The weekend that local foodies have spent a year anticipating is finally here.
The Newport Beach Food & Wine Festival will showcase the best of both worlds through Sunday at the Balboa Bay Club & Resort.
Now celebrating its seventh year, the festival includes eight events, from wine seminars to a grand evening gala that's become the toast of Newport.
"We will be presenting the best of what the food and wine industry has to offer, and we are very proud to do so," said Dieter Hissin, the club's executive assistant manager and director of food and beverage. "There's not many of these types of events around anymore."
The event draws guests from around the country to join the many locals who come for a weekend of gastronomic and vinaceous delights.
Each year has a different theme, Hissin said; this year will feature seafood, and the wines that pair well with it.
The weekend started with an intimate winemaker dinner Thursday night, a new offering in 2010; tonight's al-fresco event will pair seafood, dozens of wines, a martini bar, desserts and a six-piece Latin salsa band, Hissin said.
"Any way that you can prepare seafood, we will have," he said. The offerings will run the gamut from the club's famous Spanish paella to fried sardines to gravlax to grilled squid to smoked salmon. Limited tickets may still be available.
They also will feature the Chateau Ste. Michelle vineyard in Washington, which recently won a coveted top recommendation from Wine Spectator magazine for one of its vintages.
Saturday, a winemaker luncheon will feature the wines of the Loire Valley region of France.
"It lends itself to some good lighter wines that pair well with the seafood," Hissin said of the region.
Many of Bay Club Chef Josef Lageder's colleagues from throughout the region will visit, and each will prepare a course for the meal, Hissin said.
Afterward, seminars by Master Sommeliers will teach patrons about how to create the perfect wine pairing, while offering sample tastings of good and less-ideal pairings. The Zinfandel varietal also will be featured for the first time at the festival at another seminar.
The highlight for the weekend for most is the Saturday evening Grand Tasting gala in the club's Grand Ballroom, when dozens of different foods will be set up at stations for the glitziest "buffet" this side of Aspen's Food & Wine Classic. Highlights include a tartare station, carving stations, pastas, crab cakes, imported cheeses and desserts. In addition, winemakers will offer estate and reserve selections.
"It's basically a walkaround tasting with about 60 wineries from around the world," Hissin said. "You have the opportunity to taste about 200 wines, if you can make it."
An auction of large bottles donated by participating wineries will benefit local students, with funds raised for the Bay Club's philanthropic wing, the 1221 Club.
On Sunday, guests will partake in a relaxed, Bloody Mary-fueled brunch before launching back into the festival for its popular Smokes, Sweets and Spirits afternoon party. The afternoon will feature hand-rolled cigars, cognacs, a mixologist pouring custom favorites, and a variety of dessert stations, while a steel drum band plays.
"It's an easy, lazy afternoon," Hissin said.
If You Go What: Seventh annual Food & Wine FestivalWhen: Through SundayWhere: Balboa Bay Club & Resort, 1221 W. Coast Hwy., Newport BeachCost: Varies; Saturday night gala is $135Information: (949) 630-4146 or balboabayclub.com