Archive for March, 2013

An old expression goes “All good things must come to an end.” I would never hope this to occur to any successful event, but alas it shall sooner or later. The 4th annual Mission Valley Craft Beer & Food Festival (MVCBF) wrapped up this past Sunday at Handlery Hotel in San Diego. As indicated by their sign above, this mega fest provided more than just beer – this fest combined a beer fest with gourmet food from local chefs and restaurants. In addition to unlimited beer pours, all attendees could sample all the delicious food they could handle until the vendors ran out of food, and boy did the food fly out fast. Do not expect any corporate or chain businesses here – MVCBF only invited the best in local cuisine to the party. With so many vendors invited to the party, the venue’s area had to stretch to wrap around the building, and even then did they still lack ample seating for all the guests, although this does not indicate a flaw – only that this proves the immense popularity of this fest.

With an eye for great quality food comes an eye for great quality craft beer. MVCBF ensured that guests would sample only the best beer that they could find, and all the breweries brought their A-game. Beer enthusiasts regard San Diego as the home of the West Coast IPA, so in order to provide variety to the guests, MVCBF decided to highlight all the great styles of beer among every brewery invited. From blueberry ales to coffee stouts to strong ales to cask beers, guests could truly find a beer of almost every type available.

All this time I had spoken of the amazing quality of the food present, but have not yet described any of it. Unless you have tried some of this food already (such as Slater’s 50/50), words honestly cannot accurately depict the unique flavors of the food available. Some of the standouts include a brownie with peanut butter mousse, wild boar baby back ribs, IPA carnitas nachos, drunken shrimp, beer-brined pork belly crostinis, spiked red velvet cheesecake, beer-braised beef cheeks with beer mac & cheese, and more. As expected, Slater’s 50/50 carried the longest line of the day, so by the time I got in line for them, they had run out of buns, so started serving just the meat with avocado mash and spread. They kindly gave me a plate with just the burger ends, which I knew contained all the flavor from the meat.

So above, I mentioned that all good things must come to an end. Sadly, this event marked the final iteration of the MVCBF. In order to focus on maintaining a high standard for quality and service, the organizers have decided to pull back and focus on smaller events where they can better keep an eye on operations while providing greater service to guests. Future events from the organizers will still honor the best in local food and craft beer, such as a Country Boil coming up in three weeks or another beer fest that features breweries opened for under two years, which arrives in less than three months from now. As far as I can see, this radical announcement may come as a shock, but upon further consideration, this happens for the best. Any event organizer should strive for high quality and great service, so by reducing the size of future events while increasing the quality, surely the folks behind the MVCBF prove their expertise in this field. I could go on and on about the wonderful organizers, but have you met any of them yet? Meet Michele Gretano, one of the visionaries behind the MVCBF and their future events. Personally, I love it when event organizers get hands-on with the fest.

It pains me that this super fest has to come to an end, but on the other hand, I cannot wait to see what future events they have in stock. So far, they have announced two upcoming events – see more info on them in the paragraph above. Missed the MVCBF and want to experience an amazing time? Attend one of these events, and have a great time. Act quick though – the number of tickets available has greatly decreased from the amount that MVCBF posted!

Their statement regarding the MVCBF finale:

When The Handlery Hotel started the Mission Valley Craft Beer and Food Festival it was all about our desire to “re-invent” the traditional beer festival by celebrating “Local” craft beer paired with “Local” Chefs. We wanted to provide terrific beer but we also wanted to showcase fantastic food to go with it, we wanted both to matter. We chose early spring because there wasn’t much going on in the city and we wanted you to feel like you were getting a value. You liked what we were doing and we thank you greatly for that.

Fast forward a few years and now there are five festivals competing for your attention. They’re doing the same cattle call, “take a sip and move to the next line” exactly what we tried so hard to avoid. In order to compete, grow and continue, we would have to adopt their same practices and principles to keep the festival alive. That’s not who we are and that’s not the kind of event we want our name on.

MVCBF Fest IV is going to be our last. We’re going to pull back and focus on our smaller events following our original concept where the details don’t get lost in volume and we honor local craft beer and food. Future events like Chef Karl’s Country Boil with Societe Brewing and New Kids on the Block II, focusing on San Diego’s newest breweries. We’re going to do events that allow our Brewers and Chefs to do what they do best.

