My wife is a next-level foodie. I’m all about downtown San Diego. A tradition that dovetails both our core identities is the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival.
Before we tied the knot, Jules and I solidified our relationship during this nationally acclaimed event. We held hands. I sampled woody red wine at booths she picked out. She tossed back the Svedka cocktails I recommended for her.
Then we strolled up to the popular Slater’s 50/50 booth. Smoke from barbecue grills filled the air. Slater’s burgers are half ground beef, half ground bacon and topped with a sunny-side-up egg. The restaurant version of these burgers is ginormous. Even a festival sized sample is bigger than your standard slider.
Jules offered to stand in the long line while I went back for a couple Grapefruit Svedkas. Wow, I thought: Beautiful and strategic. When I got back to the grassy area near the Slater’s booth, she had two plates in hand. Both, she said, were for me.
Knowing full well that my food festival goddess was a vegetarian, I dared her to bite into a burger. Without missing a beat, she did.
I had to put a ring on that finger, right?
The San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival
This is the 16th year for the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival. It’s a weeklong mega-happening that includes 40 events around the city, from November 10-17. The epic gathering near the end of the run is the Grand Tasting (Nov. 16), held on downtown’s bayside Embarcadero Marina Park South.
The Grand Tasting annually attracts upwards of 10,000 attendees. People come to sample from more than 200 wineries, breweries and spirit companies, along with 50 San Diego restaurants.
The festival was named the 2019 winner of USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice travel award contest for Best General Food Festival. San Diego beat out food festivals in cities such as New Orleans, Chicago and Hawaii.
Notable names from the local culinary world who are participating include: Amy DiBiase (Vistal), Hanis Cavin (Carnitas Snack Shack), Bernard Guillas (The Marine Room), Jason Knibb (NINE-TEN), Claudia Sandoval (MasterChef Latino) and Deborah Scott (Coasterra).
Along with being fans of the Grand Tasting, my wife and I have participated in other classes and events affiliated with the festival. A sampling of this year’s noteworthy opportunities include:
- Pizza Making With Buono Forchetta (Tuesday, Nov. 12).
- Steak 101 With Bob the Butcher (Wednesday, Nov. 13).
- Expedition: San Diego’s Secret Speakeasies (Thursday, Nov. 14)
- The Grand Decant VIP Event (Friday, Nov. 15)
- Taco TKO (Sunday, Nov. 17)
Note: There are a wide variety of one, two and multiple-day ticket packages available. Go to festival tickets for more information.
Insider Festival Tips
Jules and I will be walking over to the festival Grand Tasting from our downtown condo. If you’re coming to Embarcadero Marina Park North from other parts of San Diego, or from out of town, it’s not recommended that you drive.
Buzz-worthy events like this are the best reason ride-share companies were invented. Also: The festival site is a 5-10-minute walk from a San Diego trolley stop. And Coaster and Amtrak trains pull into downtown’s Santa Fe Depot (10-12 minutes from Embarcadero Park).
If you’re flying in for a fun festival weekend, know it’s close to a bevy of downtown hotels. The upscale InterContinental San Diego is the official host hotel, and is offering rates. Ticket-and-hotel packages are available.
The Grand Tasting runs from noon to 3 p.m. on Nov. 16. Three hours is plenty of time to gorge (me) or to selectively sample (Jules). However, it can get crowded. If lines aren’t your thing, spring for a VIP Entry ticket. It gets you in an hour early.
Whether you’re a VIP or General Admission festival goer, one final tip: Make use of those plastic food trays that everybody gets at the entrance. They have a slot in them that’s there to hold your complimentary wine glass. Fantastic invention. J&J