Monday, November 23, 2009

San Diego Wine and Food Festival

This weekend I went to the annual San Diego Wine and Food Festival, held in Embarcadero Park, overlooking the ocean. First, let me just say that as far as I'm concerned, that is an ideal way to spend a Saturday. 70 degrees, sunny, on the water, wandering from booth to booth sampling great food, great wine, exotic liquors, artisanal chocolates and oils, cigars, craft beers, etc., not to mention collecting all the free swag (magazines, recipes, coupons, pens, blah blah blah). I discovered a lot of new and small wineries, and got some great ideas to apply to my own cooking (notable flavor combinations and ideas include: scallops with edamame puree, tuna tartare with lemon confit, gnocci with duck ragu, and hummus with pomegranate seeds).

I ate a lot, drank a lot, and took some great pictures of the water. Craft vodkas and tequilas were big, as were Mexican fusion flavors--I had at least twenty different variations of the classic fish-and-chile combination. I tasted a lavendar liqueur, wine jellies, and smoky mushrooms cooked in a Big Green Egg (which, FYI, I am seriously lusting after right now).

Favorite finds included:
Eclipse Chocolat. A local company specializing in some really awesome chocolates. Chocolate bar flavors include Sweet Basil-Mint, Gingerbread Crumb, Sea-Salt Nib, Blackberry Sage, Coconut Lime, Mango Masala, Orange Peel Anise, Espresso Walnut, Chile Hazelnut, Moroccan Spice, Macadamia Ginger, and Kyoto Green Tea. My favorite is the Sea-Salt Nib--big chunks of sea salt, with a hint of lavendar, spread throughout the chocolate bar. Sounds bizarre, but trust me, it is really really good. Especially for a salt fiend like me.

Temecula Olive Oil Company. Artisanal olive oils and vinegars, made from 100% California olives. Yum.

Forlorn Hope Wines. A small-batch Napa winery. Their La Gitana Torrontes is the only Torrontes I've ever had (including all the ones I had in Argentina) that wasn't cloyingly sweet. Phenomenal balance and fruit. The Mil Amores blend was also spectacular. I like wines like this--made from uncommon grapes, by a winemaker who's more interested in quality than quantity. The downside of that is that these wines will be hard to find--I'll probably have to break down and order them directly from the winery. But well worth it, in my opinion.

As an added bonus, the winemaker is really cute.

Peltier Station Wines. I'm not usually one for dessert wines. They also tend to be cloyingly sweet, and served with desserts that are already cloyingly sweet in themselves. But Peltier Station USB is one of the few fruity-but-not-sweet dessert wines in the world. I really liked this. It's 100% Zinfandel, technically a port, but called USB because a new EU rule dictates that wineries can't use the word "port" unless the wine was made in Portugal. So they called it USB instead...Get it? USB? Port? In another outstanding bit of geekery, the binary code on the front of the bottle translates to "Peltier Station." Awesome.

Caliza Winery. Azimuth: a blend of Rhone varietals, Syrah, Grenache, Mouvedre, Tannat and Alicante Bouschet. Very well balanced, and apparently Robert Parker's favorite of the bunch. Kissin' Cousins: another Rhone blend of Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, and Viognier.

Bonus points for their excellent font.

Vinni Bag. Why the hell didn't anyone think of this before?

Bledsoe Gallery.  Because I'm a sucker for good travel photography--and pictures of wine corks.

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