and Nancy Silverton, and Michelin-starred Dominique Crenn, to name a few—but also because the event will be flavored with a welcome taste of altruism, i.e. the festival will benefit the area’s farm workers, as well as victims of the recent earthquakes in Mexico.

Nancy Silverton, Carolynn Carreno, Javier Plascencia

Nancy Silverton, Carolynn Carreno, Javier Plascencia

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How To Be Fit AND A Foodie

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Newsflash! Loving food and being physically fit are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Sure, you might have to work a little harder in the gym, or add an extra mile or two to your regular run to enjoy your culinary obsessions guilt-free, but it can be done, especially if you participate in events like the Cooking Light and Health Fit Foodie Festival & 5k. Happening at Liberty Station on Saturday, October 7, this  family and dog friendly event features local restaurants, meet-and-greets with elite athletes and other personalities, a beer and wine garden, and an impressive lineup of culinary and fitness demonstrations. And, oh yes, a 5k run (or, if you are like me, a 5k walk) prior to the festival. Calories burned, calories earned!

Part of a nationwide tour hosted by John Hancock Vitality Life Insurance, the Fit Foodie 5K has partnered with No Kid Hungry, a national nonprofit working to end child hunger in America. Runners can celebrate the balance of delicious, healthy food and fun, active lifestyle while contributing to the fight against child hunger. Nearly one in six children in America lives in households that struggle to put food on the table. The No Kid Hungry campaign connects kids in need with nutritious food and teaches their families how to cook healthy, affordable meals. The campaign also engages the public to make ending child hunger a national priority.

For all the info on this Saturday’s run and festival, click here! I’ll be walking the 5K with my dog Skipper—come join us or cheer us on!

 

Chefs Throw Down Cystic Fibrosis

by Wendy Lemlin

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20840687_1495117913888106_4989385886410659871_n (2)The fight to cure and control cystic fibrosis will become more palatable on Friday, September 22, when over 25 of San Diego’s and Baja California’s top chefs will engage in a culinary competition at the historic Hotel del Coronado, to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Guests at the 2nd Annual Chef Throwdown are sure to enjoy what is being billed as “an unforgettable evening of epicurean splendor”, begining with appetizers on the oceanfront Windsor Lawn and the Throwdown itself . Once the competition has ended, the festivities move to the oceanfront ballroom for a four-course seated dinner from followed by a brief CFF program, live auction and award presentation, including the Industry Leader Award to be presented to Roger Harrington of Specialty Produce.

Chef Flor Franco

Chef Flor Franco

Chefs will compete for a “People’s Choice Award” voted on by the guests themselves, and the Chef Flor Franco Awards for Culinary Excellence, named for the local chef who contributes so much of her time and resources to supporting non-profits and culinary events in both Southern California and Baja California. This year’s judges include The Marine Room’s executive chef Bernard Guillas, Fishmonger Tommy Gomes of Catalina Offshore Products, and Armando Rodiel, creator of San Diego Paella and Wine Festival. Emcees for the evening will be Troy Johnson of San Diego Magazine and Guy’s Grocery Games, and The Food Network’s Melissa D’Arabian.

