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OMG! That's right, OMG!  This was my first visit to the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival and it was amazing!

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This event was very well organized.  Even though there were huge crowds in attendance, with more than 250 booths, there was hardly any waiting time to try a sample.

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One of the things that sets the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival apart from other local "Tastes of..." is its location at the Embarcadero (next to Seaport Village).  Just look at the gorgeous view!  What a beautiful day it was! San Diego has so much to offer.  Check out some of my favorites from the Festival.

DRINKS

Unfortunately Dave and I are not drinkers and did not partake of all the various wines of which there were many.  Anyone who loves wine would have had the day of their life with all the wineries that were represented.  Although wines dominated the event, there were a few other types of drinks being sampled.

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Arterra Restaurant & Bar - These cute, little Rootbeer Floats were just what we needed... a refreshing treat for a warm, sunny day.  Arterra also had individual bags of Duck Fat Popcorn, which definitely had a distinct taste.  Attendees could also sample Gourmet Corn Dogs (rabbit or lamb).

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Dry Soda provided samples of four unique flavors: Lavender, Lemongrass, Rhubarb, and Kumquat.  Their new flavors (Vanilla Bean and Juniper Berry) were not available.  These would be interesting pairing drinks for cheese or chocolate tastings for non-drinkers.

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Karma - Premium single serving of sparkling wine in a glass bottle with a screw cap.

APPETIZERS & ENTREES

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Sartori Foods - As you can see, the cheeses were decimated!  The cheeses included Rosemary & Olive Oil Asiago (which they describe as "a classic summer seasoning bursting with flavor") and Basil & Olive Oil Asiago ("an instant classic inspired by the Italian countryside").

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Carlsbad Gourmet had an array of strawberry and beer inspired spreads and BBQ sauces, which topped pulled pork on a slice of baguette. Their company was recently on an episode of Road Tasted with the Neelys.  They have some really interesting flavor duos, such as Strawberry and Black Walnut or Strawberry and Habanero.  Try some of their products, which are "sweetened with the sugar from California strawberries!"

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Bondi - Australian Beer & Food.  A refreshing seafood ceviche.  I especially enjoyed the sweet and crunchy chip.  I could have just snacked on those!

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Tastes - Blueberry and Shiraz Chutney on Lamb with Roasted Garlic and Artichoke Compote on a Thyme Crostini.  This one was Dave's favorite of the event.  Apparently they serve a lamb entree similar to this in their restaurant.  Definitely a restaurant that we'll have to try.

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The Kinoko Company is the exclusive distributor of Golden Gourmet Mushrooms' 100% certified organic mushrooms.  Top: King Trumpet Mushrooms surrounded by Brown Beech Mushrooms.  Bottom: White Beech Mushrooms surrounded by Maitake Mushrooms.  This company grows their mushrooms by filling bottles with a wood pulp and adding the mushroom cultures.  The mushrooms grow right out of the top of the bottle.  They've coined their mushrooms "cultivated wild."

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This was a delicious sample of their King Trumpet and Beech mushrooms.

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Palm Restaurant - Beef with yellow and red bell peppers sauteed and served on a crostini.  I was really drawn in by the bright, vibrant colors!

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Blue Wave Bar & Grill - Pan-seared duck breast with yam hash and pomegranate au jus sauce.

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Indigo Grill - Their Corn Tamales were one of the highlights of the Festival for me.  I'm a cornbread and corn person in general, but their tamales were phenomenal!  I thoroughly enjoyed the warm texture and the spicy kick.

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Blue Point - Deconstructed Cubist Sushi (from top to bottom): Cucumber Gelee with Black Sesame Seeds, Soy Sauce Gelee, Wasabi Rice, and Ahi Tuna.  This one was the most interesting presentation-wise.  It was a little hard to eat.  You couldn't just eat it a cube at a time if you wanted to get the whole flavor experience.

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Rubios - Gourmet Shrimp Taco.  It was surprising to see Rubio's at this event amongst all the high-brow restaurants.  We probably wouldn't have even stopped at this booth except a friend of ours that we bumped into recommended that we try it out and she was right...  It was one of the best tacos ever!  They made the tacos fresh on-site.  I'm not sure if that included the tortillas, but there was something about them.  Their tortillas were not dry like you may have had at a fast food restaurant.  The shrimp were so succulent!  Add a squeeze of lime juice and it was heaven in your mouth!