So, if this is our last ride for the MVCBF, we’re going to do it up right and leave it all on the field (or parking lot in our case). We thank you for all of your support and we look forward to seeing you all at our other events where we keep it “Local”.

Food vendors: Amore Cheesecakes; Baker Shake Foods; Bernardo Winery; Delicias; Carnitas Snack Shack; Crown Point Catering; Farmhouse Café; Handlery Hotel; O’Brien’s Pub; R Gang Eatery; Sea Rocket Bistro; Slaters 50/50; Stone World Bistro; Sweiners; Table 926; Terra; Toronado; Urge Gastropub; Local Habit

Breweries: AleSmith; Ballast Point; Belching Beaver; Cold Bore; Coronado; El Cajon; Golden Mead; Green Flash; Hangar 24; Helms; Hess; Hillcrest; Iron Fire; Karl Strauss; Latitude 33; Lightning; Mad Lab; Manzanita; Monkey Paw; On The Tracks; Port/Lost Abbey; Prohibition; Rough Draft; San Diego; Societe; Stone; The Beer Company; Thorn Street; Wet-n-Reckless

Entertainment: Danny & The Tramp (VIP Hour); So Cal Vibes; Split Finger; Safety Orange (After Party)

Who appreciates the warmer weather recently? With Spring starting a week ago, Southern California definitely feels the turn of the seasons in the weather. The warmer weather combined with increased daylight hours allow people to do more things that they could not do a month or two ago due to weather restrictions. For example, people can detect outdoor BBQ on weekends, and food trucks now start to see more and more people. Perhaps people opt to travel to the beach as the most popular option. The beach certainly feels like a unifying area bringing together strangers onto one strand of sand all for the purpose of relaxation. Find other reasons to gather large groups of people, and the beach turns into the perfect venue for attracting said large groups. In this case, Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades provided the right expanse for AID LA to host their annual Holi On The Beach.

Holi originated in India, where they celebrate the arrival of Spring with a grandiose public party filled with colors, music, and joy. Traditional celebrations included nonstop live music, dancing, and the unique act of throwing or smearing color on other people. Like the color runs prevalent across the world today, these events typically involve using dry colors made with natural ingredients as to not stain the attendees’ clothing; however, traditional Holi also utilized wet colors, which the attendees at Holi On The Beach loved to use.

As an actual event, Holi On The Beach adhered to fewer rules than a previous Holi Festival. Holi On The Beach lacked structure or a fixed schedule – instead, attendees simply arrived, received colors from the organizers, and let loose on the sand. A live DJ provided music all throughout the afternoon while everyone danced and got merry with colors. Whereas other fests contained vendors and other content such as yoga, Holi On The Beach only provided the colors and the space to run around and get dirty. A food vendor eventually set up on the sidewalk between the parking lot and the beach, but other than that, all attendees just showed up and got crazy. Sometimes, you need no rules to live a joyful life.

Now that Spring has started over a week ago, the frequency of Holi celebrations may wind down. Attending one of these festival may have to wait until next year. Like mud runs or the inaugural tomato fight, if you have never attended one of these types of events that requires attendees to get dirty, I highly encourage just letting go of your inhibitions and succumbing to getting dirty. While Holi will have to wait until next year, plenty of color runs will continue to take place throughout the year. The official Color Run has already sold out, but many others may take place, so keep an eye out for those whenever possible.

How many ways can someone prep meat into food? When I ask this, I refer to versatile dishes that can adapt to any meat. For example, a pot pie typically uses poultry, while a burger can use almost any meat. Here in the 21st century, we have witnessed many different kinds of food utilizing many different types of meat. Burgers nowadays use more than just beef – they can use turkey, salmon, duck, and even foie gras. Poutine can use any type of meat too, as the meat gets added to the top of the dish. By its nature, meatloaf can build with any meat. But what else can you think of that can utilize any meat? More often than not, besides simply cooking the meat a la carte, everyone thinks of chili. This Spanish staple has cemented itself in American culinary history so much so that towns across the country hold annual chili cookoffs, moreso than any other type of food. You could visit a restaurant that would likely serve only one type of chili, or you could visit Beachwood BBQ and sample four different types of chili.

