By Wendy Lemlin
With 43 events over seven days, the 14th annual San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival, November 14-20, is a really big deal. As one of the nation’s largest gastronomic festivals, it brings together celebrity and local chefs, sommeliers, winemakers, brewmasters, and gourmet food artisans to present gala dinners, tastings, classes, competitions, and even a golf tournament.
Among the 24 guest chefs participating in various events at the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival are such nationally known celebrities as
- Rick Bayless, is this year’s featured headliner. Winner of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, Bayless is known for his authentic Mexican cuisine. His resume includes two renowned, award winning Chicago restaurants, nine best selling cookbooks, a successful public broadcasting TV show now in its 11th season, a line of gourmet salsas and cooking sauces, and a foundation to support small Midwestern farms.
- Michelle Bernstein regularly appears on an array of national TV shows, from Top Chef to Good Morning America. A veteran of numerous well known restaurant kitchens, Bernstein and her husband David Martinez own/operate MBC Michelle Bernstein Catering Company, a full-service catering company as well as her wildly popular café concept, Crumb on Parchment.
- Rick Moonen is one of the country’s top culinary advocate for sustainable seafood. After earning critical praise with his NYC restaurant, rm, Chef Moonen opened his multi-level restaurant Rick Moonen’s rm seafood at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas in 2005, earning him national acclaim and numerous tv appearances. Among his many honors are being named Chef of the Year by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in 2011, and Humanitarian of the Year by the American Culinary Federation in 2013.
- Marcus Samuelsson, the award winning chef, restaurateur, author and TV personality, is the chef behind Red Rooster Harlem, Ginny’s Supper Club, and Streetbird Rotisserie. A committed philanthropist; and the youngest person to ever receive a three-star review from The New York Times, Samuelsson has won multiple James Beard Foundation Awards including Best Chef: New York City, and was tasked with planning and executing the Obama Administration’s first State dinner.
This year,San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival has introduced 28 new events, including 12 held in conjunction with SommCon. They range from the educational to the purely indulgent. Here are some that I find particularly appealing:
- Mercy of the Chef Opening Night Dinners — On Monday, November 14, multi-course dinners held in 4 restaurants throughout the region to kick off the festival. The local chefs were challenged to handpick a guest chef from anywhere across the country, and craft a dining experience blending together two different culinary styles. Raising the stakes and making things even more interesting, most of the chefs have never met their collaborator. Seating is limited and some of the dinners have sold out. At Galaxy Taco in La Jolla Shores, Christine Rivera will pair with Steve Santana of Taquiza in Miami Beach. For the sold-out dinner at Little Italy’s Ironside Fish & Oyster Bar, Jason McLeod will be creating with native San Diegan pastry chef Stephanie Prida of Manresa in Los Gatos. Up in Carlsbad, Andrew Bachelier of Campfire will be working with Jason French of Portland’s Ned Ludd, and those venturing to Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe can dine at Deckman’s En El Mogor on the food prepared by Drew Deckman with Renee Erickson of The Whale Wins and other restaurants in Seattle.
- Safe Harbor November 16, 5:30 pm, a forum on Sustainable Seafood: Myths, Truths & Misinformation. The free event is sponsored by the Berry Good Foundation and will feature nationally prominent chefs, local fishermen, academics and activists. The participants will talk about the impact our seafood choices have on the long-term vitality of harvested seafood and the well-being of the oceans. The evening will begin with complimentary food and drink by Chef Isabel Cruz, featuring local farms and fishmongers.
- Marcus Samuelsson Hosts In the Spirit November 16, 6pm. It’s not just about wine at San diego Bay Wine & Food Festival! Celebrity Chef Samuelsson hosts a tasting of whisk(e)y from Bourbon to Scotch, Tennessee Whiskey to Japanese Whisky, to Irish Whiskey and Rye. Gourmet gastro bites and live music are included.
- Bounty of San Diego: Ranchers, Farmers & Fisherman Fri, November 18, 6:30 pm. Discover the bounty of San Diego with celebrated chefs Aron Schwartz of Marina Kitchen, Chef Suzette Gresham of Michelin two-star Acquerello, and Bernard Guillas of the Marine Room. This five course, wine paired dinner honors the hardworking craftsmen and women whose life’s work gathers us for exceptional meals, conversation, and drink.
- Recipes with Roots Nov. 18, 1pm . This cooking class from Cooking Light explores heirloom recipes, for everything from a pre-dinner cocktail, to the main course. The menu includes: Sherry-Cava Citrus Fizz, Sausage & Chestnut Dressing, Sage & Garlic Rubbed Cornish Hens, Roasted Broccoli with Pistachios and Pickled Golden Raisins, Shaved Apple & Fennel Salad with Crunchy Spelt, and Nana’s Rosemary Biscuits with Cranberries.
- From Farmworkers to Wine Growers November 18, 8 AM This wine seminar will be given by members of the Mexican American Vintners Association, descendants from Braceros who came to the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. They will discuss the progression of their families and their contributions to the wine industry. There will be wine tasted during the seminar from different areas of Napa Valley.
- Pizzapalooza and Battle of the Bartenders Nov. 20 Who has the best pizza? You be the judge at tasting stations from San Diego’s best pie slingers, including Bueno Forchetta, Woodstocks, Spinnelis Catering, Red Oven, Inferno, Pieology, and more. Pizzapalooza features demonstrations from Cosmo Goss of The Publican in Chicago,, Erling Wu-Bower of Chicago’s Nico Osteria, Nic Vanderbeeken of CasCades in Bali, and TV personalities The Hearty Boys, as well as cookies from The Cravory.