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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Valle Wine & Food Festival Benefits Farm Workers and Earthquake Victims

By Wendy Lemlin

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   As anyone in the SoCal/Baja border foodie community knows, in recent years there have been a significant number of outstanding events in Baja California’s Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico’s smoking-hot wine region about 90 miles south of San Diego. But, the first annual Valle Wine & Food Festival, happening October 22, stands out as a must do, not only for the amazing quality of cross-border chef talent who will be participating —hosts Javier Plascencia and Nancy Silverton, and Michelin-starred Dominique Crenn, to name a few—but also because the event will be flavored with a welcome taste of altruism, i.e. the festival will benefit the area’s farm workers, as well as victims of the recent earthquakes in Mexico.

Nancy Silverton, Carolynn Carreno, Javier Plascencia

Nancy Silverton, Carolynn Carreno, Javier Plascencia

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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

The Flavors of Florent

Words & Photos by Wendy Lemlin

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Like most San Diego locals over 30 years old, I rarely venture into downtown’s Gaslamp Quarter, and, despite the blocks of cheek-to-jowl restaurants, even more rarely do I ever dine there. I’ve always had the impression that, with a few notable exceptions, most of the restaurants serve overpriced, mediocre “tourist” food, or unsophisticated bar bites. On a recent visit, however, I’ve found that Florent Restaurant & Lounge, on the prime corner of 5th and G,  is one of those notable exceptions,

Executive Chef Brad Hightow

Executive Chef Brad Hightow

Executive Chef Brad Hightow has been running the culinary show there for the past 15 months, and his high quality take on New American cuisine is creative and delectable.  Flavors are balanced and complementary, presentations are attractive, and ingredients are sourced from such local standout purveyors as Specialty Produce and Catalina Offshore Products. 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

Baja Bash to Benefit WILDCOAST

by Wendy Lemlin

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Having fun and conserving our coastlines on both sides of the border..

These days, everyone loves Baja, especially her beaches and coastal areas.  In fact, people love Baja so much, that much of her once mostly-deserted 1900 miles of coastlines have fallen under targeted assault from increased development and industrial growth. Coral reefs and mangrove forests teeming with fish and sealife, pristine beaches where endangered sea turtles nest, and bays that are the birthing areas for gentle California grey whales—all are in danger of disappearing, and the marine species and other fauna that depend on these fragile ecosystems are also in peril.

Luckily, 16 years ago WILDCOAST (aka COSTASALVAJE in Spanish) began working to watchdog and protect the marine ecosystems and wildlife on Baja’s coasts, as well as coastal areas in San Diego and in other Mexican and Latin American regions. Continue reading

Fishing for Compliments at San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival

Ocean-to-Table Wine Pairing Luncheon features an impressive roster of chefs

By Wendy Lemlin

Something’s fishy at the 12th annual San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival this year—- and that’s a good thing!

The abundance of delectable seafood found in our local waters will be the inspiration for a 5 course wine pairing luncheon held at The Marine Room, La Jolla’s iconic oceanfront restaurant, on Wednesday, November 18, from 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM.  Hosted by Executive Chef Bernard Guillas, the exclusive luncheon will feature the formidable talents of a cadre of local celebrity chefs known for their creativity and passionate respect for the sea’s bounty.

Chef Bernard Guillas

Chef Bernard Guillas

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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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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

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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