Following up on their last hit food night two months ago, Beachwood BBQ continued their series of special food nights last Thursday night with the highly anticipated Chili Night. This time, they have partnered with Ballast Point to pair up five of their beers brewed with peppers with the food of the night. The menu featured four different types of chili to pair with the beers, plus a peppered dessert, which paired with the final beer.

Left to Right: Habañero Sculpin, Chipotle Black Marlin, Indra Kunindra, Thai Chili Wahoo Wheat, Sea Monster w/ Naga Peppers

For this special chili night, Beachwood BBQ prepared a menu featuring four types of chili: Veggie, Beef, Wild Boar, and Venison. Guests could order each one individually, or sample all four by ordering a flight of chili, which would include the dessert. Guests could also throw in a flight of the five pepper beers to pair with the chilis for only $6 more. Each chili contained unique ingredients that helped to draw out the flavor of the meat used. Each chili also comes with a starch to complement the meat, such as the bread bowl or polenta. When ordered as a flight, you receive a higher meat-to-bread ratio, and since the flight includes chocolate chipotlé cookies, real food lovers have little to no reason to not order the flight of chili.

Clockwise from top left: Wild Boar, Venison, Veggie, Beef

Looking back at their previous special food nights, Beachwood BBQ hosts these roughly every two months. If you missed out on chili, check back within the next two months, for they have no reason to bring another one sooner. Having already completed nights with curry, meatloaf, poutine, ribs, and mac & cheese, Beachwood BBQ now has a wide white space to fill. Fans can now ponder about what Beachwood BBQ will prep next time. What would you like to see as a special food night? Post your ideas on the Beachwood BBQ Facebook page and let them know!

Looking for ways to get into craft beer, or expand your scope? Most consumers would visit a retail store like BevMo or Total Wine and browse the beer sections. Some would dine at a gastropub or craft beer bar to learn about new beers. When the opportunity presents itself, some even attend beer festivals. But how do people go about obtaining their craft beer fix without heading to a vastly public location? Depending on the host, beer enthusiasts may hold a bottle share, where like-minded individuals gather to share a bottle of craft beer with all the other guests, and sample beers from those other guests. Just recently, The Factory has revived a tradition dating back a few years and has given it a modern spin by converting it into their own bottle share.

The Factory hosted their first monthly bottle share last Wednesday night. As their first run, they did not enforce too many rules, other than bottles could not surpass 750ml. Throughout the night, attendees slowly trickled in with bottles, both from a brewery and home-brewed. By the end of the night, roughly one out of three bottles originated from a home brewer. Typically for a bottle share, the host selects a type of beer for all the guests to bring. As the first bottle share here, The Factory did not set that rule. One thing led to another, and many of the guests brought a strong beer. Luckily, The Factory serves all burgers for $8 each after 8pm every Wednesday night, so guests did not have to worry about filling up on only beer, and could eat something to absorb much of it.

The list of beers present include Uinta’s Tilted Smile, Sierra Nevada’s Brux, Green Flash’s Barleywine, Amager Bryghus’ Hr. Frederiksen, NøgneØ’s Sunturnbrew, Great Basin’s Mayan Maybe, Malmgårdin Panimo’s Arctic Circle Ale, Brauerei Schlenkerla’s Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen, and Three Floyds’ Dark Lord.

The Factory also had the guests vote for the best beer of the night. Third place went to a home-brewed Stout. Second place went to Great Basin’s Mayan Maybe. First place went to AleSmith’s Barrel-Aged Speedway Stout… which I brought! As for what I win exactly, I find that out next time I visit The Factory. Check out The Factory all next month – in addition to bottle share repeating every third Wednesday of the month, First Friday ends the night at The Factory, and Ballast Point will take over the taps on Wednesday, April 10th! Pace yourself, as April bears a tremendous amount of events.

Private Barrel Tasting
6:00 pm – 8:00 pm, March 27
Cismontane Brewing, Rancho Santa Margarita

Taste beers from Cismontane’s private barrel collection for the low price of $25 per person. Cismontane will only sell 20 tickets, so act fast! You may purchase tickets at their tasting room in Rancho Santa Margarita.

Tiger Army, Old Man Markley, Stellar Corpses @ House of Blues San Diego
7:00 pm – 12:00 am, March 28
House of Blues, San Diego

Psychobilly/punk band Tiger Army headlines a show this Thursday night in San Diego as part of their mini tour. Tickets to this all-ages show cost $25.

