The Coast News Group
Lick the Plate

San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival

I am as guilty as anyone of not venturing outside of our cool North County coastal bubble, especially now that we have some decent restaurants.

Celebrity Chef Richard Blais, winner of "Top Chef All Stars," is participating in this year’s festival. Photo courtesy Fast Forward Events
Celebrity Chef Richard Blais, winner of “Top Chef All Stars,” is participating in this year’s festival. Photo courtesy Fast Forward Events

That said, there are certain events that deserve a foodie field trip, especially when it can be pulled off by taking the Coaster from Oceanside, Carlsbad, Encinitas or Solana Beach down to the Santa Fe Station and walking over to the festival.

It should be noted that Amtrak has expanded service to all of these stations as well, which makes the return time even more flexible.

This event has something for just about everyone and with all of the samples being provided, you will not go hungry, or thirsty. The setting can’t be beat either! The San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival started as an idea over a glass of wine, between co-producers Michelle Metter and Ken Loyst, and has since blossomed into a signature event for the city of San Diego, and the largest wine and food festival in Southern California.

This year, the festival celebrates its 10-year anniversary. They have grown from 50 wineries and 25 restaurants participating the first year to more than 170 wineries, breweries, and spirit purveyors and 70 of the city’s best restaurants this year.

The grand finale of the sizzling five-day festival is the star-studded Grand Tasting Event held Nov. 23 on the Embarcadero Marina Park North behind Seaport Village. Take in the beautiful San Diego Bay and enjoy the ocean breeze as you partake in the largest, most talked about wine and food festival in Southern California.

The Grand Tasting on Nov. 23 is the big event but there are all kinds of dinners and tastings the week prior to the Grand Tasting including a Fit Foodie 5k the morning of the event. Some highlights include The Vault: Reserve & New Release Tasting, an exclusive and elegant evening for collectors of fine wine; and the San Diego Classics: Fish Tacos & Craft Beers celebrates Taco Tuesday in style with a tribute to the classic San Diego pairing of fish tacos and craft beer as the city’s top fish taco-makers go head-to-head in the Taco TKO to win the title for San Diego’s Best Fish Taco. All of these events and many more can be found at

The Chef of the Fest Competition held during the Grand Tasting is widely considered one of Southern California’s largest culinary showdowns. Each year, the Chef of the Fest Competition challenges both seasoned and up-and-coming local chefs to demonstrate their culinary artistry.

Each Chef of the Fest contender creates a unique dish for a panel of American Culinary Federation and celebrity chef guest judges during the Grand Tasting Event on Saturday, Nov. 23. The chef with the highest scoring dish wins the coveted title of Chef of the Fest. In addition to the title is the competition’s grand prize — upwards of $50,000 in cash and prizes provided by Taylor Guitars, Bridgestone and American Harvest and media coverage in outlets including NBC, Dining Out Magazine and Cooking Light Magazine. It is definitely a coup for the winning chef.

Beer and wine tasting are plentiful at this year’s San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival. Whether you are a beer connoisseur or a wine fanatic, you will find a large selection of offerings at this year’s events. While it’s traditionally a wine festival, this year they have managed to integrate beer into the event programming to appease the large number of craft beer enthusiasts in San Diego.

Celebrity chefs will also be on hand in the festival product booth to autograph copies of their best-selling cookbooks. And what would a food and wine festival be without live music? Stages will be set up at either end of the festival highlighting San Diego’s best bands.

As mentioned, the festivities start the week leading up to the Grand Tasting Event, but that day the hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Embarcadero Marina Park North. Tickets can be purchased at So make your plans now with your foodie friends to make a day of it, hop on the Coaster, and head down to this fun festival.