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Harvest Festival at The Prado

Harvest Festival at The Prado in Balboa Park is something to mark on your calendar in ink. It is quite an evening to remember, even if you have gone before, you must go again. The 9th Annual Harvest Festival took place October 15 at the fabulous Prado property. Next year being the 10th anniversary, you know it’s going to be spectacular.

Originally the thought of a Harvest Festival at a restaurant venue seemed odd. These events are usually held on long stretches of city streets or large facilities. One forgets the amount of space the The Prado location occupies with its ballrooms, upper arcade, grounds and courtyard. If you’ve only enjoyed the restaurant you’ll marvel at the space the venue encompasses.

Wherever one wandered, delights seduced and tickled the palette. The courtyard entrance immediately kicked off the evening offering sparkling wine tastings (Coppola & Gloria Ferrer), varied cheeses, meats, breads, crackers and spreads to introduce the “appetizer” segment. You could be there all night and be satiated but don’t linger too long as many wonders await.

The Grand Ballroom transformed into a diverse domestic wine sampling room with over 20 vineyards represented from the Temecula and Napa Valleys. Reds, whites, roses, dry, sweet, fruity, and buttery, you name it, and it was there for your pleasure. Eloquent food stations abounded with samples created by Executive Chef Jeff Thurston of The Prado. Wonderful goat cheese ravioli in a mushroom sauce with pieces of short rib was the night’s treasure. Savory with layered textures, the dish embodied unbelievable flavor and proved a real crowd pleaser.

The Alhambra room upstairs favored imported wine tasting from Europe and South America. Rich, full-bodied reds stood their ground against the simpler, crisp whites. The aforementioned cheese platters also provided balance between samplings.

True party people found themselves drawn to The Loggia room. Upstairs and dimly lit the room felt like a nightclub packed with cocktail aficionados. Vodka, tequila, rum, scotch, whiskey were all masterfully blended into elaborate drink concoctions creating shot-driven smiles. The Blackberry Dragon was a mutual favorite. Food in the form of chicken, shrimp, rice and veggies helped create a sobering effect balancing the beverages.

Savoring a sweet tooth led to the Upper Arcade with deserts and pastries elegantly displayed and even quicker to disappear than any other station. Row after row of tasty morsels of chocolate, Bavarian cream, apple strudel, cannoli, amongst others, induced all into a sugary, pleasurable state of mind.

As if all of these culinary pleasures weren’t enough, the Lower Terrace featured beer tasting by Karl Strauss and a food station of warm, soft pretzels, potato salad and sausages. Oktoberfest here we come! The Terrace also staged two “Celebrity Chef Grill Off’s” with local favorite chefs going toe-to-toe in each round. Fortunate spectators reaped the rewards of judging and sampling the dueling dishes. Versions of “Who has the Best Fish Taco?” and “Pork Tenderloin Throw Down” left the crowd punch drunk with scrumptious variations of unique recipes. On the way out, water, espresso and coffee stations kept everyone alert for the trek home.

October 2010 is a year away, but as soon as you purchase that new 2010 calendar, make a note to attend the 10th Annual Harvest Festival at The Prado. Turns out you don’t need tons of space to put together a fine festival, just good eats, great wines and cocktails at a beautiful venue. See you next year!

The good – Gotta say it, the “spirits room” and killer desserts shone.

The bad – Some flow issues with empty food stations but there were plenty of offerings around so you never went empty handed.

Details »
  • City: San Diego
  • Phone: 619-557-9441
  • Name: Harvest Festival at The Prado
  • Address: 1549 El Prado