WonderCon 2013
12:00 pm – 7:00 pm, March 29
10:00 am – 7:00 pm, March 30
11:00 am – 5:00 pm, March 31
Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim

Get your nerd on at WonderCon this weekend. Check out comic books, DVDs, action figures, artwork, signings/autographs, lots of cosplay, and more all weekend. Ticket prices for this all-ages expo vary depending on the preferred attendance method; for example, attending on Friday or Saturday for one day costs $20, while attending on Sunday only costs $10. If you want to avoid the parking fee, you can find free street parking in the neighborhood west of West Street.

2013 Hammerhead Release Party
10:30 am – 10:30 pm, March 30
Hangar 24 Brewery, Redlands

Hangar 24 will release another strong beer from their Barrel Roll series this Saturday. Head over to the tasting room in Redlands, where you can order an 8oz pour of Hammerhead for $8, no admission fee required.

Halftoberfest – Hangar 24 Tap Takeover
12:00 pm – 5:00 pm, March 30
KnB Wine Cellars, San Diego

Hangar 24 Brewery takes over the taps at KnB this Saturday with a mini Oktoberfest-style celebration. Featuring beers like Casked Chocolate Porter, Hammerhead 2012 & 2013, Pugachev’s Cobra 2012, Ichigo Highway (Bruery collab), and many beers from their Local Fields series from the past year, beer lovers will not want to miss this opportunity to try rare beers. Free to attend, guests can also participate in stein-holding contests, and order brats with homemade sauerkraut & beer mustard.

Frank Ruffino Benefit Show
7:00 pm – 1:00 am, March 30
The Observatory, Santa Ana

Frank Ruffino of China White needs a new liver, so naturally they will host a benefit show, raffle, and auction in a grand manner. Performing bands include China White (a short music set by all original members with Mike Drake of HB Outsiders filling in for Frank Ruffino), Cadillac Tramps, The Stitches, The Crowd, HFL, The Galway Hooker Band, Anarchy Taco, and Aggroculture U.S. Tickets to this all-ages show cost $15.

Vintage Clothing & Textile Show
9:00 am – 3:00 pm, March 31
The Pickwick Gardens, Burbank

This expo features over 65 vendors selling their antique textiles, vintage clothes, accessories, and more for attendees to exhibit and purchase. Admission costs $7 per person and comes with free parking.

While most people celebrated St. Patrick’s Day by eating corned beef, drinking green beer, or straight-up partying, a handful of alternative thinkers celebrated differently by going to a punk rock show. Now entering their 35th year in the music industry, legendary band The Adicts wrapped up a mini west coast tour this past Sunday at the House of Blues at Downtown Disney in Anaheim. This show that also featured The BillyBones and Raptors closed out the night following a St. Patrick’s Bash hosted by The Adicts, a 21 & up party that included an Irish buffet, beer pitcher specials, and more. Once the doors to the show opened at 7pm, all ages could then enter the venue. Despite the somewhat costly price of admission of $30 (after tax & fees), this show started on time yet ended early, not going past 11pm. Regardless, this show exhibited high-quality bands worthy of a grander stage without getting drowned out by any other bands at other shows that would invite four or more bands. The order of the bands felt like a trip backwards through time, as each band played more regressive music than the last.

Raptors started the night off with their hardcore punk set. Resembling more modern hardcore punk, this young band already got the pit going for just the opening act. Their music sounds like a mix between the vocals of bands like The Unseen or Stretch Arm Strong, and the music of bands like Every Time I Die or Glassjaw. The lead singer liked to jump down and engage the audience, and towards the end of their set, he even got all the way into the circle pit and spent a minute in there. Raptors did a great job as the opening act, building up enough energy in the room to spark some movement.

Another integral band on the tour, BillyBones, played next. Featuring the former lead singer of the band Skulls, we take a step backwards in time from Raptors, and we end up with the early 90’s to late 80’s musical style of BillyBones. Albeit their faces clearly exhibit age, their music and lyrics contradict their appearance. Their full sound combined with the lead singer’s choice of words in their songs led to quite an ovation after songs later in the set.

