The Second Annual Valle Food & Wine Fest: Celebrity Edition

It was a magical night at the 2nd Annual Valle Food & Wine Fest.

It was a magical night at the 2nd Annual Valle Food & Wine Fest.

I love a good food and wine fest so when some friends invited me to stay at their place in Baja and head down to the Valle Food & Wine Fest I didn’t hesitate to say “Yes!”.

Paul and I started going down to Valle de Guadalupe about five years ago and we fell for it fast. It was unspoiled with beautiful olive tree groves, fantastic food and wine, and friendly people and we knew it wouldn’t last. We could get there in 90 minutes from our house and get a room on the spur of the moment for under $200. Not no more.

The Valle has exploded with media coverage ranging from Bon Appetit to Sunset magazine to Food & Wine. Getting a room now means planning months in advance and forking over San Diego-level room rates.

I don’t begrudge them a dime of it. A lot of people (especially our friend Fernando Gaxiola, creator of Baja Wine + Food) have worked really hard to shine a well-deserved light on the specialness of the Valle.

Back to the Valle Food & Wine Fest!

It was held on the grounds of Finca Altozano (one of my favorite restaurants. Period.) with the general admission ticket ($125) providing food at more than two dozen booths, three tastes of local wine, and one glass of beer or non-alcoholic beverage. The list of chefs was a Who’s Who of the Valle, along with a surprising number of celebrity chefs from around the country.

Javier Plascencia at Valle Food & Wine Fest

A classic Valle roast by Chef Javier Plascencia.

For $300 more you could nab a VIP ticket and hang out with the fabulous Domenic Crenn and have unlimited top shelf wine. But I’m putting a kid through college, so it was gen pop for me.

We started with a gorgeous butternut squash soup with coconut from Denise Roa, chef at Rancho La Puerto (so we knew it was healthy on top of being one of our favorite tastes of the night).

We made a beeline for Rick Bayless and he did not disappoint. He loves the Valle and his support for the community has been wonderful to see. I don’t know which was better – his delicious dish or contagious hospitality.

Chef Rick Bayless at the Valle Food & Wine Fest

It’s inspiring watching Chef Rick Bayless at work.

Zigzagging around, tasting this and that, we made our way to Nancy Silverton’s booth. She is a genius, that’s all there is to it. She used a Persian flat bread in place of a tortilla, laid a yogurt spread on it, topped it with homemade chorizo and pickled red onions, and added some little bites of pickled veggies on the side. It was a Middle-Eastern-Mexican mash-up and it made my mouth sing.

Chef Nancy Silverton at the Valle Food & Wine Fest

Chef Nancy Silverton’s dish was a flavor bomb!

Nancy serves a generous portion, so I joined my friends at a table in order to fully enjoy her dish. There was a large man sitting next to us with a big red poncho who a lot of people seemed to know (you can see him poking around behind Nancy in the photo). At one point he got up and I asked who he was. Oh, that’s Bruce Aidell they said. Oh, of course it was. I’ve only been buying his sausages for forever…

Phil Rosenthal at the Valle Food & Wine Fest

Me and my girlfriend Debra being complete fan girls with Phil Rosenthal.

I am not usually a celebrity fan girl. I can keep my cool with the best of them. But when I found out Phil Rosenthal was going to be at the Fest I got a little excited. OK, a lot. I love his show, Somebody Feed Phil, and wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to meet him and tell him so. So I did.

And you know what? He is just as funny and delightful in person as he is on his show. That’s genuinely who he is. Pretty sure he was scoping out the Valle for an upcoming show. You heard it here first.

Brian Malarkey at the Valle Food & Wine Fest

San Diego’s Brian Malarkey topped a slice of beef with a tasty ceviche of abalone and clam.

San Diego made a good showing with local favorites like Brian Malarkey (his dish was on point!) from Herb & Wood (and Herb & Eatery one of our go-to breakfast spots), Jason Knibb from Nine10 and Flor Franco who is a cross-border phenom.

There was music.

Live music at the Valle Food & Wine Fest

The music rocked all night.

There was art.

Art creation at the Valle Food & Wine Fest

There’s a lot of interesting art & architecture happening in the Valle.

There were goats.

Goats at the Valle Food & Wine Fest

It’s really not a party without a couple of goats in attendance.

What more do you need?

How about the whole thing was a fundraiser for Corazon de Vida, an orphanage in Tijuana? What a worthy organization. The generosity of the chefs, wineries, breweries and artists to help Corazon de Vida was a beautiful thing to see.

It was a special day for the Valle and I’m so glad I was there.

My advice is don’t miss next year’s Valle Food & Wine Fest. I’m sure it will be a night to remember.