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Melissa D’Arabian

Chef competitors include:
Mario Cassineri -Officine Buona Forchetta
Tommy Fraioli -10 Barrel Brewing Company
Ami Cisneros -Pacific Standard
Nick Villamil -Hard Rock Hotel San Diego
Jeff Bonilla -Evolve Cuisine Forward
Marco Marin – Latitude 32 at El Cielo Valle de Guadalupe
Felipe Raul -Vinedos Malagon
Jeff Roberto -Sushi On A Roll
Alex Emery -La Valencia Hotel
Keoni Simmons -Hollywood Casino Jamul-San Diego
Mario Medina -The Main Course Restaurant
Luis Moreno Gil – Andares de la Baja
Colin MacLaggan -Ballast Point Brewing Company
Geordie Moulios -Big City Chefs
Jorge Gonzalez – Calypso Cafe
Jose Plascencia -Casa Plasencia
Jose Sparza -Cien Años de Soledad
Ingrid Shelton -Cusp Dining and Drinks
Andrew Reyes – Tidal at Paradise Point Resort & Spa
Alberto Cansino Gomez – Hotel Calafia
David Meade -Nobu San Diego
Marcus Twilegar -Parq
Indo Reyes -Posh Nosh
AG Warfield -Common Theory Public House
Marcel Childress -Rustic Root
Christine Rivera -Galaxy Taco
Spencer Hunter -Lola’s Lumpia
Lori Sauer – Blue Bridge Hospitality
Gerlyn Usi – Sweet Truck SD
Joe Pastry – Woo Bar
Jessica Scott -Puesto
Kabir Gambhir – Sonic Tonic
Dalil – Opera Café and Patisserie

Guests will also enjoy award winning wines from Adobe Guadalupe, Monte Xanic, Lomita, and Paolini Wines, all in Baja’s celebrated Valle de Guadalupe.

But wait, there’s more! The evening will continue with NightCap, the after-party hosted by San Diego Young Professionals. Dancing, desserts, craft cocktails and savory hors d’oeuvres will add to the merriment, and The People’s Choice winner of NightCap will be crowned (and given a spot in the 2018 Chef Throwdown competition). Awards for best mixologist and dessert categories will also be given out.

Tickets for the entire evening, inclusive of food and libations are $250 (Tax-deductible $45). NightCap only tickets are also available separately for $75 (not tax-deductible). Click here to get yours.  To learn more about the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, visit 

Parlez-Vous Brunch?

La Bonne Table Now Serving Sunday Brunch

by Wendy Lemlin

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Mesdames et Messieurs, welcome to brunch, French-style.  Well, not precisely, because brunch isn’t really a thing in France, but if it were, it would taste exactly like the offerings on La Bonne Table’s new Sunday Brunch menu, available at the Hillcrest bistro on Sundays from 10-3, with a special Post Pride Parade Brunch on Saturday July 15.

The welcome antithesis to the overrated brunch behemoth down the block (at which I’m always amazed to see long lines out the door waiting for mass quantities of totally mediocre food), La Bonne Table is intimate, sophisticated, and très French. The seating is comfortable, the atmosphere convivial, and you don’t have to shout to converse with your dining partner. Continue reading

Shop & Dine With A Chef at Liberty Station

By Wendy Lemlin

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When I first heard about Liberty Public Market, it was in its mid-construction stage in Point Loma’s Liberty Station. At that time the concept was to be San Diego’s answer to Seattle’s Pike Place Market— heavy on the retail farmers’ and provender’s market experience, with greengrocers, butchers, fishmongers, and artisanal food producers occupying most of the stalls, interspersed with a few casual take-out eateries. The original plan for Mess Hall, the proposed signature sit-down restaurant was to have an ever-changing menu based on what was available that day at the market stalls.

Sounded great, but, after numerous construction delays, and several re-conceptings, it didn’t quite work out that way. These days, Liberty Public Market  is more food court and less market, although there are still several purveyors of the raw materials for making your own.

Happily, some of the original vision has been resuscitated with the adjacent weekly Liberty Public Farmers Market which launched in May and is open year-round on Thursdays from 2-7pm. And, beginning on June 29th, in conjunction with the LPM Farmers Market and several Liberty Station restaurants, the monthly Shop With the Chef Dinner Series takes farm-to-table one step further by offering a uniquely interactive experience for guests to learn about where their food comes from and how to prepare it, from a chef’s viewpoint.

