Sawdust artist Sian Poeschl attended a culinary event last fall highlighting sustainable food. Even as the inspiring chefs enthusiastically informed diners about the origins of their ingredients, Poeschl noticed a contradiction in the concept. The locally sourced food was served on plates made in China.
With that observation, she envisioned an opportunity for the Sawdust Art Festival to pair locally sustainable food with locally created artwork.
The result is the first event to marry the visual arts with the epicurean arts during the third annual food festival, Laguna Beach a la Carte – A Food & Wine Experience, which begins next week, March 7-10.
At this year’s foodie frenzy, visual artists literally share the table with their culinary counterparts. Poeschl’s epiphany resulted in the Sawdust Art Festival hosting an a la Carte event on Sunday, March 10, combining two art forms: a gourmet meal served on luscious handcrafted place settings.
For the fledgling effort, Laguna Culinary Arts hosted the anchor event “A Taste of California: Wine & Food Tasting,” with 20 California wineries setting up booths and gourmet nibbles provided by the host. Last year that morphed into what has become their signature event, Laguna Beach Uncorked: International Wine & Food Fest, where wineries from around the world and a plethora of Laguna restaurants enticed guests with samples of their best creations on the Festival of Arts grounds.
Uncorked returns to the same venue this year from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 9, with 20 Laguna Beach restaurants offering succulent samples of their culinary prowess interspersed with 30 domestic and international wineries offering pours of cellar favorites. Live music will woo patrons as they revel in the Dionysian delights presented at booth after booth. True wine aficionados can even opt for a VIP ticket that gets them to a pre-event wine seminar with master sommelier Michael Jordan.
To “keep it fun for the participants” no winery can come two years in a row, explained Culinary Arts founder Nancy Milby, who lines up the vintners for Uncorked. So participants can expect a whole new line up this year, including some boutique wineries from California and Oregon, as well as some wineries from around the world that most people won’t be familiar with. And the tastings will include port, sparkling wine and Madeira. “The wineries are very excited about it,” said Milby, who believes the event will be a sell-out.
Indeed, Darren Delmore, national sales manager for Tablas Creek, a renowned Paso Robles winery, said that after being a part of the first wine tasting two years ago, they knew Laguna offered the “perfect audience” for their wines. They get asked to more events than they can attend, but Laguna made their A list, so they readily accepted a booth at this year’s Uncorked, and will also pour their wines at winemaker dinners at the Studio at Montage and Broadway by Amar Santana.
While Uncorked is held on the Festival of Arts grounds, its connection to the visual arts ends there. But that lapse will be remedied on Sunday when the Sawdust Festival hosts what they hope to become an annual event that invites patrons to “sustain local art and cuisine” by partaking of a meal as stunning to behold as to eat.
Sawdust exhibitors Rachel Goberman, Rosanne Nitti and Michael Thornstensen joined Poeschl in developing a fundraiser that combines dinner and art. Their idea gained the support of their board and Karyn Philippsen, president of the Laguna Beach Visitors and Conference Bureau and Laguna a la Carte co-chair.
Twenty Sawdust artists volunteered their time and artwork, as did Ryan Adams, executive chef and owner of Three Seventy Common who will create the culinary experience, and local musician Jason Feddy and his band, who will perform live.
Adams will serve a three-course sustainable meal on tables set with the stemware, dinnerware, serving-ware and centerpieces handcrafted by the visual artists, many of whom will attend the cocktail hour. Each guest will take three one-of-a-kind pieces home, while additional pieces will be for sale prior to and during the event. Six artists will demonstrate their skills during the event, giving guests the visual treats of glass blowing, pottery throwing and painting, while Feddy and Adams regale their other senses.
Adams can tell guests the food’s origin, while the “locally sourced” tableware comes from Sawdust exhibitors: glassware by Muffin Spencer-Devlin; dinnerware created by Maggie Spencer, Christopher Jeffires, Jason McQuaid, Dawn Spurlock and Mark Winner; napkins rings courtesy of Rachel Goberman and Jan Sattler; and dessert bowls crafted by Poeschl and Suzanne Esko, to name a few. Bette McIntire created individual bases for the miniature copper sculptures by Shamus Koch that will hold the menus.
Proceeds will benefit Sawdust’s art educational video project. The Sawdust has made an effort over the years to film artists at work in their studios, as a way of documenting the creative process. They hope to use funds raised to make videos of about 12 more artists. “It’s about sustaining local art,” said spokeswoman Cynthia Fung, adding, “That’s why Ryan is such a good fit, because he’s farm to table.”
The Sawdust dinner and the signature Uncorked are two of a slew of events taking place from March 7 to 10 this year in what Philippsen calls an “opportunity for Laguna Beach to promote the epicurean destination it has become.” No less than five restaurants will host prix fixe winemaker dinners over the course of the four days; eight restaurants will offer specials and discounts for the duration of the event, and five hotels providing special packages for a la Carte patrons. There will also be several themed gatherings at different venues, including the now traditional gospel and champagne brunch, back for its third year on Sunday at Tivoli Too!
