A Gourmet Gathering

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NB Wine and Food Festival

The Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival returns for its fifth year of culinary artistry.

By Ashley Probst


With an impressive lineup of celebrity chefs and more than 40 Orange County restaurant providing tastings, the Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival returns this fall for its fifth edition, marking a milestone for the epicurean event that debuted in 2014 and continues to showcase the culinary delights of our beachside town and beyond.

“It’s bringing notoriety [and] more attention to the city of Newport Beach as a desirable, affluent community that people want to visit and live in,” says founder Stefanie Salem, noting that the festival has become a signature event for the city.

Salem started the festival after Taste of Newport ended in 2012, with a goal of creating an upscale, world-class event for local gastronomes, and that’s exactly what she did. This year’s lineup features the return of Nobu Matsuhisa, who will present a VIP cooking demonstration and lunch at his illustrious, eponymous restaurant in Lido Marina Village. Georg J. Riedel, 10th generation owner of his family’s namesake wine glass company, will also be in attendance to host a master glass tasting with Hundred Acre winery based in Napa Valley, Calif.

Other celebrity guests include Food Network star Duff Goldman, perhaps best-known for the former “Ace of Cakes” TV show; James Beard Award-winner Hubert Keller; and Devin Alexander, the health-conscious chef for contestants on “The Biggest Loser.” There will also be plenty of local icons, such as Amar Santana of Broadway by Amar Santana in Laguna Beach and Vaca in Costa Mesa, Richard Blais of The Crack Shack in Costa Mesa and Brian Huskey of Tackle Box in Corona del Mar, all known for appearing on Bravo TV’s “Top Chef,” plus “Chopped” winner Alejandra Padilla of Five Crowns in Corona del Mar and Candace Nelson, founder of Sprinkles Cupcakes, which has a location in Corona del Mar Plaza, who also serves as a judge on “Cupcake Wars.”

Marche Moderne
In addition to food tastings, like this one from Marché Moderne, more than 250 types of wine and other alcohol will be available to sample at the festival’s two-day Grand Tasting.

This year’s festival builds on previous iterations, adding a wider range of exclusive events spread out across multiple venues—from meals prepared by celebrity chefs to a twilight cruise—and many are already selling out. “We try to mix it up every year and it seems like the trend is people want more interactive events, not just a sit-down dinner, so we’re trying to cater to what people want,” Salem says. “[I want] … to create something that I want to go to.”

Festivities start with an opening night reception Oct. 4 at The Resort at Pelican Hill. Attendees will be treated to a five-course dinner presented by James Beard Award-winning cooks, “Top Chef” stars and top local chefs alike, with wine pairings by master sommelier Michael Jordan, followed by a Q&A session, during which guests can ask the chefs their most pressing culinary questions.

The festival continues Oct. 5 with an event called Fire It Up at Balboa Bay Resort, where celebrity chefs will be cooking fare over barbecues, which will be accompanied with a musical performance by Common Sense, a reggae-rock band based in Orange County. This will be followed by a cruise on Hornblower’s Endless Dreams yacht for 250 VIP guests to mingle with the celebrity chefs and listen to a special performance by Bruce Kalman (of “Top Chef” fame) and Goldman’s band, Foie Grock.

The next day, there will be two sessions of the master glass wine tasting with Riedel, which will be held at The Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar, while a VIP Champagne and caviar tasting will be held simultaneously at the Newport Beach Civic Center. This will be followed by a special seminar: 101 Reasons to Drink More Wine, A Hilarious Romp Through Science, Medicine, History and Religion of Drinking, led by Wes Hagen, winemaker and brand ambassador for J. Wilkes winery in Santa Maria, Calif., which will also be held at the Civic Center.

Then, of course, there’s the Grand Tasting, which is the main attraction of the festival and will include cooking demonstrations as well as fare by the participating chefs, plus tastings of more than 250 types of alcoholic beverages. Newport restaurants taking part include Fig & Olive, Marché Moderne, Olea, Red O Restaurant, Sushi Roku, True Food Kitchen and many more. Later that night, a private estate in Newport will host another VIP event called Shaken, Stirred and Twisted, featuring “Top Chef” competitors who will cook up specialized courses and go against one another to in a blind-draw mixology challenge.

The two day Grand Tasting runs Oct. 6 and 7 at the Civic Center. On the final day, the Grand Tasting is preceded by a VIP cooking demonstration and lunch prepared by Matsuhisa, complete with wine or sake pairings for each dish. This will overlap with one last VIP event, a Franciacorta Italian sparkling wine tasting, which will include six exquisite Metodo Classico wines. The weekend festivities will come to a close after the second Grand Tasting, which will showcase cooking demonstrations and cuisine by a different group of celebrity chefs, plus all the same great local tastes from the previous day. With so much delectable food to try, remember to pace yourself as you sip and savor of all of the best dishes and drinks in Newport and OC.


Exclusive Events

Some activities are already sold out, here are a few must-attend events with tickets still available.


Oct. 5

Fire It Up, featuring celebrity chefs cooking over barbecues, at Balboa Bay Resort from 2-6 p.m.

VIP Celebrity Chef Twilight Cruise through Newport Harbor from 7-10 p.m., featuring a musical performance by Foie Grock


Oct. 6

VIP Champagne & Caviar Tasting at Newport Beach Civic Center from 1-2:30 p.m.

101 Reasons to Drink More Wine, A Hilarious Romp Through Science, Medicine, History and Religion of Drinking at the Newport Beach Civic Center, beginning at 3:15 p.m.

Grand Tasting and cooking demonstrations at Newport Beach Civic Center from 3-6:30 p.m. with VIP entrance at 2:30 p.m.

VIP Shaken, Stirred and Twisted at a private estate in Newport from 7-10 p.m.


Oct. 7

VIP Franciacorta Italian Sparkling Wine Tasting at Newport Beach Civic Center from 1-2:30 p.m.

Grand Tasting and cooking demonstrations at Newport Beach Civic Center from 3-6:30 p.m. with VIP entrance at 2:30 p.m.


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