One Thursday a month through September, a chef from a different restaurant in Liberty Station will host the dinner and market experience. The evening begins at 5:45 pm, when guests will assemble at the host chef’s restaurant. There, they will be privy to a behind-the-scenes introduction to the restaurant’s culinary program and discuss what is currently featured at the Farmers Market. Next, the chef will guide the dinner guests through the market on a personal tour, visiting the local farmers who’ve harvested the ingredients for the evening’s dinner and who will provide tastings of the fresh produce and ingredients. Along the way, the chef will reveal his/her thought process and inspiration behind that night’s menu.  Finally, the guests will walk back to the restaurant where they will enjoy a farm-fresh multi-course dinner, using the ingredients found and purchased directly from the market earlier that day. The cost for the event is $50 per person (alcohol not included, but available).

Chefs and restaurants scheduled so far include:

June 29, 2017  Chef  Phil Esteban, Soda & Swine Liberty Station

2750 Dewey Road #104  sodaandswine.com

Please call 619.501.9989 or contact suzie@sodaandswine.com for tickets.

 

July 27, 2017   Chef Accursio Lota, Solare Ristorante

2820 Roosevelt Rd. solarelounge.com

Please call 619.270.9670 or contact randy@solarelounge.com for tickets

 

August 31, 2017  Chef Michael Ground, Fireside by The Patio

2855 Perry Road, Building 8  firesidesd.com

Please call 619.432.2100 or contact reservations@firesidesd.com for tickets

 

September 28, 2017  TBD-stay tuned for details of the final event of the series.

Lions,Tigers, and Bears—Oh My!

Fundraiser to be held this Saturday, May 20, 2017

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Baraki the Lion Credit: Lions, Tigers & Bears

In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight. Actually it’s more like a 93 acre ranch in Alpine, and it’s three lions, two tigers, 10 bears, a cougar, a leopard, and two bobcats—not to mention an assortment of llamas, horses, goats, sheep, chickens, a miniature horse, miniature donkey, peacocks, and a macaw—who have found a home at Lions, Tigers, & Bears Big Cat and Exotics Rescue (LTB). The sanctuary is dedicated to providing a safe haven for unwanted and abused exotic animals, and to educating the public about the abuses of the exotic-animal trade. The organization is a no kill, no breed, no sell sanctuary that allows the animals in their care to live out their lives with dignity in a caring and safe environment.

credit: Lions, Tigers & bears

Tabu the tiger credit: Lions Tigers & Bears

The life of an exotic animal in captivity is often a sad one. In most cases, they endure horrific neglect and abuse due to the immense demands of their upkeep. Some are bred to be used for photo ops and other “entertainment”, and then thrown away when they are no longer generating profit. In many states big and bears are acquired by roadside zoos, eventually becoming surplus animals with no place to go. Others are purchased as “pets” when they are cubs, and discarded once the novelty wears off and the owner realizes the immense responsibility and danger of caring for a 500 pound predator. Zoos and sanctuaries, which are already filled to capacity, have no room for them.

 

Blossom the Bear   credit: Lions, Tigers & Bears

Blossom the Bear credit: Lions, Tigers & Bears

It was in answer to this sad state of affairs that director Bobbi Brink, who had been working with and advocating for captive exotics since the early 1990s, and her husband Mark Brink founded LTB in 2002. Today, with a full time staff, numerous volunteers, and veterinary partnerships, Lions Tigers & Bears is accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS) and the American Sanctuary Association (ASA).

To continue to provide care for the animals in their charge, and to be able to take in and help even more critters, LTB is holding their Wild In the Country 2017 fundraiser on Saturday, May 20 from 3-7pm at the ranch. Themed Casino Royale At the Ranch, the event will include visits with the animals, yummy food, casino games, live entertainment, silent and live auctions, and lots of fun! Tickets for this worthy cause are $135 for adults, and $45 for kids. All info is available here.