For a schedule visit www.LagunaBeachAlaCarte.com. Tickets: http://lagunabeachuncorked.eventbrite.com/. To reserve a spot at the Sawdust event on March 10, call (949) 494-3030 or visit www.sawdustartfestival.org/fundraiser.
Thursday, March 7
Tablas Creek Vineyard Dinner at Broadway by Amar Santana, 6:30 p.m. $125. Reservations: 949-715-8234.
Winemaker Dinner at Las Brisas featuring wines from Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. 6:30 p.m. $75. Call 949-497-5434 for reservations.
Wine Dinner at The Loft at Montage. 6 p.m. reception; 7 p.m. dinner. $125. Reservations: 949-715-6420
Friday, March 8
Etude Wine Dinner at Hotel Laguna. 6:30 p.m. reception; 7 p.m. dinner. $125. Reservations: 949-494-1151
A Celebration of Burgundy at Laguna Culinary Arts with wines of Domaine Prieur-Brunet. 6:30 p.m. $85. Reservations: 949-494-0745
Price: 6:30 p.m.
Sunset & Savor: Beer vs. Wine at Surf & Sand Resort’s Pool Deck. Wines and beers specially paired with snacks. $65. 5:30-8:30 p.m. Reservations: 949-376-2761.
Tacos & Tequila Tasting at Inn at Laguna Beach. 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. For info call: 949-497-5434.
Saturday, March 9
Laguna Beach Uncorked! An International Wine & Food Fest*: Enjoy tastings from 20 Laguna Beach restaurants and 30 wineries from around the world on the Festival of Arts grounds from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., of 9:30 to 3:30 for VIP experience. Visit http://lagunabeachuncorked.eventbrite.com/ to purchase tickets. Call 949-497-9229 for more info.
*All event attendees must be at least 21 years of age. ID will be checked at the door.
Participating Laguna Beach restaurants include: 230 Forest Avenue, The Beach House, Broadway by Amar Santana, The Deck at Pacific Edge Hotel, Dizz’s As Is, House of Big Fish & Ice Cold Beer, K’ya Bistro Bar, Las Brisas, Mosaic Bar & Grille at Montage Laguna Beach, Mozambique Steakhouse, Nirvana Grille, OceanView Bar & Grill, ReMark’s, Sapphire Restaurant & Pantry, Splashes Restaurant, Starfish Laguna, Sundried Tomato, Tabu Grill, Three Seventy Common Kitchen + Drink, Tommy Bahama and Watermarc Restaurant
Participating Wineries include: Archery Summit, Oregon – Willamette Valley; Bichi Borghesi, Italy – Tuscany; Camparo, Italy – Piedmont; Canoe Ridge, Washington – Columbia Valley; Clos Pegas, California – Napa Valley; Cono Sur, Chile – Casablanca Valley; Domaine Carneros, California – Carneros; Domaine des Baumard, France – Loire Valley; Domaine Prieur-Brunet, France – Burgundy; Domaine Rene Mure, France – Alsace; Domaine Santa Duc, France – Rhone Valley; Ernesto Catena, Argentina – Mendoza; Etude, California – Carneros; Foley, California – Central Coast; Giol, Italy – Veneto; Mahua, New Zealand – Marlborough; Mas d’en Compte, Spain – Priorat; Nickle & Nickle, California – Napa Valley; Nisia, Spain – Rueda; O. Fournier, Spain – Ribera del Duero; Peregrine, New Zealand – Central Otago; Ponzi, Oregon – Willamette Valley; Purple Hands, Oregon – Willamette Valley; Ridge, California – Santa Cruz; Tablas Creek Vineyards, California – Paso Robles; TintaNegra, Argentina – Mendoza; Townley, California – various; and Warres – Duoro Valley, Portugal.
Sunday, March 10,
Gospel & Champagne Brunch at Tivoli Too! Brunch 11a.m.-1 p.m. Gospel Show begins at 11:30 a.m. $45. For more information, call 949-715-9713. Purchase tickets at http://lagunabeachlive.tix.com/Event.aspx?EventCode=528404
Snack, Sip, and Surf at Pacific Edge Hotel. 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. $45. Call 949-281-5711 for more info.
Sustain Local Art & Cuisine by Sawdust Art Festival. 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. $195. Dinner by Ryan Adams, serving pieces by Sawdust artists. Music by Jason Feddy. Reservations/info: call 949-494-3030 or visit www.sawdustartfestival.org/fundraiser
Tablas Creek Vineyard Wine Dinner at Studio at Montage. 6 p.m. reception; 7 p.m. dinner. $175. Reservations: 949-715-6420.
March 7 through 10, Daily special deals at these restaurants: The Deck on Laguna, House of Big Fish & Ice Cold Beer, K’ya Bistro Bar, OceanView Bar and Grill at Hotel Laguna, Rock ‘N Fish, the Rooftop Lounge, Sundried Tomato, and Umami Burger. For details, visit http://www.lagunabeachalacarte.com/html/events-tickets/