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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KAABOO for You

By Wendy Lemlin

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Back in 1969, the most well known of all music festivals EVER was optimistically billed as Woodstock Music & Art Fair, in hopes that it would be remembered as more than just a regular ol’ music festival.  Which of course it was, but not because of any art exhibits, but rather as the iconic representation of the art of high hippieness.

Forty-six years later (yikes!), KAABOO, the hip, but not hippie, three day music and arts festival taking place this weekend, September 18-20 at Del Mar Fairgrounds will distinguish itself not only by presenting over 100 musical performances, from legends to emerging artists, on seven stages. As if that wouldn’t be ambitious enough, adding to the total “mix-perience”  the festival includes components of  experiential “indulgences”, art installations, a comedy club, and opportunities for indulging our seemingly insatiable food obsessions at the “Palate” area.

The musical lineup is truly impressive, with something seemingly for everyone.  On Friday, the highlights include, among others, Bonnie Raitt, Ozomatli, Fitz & the Tantrums, Sheryl Crow, No Doubt, and Snoop Dog. On Saturday, some of the big names are Counting Crows, Slightly Stoopid, Ozomatli, Zac Brown Band, and Spoon. Sunday features Donovan Frankenreiter, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, O.A.R., Minnie Driver, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Grace Potter, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Brandi Carlisle, Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals, and Train.  On Friday and Saturday, the music runs from 11 AM-2:30 AM, on Sunday from 11AM-10pm.

As for food, according to KAABOO’s website, the “Palate” component will present fare that’s “way more tasteful than at a typical music festival”, representing an upscale culinary environment where guests can sample specialties from a variety of carefully selected culinary artisans, and limited production wines and craft libations:

  • 18 top local restaurants & chefs
  • 20 exclusive California wineries pouring approximately 60 different wines
  • 25 craft distilleries sampling small batch tequila, mezcal, bourbon, gin, rum, vodka, sake, and other spirits

On the Palate Stage on Saturday, starting at noon, six chefs will compete in the KAABOO Rockin’ Chef Competition, with three teams of two chefs with each team making an appetizer and entrée.  The competing chefs are

  • Amy di Biase
  • Brian Malarkey
  • Chad White
  • James Montejano
  • Jason McLeod
  • Javier Plascencia.

Their entries will be judged by Master Chef Ferdinand Metz, Candice Woo of EATER SD, Darlene Horn of ZAGAT, Josh Kopelman of DiningOutSD, and Sam the Cooking Guy.

The Palate stage will also be the place to catch:

  • Chef Band Performances
  • Celebrity Chef Demos
  • Chef & Artist Book Signings
  • Surprise Musical Performances

For all the detailed info for this “grown up” party, click here. One day passes start at $125, 2 day passes start at $229, and 3 day passes start at $299 in advance, $329 at the gate, all plus service charges.  A variety of VIP passes are also available. $1 per pass purchased will be donated to KAABOO’s “KINDNESS” charity program. Additional charity contributions made at time of pass purchase will be matched dollar for dollar by KAABOO.

Gourmet Dining With Farmers, Friends & A Fisherman

By Wendy Lemlin

Ok, I admit it.  Life can taste pretty sweet when you’re a food writer.  It’s especially enjoyable when gourmet dining amidst great conviviality with the growers, harvesters, and curators of the delicacies on the plates in front of me.

This was the case last night (January 15) at San Diego’s Red Door Restaurant and Wine Bar for the Baja edition of their Farmers, Friends & Fisherman Dinner series, which proved so popular that seating spilled over into The Wellington Steak and Martini Lounge, Red Door’s adjoining sister restaurant. The seasonal series showcases area farmers, fishermen, ranchers, and wine or spirit makers who personify Red Door’s sustainable, local and organic credo. Continue reading

Indulge at 11th Annual San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival This Week!

  By Wendy Lemlin

Anyone who doubts that San Diego has finally outgrown the culinary “children’s table” and is now welcome to sit with the grownups, has only to look at the events scheduled for the 11th annual San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival, running November 16-23, to see how far the city’s food and spirits sophistication has matured.

The international showcase of the world’s premier wine and spirits producers, nationally renowned chefs, culinary personalities, and gourmet foods benefits culinary arts and enology scholarships awarded by The American Institute of Wine & Food and the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs.  Over 200 wineries, breweries and spirit companies, 70 of San Diego’s top fine dining restaurants and 30 gourmet food companies will participate in the 2014 Festival.

