Food & Drink Blotter for November 2019

By Frank Sabatini Jr.

Our city’s largest gastronomic event is taking place this month with the return of the San Diego Bay Wine + Food Festival, from Nov. 9-17.

Now in its 16th year, the festival features lunches and dinners, cooking classes, panel discussions, plus wine, beer and spirits tastings conducted at various local venues. The biggest attraction, however, is the “grand tasting” held on the grassy lawns of Embarcadero Marina Park North. (400 Kettner Blvd.)

That event is scheduled from noon to 3 p.m., Nov. 16. It will bring together more than 60 restaurants and chefs, along with 200 wineries, breweries and distilleries — all doling out samples of their latest and greatest creations.

Among the Downtown kitchens taking part are Lionfish, Grant Grill, Eddie V’s Prime Seafood, and Social Tap.

New to the grand tasting is the Miyokos Plant Based Zone spotlighting vegan food options and “natural” wines. Also, the Cohn Restaurant Group will present “Camp Cohn” featuring food samples from restaurants within the company, and another area will feature a chef’s table from which dishes by local chefs are consumed and discussed.

General admission to the grand tasting is $135 (or $175 for admission one hour earlier). The price for VIP tickets is $250, which includes special tastings and live entertainment in a designated tent.

For details and prices on the festival’s citywide events, and to purchase tickets, visit

A new chef de cuisine has landed at Vistal Restaurant + Bar in the InterContinental San Diego hotel, located on Downtown’s bayfront.

Gil Manipon hails from Viejas Casino and Resort’s Grove Steakhouse, where he achieved an AAA Four Diamond Award. He will work alongside Vistal’s executive chef, Amy DiBiase, who helped launch the nautical-inspired restaurant a year ago. In aiming for seasonal menu spins, Manipon has introduced dishes such as wood-smoked duck breast with honey-turnip puree; house-made corn agnolotti pasta with prosciutto and brown butter; and angel food cake “French toast” with fig-tequila anglaise.

The restaurant also revamped its cocktail list, using liquors from local distilleries such as You & Yours, and Cutwater Spirits. 901 Bayfront Court, 619-535-0485,

Brews will be flowing from two bars and a beer garden from 2 to 11:30 p.m., Nov. 9, at the first-ever Cali Love Music & Arts Festival at 10 Barrel Brewing Co. in the East Village.

The event pays homage to the brewpub’s top-selling Cali Love IPA. Organizers say they will transform the space into a festival reminiscent of KAABOO, with three stages for live reggae and indie-rock performances, plus a silent disco, and noshes such as craft tacos and pizza from 10 Barrel’s kitchen. Entry is free, although “skip-the-line” VIP tickets are $15 each. 1501 E St., 619-578-2311,

The Gaslamp Quarter’s only open-air rooftop bar is up and running atop Theatre Box. The space, named 5th and Sky Rooftop Gardens & Lounge, features lush Japanese-style flora and comfy seating with views of the surrounding skyline. A full bar offers crafty cocktails, craft beers, and wines from a curated list. A variety of shareable plates featuring sushi and smoked filet carpaccio toast are available as well. 701 Fifth Ave., 619-814-2225,

Condé Nast Traveler recently turned its attention to our prolific dining scene by citing the “25 best restaurants” in San Diego County — from Oceanside and right on down to our urban core. Seven establishments in Little Italy received shout outs.

The restaurants were cited for everything ranging from the souffle pancakes at Morning Glory and the opulent steakhouse environment at Born and Raised to the wide-ranging local seafood choices found at Ironside Fish & Oyster and the experimental cuisine of celebrity chef Richard Blais at Juniper & Ivy.

Blais also took honors for his free-range chicken and egg dishes dominating nearby Crack Shack’s menu. The other Little Italy restaurants named were Herb & Wood and Monello.

To see the complete list and their summaries, visit and enter into the search field “25 best restaurants in San Diego.”

— Frank Sabatini Jr. can be reached at [email protected].

Food & Drink Blotter for November 2019