KAABOO for You

By Wendy Lemlin



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.

A Girlfriends’ Getaway Around Park City, Utah

By Wendy Lemlin

sundance mtn

What makes a great girlfriend’s getaway? A spa day is always special; fabulous food goes without saying, and a little whiskey or wine never hurt. Shopping? Sure! Hiking amidst spectacular scenery? Not to be missed!  Yoga in a hot spring, a foodie tour of culinary hotspots, or a symphony performance at a mountain amphitheater? Now you’re talkin’! And, really, can anything beat sharing a bottle of wine with your gal pals around a firepit on the balcony of the amazing vacation home you’ve rented, while a zillion stars twinkle above your heads and the full moon is just peaking above the mountaintops that surround you?

After a day of fun, can anything beat sharing a bottle of wine with your gal pals around a firepit on the balcony of the amazing vacation home you've rented?

After a day of fun, can anything beat sharing a bottle of wine with your gal pals around a firepit on the balcony of the amazing vacation home you’ve rented?

When you hear “Park City”, you might think of snow and skiing, but I think of lush, green mountainsides, flower strewn meadows, and gushing waterfalls—not to mention living in the lap of luxury  that I couldn’t even contemplate in “real life”. Continue reading

Grand Junction, CO: A Grand Place For A Getaway

by Wendy Lemlin

Colorado National Monument, near Grand Junction, is touted as one of the top places to find solitude in the US. Credit: Grand Junction Visitor & Convention Bureau

Colorado National Monument, near Grand Junction, is touted as one of the top places to find solitude in the US. Credit: Grand Junction Visitor & Convention Bureau

I won’t lie; Grand Junction, CO was not foremost on my getaway destination radar when my longtime friend suggested it for our annual exploit. After spending three activity-packed days there, however, my only regret was that we hadn’t planned to stay longer. Continue reading

Hacienda El Capricho: Heaven in the Baja Hills

By Wendy Lemlin

Welcome to Hacienda El Capricho

Welcome to Hacienda El Capricho

For those of us in Southern California, a trip to northern Baja might entail heading to some coastal destination between Rosarito and Ensenada, usually to eat some tacos, drink some cold cervezas, maybe do some surfing or lounging on a beach, and then finishing off with a stop in Popotla to pick up some colorful pottery at the roadside “studios”. Or, maybe it’s a wine-tasting and gastronomic extravaganza to the now uber-popular Guadalupe Valley, where the numbers of upscale wineries, restaurants and flashy events have increased exponentially (along with prices!) in the last five years. Foodies and artists are discovering the culinary and cultural delights of Tijuana, and San Felipe is still a laid back-destination for sport fisherman, and gringo retirees. It’s all out there and readily accessible.

But, way, way off the beaten path, nestled in the Baja mountains several miles inland from

The road to Hacienda El Capricho

The road to Hacienda El Capricho

the coast near Puerto Nuevo, exists an amazing slice of Baja that few tourists even know exists. If you continue for several winding, bumpy, dusty miles on the dirt road that runs east uphill from Primo Tapia, past All the Pretty Horses of Baja Rescue, after about 30-40 minutes you will arrive at Hacienda El Capricho, the dream of Alberto Ortiz, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, but in the midst of abundant natural beauty and tranquility. It may not be easy to find, but it is certainly easy to love. At this elevation, the

The hills are alive on the way to Hacienda El Capricho

The hills are alive on the way to Hacienda El Capricho

hills, even in the heat of mid-summer, are greener and lusher than you would ever expect, covered in native oaks, flowering buckwheat, grasses, and a variety of vegetation, watered by natural springs and underground streams.

The sound of bird calls fill the air—the acorn woodpeckers that run through their impressive vocal repertoire in the oaks, the cooing of doves, the chatter of hooded orioles, the chirping of sparrows and the melodies of robins. Sometimes you’ll hear the mooing of cattle at a nearby ranch, or the whinny of a horse.  At night there’s the occasional yip of a coyote.  There are noises here in the Baja outback, but they are the noises of nature, which only accentuate the tranquility, rather than disturb it.

