Butternut squash soup with bacon marshmallows. Lobster rolls piled high with fresh seafood. Endless choices of high-end wines coupled with cooking demonstrations from some of the most acclaimed chefs in the country. The Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival saw a successful year indeed. Hosted over the final week of September, the festival welcomed fall in gourmet style with a festive party in tow.
Two days of grand tastings at the Newport Beach Civic Center highlighted the weekend, whereby a collection of acclaimed chefs showcased their restaurants’ creative approaches to modern dining. Live music energized a fun-loving crowd that sipped to their hearts’ content [albeit maybe beyond their livers’], with perfect weather rounding out an OC-foodie’s dreamland.
Award-winning Chefs Hubert Keller, Richard Blais, Lorena Garcia, Melissa King and Brooke Williamson were among the many big names to showcase their skills live on stage. Highlighting the cooking demos, however, was the duo of Amar Santana and Katsuji Tanabe, two Top Chef alums whose humor and banter was almost as fantastic as their kitchen skill. On the wine side, four master sommeliers led tastings and wine education lessons. Given that there are less than 150 master sommeliers in the entire US, The Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival recruited one heck of a lineup.
Dozens of eateries came to play, and a few certainly stole the show. Nobu was an unsurprising standout with a steamed cod that melted in your mouth. Selanne Steak Tavern’s braised short rib with white polenta and bleu cheese foam was a huge crowd favorite, as was their butternut squash soup noted above. Broadway’s Lamb Confit and Driftwood Kitchen’s prime, farro and roasted corn griddle cakes continued the momentum, as did The Winery’s pork belly over risotto and Puesto’s tacos.
Wineries included Ancient Peaks Winery, Barlow Vineyards, Mondavi Family Wines, AIX, Duckhorn, Dearly Beloved, Navarro Vineyards and Roadhouse Winery among many others. Stella poured from three separate stations, ensuring everyone got their beer fix. Duke’s and Johnny Walker brought an interesting presence to the festival, as well as Blue Marble’s ‘ultra premium’ pre-mixed canned cocktails.
Dessert was surprisingly missing on day one, but made a beautiful appearance day two thanks to Mozza’s butterscotch gelato and Aven Table + Bar’s honey syrup doughnuts with pork belly. It was joined with plenty of sweet drinks, such as Bass Note Sangria and Tatratea, a Slovakian tea-based herbal liquer that packs a punch like you wouldn’t believe.
Numerous VIP events surrounded the grand tastings, such as a champagne and caviar tasting by Moet Hennesey and Petrossian. A panel of four master sommeliers, caviar expert Christopher Klapp and Chef Alan Greeley led guests through five pairings of labels such as Dom Perignon, Veuve Clicquot and Moet Chandon with some of Petrossian’s top caviars. Petrossian, for those who don’t know, is the Moet Hennesey of caviar.
More VIP events, private dinners and late-night parties allowed the Newport Beach Wine and Food Festival to effectively take over Orange County’s restaurant scene for the weekend, adding a great spark to celebrate the region’s sprawling foodie presence.
Guests may spend the next year visiting the restaurants they sampled over the weekend, but before you know it the 2018 festival will be fast-approaching. For more information visit NewportWineAndFood.com
The James Beard Foundation has announced its fifth Taste America national culinary tour, and the party will come to Los Angeles October 6 – 7. Guests can expect a stunning lineup of chefs and tastes to take place across a short-but-sweet list of cooking demonstrations and fundraiser events.
The highlight of LA’s Taste America weekend looks to be Friday’s A Night of Culinary Stars benefit dinner, prepared by Taste America All-Star Barbara Lynch, Local Star Michael Cimarusti, and pastry chef Shannon Swindle. Couple this with a pre-dinner reception filled with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres from local chefs and restaurateurs, such as Evan Funke (Felix, Venice), Justin Hilbert (Maude, Beverly Hills), Sara Kramer (Kismet, Los Angeles), and David Schlosser (Shibumi, Los Angeles), Amanda Chapman and Johnny Ray Zone (Howlin’ Ray’s, Los Angeles) as well as host chef Neal Fraser (Redbird, Los Angeles).
On Saturday, October 7, free events will take place at Sur La Table located at the Farmers Market at The Grove. Guests can expect cooking demonstrations by Barbara Lynch and Michael Cimarusti, book signings, tastings and product demonstrations. Reservations for the free cooking demonstrations will begin Friday, September 22.
Proceeds benefit the James Beard Foundation. Taste America spans across ten dynamic culinary destinations: Austin, Boston, Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco and Seattle.
To book tickets and find out more, Visit Taste America Los Angeles’ event page.
James Beard Award-winning chef Scott Conant and LA restaurateur Stephane Bombet of Bombet Hospitality Group (BHG) have announced the opening of The Ponte, a new contemporary Italian restaurant on Beverly Boulevard, in February 2017. The Ponte will offer guests a relaxed and sophisticated experience complemented by Conant’s soulful Italian cuisine.
Conant's menu will offer a wide selection of charcuterie, antipasti, and pasta, including Spaghetti Pomodoro with his signature ragu. Assorted vegetables and pizza from the kitchen’s wood-burning oven will also be served, along with dishes that celebrate the best of local California ingredients, including Roasted Lamb Neck with raisins, smoked eggplant, goat cheese & pine nut crumble; and Prawns with celery root purée, salmoriglio & crispy sunchokes.
Inspired by the tight-knit community of Pontelandolfo expats—nicknamed Pontes—in Conant's hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut, The Ponte seeks to convey a vibe of rustic yet sophisticated, warm, convivial, and conducive to lingering with friends.
"I love the spirit and energy of L.A., so I was thrilled for the opportunity to get back behind the line in one of my favorite cities," says Conant. "Stephane and I have known each other for years and I've always admired his thoughtful approach…You feel like you're among friends when you walk through his doors. That sense of conviviality, of warmth and comfort that comes with community, is exactly the vibe I wanted to create with The Ponte. I hope L.A. enjoys it!"
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.