Comments & Curiosities: Food? Wine? Festival? Say no more

Daily Pilot

Are you a foodie? I am. The American College of Psychologists defines a foodie as an individual who is "…obsessive-compulsive, bonkers, gaga and at times downright loopy about good food and fine wine, more or less." But never mind that. All that matters is this – if you are a foodie, you have won the lottery, your stars are aligned, your ship has come in, backed out, then come in again.

Don't thank me. Thank the Balboa Bay Club and Resort, because the 7th Annual International Food & Wine Festival is just days away, running Thursday through June 6. Are you excited? I knew you would be.

For foodies, the International Food & Wine Festival at the BBC is the Super Bowl, the Oscars, the 4th of July and Lady Gaga's next outfit all rolled into one. Every year, BBC President and epicurean visionary Henry Schielein and his second in command, food and beverage master Dieter Hissin, conjure up a four-day celebration of food and wine that will make grown men cry and women sigh. If you miss it, you will hate yourself and be really cranky and maybe need therapy for years and years, which is very pricey.

It all starts this Thursday at 6:30 p.m., with a Winemaker's Dinner and a salute to the wines of Washington state. Did you know that Washington is the same latitude as the French wine regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy? Neither did I. But it might explain why Washington produces some of the finest wines in this country, or any other, which makes the French really mad. The headliner Thursday night is Bob Bertheau, head winemaker at Chateau Ste. Michelle winery, which is in a spectacular setting about 30 minutes northeast of Seattle.

Are we forgetting the food? Are you joking? Is the Pope Bavarian? The Bay Club's essen-meister, Executive Chef Josef Lageder, will create a tasting menu featuring foods from the Pacific Northwest, and I promise you will never look at a salmon the same way again. Not that you spend that much time looking at salmon.

On Friday night, it's the "Seafood & Wine Celebration on the Bay," on the lawn, alfresco, first the sunset then the stars, maybe, depends on the marine layer, with fine wines from around the world and a jaw-dropping selection of seafood – smoked, grilled and barbequed, to say nothing of sushi, seafood friture and scampi so ginormous even the lobsters would cross to the other side of the seabed to avoid them.

The fish de resistance is Lageder's signature paella – and if you've never had paella prepared by a master chef from Austria named Josef, you haven't lived.

But you'll also need to get your groove on, with live Latin jazzby Los Locos and a Ketel One martini bar. If you want to dance, I would suggest doing that first, then the martini bar. I'm just saying.

Saturday marks the "Experience France's Loire Valley Winemaker's Luncheon" at 11:30 a.m., with a guided tour of the region's wines by BBC Master Sommeliers, Ron Mumford and Ira Harmon and an authentic five-course lunch. It's just like going to the Loire Valley, only without having to show your boarding pass or take off your shoes, which is such a drag.

Oh, and who prepares the lunch? Lageder will team up with guest chefs Jean Pierre Dubray from Pelican Hill Resort, Dominique Briaire from Shady Canyon Country Club, Pascal Olhats from Pascal's and Nathaniel Reid from St. Regis Monarch Beach. Want to match your kitchen skills with that crew? I wouldn't recommend it.

Later, in "The Marriage of Food and Wine" at 2:30 p.m., master sommeliers Ron Mumford and Ira Harmon and guest Chef Pascal Olhats will tell you everything you've ever wanted to know about pairing foods and wines but were too insecure to ask. At 4:30 p.m., Mumford and Harmon will host a dialogue called "The World of Zinfandel," presenting the differences in who does what to whom with zinfandel grapes around the world.

That night, when the clock strikes seven and the Grand Ballroom doors open, it's "The Grand Tasting Gala," and boy is it ever. You'll need to try to get your appetite and your breathing under control, with more than 60 wineries from around the world strutting their stuff, including estate and reserve bottles typically found only at the winery.

The groaning tables will be groaning bad with all sorts of seafood, meats, artisanal cheeses and those relentless desserts that whisper your name from across the room. You'll get to watch some of the BBC chefs do their thing right then and there with winemakers and sommeliers standing by to answer all your questions, assuming you can still speak, which in my case, is doubtful, all accompanied by the outstanding Mark LeBrun Jazz Trio.

The evening also includes a fine wine live auction that benefits the 1221 Club Scholarship Fund for local high school students who are college bound.

On Sunday, the festival winds down in style with a sumptuous "European Breakfast Buffet" in the First Cabin Restaurant at 10 a.m. then "Smokes, Sweets & Spirits" at 3 p.m. ,with a dizzying selection of cognac, port, dessert wines, cheeses, more decadent desserts along with live steel drum music from Panjive. Fine cigars will be offered on the patio and Rick Edwards, master of scotch for the Glinlivet Distillery, will answer any and every question you have about scotch.

Whew. You could call it a dream program for foodies, but even that's not enough. If you crave details, call the BBC at (949) 630-4146, or go to www.balboabayclub.com and click on "Events & Activities." Remember, all things in moderation, except for this Thursday through Sunday at the BBC. Sometimes a little excess is a good thing. It's tasty too. I gotta go.

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