The entrance to Hacienda El Capricho

The entrance to Hacienda El Capricho

Continue reading

A Taste of Baja California Culinary Fest

by Wendy Lemlin


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

Maui is For Lovers

by Wendy Lemlin

(Published in San Antonio Express-News, 8/24/14)

At the Fairmont Kea Lani in Wailea, couples enjoy a blissful massage together Credit: Fairmont Kea Lani

To be perfectly honest, it’s darn near impossible not to feel romantic on Maui.  Maybe it’s the soft kisses of the tropical tradewinds on your cheeks, enticing with a subtle moistness, languid and energizing at the same time.  Maybe it’s the gentle perfume of plumeria, orchids, frangipani and other island flora, wafting on the breezes from gardens, arrangements on hotel tables, and leis around your neck.   It most definitely has to do with the constant views of multihued blue ocean waters—here a sheltered cove of the quintessential clear turquoise, there a deep indigo, and out there, maybe a few whitecaps on sapphire waves. The humpback whales cavorting between the shore and the horizon are that much more of an added benefit, spouting great sprays of vapor, fluking their enormous tails, and raising massive heads above the surface.  Even they feel the romance—they come to these waters from December to May to reproduce and bear their young, singing their plaintive songs which, if you’re really lucky, might circle around your ears from a distance as you and your honey snorkel hand in hand in the warm waters closer to shore. Continue reading

Treasures of Tecate

professor hike

A Hike on Kuchimaa, aka Mt. Tecate

by Wendy Lemlin

As I passed back into the U.S. from Tecate , Baja California, the Customs and Immigration officer asked why I had been in Mexico. When I answered that I was checking out the interesting places around the town, he looked at me incredulously and asked, “Really? What is there to do in Tecate?”

As Mexican border towns go, Tecate may be Baja’s best kept secret. Continue reading

Welcome to Borderlines


by Wendy Lemlin

A border can be anywhere. It can be a fence between countries or an intersection that defines a neighborhood. A border can flavor a cuisine and enliven a culture. It can have a recognizable soundtrack or certain design aesthetic. A border can be a physical demarcation or merely a state of mind.

The best borders are porous, engendering understanding and cross pollination of ideas and customs, but even when they are not, when walls separate and visas restrict, the crossing over or through becomes all the more exciting,

I live in San Diego, CA, about a 15 minute drive from the US/Mexico border in Baja California, a border which I cross often. I love that I can be in another country— with customs, cuisine, language, and lifestyle often so different from my own—in less time than it takes for me to drive to the northern or eastern reaches of San Diego county, which also are borders in and of themselves.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been afflicted with an active case of wanderlust.  Whether traveling to the far-flung corners of the globe, or the near-flung corners of my county, I constantly seek out unique experiences—geographical, cultural and culinary.  I’m fortunate to have the great pleasure of writing about these places and times in hopes of inspiring others to cross their borders and enjoy the world as well.

When I was a child, I was the pickiest of eaters.  Not any more! I love food that is creative, healthy, and often decadent. I devour with my senses. I’m enamored with aromas, titillated by tastes, and excited by the sight of a beautifully prepared dish or a perfect piece of produce.  International cuisines and regional specialties  inspire my wanderlust.

Machneyuda spices

I’m an almost-vegetarian–I don’t eat mammals—so, you won’t be reading any reviews of meat dishes on this blog. But, having grown up in the seaport of New Bedford, MA, I will probably never stop eating seafood, and on my yearly visits “back home” I have a list of the “must eats” that are always a part of every trip there and that I enthusiastically splurge on: North Atlantic lobster roll, mixed with just a hint of mayonnaise served in a toasted, buttered hot dog bun; Maine steamer clams, dunked in their own broth and melted butter; New England clam chowder whose broth is thickened only with the cream and slivers of potato; seared scallops fresh from a New Bedford ship, golden fried whole belly clams; and broiled scrod, minimally seasoned and moistly flaky. I have never tasted fresh corn on the cob anywhere else in the world that can compare to the ears of Silver Queen or Butter and Sugar eaten barely steamed within a few hours of having been picked on a Massachusetts South Coast farm in August.  Yes, my cholesterol is about 1000 when I come back to San Diego, but do I care? No!  And am I salivating now as I write this, happily anticipating the meals I will have there in about a month? You betcha!

As a food writer, of course I’m opinionated about my dining experience, what’s on my plate, and ultimately, in my mouth. I’m not impressed by pretention.  Except for my sugar addiction—don’t even get me started on chocolate or pastries—-and my occasional “vacation lapses”, I’m a strong proponent of healthful, whole food eating, and I see no reason to eat processed food at bad restaurants–or even, “just okay” ones, when there is so much incredible creativity out there. If an eatery considers iceberg lettuce to be the main attraction in a “garden salad”, I pretty much know I’m not going to like anything else they serve me..  That is, except for the little Greek pizza place in my hometown that coincidentally makes the best fried clams around.