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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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

TRUST Me, You Need to Dine at TRUST

By Wendy Lemlin

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p1020289When Trust Restaurant opened earlier this year in Hillcrest, I was invited to a media preview. With its enviable location on the corner of Robinson and Park, I could see at once that the 1300 sq ft patio, with its eye-catching red accents, ample table seating, and comfy couches, was going to be an immediate neighborhood success. Inside, the décor was inviting as well, contemporary casual,p1020256 all light woods and black accents, with a decent sized bar taking up the entire north wall of the dining room and an open kitchen on the east side, giving diners something to look at, besides their phones, as they wait for their orders to arrive. At that media preview, I recall, I was impressed with the space, but not so much with the food.  To be fair, we were served tray-p1020257passed “bites” of various menu items—never a good way to fully appreciate all the nuances of a dish, IMHO—and the large crowd was aggressively pouncing on whatever tidbits came their way, so I only managed to taste a few things. All of which I felt were “okay”, but didn’t wow me, as I remember, not enough for me to make a special trip to the restaurant now that I no longer live in the neighborhood. Continue reading

Birthday Staycation

Words & photos by Wendy Lemlin

Under the therapeutic cascade at Rancho Bernardo Inn

Under the therapeutic cascade at Rancho Bernardo Inn

Sometimes you just need a break.  Not a long vacation, but certainly more of a change of scenery than just hanging out in your own home.  Get away from the kitchen, get away from the computer, and get away from all the little chores around the house that nag to be done when you just want to relax.  I’m talking abdication of all responsibility, here, with a side order of pampering thrown in for good measure.  You don’t even need to go away to get away, distance-wise, to be amazed at how a change of environment makes for a change in temperament. You just need a great staycation. Continue reading

La Bonne Table: A French Kiss for Hillcrest

By Wendy Lemlin

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      “French Bistro”. Those two words never fail to set my tastebuds on happy alert, and so, when I recently discovered La Bonne Table on the corner of Pennsylvania and Fifth Avenues in San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood, it was all I could do not to shout “ooh la la!” Continue reading

San Diego Bay Wine + Food Festival November 15-22

By Wendy Lemlin

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   Wonder how much San Diego loves food and drink? Just look at the success of the San Diego Bay Wine + Food Festival, now in it’s 12th year, bigger and more comprehensive than ever. Running November 15-22, with a full roster of events, dinners, tastings, classes, and exhibits, it is one of the largest food and wine festivals in the country, shining a spotlight on both San Diego’s burgeoning gourmet dining scene and our cross-border connection with Baja’s exciting culinary landscape. From tacos and beer to wine paired-haute cuisine, there is something for anyone who loves indulging in crave-worthy food and spirits.  And really, who doesn’t?

More than a dozen celebrated national chefs, including Rick Bayless, Gayle Gand, and Suzette Gresham will join over 40 local luminaries in presenting delicacies and/or cuisine-related educational programs. Look for such regional favorites as The Marine Room’s Bernard Guillas, Javier Plascencia of  Bracero, Finca Altozano, and Mision 19, Jason SBWFF grand tasting smokerKnibb of NINE-TEN, Chad White of Comun and La Justina, Ironside Fish & Oyster’s Jason McLeod, Flor Franco of Finca La Carrodilla and Indulge Contemporary Catering, Mario Medina of Bernini’s Bistro, The Patio Group’s John Medall, Anthony Sinsay of Dukes’s La Jolla, James Montejano of La Valencia Hotel, and a host of others.

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October Food Events

Eat Your Way Through October

by Wendy Lemlin

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What is it about October that always makes it such a busy month for food events? Is it because it’s usually one of the best weather months in San Diego, when temperatures start to cool down and skies are clear?  Is it because it fits so nicely between summer vacations and holiday frenzies? Or maybe it’s more about fiscal calendars and venue availabilities.  Whatever the reason, this will be every foodie’s dream month—just be prepared to splurge, both calorie-wise and money-wise, if you plan to go to everything! Here are a few events coming up. Continue reading

Giving Hunger the Blues

by Wendy Lemlin

Chronic hunger can give anyone the blues.  This weekend, however, the blues will be helping to kick hunger’s butt when the 4th annual AimLoan.com San Diego Blues Festival

Marcia Ball headlines Saturday at 6:30 pm

Marcia Ball headlines Saturday at 6:30 pm

benefits the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank. With headliners such as Marcia Ball, Booker T. Jones, Tommy Castro & the Painkillers, Kim Wilson, and Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials, this year’s festival promises an eclectic spectrum of blues performers.

 

Running on September 26 & 27, from noon til 8pm at Embarcadero Marina Park North, the festival features continuous music alternating back and forth between 2 stages. Click here for the complete lineup. Tickets are $25 for a 1 day pass, $40 for a 2 day pass.  VIP passes are $125 for one day, $200 for 2 days and include

  • Early admission
  • Preferred viewing area with tables, chairs and some shade
  • Catered lunch and munchies
  • Private bar service
  • Private restrooms
  • Two complimentary adult beverages
  • Unlimited complimentary water and soft drinks

The festival began in 2011 with a mission to provide great blues music at an affordable price, and raise money to support the battle against hunger in our community. Since then, the festival’s sponsors and attendees have helped contribute more than 18 tons of food and more than $350,000 to help the Food Bank fight hunger in San Diego County.

For all the info, go to www,sdbluesfest.com

Bracero Brings It!

by Wendy Lemlin

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After months of delays, and about a year of anticipation, Bracero Cocina de Raiz finally opened in mid July. The first restaurant in San Diego proper by Baja mega celeb chef Javier Plascencia (Romesco in Bonita, Mision 19 and Erizo in Tijuana, and Finca Altozano in the Valle de Guadalupe) and partner Luis Peña, opened its Little Italy doors to much foodie-world buzz and advance reservations booked several months out.

Was it worth the wait? In a word, yes!

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Flying to San Felipe

by Wendy Lemlin

These arches, the symbol of San Felipe, greet visitors at the north entrance of town.

These arches, the symbol of San Felipe, greet visitors at the north entrance of town.

San Felipe, on Baja’s Sea of Cortez, has always been a playground and vacation home destination for those in the San Diego and SoCal areas, but until recently, getting there was definitely NOT half the fun, necessitating a 4+ hour drive into Mexico, over mountainous roads and sometimes long border waits on the return trip home. All this changed this past December, when Portland, OR-based SeaPort Airlines began offering non-stop air service from San Diego International Airport to San Felipe in their nine passenger prop planes, currently on Monday, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

SeaPort Airlines' 9 passenger planes fly between San Diego and San Felipe.

SeaPort Airlines’ 9 passenger planes fly between San Diego and San Felipe.

The easy, hour and 20 minute flight takes passengers over breathtaking views of mountains and canyons that few travelers ever see, far from any roads or vestiges of “civilization”, and deposits them at the small San Felipe airport, on the placid shores of the Sea of Cortez, just a 5 minute drive from the lovely beachfront San Felipe Marina Resort and Spa.  Continue reading