ReCap: San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival's Grand Tasting Event | The Crown Jewel of an Amazing Week

November 19, 2012

What a year!!  Starting with the 8th Annual San Diego Wine & Food Festival last November, we were so fortunate to be able to cover the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival Lexus Grand Tasting and the Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival Lexus Grand Tasting, with so many awesome events and experiences in between.  Since beginning the food-fiscal-year over with the 9th Annual San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival, we cannot wait to see what next years' events have in store for us at SanDiegoVille.  Going into this year's San Diego Grand Tasting with much more experience, we felt beyond prepared to navigate the venue in order to best share the experience with our loyal readers.  Impressed we were, as lines were shorter, food was better, drinks flowed faster, and unlike other grand tastings, we were getting a tan throughout.  San Diego is THE BEST!  There, we said it! Now you know.

The Grand Finale of the epic five day San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival is the star-studded Grand Tasting Event which was held on the Embarcadero Marina Park North, tucked behind Seaport Village.  Unlike the food festivals in Los Angeles and Pebble Beach, San Diego offers its Grand Tasting under the warmth of the sunny sky, and while I understand the inherent risk of inclement weather, we had a perfect San Diego afternoon for this year's event. Attendees took in the beautiful panoramic views of the San Diego Bay while partaking in the largest wine and food festival in Southern California.  And with over 700 different wines poured amongst multitudes of spirits and beer offerings, it was impossibly dangerous to attempt to try them all, but we sipped and swirled with the best of them.

Spirits were high as the crowds shuffled around the multitudes of tents, each offering something unique, with hundreds of food samplings from some of San Diego's top restaurants, wine and beer samplings, and various other vendors like Taylor Guitars, Barrelly Made It!'s unique repurposed wine barrel furniture and smokers, and even randomly included Jelly Belly!  As per usual, we loyally cozy-ed up by both the Trumer Pils and Firestone Walker tents, alternating between the light and refreshing Pilsner and the knock-your-socks-off-ultra-hoppy Firestone DBA, making rounds for food between pours.

Chef Sinsay's amazing sweetbread sample
Of the delicious offerings sampled, we definitely had our favorites.  Executive Chef Anthony Sinsay of Burlap in Del Mar presented his innovative concoction: a cider poached veal sweet bread, crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, with apple kimchee, apple puree, and rosemary "smoke" making for a beautiful presentation, filled with clean yet adventurous flavors.  His dish earned him a nod as one of the top 5 for Chef of the Fest.  And with pork, pork, pork everywhere, sweet breads were a welcomed (and upscale) diversion!

NOBU's pork belly donut
Chef Amy DiBiase of The Shores restaurant in La Jolla presented a lightly smoked loch ezite steel head salmon with beat relish, local citrus, and horseradish creme, and though the dish was the same as what we sampled at the Lodge at Torrey Pines Beer Garden event last weekend, we yet again thoroughly enjoyed this unique balance of sweet, savory and salty. Nobu San Diego offered an adorable and delicious donut-encased pork belly lollipop - a perfect finger food for a festival.

Caught Chef Joly off guard
Amazed attendees crowded around Chef Daniel Joly of Stella Artois as he made ice cream with beer using liquid nitrogen - a refreshing treat on a warm fall day.  Chef Rachel King of Searsucker once again impressed with her delectable dessert, a chocolate banana cremeux with toasted marshmallow and a honey bacon macaroon.  Of honorable mention was also Casanova's fresh fish tacos, packed with flavor and spice, as well as Donovan's to-die-for cheesesteaks...O.M.G.  We have to make it to Donovan's happy hour when these savory suckers are free!

Other highlights from the San Diego Wine & Food Grand Tasting include:
Chef Katsuya Fukushima

  • #1 - Iron Chef killer and co-host of Celebrating Julia, Chef Katsuya Fukushima may be the coolest chef ever, as he consistently sports a Domino's Pizza bag that he found on the street awhile back (pizza pie included); this super chill super human also gives out handwritten business cards on the back of Ultraman collector cards;
  • Getting Trumer Pils glasses as gifts from our ole buddy Steve Conti of the Gambrinus Company; then proceeding to get almost-assaulted for them as we flaunted the tall boys around the Festival;
  • Staying until the very end is recommended as often times vendors want to forgo numerous trips to bring back leftovers. This year, we received a box of goodies from the Fresh & Easy market tent including two bottles of wine, a bunch of Kerrygold butter, cheese and crackers, and too many boxes of chocolate truffles.
  • We always love seeing friendly faces from the 'foodie circuit' that we've come to know and love including Chef Anthony Sinsay of Burlap, Chef Daniel Joly of Stella and Beaver Creek, Sarah Grossman of Firestone Walker, and local media pals: Tony Acevedo and Josh Kopelman of DiningOut Magazine, Ron Donoho of The San Diego Bugle, and Denise from There's a Newf in My Soup!.  

People's Choice Winner - Chef Jaison Burke of The Pearl
We do have to regretfully admit that, despite our innumerable saunters around the entire venue, we somehow missed a handful of the top 10 winners of the Chef of the Fest Competition (stay tuned for results to be published manana!!), but we did run into many of our favorite chefs and local celebrities while indulging in the gluttony of the afternoon, and for that we are thankful.  The motto lives on: "It's glass clinking, celebrity watching, swishing, swirling, mouth watering kind of fun!"  Don't miss out next year!

Next year's 10th Annual San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival has already been announced for November 13-17, 2013, so mark your calendars!!  For more information on the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival, visit, and be sure to follow the Festival on Facebook and Twitter.