The 33rd Annual San Diego Zoo Food & Wine Celebration | A Night at San Diego's Most Unique Epicurean Event

Nervous Ness & the Bearded Dragon

September 30, 2013

There are food and spirits events on a monthly basis in San Diego, but at how many do you get the chance to hold a bearded dragon, watch a cheetah play with a dog or take an aerial tram over the whole celebration??  On a perfect September evening, hundreds of food and animal enthusiasts had the unique opportunity to enter the famed San Diego Zoo during after hours, to sip and swirl with the animals, taste delectable delights from over 170 local restaurants, breweries, wineries and spirit companies, and enjoy the playful ambience of the evening, all for the wonderful cause of conservation research. The San Diego Zoo Food & Wine Celebration is one of the city's elite epicurean events, and the 33rd annual fundraiser offered an eclectic mix of food, spirits, music and animal encounters.

At first we were overwhelmed, as the many paths were lined with food vendors galore and packed with eager guests, but there were so many varying enclaves to explore, stretching and spreading thin the crowds. There were various areas like Beach Zone, where magicians amazed while Rubio's pumped out delicious fish tacos; the Australian Outback, where Slater's 50/50's usual line formed but was serenaded by the energetic Bayou Brothers band and overlooked by a monstrous rhinoceros; the Zoo Party area where Wayne Foster Entertainment's crew took the stage and enlivened the masses and the Critter Casino offered games of chance for fun prizes; the Flamingo Zone where the silent auction featured fun packages like behind the scenes zoo tours and luxurious getaways; and many others.

View from the Skyfari
Nearly 3,000 guests attended the San Diego Zoo Food & Wine Celebration. There was entertainment on nine stages, which is more than double that of previous years. Ticket sales and silent auction proceeds help funding for the San Diego Zoo Global's conservation efforts locally, as well as more than 100 conservation field projects in 35 countries.

"It's so great to see the community come together and make the San Diego Zoo Food & Wine Celebration come to life!" explained Christina Carreno, Associate Director of Development at the San Diego Zoo Global.   "It wouldn't happen without the support of thousands of people, from the vendors, to the entertainers and the guests. The atmosphere is alive, and we all do it for one reason, to benefit wildlife! Many thanks to all who contributed to make it a huge success!"

A cheetah and his golden retriever pal
Local craft beer, wine and spirits from various vendors flowed freely, with all beverages and bites being included in the price of admission.  Ample dessert and coffee options were there to follow in the Sweet Retreat Zone, featuring Julian Pie Company and San Diego Coffee, Tea & Spice, as well as local celebrity chef Keegan Gerhard of D Bar.  Joan Embery entertained and educated guests with her animal presentation - a cheetah and his dog companion were walked around the grounds, large birds flew to their trainers, and a friendly bearded dragon got passed to excited attendees. Live art, musicians, casino games, more animal encounters, and romantic Skyfari rides entranced and entertained as guests weaved and winded throughout the trails under the stars.

This adult playground made for a magical evening that truly evoked the playful and inspired child within each of the participants.  Be sure not to miss out on this benevolent event next year!

For more information on the San Diego Zoo Food & Wine Celebration, visit, and check out more of our photos from the event below!

Vanessa and Chef Keegan Gerhard
Ness and tall lightup man!
Wayne Foster Entertainment
Big ole bird!
Michael Summers doing it live!
Rubio's grilled tilapia taco