The weeklong extravaganza, which ran from November 14-20, returned to San Diego for the 13th time. Food and wine enthusiasts were treated to events throughout the week, featuring top-tier chefs from 60 of San Diego’s best restaurants and celebrity chefs from around the country. Naturally, beverages are needed to accompany all of the fantastic food. Luckily, over 150 wineries, breweries, and spirit purveyors provided an amazing selection of tasty sips!
Unique Culinary and Beverage Events:
On Monday, the festival commenced with Mercy of the Chef Dinner Series. 5 well-regarded San Diego restaurants hosted events with a guest chef from out of town. Our favorite was a meat-centric meal cooked by open flames at Campfire, in Carlsbad, CA. Campfire’s Executive Chef, Andrew Bachelier was joined by Chef Jason French of Ned Ludd/Elder Hall.
On Tuesday, the 5th Annual Fish Taco TKO returned featuring an enthusiastic battle of 13 of San Diego’s top chefs, vying for the honor of best fish taco.
Celebrity Chef Marcus Samuelsson hosted In The Spirit: Whisk(e)y on Wednesday. A variety of styles were sampled. Palate cleansing gourmet bites accompanied this exceptional event.
Thursday featured Dinner with the Culinary Icons + Live Auction, benefiting a number of scholarship programs for students entering the industry. Celebrity and local chefs combined their talents for a once in a lifetime dining experience.
In addition to the Food + Wine Festival, SommCon ran concurrently. This wine industry conference hosted a tasting event on Friday, allowing participants to sample wine with the field’s top professionals.
This is merely a sampling of the week’s events. Although Tom and I could not attend, these offerings are our favorites. Perhaps next year!
Lexus Grand Tasting:
On Saturday, the weeklong Food and Wine Festival closed with its pinnacle event: The Lexus Grand Tasting. If you can only attend one event during this extravaganza of food and wine, this is it! Tom and I are culinary enthusiasts and are thrilled that we attended the Lexus Grand Tasting. If you are like us, you will delight in the discovery of different food and beverage offerings. Located at the Embarcadero Marina Park North, directly behind the Seaport Village, guests stroll along an endless path of tasty bites and sips. All while taking in the beautiful San Diego harbor and skyline.
Tom and I attended the event with a good friend. Upon entry, we pick up a plate, a wine glass, and a bag to collect samples from gourmet food vendors. Armed with our goodie bag and an appetite (naturally we skipped breakfast to get our fill at the Lexus Grand Tasting) we set off to eat and drink.
Food Offerings: There is a huge number of small plates to sample. We ate and drank until our stomachs couldn’t accommodate another sample. Luckily, we have 4 hours to get our fill. We are sharing some of our favorites.
At this year’s event, the longest line is for grilled lamb chops. It was incredibly tasty and tender. Luckily, our early admission allows us to have this tasty treat without too long of a line!
The lamb chops are tasty, but some of our other favorites include: pumpkin soup and pistachio cake from Solare Ristorante and grilled scallops from Eddie V’s Prime Seafood. I lived in Chicago for several years and I was excited to sample the tasty ceviche from two of my favorite Chicago area restaurants: The Publican and Avec! Duck-filled pastries, juicy burgers topped with an over-easy egg, tuna and salmon sashimi, triple-chocolate parfait, grilled cheese and lobster, seafood chowder, and grilled lamb loin also top the list of our favorite bites. From this list, you know this festival has so many amazing dishes!
Beverage Offerings: Being a Food + Wine Festival, wine abounds at this extravaganza! Last year, Tom and I visited Paso Robles and I fell in love with the deep, bold reds from this Central California locale. I was excited to see a tent featuring several wineries from this region.
On a hill at the center of the festival, Lexus and Cooking Light commanded to large exhibits. Although we came for the wine, these booths featured amazing cocktails. Cooking Light offered a blackberry vodka cocktail and a skinny jalapeno margarita. Both are refreshing and not sweet (which is my preference). Lexus put on a show. Using dry ice, two cocktails were frozen into sorbet form: a mojito and a mule. A scoop of the frozen concoction is topped with your choice of toppings, including pop rocks. A “bite” of this cocktail is truly an explosive experience in taste and texture. This ended up being our favorite offering from the entire Grand Tasting event!
Food Presentations: Several celebrity chefs showcase their talent for guests to watch. I’m a fan of Rick Bayless (I’ve been to all of his Chicago restaurants!) and enjoy watching him in action. Also, I’ve recently become a fan of San Diego Area’s Javier Plascencia’s Baja-Mediterranean cuisine. Between eating and drinking, we stopped to watch both of their presentations.
- Be prepared for the weather. The event is outdoors. Dress appropriately and bring sunscreen.
- Go with the flow. This event isn’t cheap and it does get crowded. However, this means you are sharing your experience with others who appreciate quality food, fine wine, tasty spirits and cocktails, and refreshing beer.
- Pace yourself. Pay the extra money for early access tickets to enjoy the event with less people. And get an extra hour of eating and drinking!
- Check out #SDBayFest for more amazing Food + Wine photos.