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FOODfare: San Diego Feast Fests

The 2010 Poke Festival
The 2010 Poke Festival
Courtesy Photo

Spring has sprung. Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping, bees are buzzing, bunnies are … well, we know what they’re up to … and food and beverage festivals are coming at us faster than a runaway dessert cart. A grocer’s freezer’s-worth are planned over the next two weeks, and rather than pick and choose from the field, here’s the lion’s share in everything-must-go style. Eat up, San Diego!

April 9

I don’t discriminate against any publication … especially when there’s brewskies involved! More than 30 brewing companies will come together for the San Diego City Beat Festival of Beers, an annual event benefiting the San Diego Music Foundation, whose mission it is to get instruments into the hands of students across the county. Fittingly, non-stop music is on-tap at the Bar Pink stage, from the likes of Tape Deck Mountain, Little Hurricane and more.

Outside the Lafayette Hotel; 2223 El Cajon Boulevard; 2-5:30 p.m. (VIP session: 1-2 p.m.)

April 11

The third annual San Diego Spirits Festival won’t actually take place until the weekend of June 25 - 26 (in addition to the appetite-whetting and thirst-quenching first-ever San Diego Cocktail Week, June 20 - 24), but like a first-timer to the bar, you have to sip before you can swim. There will be a number of mixology competitions taking place leading up the main event. The first is this Monday and will feature competitors from SD’s coastal communities and an esteemed panel of expert judges … and yours truly. So, don’t miss a chance to tip a tipple and heckle thisfoodie unmercifully (if you must).

Tower 23 Hotel; 723 Felspar Street; 7-10 p.m.

April 15-16

Real ale … it’s nothing like that pale, bland swill that Corporate America coaxed us to think of as entry into the High Life. Real ale is real good and the two-day Real Ale Festival at the reigning large brewpub of the year, Pizza Port, drives that home in a big way with cask-conditioned beers from homies like AleSmith, Ballast Point and Stone, plus guest tappers from around the world. While this is a splendid stint for beer fans to geek out, it’s also an awesome opportunity for craft beer virgins to experience a life-changing moment of reckoning.

Pizza Port Carlsbad; 571 Carlsbad Village Drive; 4/15: 4-11 p.m. (VIP session: 1-4 p.m.); 4/16: 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

April 17

One of the best things about being the largest brewery in San Diego, not to mention one of the most outgoing, is having the resources and friends in the biz to supply you with rare, truly exceptional bottles, kegs and, in the best cases, barrels. Aging in oak, whether it be Kentucky Bourbon barrels or wine barrels from Burgundy, imparts unique flavor and depth into beers of all styles and there’s no better place in the world (seriously) to find out just how true that is than Stone Oakquinox at Stone Brewing Co.’s home base in Escondido.

Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens; 1999 Citracado Parkway; 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

April 19

Get a taste of a brand of “island flavor” that’s unique to San Diego when 16 restaurants come together for Taste of Shelter Island. Put on by the Peninsula Chamber of Commerce (the event used to be called the Chamber Chomp), the event will feature enough sample nips and sips from restos including Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern (known aptly to fans as JFAT), The Pearl Hotel and The Wine Pub to make for a meal. There’ll be three whole hours to take it all in and shuttle service will be available (always nice after prolonged periods of gorging).

Brigantine Seafood Restaurant; 2725 Shelter Island Drive; 6-9 p.m.

April 20

Poke…it’s not just something friends do to you on Facebook. Add an accent to the “e” and you get po-kay, the Hawaiian term used to describe raw fish sliced and cooked via a flavorful marinade. Ahi poke is the most prevalent version stateside, but there are many other variations, a vast number of which will be available at the I Love Poke Festival and Competition, which will take place at SD’s venerable tiki bastion, Bali Hai, feature a Hawaiian dance company, poke and pupus from 30-plus restaurants and a best poke chef competition.

Bali Hai; 2230 Shelter Island Drive; 6 p.m.

April 21

From saucy marinara to herbaceous pesto and more robusto garlic than any one nation should be allowed to wield, Italy has a great deal to offer the rest of the world. Ditto when it comes to vino. Each year, an Italian wine trade show called Vinitaly takes place in Verona where some of the country’s best vintages are poured. This year, the East Villages Toast Enoteca will hold its own festival called Tasting the Top Wines of Vinitaly and pour over 40 award-winners from Vinitaly 2011. The cover charge beats airfare to Italy, and Toast’s appetizers are bound to be way better than Air Italy’s!

Toast Enoteca; 927 J Street; 6-9 p.m.