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Lou & Mickey's - Teriyaki Tri-Tip.  Dave says, "It was good teriyaki."

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Nine-Ten Restaurant - Crab with Green Apple Gelee.  I liked the fresh moist crab mixture and thought it was interesting to pair it with the gelee.  I wasn't sure if it was supposed to be more of an appetizer or dessert since it had elements of both.  I think the gelee was on top of a type of panna cotta (but I could be wrong).  In any case, the two flavors should be eaten together to get the most out of them.

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Sally's Seafood on the Water - Here is one of their chefs preparing jumbo scallops.

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Applewood Smoked Scallops with Tomato Jam, Prosciutto Chip, and Basil Dressing

DESSERTS

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Barona - The cookies on the left tasted like they were made from gingerbread.  They were full of nuts and dried fruits and drizzled with a sweet icing.  Tasty!  But I prefer the cookies on the right.  They were made with white chocolate and dried cranberries.  Simple, yet incredibly delicious.  If you ever go their buffet at the casino, try the sugar-free chocolate chip cookies.  They are so good!

Chuao Chocolatier (not pictured) featured their ChocoPods in six flavors: Passion (dark chocolate filled with passion fruit caramel), Firecracker (dark chocolate with chipotle, salt, and popping candy), Picante (dark chocolate filled with spicy cabernet caramel), Modena (dark chocolate filled with strawberry and balsamic caramel), Candela (dark chocolate filled with spicy macadamia praline), and Banana (milk chocolate filled with banana caramel).  My favorite of the six is Banana, but I know it's one of those flavors that you either like it or hate it.  I highly recommend the Firecracker bonbon.  The difference between the Firecracker ChocoPod and the bonbon is the bonbon has caramel fudge.  If you're looking for something different to try, this is it.  The caramel fudge makes the bonbon a little chewy and it reduces the hot, burning sensation of the chipotle chile and the popping candy is a fun addition in your mouth. :)

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Mahatma - Coconut & Lime Rice Party Pudding and Bombay Dream Rice Pudding.  We tried the Coconut & Lime and it wasn't bad.  I don't have much experience with rice pudding, but I grabbed one of their sample bags.  It was a single serving of white rice and easy to use.

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Pastries at Home - Chocolate covered slices of nuts and Corn Flakes.  This was so interesting to try.  Who would have thought chocolate covered Corn Flakes would taste so good?  Chef Yves Fournier also offers pastry classes, dinner parties, and private lessons.

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POM Wonderful - You may have heard of pomegranate juice, but what about using it for cooking?  The yummy POM Chocolate Cupcakes were topped with a little swirl of pomegranate chocolate frosting and a few fresh pomegranate seeds.  Check out their website for more recipes!

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Sweet Cheeks' cute, little Smashing Pumpkin "Micro" Cupcakes were topped with a delicious cream cheese frosting (which is probably the best I've ever tasted).  I first heard about Sweet Cheeks while watching Road Tasted with the Neelys and I can see why they were featured on the show!

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The Cookie Chew (now Life Made Sweet) - Ever wonder what would happen if you combined a truffle and a cookie?  Now you don't have to!  Bake a truffle inside a cookie, drizzle a little chocolate on top and you have the truffie!  This isn't the only great combo offered.  You can also have the taste of a Cosmo, Martini, or White Russian inside a cookie cube.  These cookies would make a great hostess gift!

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The US Grant - If you like warm brownies with vanilla ice cream, then you might like this Mango Beignet.  I enjoyed the contrasting warm and cold temperatures in my mouth.  The sugary, doughy texture of the beignet also reminded me of a delicious malasada (Portuguese doughnut). Take advantage of San Diego's fabulous restaurants, gourmet shops, and wineries.  Consider giving some of these special treats for the holidays!  And when you ring in the New Year, don't forget to make a resolution to attend next year's San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival November 11-15, 2009!  Your belly will thank you. ;)

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