by Wendy Lemlin
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.
Firstly, a look at what’s new this year:
- FLIX Fermented: Food and film converge in this year’s opening night party and film screening of celebrity chef Ed Lee’s new documentary, Fermented. The event features tasting stations from chefs Michael Poompan from the Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa, Philip Esteban, from Born & Raised, and Matt Richman from THE LOT. Monday, 11/13, 6:00 p.m.- 9:00 p.m. ($65 per person)
- Whisky + Wagyu at Born & Raised: Whisky + Wagyu is an intimate dinner for whisky and beef lovers at Born & Raised, one of San Diego’s hottest new restaurants. Enjoy a culinary experience featuring 110 and 260-day Dry-Aged Beef and American and Japanese Wagyu. Wednesday, 11/15, Seating #1:6:00p.m.-9:00 p.m., Seating #2: 9:00 p.m.- 11:00 p.m. ($189 per person)
- Steve Brown’s Farmers Table: Inspired by his own farm, Chef Steve Brown prepares a multi-course dining experience at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center. Lunch to include Heritage Berkshire Kurobuta pork, A5 Satsuma Wagyu Beef, and Imperial Wagyu. Friday, 11/17, 11:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m. ($95 per person)
- After Party with the Chefs: After the Grand Tasting, the afterparty at JSix presents flavors of the East with curated bites from Chef Charles Phan of the Slanted Door in San Francisco, Chef Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12, Chef Katsura Fukushima of Daikaya in Washington DC, and Chef Anthony Sinsay of JSix in San Diego. Enjoy signature cocktails and beer while taking your pipes for a Karaoke spin. Saturday, 11/18, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. ($85 per person)
- Cali-Baja Brunch: Indulge in a unique Cali-Baja influenced brunch while dining on local cuisine that showcases the unique cross-border flavors. Held on the Coronado Island Marriot Resort & Spa’s private pier overlooking the San Diego Bay and downtown skyline, savor dishes from Executive Chef Michael Poompan, renowned Chef Ruffo Ibarra, of Tijuana’s ORYX Capital, and Chef Gilberto Morales of Restaurante Nómada Cucina Itinerante. Sunday, 11/19, 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. ($85 per person)
Returning favorite events at San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival include the Golf Classic, which kicks off the festival on Sunday, 11/12, Fish Taco TKO, on Tuesday 11/14, and the ever-popular Grand Tasting extravaganza on Saturday, 11/18, featuring bites and sips from 150 wine, beer and spirit purveyors, 60 of San Diego’s top chefs and restaurants, and over 30 artisan food producers. This year, there is even a “mocktail” lounge!
Special dinners and luncheons, some of which are already sold out, feature rockstar local and visiting chefs. In addition to the dinners listed above, these include The Blais Experience at Juniper & Ivy, Ocean-to-Table Rosé Wine Luncheon at The Marine Room, Culinary Icons Featuring Chefs of the Relais & Châteaux at Mariott Marquis San Diego Marina, Louis Latour at Mister A’s, Oysters & Sauvignon Blanc at Ironside Fish & Oyster, and Roots Dinner Experience at Marina Kitchen.
Wine-centric events, many of which are in conjunction with SommCon®, will delight the wine enthusiast with such options as An Evening in Barolo + Langhe, Beyond Bubbles, Champagne: A Blind Comparison, Wine & Music, Cult Wines of Napa Valley, The Rise of the California Underdog, History of Wine, Biodynamic & Natural Wines of Spain, Coastal Qualities of SLO Wine Country, Blind Taste with the Masters, and The Tasting at SommCon®. For tequila and mescal lovers, there is Agave & Terroir: The Wine of Mexico.
Those wanting a “hands on” experience will enjoy learning to make paella, munching on tapas and sipping Spanish wines at Flavors of Spain, developing their sushi making skils at Sushi + Saki, and gaining knowledge at the free event Behind Farm to Table: Future Thought Leaders Panel Discussion, where there will also be interactive culinary lessons about cheese-making and animal butchering.
The always popular Expedition Baja wine and cuisine tour of Valle de Guadalupe sold out almost immediately.
For full descriptions of each of the events, ticket info, list of participating celebrity chefs and personalities, and anything else you need to know, go to www.SanDiegoWineClassic.com.