Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival Preview (plus a chance to save on admission)

Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival Preview Event
100 Civic Center Dr.
Newport Beach, CA 92660

Sometimes my life doesn't seem real. Never when I started this blog nearly six years ago did I ever dream of being invited anywhere, let alone one of the most exclusive media preview parties around. I never even thought anyone would ever read this blog, but recently I found myself in the backyard of a lovely home, overlooking Newport Harbor, and having 13 of OC's biggest chefs serving up some of their restaurants specialty items.

Just like Christmas when you are five years old, every food and wine fan in Orange County should be giddy with excitement and clear their calendars for the weekend of October 3rd this year. That's when the wildly successful Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival is taking place on the grounds of the Newport Beach Civic Center.  If this kickoff event was any indication, we are going to be in for a treat on that first weekend of October.

Not only will the wine be flowing and festival goers stomachs be full of delicious food, but there's even more to this wonderful event. Celebrity chef demos, "Top Chef" home cook challenge with four of Bravo's Top Chefs serving as audience coaches and judges, wine seminars hosted by Master Sommeliers from the movie "Somm", live jazz will be wafting over the activity, mixology courses will be offered, and craft beer and handcrafted cocktails will also be sampled.

There's going to be a lot going on, and it's for a good cause as well. Net proceeds from the festival will benefit Project Hope Alliance, a group that is determined to help break the cycle of homelessness by stabilizing homeless children's living situations and allowing them to focus on their education. A very worthwhile venture, and one that we hope will help the 32,000 homeless children living on Orange County.

For those of you that know me, you know my focus is mainly on the food at these events, but the Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival will be a wine lover's paradise. There will be over 200 kinds of wines being poured at this event, and not your ordinary, run of the mill kinds of wines either. These world renowned wineries will be pouring their best varietals at this event, and will be happy to answer all of your questions about their wares. I was more amped for the wonderful cocktails that were served up at this kickoff event. Aqua Lounge Mixologists, Justin Young and Michael Kaczorowski used Absolut Elyx to make these refreshing and tasty cocktails. They had two offered on this evening, the Sun of a Peach, and my favorite of the two, the XYLE, which featured Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey, grapefruit juice, agave, and cherry juice. Really a tasty cocktail, and the Fireball was very pronounced, but not too overpowering.

Who says you can't start with dessert first? When I saw that Mastro's was giving out Mini Butter Cakes, I must have worn out a path to this table. Unlimited butter cake is one of my dreams come true, and I really had to pace myself here. If you've never had it, do yourself a favor, and try it soon.

Speaking of desserts, Tommy Bahama was not serving their iconic coconut cake, but I was not disappointed with this Chili Brown Sugar Crusted Cod, which was served on top of an apple risotto with yucca chips. This island themed restaurant definitely knows how to prepare seafood perfectly.

We have not made it to The Winery in Newport Beach yet, but after having this Yellow Tuna, Mango, and Cucumber Salad, we can't wait to make reservations for this restaurant with one of the best views in all of Newport.

Last year at the Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival, Del Frisco's Grille was sampling their Ahi Tuna Tacos, which are great, but these Shaved Steak Sandwiches might be better. Great, sturdy bread was joined with tender beef and a creamy horseradish sauce to create a fantastic sandwich. I missed the tuna tacos, but this was a great substitute.

Another standout for me from last years festival was Tamarind of London's butter chicken, and this year they brought tandoori meatballs with a very well done saffron rice and kofta curry. Even if you are not into Indian food, you will like this dish. Such depth of flavor in the food from here, and I look forward to seeing what they have at the festival this year.

If you have never had the opportunity to meet Chef Andrew Gruel of Slapfish, he's one of the most enjoyable chefs we have met in person, and his food's not too shabby either. On this night he had concocted a Lobster BLTA for us to try. Plump pieces of lobster were joined with avocado, tomato, and bacon on a lettuce leaf. Very good, and how can anything with lobster ever be bad? Can't wait to see what Chef Gruel will be doing at the festival this year.

Yes they're known for their prime rib, but Five Crowns showed that they could do salmon really well on this night as well. Chef Steve Kling provided us with this Absinthe Cured Salmon Crostini. It was rounded out by goat cheese and heirloom tomatoes, which made this bite a winner. I scarfed my fair share of these down.

True Food Kitchen at Fashion Island is not really my favorite, but I was pretty impressed with their two offerings, one of which was this Kale Avocado Dip on a flax seed chip. I knew this was healthy for me, and I still thought it was delicious. Baby steps towards me liking kale? There might be a chance after having this.

Oak Grill will be hosting the Launch Party & Charity Event for the weekend's festivities in October, and after eating this Foie Gras Tartine, party goers are going to be amazed by the food at that event. This foie was finished with the interesting combination of pickled kumquats, strawberry, and a bourbon maple syrup. Unusual, but tasty.

The food was all great on this beautiful evening, so it was a natural that the most sought after picture of the night was when all these talented chefs came together to take a few pictures. So much creativity in these chefs, all sharing their craft for a great cause. These are a few of the men and woman behind the wonderful culinary scene in OC. These people have elevated what people think of when they think of great food in Orange County. They will all be at the Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival sharing their best with all of you.

Do not let the sun go down on your chance of attending the Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival this year. This event will sell out, and you do not want to miss all of the great food and wines that will be featured here. To see what we experienced last year, click here:

To find out everything about the Newport Beach Food and Wine Festival, check out their very well put together website here:  Also, while you are there, you can get $25 off your Daytime Festival admission ticket when you use the promo code NBWFF25 at checkout. Hope to see you all there for what has become one of our favorite food events of the year.


  1. Sounds like a fun time. Great view. You lucky SOB


    - Thai (I'm the anonymous that usually comments)

  2. Anonymous/Thai - It really was a great time, and I'm looking forward to the festival in a couple of weeks. The price might be a little steep, but it was so fun last year. I even bought my parents tickets for this years event. Going to be great. Thanks for commenting.