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Civico 1845: Collaboration Italian Style

By Wendy Lemlin

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   With its authentic food and outstanding vegan menu, Civico 1845 is one of my favorite Italian restaurants in San Diego, and it looks like it is going to become even better. Beginning this month, the Civico team is collaborating with chefs Antonio and Luca Abbruzzino, a Michelin rated father/son pair from Calabria, Italy, to highlight genuine southern Italian ingredients in the restaurant’s dishes. Continue reading

Farm to Fork Week

by Wendy Lemlin

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   Diners, start your appetite engines! The race to experience local and sustainable restaurant dining is approaching the starting gate.

On January 14, the inaugural San Diego Farm to Fork Week kicks off, aimed at introducing the public to a community of small independent farm to table restaurants, as well as the local—key word, here— family farmers, producers, and purveyors who provide the high quality ingredients used by these restaurants.   San Diego Farm to Fork Week takes a page from San Diego Restaurant Week, with which it runs concurrently, but gives participating kitchens more autonomy in what they present and how it is priced. Each restaurant is free to determine its own dining discounts or prix fixe menu. But more importantly, Farm to Fork Week focuses on the chefs’ sourcing of ingredients from local farmers they know and trust, as well as verifying that participating chefs and restaurants are in fact buying from the local producers they claim to be. So when someone chooses to dine at a Farm to Fork Week partner restaurant, they know that they’re keeping their food dollars in San Diego, supporting farm families and their workers and reducing their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions by lowering the number of miles food travels to the plate.

The week long event was founded by Trish Wattlington, owner of The Red Door in Mission Hills, as not only a celebration of the region’s outstanding farms, chefs and dining destinations, but as a chance for diners to try new restaurants at affordable prices. When asked about any conflict with San Diego Restaurant Week, organizer Watlington emphasizes that Farm to fork Week was conceived with a different purpose. “Some of us have participated in San Diego Restaurant Week in the past, and some of us are still participating this year.  But, for most of us, the cost of Restaurant Week is just too high, while at the same time, the pressure to lower our prices to compete that week is strong, and we operate at such tight margins, that for may of us, it is untenable. We joined together to find a way to promote what WE do – support and showcase local farms, at a time when we most need to do it.  And, as planning has progressed we’ve all come to the realization that Farm to Fork week actually has amazing possibilities.”

The long term plan for Farm to Fork Week is to work with local sponsors to eventually enlarge the event to include such components as dinners, tours, events, lectures and panel discussions, and to verify that participating restaurants are buying from local farmers. A directory of locally sustainable restaurants, farmers and producers is in the works, too.

A list of participating restaurants and producers, as well as all detailed info and menus can be found here

Farm to Fork Week Events:

January 14th – Kickoff Hog Roast at BIGA San Diego

January 15-22 – Dining Discounts in Participating Restaurants

January 21st – Wine Tasting and Book Signing at BAR by Red Door

January 22nd – Farmers, Friends and Fishermen Collaboration with Chef Miguel Valdez at Red Door and Chef Coral Fodor Strong from Garden Kitchen.

All week – Partner Farm and Restaurant Tours with Epicurean San Diego

Farm to Fork Week Supporters:

Slow Food Urban San Diego

San Diego Food System Alliance

The Berry Good Food Foundation

La Valencia Celebrates 90 Years

by Wendy Lemlin

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20161215_183815The way the Pink Lady was partying at her birthday bash, you’d never know she was 90 years old! Always the gracious and fun hostess, she pulled out all the stops, eating, drinking, and dancing the night away with almost 300 guests, all the while looking lovelier than ever.

The Pink Lady, of course, is the La Valencia Hotel, an icon in the heart of La Jolla Village.  La V’s 90th Birthday Gatsby Gala, held on December 15, was a lavish Roaring-20s themed celebration worthy of comparison to any party The Great Gatsby himself would have thrown. Champagne 20161215_190405and Prohibition Era inspired cocktails flowed freely, food tables groaned with a vast assortment of delicacies, and the “speakeasy” dance floor was packed. Most of the guests donned period attire, the women resplendent in a sparkling abundance of beads and sequins, the men either going for straw boater-style hats or more formally dressed in tails or dinner jackets.20161215_184536

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