After setting up for 45 minutes, The Adicts finally rolled onto the stage to an uproarious crowd. Kicking off their set with Joker in the Pack, we take another step back in time from the BillyBones, landing in 80’s punk music here. However, this set contained more than just a punk rock show. The Adicts like to entertain as much as they perform, so throughout the course of the night, the audience witnessed numerous circus-like antics on-stage from the stage hands, roadies, and the band members themselves. Antics included confetti poppers, string/stream roll launchers, silly string, and props related to their songs, such as a joker card for Joker in the Pack. Lead singer Monkey also donned an array of hats, changing them every few songs. Apparent in some of the pictures below, decorating the stage caused the long setup time. Though many expected The Adicts to play a full hour set, they only ended up playing for about 50 minutes. Still, all attendees had a good time, as evident by the pit spilling out onto the sides of the venue towards the bars.

Having played here just half a year ago, The Adicts once again left their mark here at the House of Blues in Anaheim… and plenty more in the crowd left their marks on the floor. Anyways, expect plenty more punk rock shows to come to Southern California in the near future. With Spring just starting, concert seasons starts to gain momentum, and lots of great shows go on, many of which go unnoticed. Follow this site weekly to hear about upcoming shows and events!

With the arrival of Spring, many bands have booked shows starting around now, as we kick off the 2013 season of music shows. This past weekend, Swingin’ Utters headlined their show at Alex’s Bar in Long Beach. Along with Sean Wheeler & Zander Schloss, Wild Roses, and Jason Cruz & Howl, Swingin’ Utters led a strangely sort-of punk show. No doubt that the Swingin’ Utters play punk rock, but as for the other bands of the night, while they live a punk rock lifestyle, their music only slightly resembles typical fast punk rock.

Jason Cruz & Howl started off the night with their acoustic set. They stated that their drummer had missed a flight, resulting in a drummer-less band. So for the entirety of their set, the two-man group played all acoustic songs. Sure they bear musical talent, but for a show headlined by a punk rock band, they seemed quite out of place. Still, they put on a great performance with just the two of them.

Second in the night, Wild Roses took to the stage with their band’s set. Albeit they presented a full band, they played their traditional country/rock music. They still sounded great, but by this point, I began to wonder if I actually bought tickets to a Swingin’ Utters show, or if I had lost track of the days and ended up at some other night with bands I did not know. The band members lingered throughout the rest of the night, mingling with the crowd and providing assistance in setting up for the following acts.

Another acoustic duo, Sean Wheeler & Zander Schloss arrived on stage to play their southern soul music. Formerly of Throw Rag and Circle Jerks respectively, Schloss provides the music while Wheeler provides the lyrics. Their music consisted mainly of spoken words from Wheeler addressing common problems among people, such as work, love, and war. Truly by now, for the third act of the night, I expected at least some sort of fast punk rock music. So far, nobody had really gained a taste of that, as all music up until this point moved too slowly. Not all of the crowd succumbed to the slowness, as I witnessed a handful of people already drunk. After all, St. Patrick’s Day lingered at the top of the hour.

Finally, Swingin’ Utters slowly occupied the stage, thus beginning the night’s true intentions. For a small venue, the pit area contained less security than larger venues, leading to a quite uncontrolled pit. Swingin’ Utters did not hesitate to play their more popular songs, such as Pills & Smoke. As the headlining band, they never allowed the energy in the room to drop, evident by the endless movement of the pit. This violent gyration knocked me around quite a bit, so I propped myself onto a corner of the stage for leverage. At this point, a lovely gal standing next to me grabbed onto myself and the guy on the other side of her. Unexpectedly, I had turned into someone’s anchor, though I paid no mind at the thought. After a song or two, the other guy left, leaving the gal to hang onto me for a long duration through the set. We endured tons of hits and pushes, and she fell onto me a few times as well. With a few songs remaining in the Swingin’ Utters set and the rest of the night, she introduced herself to me as Jamie, and left to rejoin her friends before she kissed me goodbye. I regret not obtaining any means of contacting her, as I felt a good connection between us right there. I hope to see her again at a show soon.

This show currently reigns as the strangest punk rock show I have attended, as only one out of four acts played the traditionally fast punk rock music. While the other three acts exhibited punk rock lyrics and style, the music clearly did not match. Still, just seeing Swingin’ Utters after last seeing them over a decade ago made this trip to Alex’s Bar worth it. Tons of other great punk rock shows approach soon, so read my blog weekly to discover upcoming shows in Southern California.