Oh, what a day. I truly look forward to this day all year long. I've gone now for the past 3 years and will definitely make a point to go every year from here on out. Congrats to the festival volunteers for making this a successful year with regulating the lines to get in! It's been a bit tough (okay, that's a bit understated) getting into the event in years past - numerous lines, not knowing which one you should be in, ID checks taking forever, etc. This year, they solved the problem.
So this event is held at the Embarcadero. Did you know that San Diego had an embarcadero? I've lived here all my life and until I started coming to this event, I really didn't know what that area was called. It was always just the park behind Seaport Village, to me. Embarcadero or not, this area of San Diego is one of the most beautiful. There are stunning views of downtown, the Coronado bridge, and of the navy ships. Put it all together with a warm November afternoon, wine, beer, food, and friends and you have pure enjoyment.
Now I must apologize up front. I really enjoyed myself to the extent that I only managed to take 1 food photo, and it was the first thing we ate. After that, the camera was put away. Managing my wine glass, food, and then throw a beer glass in there too, there was no way I could do it all. Food pictures lost out this time.
Grilled oyster on the half shell, with mango and cilantro, I believe. I'm sure some of you are going to discount me when I say I actually didn't partake in this delight, but it was the first thing we came across, on an empty stomach, and I don't like oysters to begin with. I may have tried it if it was later in the day, but by the time we made it back, they had run out. Mark thoroughly enjoyed it and said it was the best oyster he ever had. This oyster and some great ceviche (which I did have) is from a restaurant in Tijuana called Alta Cocina Mexicana. Darn, guess I missed out since I highly doubt we will be heading to Tijuana anytime soon.
Aside from the tremendous savory food and the excellent wines from all over the world, there are a few other items I want to highlight that may seem a bit out of the norm, but believe me, they all worked. First of all, this year probably had the most beer vendors out of the last 3 years; not surprisingly, since I really do think that food and beer pairings are taking off. Some of the beer vendors included Anchor Brewing Co., Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Hornsby (hard cider), Stone Brewing Co., Trumer Pils, and Stella Artois, where they not only had Stella, but also Hoegaarden and Leffe. With all 3 of the beers that Stella was offering, they gave full pours (not just tasters) and let you keep the glass, which is more of a chalis-shapped glass that you can see in the picture of us above.
Those of you that know me, are aware that I'm not the biggest chocolate lover. However, when I do find a good piece of chocolate that I like, I'm all over it like white on rice. Eclipse Chocolat turned my world upside down with their Lavender Sea-salted Caramel truffle. Mark tried it first (amazingly enough, quite soon after the oyster!) and told me with no exception that I HAD to try the truffle. I honestly didn't want to. Savory foods first, sweets afterward. I broke my rule this time and I'm so grateful I did since they were completely out by the end of the event. The lavender was subtle, the sea salt was distinct but not over-powering, and the truffle was incredibly smooth. It is a masterpiece that I will seek out again, quite possibly for gifts over the holidays as well. Interestingly enough, upon researching about Eclipse Chocolat, I found a post about them on Stone Brewing Co.'s blog - they paired their IPA with the lavender truffle! Even at the festival, they were in close vicinity and I wish I had known about this pairing since Stone was offering their IPA at the festival that day. In my past blogs around beer week, I feel like I've hit on a gold mine with beer and dessert pairings. This one is not going to pass me up either; there will be an Eclipse Chocolat lavender truffle and Stone IPA pairing in my very near future.
Lastly, I'll end with one of my favorites - Fortaleza Tequila - affectionately known as "my tequila guy" at the festival. I know this is a wine & food festival, but who wouldn't want to indulge in a tequila progression? I was worried for a bit since he is always in the same spot, but this year, he had moved. We found him and all was right with the world. The progression began with their Blanco, or white, also called silver and it is stored in stainless steel tanks - never touches wood. Second was the Reposado, or rested, which has been aged in oak barrels for 6 to 9 months. Finally, we moved onto the Anejo, or aged, and it is aged in oak barrels for 2-3 years. Ahh....
After a wonderful afternoon, we strolled along Harbor Drive to check out some of the sites and artwork that our city has to offer.
We even came across a man who made it an art form to balance rocks on top of each other. Ask Mark; this wasn't an easy task. The one in the picture was for folks to try out themselves and Mark did - with no success. I'll blame the tequila though :) Another wonderful festival and another beautiful day in America's finest city. I'm already looking forward to next year's event!