Chef Highlights from the Pacific Wine and Food Classic

Let’s face it, there’s a lot of foodie events popping up in SoCal. Something important to me on Along Comes Mary is finding the ones that  are worth your time and drive. One that’s been on my radar since last year is the Pacific Wine and Food Classic in Newport Beach. Held at the Newport Dunes Beach Resort, this 2nd annual Pacific Wine and Food Classic created a dazzling and dynamic weekend with some of the best OC restaurants and chefs, as well as local wineries and beloved spirit names.

I arrived just in time for VIP entrance, which got me in an hour sooner than regular admission, as well as access to a VIP lounge. I no sooner stepped onto the sand and was offered a Lillet Blanc cocktail. Don’t mind if I do! What I love most about a great food and wine festival are the opportunities to connect with the chefs who made that plate you loved. Or the winemaker who put a labor of love in the Pinot Noir I just have to get another glass of. I connected with so many wonderful chefs and restaurants, and these are the ones that really stood out for me. I cannot wait to visit them again.

Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens

I grew up going to the beautiful home and garden center that is Roger’s Gardens. In addition to being one of the best of its kind around, their adjoining restaurant, Farmhouse, has some bragging rights, too. Winner for 2 consecutive years in the Golden Foodie Awards for one of the 100 Best Al Fresco and Scenic Restaurants in America, Farmhouse is serving up some of the best seafood and California cuisine under the meticulous eye of Executive Chef and Owner, Richard Mead.

While you know my love for farm-to-table dining, Chef Mead is another example of one of the chefs who pioneered that term, and that I’ve been fortunate enough to meet. With his beginnings in the 1980’s running 17th Street Cafe in Santa Monica, to his later success with Newport Beach’s Sage, I cannot think of a more expertly crafted union than bringing such an elegant dining experience to Roger’s Gardens.

Ellie’s

One thing I miss about living in Long Beach: They’ve got a lot of good food. Ellie’s is a great example. The first cafe from Chef Jason Witzl, Ellie’s set up shop in Alamitos Bay, just a holler from the ultra fun and trendy 2nd Street, just about a year ago-taking over At Last Cafe, a city staple for over 30 years. While that pressure would give even the best of us jitters, I don’t think Chef Witzl  has much to worry about. As I enjoyed his oysters on the shell appetizer, it inspired me to whip my phone out then and there to explore Ellie’s menu.

What I loved to discover is the generous amount of vegetarian and pescatarian offerings they have. Including eggplant sandwiches and an entire section of veggies. Another plus? Happy hour that includes a bottomless mimosa for $15.

A refreshing welcome from Lillet Blanc.
Sean Carroll, left and Chef Pascal
The salmon plate from Farmhouse
Tequila creme meringue from Mixed Bakery
Baja Shellfish Farm with Chef Pascal

Ask any foodie of Southern Orange County, and I’m sure they will know Chef Pascal Olhats. While most chefs are thinking retirement when they hit the big 6-0, Chef Pascal instead launched one of his most successful ventures to date, Pascal restaurant of San Juan Capistrano. What makes Pascal such a unique and great addition to the Orange County food scene is the fact that it’s top-notch cuine in a relaxed, bistro setting. Enjoy breakfast or lunch, or maybe gran an espresso and croissant to go, at Pascal.

Along with managing Pascal and Corona Del Mar’s Cafe Jardin, the chef is also Baja Shellfish Farm’s ambassador. Both Chef Pascal and Baja Shellfish manager, Sean Carroll, were on hand at the Classic serving up mouth-watering clams. As a seafood lover, I was definitely enjoying myself with all of the incredible pescatarian options at hand.

Mixed Bakery

I knew I was in trouble when I spotted an array of meringues in the VIP section, courtesy of Mixed Bakery. While no store front, Chef Elyssa Fournier should be who you call if you’re in Orange County and need baked goodies prepared with only the finest ingredients. 2017 Golden Foodie Award recipient for Best Pastry Chef, Elyssa is extremely knowledgeable of gluten-free items, and each of her meringues were just like what you expect them to be: hard outer shell, and then melts in your mouth. I loved her creative flavors, even cocktail-inspired like tequila creme. Macaroons, too!

Pacific Wine and Food Classic 2019

While the Pacific Wine and Food Classic may be in the record books for 2018, rest assured as this fabulous weekend is sure to return once again on the Newport Dunes, next year. Keep a check on their website HERE and definitely spend some time checking out all of the restaurants and wineries involved with this weekend! xo

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