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This year's Gator by the Bay Festival was full of New Orleans-style food, drink, music and fun. Photo courtesy of Gator by the Bay
This year's Gator by the Bay Festival was full of New Orleans-style food, drink, music and fun. Photo courtesy of Gator by the Bay
Columns Food & Wine Taste of Wine

Gator by the Bay: Bourbon Street comes to San Diego

The Bon Temps Social Club’s Gator By The Bay Festival from May 5 to May 8 brought Bourbon Street to San Diego. With Blues music blaring, the smell of crawfish in the air, people dancing and a parade with beads being hurled into a crowd, participants at Spanish Landing Park experienced Mardi Gras as if it was Fat Tuesday.

Taste of Wine was excited to attend and were even recruited to be help fling beads in the parade.

After a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, attendees had three years of festivities to make up for this year.  Music played across seven stages with over 100 performances of non-stop music including blues, jazz, cajun, swing, salsa, country and zydeco.

After showing up, we headed over to the Bourbon Street Stage to check out Euphoria Brass Band (EBB). The band is an award-winning San Diego musical collective of seven members serving up a contemporary mix of old school New Orleans traditional brass band jazz, funky street beats and new school edginess with a West Coast feeling.

This year's Gator by the Bay Festival was full of New Orleans-style food, drink, music and fun. Photo courtesy of Gator by the Bay
The Gator by the Bay Festival featured more than 100 musical performances. Photo courtesy of Gator by the Bay

During their set, they played a touching Second Line funeral dance piece to celebrate and remember those who are no longer with us. After basking in EBB, we strolled through the festival taking in the sites and all the food choices.

There was no shortage of Creole and Cajun-style cuisine, over 10,000 pounds of live crawfish was brought in from Louisiana.

Other food choices included alligator bites, frog legs, shrimp, catfish, jambalaya, and other southern favorites. Those looking beyond the borders of Louisiana Parishes, could experience Thai and Jamaican cuisine, hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, tri-tip and pulled pork.

There was something for everyone.

Next up for our listening pleasure was local world-class band, Big Time Operator. The 16-piece orchestra was busting out big band and swing tunes led by Kevin Esposito and featured vocals from Draeh Jirnae, Andy Salmonsen and Niko Lovell. Jirnae had pipes and moves to get the crowd dancing in front of the band.

With killer pipes, Draeh Jirnae, a vocalist in Big Time Operator Orchestra band moved the crowd at Gator By The Bay. Photo by Rico Cassoni
Draeh Jirnae, a vocalist in Big Time Operator Orchestra, moved the crowd at Gator By The Bay. Photo by Rico Cassoni

Those not wanting to wait until next year’s Gator By The Bay Festival can check out Big Time Operator every second Tuesday at Tio Leos Lounge on Napa Street in San Diego. They are also available for hire for private events. Additional information at gatorbythebay.com.

Stags’ Leap Sizzles at Vittorio’s Italian Trattoria

Proprietor Victor Magalhaes had a sold-out crowd for his latest wine dinner featuring Stags’ Leap Wines.  As one of California’s earliest wine estates, started in 1893, with a unique terroir and microclimate, I knew we were embarking on a great evening of wine and cuisine.

Stags’ Leap vineyards eastern boundary is formed by the Stags Leap Palisades that sheds volcanic rhyolite and tuff, perfect for mixing into the soil providing minerality.

The height and slope of the palisades block early morning sun and retain afternoon heat. The stored heat radiates until early twilight hours and then rapidly cools. This interaction slows and prolongs the ripening process creating an ideal balance of acid and sugar for long hang time into the fall resulting in soft textures and intense flavors.

From left: Scott Bowden (TWE Global), Caitlin McDonald and Emily Moody (Republic National Distributing), Maddie Bloom and Victor Magalhaes, owner of Vittorio’s. Photo by Rico Cassoni
From left: Scott Bowden (TWE Global), Caitlin McDonald and Emily Moody (Republic National Distributing), Maddie Bloom and Victor Magalhaes, owner of Vittorio’s. Photo by Rico Cassoni

Scott Bowden, Regional Sales Manager, West narrated the dinner with help from Republic National Distributing Company specialist Emily Moody and sales rep Maddie Bloom. Bowden shared folklore where Stags’ Leap earned its name when a Stag (deer) was being hunted and lept from the mountain top never to be found.

The four-course dinner with dessert featured braised short ribs with creamy potatoes, grilled asparagus, and Bearnaise sauce paired with a delicious 2018 Cab Sauv. For the first, second, and third courses guests had Dungeness crab cakes, Estragon style chicken, and Spinach Tagliatelle with lamb ragu alongside sauvignon blanc (2020), chardonnay, and merlot (2019). More info at stagsleap.com.

Next up for Vittorio’s Wine Dinner series is Beringer at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 30. The four-course dinner with dessert is highlighted by the main course of grilled petit filet mignon, sauteed spinach, and baked mac and cheese paired with 2015 Distinctions Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon. The cost is $75 plus tax/tip. RSVP at 858.538.5884.

Wine Bytes

— World Class Pizzaiola and Proprietor, Oceanside’s Mangia e Bevi, Tore Trupiano is hosting a Caymus Wine Dinner on Thu June 23, 7:00 to 9:00PM.  Guests will enjoy an evening of cuisine prepared by Exec Chef Phillip Sanchez paired with wines from the Wagner Family of Wine for each course.  Cost is $99.00 per person +tax/tip.  Great raffle prizes.  RSVP at 760-231-1225.

— Drift Café in Mission Beach San Diego is hosting a 3-Course Napa Valley Wine Dinner w/ Chef Erin Sealy on Thu 6/23, 6:30 to 8:00 PM.  Guests will enjoy 2020 Hall, Sauv Blanc, 2018 Freemark Abbey Merlot, and 2018 Silverado Estate Cab Sauv paired with three Chef Erin light courses and desert.  RSVP at 619.823.3541.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. Frank and Rico are two of the leading commentators on the web.  View their columns at tasteofwineandfood.com. Go to recent columns.  Reach them at [email protected]                                                                                                     

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