From seminars and cooking classes to celebrity chef dinners and Grand Tastings, the festival promises to whet—and satiate— the appetites of all who love to eat, drink, and make merry.  With event tickets ranging from $40 to $550, there is something for every palate and every budget. Continue reading

A Taste of Baja California Culinary Fest

by Wendy Lemlin

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So, you’ve been hearing all these great things about the Baja culinary scene, and have just been waiting for a good excuse (not that you really need one!) to experience it for yourself, right?  Well, you’ve got one—in fact two!

For the first time, Baja California Culinary Fest is teaming up with The Culinary Conference Ensenada Gastronómica to present five days of mouth-watering excitement. From October 29th to November 2nd, guests will be able to explore the many flavors of Baja and discover the local natural resources of the region that the rest of the world is clamoring for these days. Chefs’ dinners, outings, tours and culinary competitions are among the exciting events planned for this foodie extravaganza. Continue reading

Chef Profile: Martin San Roman

by Wendy Lemlin

Chef Martin San Roman in his kitchen at Dobson's .

Chef Martin San Roman in his kitchen at Dobson’s .

There are cooks— and then there are chefs.  Creative cooks abound these days, but truly talented chefs, with a culinary education, a firm foundation in the basics, and years of executive experience in running all types of kitchens, from hotels to intimate dining rooms, are few and far between. Martin San Roman is a highly accomplished chef, in every sense of the word. Continue reading

Taste of Downtown Happening this Week

The food scene in downtown San Diego is eclectic, to say the least.  From sports bars to fine dining, from hot and trendy to long-existing chains, there’s a wide range of flavors and preparations, appealing to tourists and locals alike. Sample a bit of everything at the annual Taste of Downtown, on Thursday, Oct. 2 from 5-9pm, when over 50 restaurants in the Gaslamp Quarter, East Village, Financial district and at The Headquarters at Seaport Village, set out to entice you with bites of their best stuff. Some of the participating eateries include: Comun Kitchen & Tavern, The Blind Burro, Florent, Meze Greek Fusion, Royal India, Whiskey Girl, Zanzibar Café, Dobson’s Bar and Restaurant, and Eddie’V’s Prime Seafood. Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 day of, and available DowntownSanDiego.org.

Spreads & falafel at Meze Greek Fusion

Spreads & falafel at Meze Greek Fusion

Mexican style potstickers at Blind Burro

Mexican style potstickers at Blind Burro

 

Vegetable Samosas at Royal India

Vegetable Samosas at Royal India

Wine, Sculpture, Opera–and Pizza!– at Salerno Winery

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salerno 7Lovers of award winning wines and world-class art can now indulge both passions at the newly expanded Salerno Winery in the scenic hills of Ramona, CA, in San Diego’s East County. Continue reading

Bravo for Zarco

By Wendy Lemlin

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I’d be willing to wager that for most of you reading this, downtown Chula Vista is not the first place you’d think of—or at all— when deciding where to go for a fantastic dinner and amazing wine selection. Yeah, me neither—that is, until my recent visit to Zarco, Cocina De Baja, in the heart of Chula Vista’s 3rd Avenue shopping district. There, among shops whose windows display the most colorful of flouncy quinceanera dresses, Chef Flor Franco has converted the commercial kitchen of her highly successful Indulge Contemporary Catering company into a first rate showcase for her take on the much acclaimed cuisine and wines of Baja California. Continue reading

¡Latin Food Fest!

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San Diego Hosts the Largest Latin Food, Wine & Spirits Event in the U.S.

By Wendy Lemlin

    It has passion, it has flavor, and it has sass. You could say it’s downright sexy. Latin cuisine is super hot in the culinary world these days, and we’re not just talking about the chiles that give heat to so many of the dishes.

Here in San Diego, we tend to think of Latin food as “Mexican”. The Latin world, however, is a big one, and the food of Spain is very different from the food of Peru, while Puerto Rican cuisine differs markedly from Argentinean.

To showcase the full diversity of flavors from Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America, on September 11-13, the 2nd annual ¡LATIN FOOD FEST!’s culinary extravaganza will take place in downtown San Diego, featuring some of the world’s best chefs, distillers and vintners, as well as the region’s top Latin restaurants. ¡LATIN FOOD FEST!  will once again educate palates and entertain patrons in high style at six events, including an Opening Party, Educational Seminars, Cocktail Parties, Chef Dinner, Chef Demonstrations on the Celebrity Cooking Stage, Silent Auctions, Culinary Grand Tasting Event, and Wine Reception. Continue reading