A Dining and Learning Experience at From Farm to Bay Food and Wine Classic at Living Coast Discovery Center

August 13, 2013

Photo by Dream West Photography
By Megan Gallagher | SanDiegoVille Contributor  

Tourists may flock to San Diego for sites like Sea World, the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park, but there is a lesser-known wildlife destination that’s also making quite the buzz. The Living Coast Discovery Center, formerly the Chula Vista Nature Center, is an organization dedicated to providing environmental education on coastal resource conservation, and instilling a respect for nature and wildlife in people of all ages. Though it’s only a few short miles from downtown, the nature center, which sits on a 316-acare Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, is a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and provides visitors a unique glimpse at the wildlife in our environment that we overlook every day. We had the opportunity to check it out during the organization’s biggest fundraiser of the year, the From Farm to Bay Food & Wine Classic, where more than 40 local restaurants and eateries showcased their dishes to a sold out crowd, all in the name of keeping the bay beautiful.

Culinary Chair Andrew Spurgin and Sherry Lankston
from the Living Coast Discovery Center
Photo by Dream West Photography
The fourth annual fundraiser placed an emphasis on the local and sustainable food community, attracting vendors who hold themselves to those same values. Each vendor was asked to draw inspiration from the animals at the Discovery Center when crafting their signature dish. And with an animal population consisting of everything from stingrays and lion fish to eagles and snakes, things definitely got interesting.

Throughout the night we had the great pleasure of tasting multitudes of creative creature-inspired concoctions.  Highlights included a kickin’ scorpion punch from the Grant Grill, a blend of black barrel rum, Cointreau, chocolate mint, infused Orgeat, fresh orange and lime juice and orange flower water;  Bay Ho’s Kitchen 4140’s smoked seafood salad over chilled corn chowder; and Tiger! Tiger! Tavern’s crab arancini with coconut and sea urchin aioli (maybe we tried that one three times). Culinary chair Chef Andrew Spurgin drew guests to his booth all night, serving up what he coined “The Palm Thief,” a refreshing and savory blend of Dungeness crab, kaffir and coconut, black sauce, hearts of palm, Sungold tomatoes, cashew, cilantro and lime.

Photo by Dream West Photography
Among other participating vendors were The Red Door Restaurant & Wine Bar, The Wellington Steak & Martini Lounge, Brooklyn Girl, Sea Rocket Bistro, Via Lago Trattoria by Busalacchi, Sushi on a Roll, Terra American Bistro, Fish Market, Top of the Market, U.S. Olympic Training Center, Chaplos Restaurant, Isola Pizza Bar, Elizabethan Desserts, Viva Pops, Romesco Mediterranean Bistro, Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill, Blind Lady Ale House, Papa Luna’s Empanadas, Sprouts Farmer Market, El Campanito Farm and La Bella Pizza Garden.

Keeping with the local theme, San Diego-based bands Plow and Teagan and Taylor Trio provided the perfect soundtrack for the laidback event and entertained guests who bid on more than 100 items in live and silent auctions that continued throughout the night.

Photo by Dream West Photography
What set the From Farm to Bay Food & Wine Classic apart from other foodie events was its incredible setting amongst the aquariums and wildlife habitats. In addition to enjoying some of the finest food and wine’s that our area has to offer, we had the chance to experience first-hand, what the entire fundraiser really was about – awareness of all of the living things that exist right under our noses in our very own backyard. In between bites we explored the “Shark and Ray Experience,” learned the real way to lessen the pain after a jellyfish sting (urine not required), and had the opportunity to interact with a one-eyed owl, who, despite his intimidating look, actually weighs less than an iPhone! Seeing and learning about all of the different species that call the bay home brought us each back to our childhood.

This event made it easy to see why the Discovery Center is so invaluable to our youth. Funds raised during the From Farm to Bay event will go toward efforts to continue to maintain the life and health of San Diego Bay’s native animals and plants on one of the few remaining salt marsh wetlands on the Pacific Coast, and help the Discovery Center continue to grow so that they may attract and educate more people. If you missed this year’s event but are still interested in contributing, visit their Get Involved page to learn how you can help.

The Living Coast Discovery Center is located at 1000 Gunpowder Point Drive, Chula Vista, CA 91910 and is open from 10am-4pm daily.  For more information, visit www.thelivingcoast.org.