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Newport Beach Wine & Food Founder Talks Cravings, Cuisine, and Five Years in Paradise

September 18, 2018
  • Photo Credit: Pencilbox Studios

Stefanie Farnsworth Salem, the founder of the Newport Beach Wine & Food, gives us a sneak peek into this year’s festival!

Mark your calendars for one of the most beloved wine and foodie events of the season, Newport Beach Wine & Food, Oct. 4-7, 2018. Celebrating its fifth anniversary, the festival will transform the iconic Newport Beach Civic Center into an epicurean fantasyland featuring more than 44 different restaurants and 250 wine varietals.

The event will showcase 20 celebrity chefs including Richard Blais, Michael Mina, Jet Tila, and Amar Santana sharing their expertise with attendees on the festival’s SubZero Wolf cooking demo stage sponsored by Pacific Sales. So, come hungry and thirsty!

Attendees will have the chance to:

  • Witness celebrity chef cooking demonstrations
  • Taste bites from restaurants including Marché Moderne, Andrea at Pelican Hill, The Hall by Amar Santana, Old Vine Cafe, and Waterline at Balboa Bay Resort (among others)
  • Enjoy unlimited sips from wineries Duck Horn, William Selyem, Nellcôte, and many more
  • Savor cocktails and tastings from Duke Spirits and Macallan and brews from Stella

Stefanie Farnsworth Salem, founder and CEO, sat down with me to discuss cravings, cuisine, and why she’s thrilled to celebrate five years in Newport Beach.

Q: Newport Beach Wine & Food is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year. Congratulations on this momentous milestone! Tell me more about the genesis of the festival. How and why did it get started?

SFS: I spent most of my career working abroad as an entrepreneur. I returned to the states with a wealth of knowledge and experience, and I wanted to channel it into something I was passionate about. The Taste of Newport had ended a couple of years before,  and there was no large-scale food and wine event to replace it in our city. I decided to create one. I envisioned having multiple expert chefs participating, each focusing on a different type of cuisine while pairing wine with each bite. Bringing our community together to break bread creates a bonding experience for everyone. As we celebrate our fifth anniversary, we continue to grow in size and offerings/events each year.

Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival

Q: Tell me more about the growth of the festival over the past five years.

SFS: It has grown exponentially — in our offerings to attendees, partners, and our internal team. We greatly value our partners’ and guests’ opinions. If we receive negative feedback on something, we change it. If the feedback is positive, we build on it. We focus on experiential and interactive events that are unique and can’t be found anywhere else. The number of celebrity chefs we bring in each year from all over the country has grown and so has the quantity of top-tier restaurants, wineries, and master sommeliers. Our sponsorship support has expanded as well. Now that we’ve proven what we are capable of, more people and companies want to co-brand with us and are approaching us rather than the other way around.

Q: Can you give readers a sneak peek at what’s new this year?

SFS: One event I’m particularly excited for is the all-new “Fire It Up!” outdoor barbecue, which will be held on Balboa Bay Resort’s sand and lawns overlooking Newport Harbor. It features nine celebrity chefs including James Beard Award winner Hubert Keller and Bravo’s Top Chef winner Joe Flamm, all of whom will be cooking gourmet-style BBQ for guests while the rock/reggae band Common Sense sets the musical tone for the afternoon.

Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival

Directly following this afternoon event is the celebrity chef sunset yacht cruise with an exclusive performance from Food Network’s Ace of Cakes star Duff Goldman and Top Chef’s Bruce Kalman’s chef-led band, Foie Grock. Guests will enjoy light bites from URBANA Mexican Gastronomy & Mixology, desserts from The Dirty Cookie, and more. We’ve also added a new VIP event that features four master sommeliers, including Michael Jordan, teaching guests how to blind taste a flight of wines.

Q: What are you most excited about for this year’s event? 

SFS: I am most excited to bring some of the best chefs, restaurants, wineries, sommeliers, and spirits in the world together to share their passions and their expertise with our guests and the City of Newport Beach at the stunning Newport Beach Civic Center as well as other quintessential locations in Newport Beach.

Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival

Q: What distinguishes Newport Beach Wine & Food from other festivals in the United States?

SFS: What sets us apart from other food and wine events around the country is that we create an exclusive yet intimate experience, where our guests can mix and mingle with their favorite culinary icons. We have learned that our guests look for experiential and interactive events that you can’t find anywhere else, so that’s what we deliver!

Q: What will you be eating and drinking at this year’s festival? 

SFS: Masa crepas with filet mignon tartar from Puesto; kona kanpachi sashimi with aguachili, hibiscus salt, and avocado from Waterline; and pate of duck liver, bacon, and bourbon from Olea… I can’t wait! We’ll also be sipping on a variety of exclusive wines, spirits, and beer.

Q: Yum! I’m feeling hungrier by the minute… One last question. Why is Newport Beach the perfect place for this event? 

SFS: Newport Beach is one of the most sought-after destinations in the United States. The stunning harbor, with its vibrant sunsets and outdoor activities, combined with world-class dining and shopping is the ideal place to create a destination event. Our festival not only brings our community together to break bread and toast to each other, but it also showcases the Newport Beach lifestyle to out of town guests. This is the place where beautiful food and people meet.

Get Ready to Celebrate!

To learn more about this mouthwatering festival, visit Newport Beach Wine & Food’s website. According to Stefanie, many of the events are already sold out, so get your tickets before it’s too late. You don’t want to miss out on one of the most delectable events to hit Newport Beach this year!


Written By: Engrid Barnett

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