Calling the San Diego Bay Wine + Food Festival an annual culinary event is like saying Thanksgiving dinner is just a little snack.
The two foodie extravaganzas have a few things in common, actually: there's an overabundance to choose from and you'll probably end up eating and drinking too much.
One big difference - and no disrespect to Aunt Mildred's cornbread stuffing - but big-shot chefs Marcus Samuelsson, Rick Moonen, Michelle Bernstein and Rick Bayless aren't usually in the kitchen on turkey day.
Those nationally renowned celebs are among the 22 visiting chefs descending on San Diego starting Monday to join some of the region's top talent for a week's worth of pairing dinners, gastro excursions, demos, competitions, seminars and tastings.
San Diego Bay Wine + Food Festival
When: Monday through Nov. 20
Where: Various locations
Tickets: $45 to $325, depending on event
Phone: (858) 578-9463
The caliber of the lineup is arguably the highest it's been in the 13-year history of the San Diego Bay Wine + Food Festival, putting it on a pace to one day rival the mega Food + Wine Classic in Aspen and Miami's South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
"The festival is just getting better and better," said Jason McLeod, executive chef at Ironside Fish & Oyster, which is hosting a sold-out collaboration dinner Monday night featuring Stephanie Prida, the executive pastry chef at Manresa, in Los Gatos, which just last month earned a third Michelin star.
Using his restaurant contacts from around the country, McLeod was instrumental in organizing several of the festival's biggest events, including the opening night's "Mercy of the Chef" dinner series.
"It's an opportunity to invite chefs into our city and another chance to showcase what we're doing," McLeod said. "This is what chefs do in cities with great food cultures; it's all about collaboration."
An estimated 10,000 people are expected to participate in the 2016 wine and food festival, which, for the second time, includes the wine-soaked oeno-geek conference SommCon. How to choose from the culinary cornucopia? Here are some top picks.
"Dinner with the Culinary Icons" blends the All-Star roster of Bayless, Bernstein, Moonen and Samuelsson with a bevy of local high-end talent - Javier Plascencia (Bracero), Bernard Guillas (The Marine Room), Aron Schwartz (Marina Kitchen) and Andrew Spurgin (Bespoke Event Styling & Menu Design) - in what should be an unfathomably delicious six-course meal. $300. Nov. 17, 6 p.m. Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina, Marriott Grand Ballroom, 333 W. Harbor Drive, downtown San Diego.
Biggest bang for the buck
Moonen, one of America's leading experts in sustainable seafood, brings his passion and expertise to our shores for an Ocean-to-Table wine lunch, complete with a sea view. Moonen will be joined by Guillas, McLeod, Spurgin, Dean James Max (DJM Restaurants), Rob Ruiz (The Land & Water, Co.), Evan Cruz (Arterra) and others. $95. Wednesday, 11:30 a.m., The Marine Room, 2000 Spindrift Drive, La Jolla.
The great outdoors
Calling all hipsters: Andrew Bachelier, chef at the new Campfire in Carlsbad, welcomes Portland's Jason French for a multicourse, rustic, "fire driven" feast. Dinner will be served family style, at communal tables, so bring your appetite, social skills and best lumbersexual attire. $125. Monday, 6:30 p.m., 2725 State St., Carlsbad.
The great outdoors, part 2
Still hungry and thirsty? The festival's showcase event is the giant Grand Tasting, with over 700 wines, scads of national celebrity chefs, 60 of San Diego's own top toques, 30 gourmet food companies and lots of people. $135, (general admission; VIP tickets available). Nov. 19, 12 p.m., Embarcadero Marina Park North, downtown San Diego.
Tip of the week
Catch Marcus Samuelsson, New York City's Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised author and TV luminary, next Thursday in an intimate setting at Macy's School of Cooking, where he'll pair some of his signature dishes with whiskey from around the world. $75, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., 1555 Camino De La Reina, Mission Valley.