Our Wine Fest Preview

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We arrived at Balboa Bay Club and Resort at 1:30, well before our appointment with Executive Chef Josef Lageder and Deiter Hissin, the food and beverage director.

Chef Lageder had invited us to sample a few of the menu items and wines that will be served this weekend at the 8th Annual Newport Beach Wine Festival.

Not knowing what Lageder would prepare, we decided to order a light lunch. We had just finished our lunch when Chef Lageder and Dieter suddenly appeared with platters of food.

“Welcome,” Chef Lageder greeted us. “We have wienerschnitchel sliders, crispy fried soft shell crab, and braised veal cheeks.”

The Newport Beach Wine Festival will feature an array of fine wines as well as fine food.

“I’m glad I only ordered an appetizer!” Stasha laughed as she sampled each dish. “Growing up along the Chesapeake Bay, I’ll admit I’m partial to the soft shell crab. But the veal cheeks are delicious—they’re so tender.”

“We braise the cheeks for hours and serve it with sun dried tomato polenta.”

“So tell us about the events this weekend,” I said, continuing to graze even though I was full.

“Friday night is our kickoff event: Wines and Cuisine from the Rivers of Europe,” said Dieter. “Including the Loire, Rhine, Rhone, Mosel, Danube and Douro.”

“We have 36 different cheeses from around the world,” added Chef Lageder. “Plus live music from gypsy to French. Our guests will have fun traveling around the world as they sample the food and wine.”

“I know that on Saturday you have a lobster and wine luncheon,” said Stasha.

“Yes. Master Sommeliers, Ron Mumford and Ira Harmon, will pair wines with luscious lobster dishes prepared by our guest chefs,’ said Chef Lageder.

“And your Pinot Noir challenge sounds fun,” I said.

“We’ll have selections of Pinot Noir from California, Oregon and Burgundy, to show the difference between the terroir, so people can understand how they’re grown,” said Sommelier Bruce Rabanit, who appeared just in time to offer his take on the wines. “It’s an educational event for the Pinot Noir lover and novice.”

“I understand for the Grand Tasting on Saturday night you have 60 wineries from around the world,” I said.

“It’s a big orchestration,” said Chef Lageder. “We have a huge variety of food paired with a great complexity of wines. We’ll have sushi, patés, escargot, carving stations with rack of lamb and beef tenderloin, whole salmon, beef tartar, and chocolate fondue stations. It’s an event you should not miss.”

“I’m curious about your Sunday afternoon barbecue with big red wines,” said Stasha.

“We have a huge grill where we’ll prepare brisket and traditional steaks, lots of different sausages from Europe, all grilled outdoors next to Newport Bay.”

“And the big finale?” asked Stasha.

“We’ll have a cigar master hand-rolling cigars and other cigar selections that we’ll pair with cognacs, spirits and sweets,” said Bruce. “It will be an amazing experience.”


Speaking of amazing experiences, we attended the 2011 Culinary Masters event presented by Trace3 on May 22 at the Balboa Bay Club. More than 20 top chefs from noted restaurants throughout Southern California prepared themed dinners for 300 people at tables specially decorated by each restaurant for the occasion.

We were seated at famed Laguna Beach restaurant Claes table, and enjoyed a fabulous five-course dinner prepared tableside. Prior to the dinner, we strolled the room and observed several Newport Beach chefs at work, including John Blackford from A Restaurant, Chad Blunston from Bambu at Fairmont Hotel, Edgar Agbayani from Roy’s in Fashion Island, Jackie Nabong from Tommy Bahama’s Island Grill, John Cuevas from The Crow Bar and Kitchen, Pablo Quiroz from The Dock, and Nathan Coulon from True Food Kitchen.

All chefs donated their time and food to help raise money for Project Hope School Foundation, which provides classroom education for children of homeless families.

It was a wonderful evening of culinary delights, made even more special because all profits went directly to Project Hope.


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