We've attended many "Taste of" events over the years but last week we had quite a difficult choice to make... Taste of Old Town or Taste of Downtown? They were unfortunately on the SAME night this year! In the end, we decided to eat, drink and be merry in historic Old Town San Diego. I suspect my interest in latin inspired food and alcohol has been increasing following events like Latin Food Fest San Diego and Tacos & Spirits at Harborfest.
The San Diego heat was still beating down on us at this event. I had gotten some kind of "flash flood" weather alert that morning, and came to find out it was only for INLAND San Diego. Old Town (as well as the rest of the city) was still hot and sticky but at least no umbrella was needed.
We came early enough to find great parking and pick up our wristbands and maps. There were 13 places to visit and 3 hours to do it. This year they seemed to be emphasizing the rules of two alcoholic tastes per person per station, even if there were more than two samples available. I thought we were able to try all varieties in the past. Most places remembered to mark off the map under the food and drinks columns.
Barra Barra Saloon has really amazing food based on the previous year trends.
Food, Wine & Jazz. I already like the sound of that. This was an outdoor event held on the beautiful St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort that featured the culinary talents of world-renowned chefs, wineries and boutique vintners. We attended as reps for SDCheers.com and made the 1 hour drive north to Dana Point. The last time we stopped in this area was for our Catalina Island birthday trip, which I recommend checking out.
We joined a huge line of cars waiting to get into the resort. We soon found out the reason - self-parking lots were full from the vendors so guests had to get valet instead. I have NEVER seen such hard-working valet workers as these guys. They were running back and forth to take care of the massive collection of guests for this event! Parking is yet another reason why you arrive at events early!
After dropping off our car, we made our way through the resort building through the help of signs.
Ly's Garden has been around for as long as Dennis can remember, ever since his family moved to San Diego. It's a gigantic Chinese/Vietnamese restaurant that always has seating during regular dining hours but also functions as a venue for weddings and parties. There's also a to-go counter where you can purchase the roasted ducks and meat and pastries showcased as you walk in.
For this particular occasion, we were celebrating Mother's Day with Dennis's family. The waitress seated us at one of the larger tables with a lazy susan but not every table has one, especially the smaller ones. The menu is extensive with many of the common chinese or vietnamese dishes. As a large family, we were able to try many items since it was family style.
We had originally ordered the seafood fried rice but it came out with shrimp instead.
At the recent Harborfest, Bayside Park was the place to be for all day family fun. It was also the location for the Tacos & Spirits Revoultion from 11-2pm. So who makes the best tacos in San Diego? We came out to sample tacos and vote for our favorite! At a reduced price of $15 for food and an additional $5 to add spirits, this was a steal of a deal! Dennis wasn't available this time so I invited a good friend of mine to join me. We also checked out the rest of the Harborfest activities afterwards.
Tacos & Spirits Revolution:
My friend and I checked in and put on the bright purple event wristbands.
A quick look around showed a circle of tents surrounding tables for eating and drinking. A lovely blue ocean and skyline were visible to the west.
We were both ravenous. That morning I taught her some Tasting Events 101 such as "Don't eat right before an event."
The first booth we visited had the Spicy Grilled Fish from the Mariscos German Beyer Food Truck (pictured above).
Cheese fondue? Chocolate fondue? Sounds interesting but it's never struck me as something I 'must do'... Cue the entrance of The Melting Pot gift certificate. It was finally time to see what the fuss was about.
The Melting Pot is a national chain with a location in the UTC area, sharing a hotel plaza with a few other fine-dining establishments (Flemings, Trulucks, Cafe Japengo). You can valet directly in front of the restaurant or self park in the hotel parking lot down the hill. The restaurant will validate your parking stub for 3-hours. Self parking is somewhat of a mini-journey though, at least for your first time. Your choices are 1) finding your way to the parking entrance, then traversing the steep hill, or 2) take elevator to ground level, walk past a pool, into the hotel, up the grand staircase and out the hotel entrance to cross the plaza. I've done both. Do whichever you fancy!
The restaurant is always packed so there's usually a wait if you don't have a reservation. Outdoor seating seemed to be quicker for this visit, but it still took 30+ minutes.
Each table has one stovetop, or two for the larger tables, so generally the group must select the same cheese, broth, and chocolate bases. You can increment the serving size (set cost per serving) but it's not required. We decided to go for the 4-course meal to get the whole experience. You get to select each course as well as the cooking style from the menu.
Thirteen restaurants in Old Town are set to roll out tastes of their best Thursday, Sept.10, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The Taste of Old Town will give food and spirit lovers the chance to blaze through the streets of Old Town sampling selections of spirits and wine paired with culinary specialties from the 13 participating restaurants. Oh-So Yummy attended last year and you can check out the Taste of Old Town 2014 recap here.
Produced by the Old Town Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Tequila Herradura, Taste of Old Town tickets are $35 online before the event or $40 the day of the event and can be purchased at the will call booth on San Diego Avenue, located next to the Old Town Market. A food-only ticket is available for $25. All of the restaurants will offer samples of their signature dishes, alongside a spirit or wine brand sampling its product.
“Last year’s sell-out Taste of Old Town was a spectacular success, but this year’s event is sure to knock your socks off,” said event chair Chuck Ross of Old Town Family Hospitality Corp., the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Fiesta de Reyes. “The restaurants are stepping up their game and are serving either specially created dishes for this event, or their signature favorites.”
BiCE Ristorante recently added lunch hours to their restaurant about 2 months ago. This establishment has been providing fine Italian dining in the gaslamp for the last eight years and invokes the combined talents of general manager and partner Mario Cassineri and Executive Chef Francesca Penoncelli. Both hail from Italy and bring with them the whimsical flavors and inspirations from their upbringing. We were invited to try out their new lunch menu and stopped in on a Friday
Upon entry into BiCE (pronounced B-chay), you'll find a contemporary and elegant open bar and seating. The group sales manager Fabrizio introduced himself to us and answered our many curiosities. We also took a peek at the happy hour menu, available between 5-7pm. With the tempting food options and sensible prices, it was no surprise to hear that their happy hour was very popular!
Soon we were seated in the main dining area by the lead server Alfio, a friendly gentleman who was attentive and full of suggestions. We were unsure what to eat so Alfio put in a order for some of the more popular items on their lunch menu.
We spent a lovely but hot afternoon enjoying Latin food, wine and spirits at the 3rd annual Latin Food Fest Grande Tasting in San Diego. This event was held on August 15 between 11-3pm and for one price gave all-inclusive access to over 50 restaurants/businesses. Our experience with last year's Latin Food Fest San Diego as well as this year's Latin Food Fest Los Angeles meant we were no strangers to this tasting event! The event was held at the Broadway Pier, a heavy tourist area next to US mid-way and other San Diego sightseeing places. A parking lot with $16 all day parking was across the street from the main entrance.
This post is divided into the following sections: 1) Food, 2) Drinks, and 3) Awesome People. There were several celebrity chef sightings plus a mini interview!
We came hungry and feasted our eyes on all the delectable samples awaiting us... then our mouths carried forward the mission to eat from every booth!
Cafe Sevilla's seafood paella and patata bravas were both beautiful and enjoyable.
At West Coast Tavern, we found chicken sopas - very nice and crispy on the outer shell with shredded chicken inside.