Southern California's Top Food, Wine, and Hospitality Events 2008

February 29, 2008, 7:15 PM EST

The 2007 Art of Food & Wine event in Palm Desert

Photo: Brian Maurer

1. American Food & Wine Festival
Wolfgang Puck and Barbara Lazaroff are behind this quarter-century-old foodie fest, which raises money for the Los Angeles chapter of Meals on Wheels. Every September, gourmands wind around the streets of the Universal Studios back lot to meet some of the country’s most prominent chefs. Joan Wrede coordinates the event.

2. Taste of the Nation Los Angeles
Every June the city’s top chefs donate time and food for Share Our Strength’s annual event at Culver City's Media Park. There’s entertainment, an Iron Chef-style battle, a silent auction, food, and wine. Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger serve as co-chairs for the event, which raises money for organizations working to end hunger in the area.

3. Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Festival
Organized by the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association, this annual event takes place at River Park, just outside of Lompoc. On April 19, more than 80 wineries will pour their latest releases to go along with food from local restaurants and catering companies. There’s live entertainment and a silent auction to benefit local charities.

4. San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival
This five-day November festival features wine-tasting seminars, cooking classes, demonstrations, and celebrity cookbook signings. Produced by World of Wine Events LLC, the festival showcases more than 50 of San Diego’s top restaurants and 30 gourmet food companies. Proceeds go to the San Diego Chapter of the American Institute of Wine & Food for culinary and enology scholarships.

5. Extravaganza for the Senses
Held on the 20th Century Fox Studios lot every July, this event benefits the Los Angeles Free Clinic. More than 2,000 people attend, and 120 wineries and 40 restaurants provide sustenance, including Angelini Osteria, Ammo, and Chaya Venice. New Friends, a young professional group that raises money for the clinic, produces the event with the Wine House.

6. Great Chefs of Los Angeles
The evening features silent auctions, entertainment, and dishes by chefs of renowned local restaurants, with proceeds benefiting the National Kidney Foundation. Participating restaurants at the 21st annual event, held at the CBS Center in November 2007, included Providence, Jar, and All’Angelo; the event raised $150,000. George Lopez and Stacy Keibler hosted.

7. Savor the Season
This event benefits Break the Cycle, an anti-domestic-violence organization. In 2007 it took place at the Wallis Annenberg Building at Exposition Park and featured a V.I.P. tasting garden with wines, cheese, chocolate, beers, and artisanal salts, in addition to tables from 15 of the city’s top chefs. The event takes place every October, coordinated by Barbara Jacobs Events with PR by Slife.

8. Uncork a Wish Wine Tasting and Auction

Last year marked a return to Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar for the sold-out May event, where 1,500 people assembled for wine tasting, food sampling, live entertainment, and silent and live auctions. The event generates more than $300,000 for the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Los Angeles.

9. Western Food Service & Hospitality Expo
Housed in the Los Angeles Convention Center for three days every summer, this expo features more than 650 restaurant-oriented vendors. There are cooking demonstrations, panel discussions, celebrity chefs, and speakers. The expo attracts more than 15,000 people and is produced by Reed Exhibitions. The dates for 2008 are August 23 through 25.

10. Art of Food & Wine
This four-day event brings foodies from around Southern California to the Coachella Valley for wine tastings, chef demos, art, music, shopping, and golf. The 2007 event took place November 8 through 11 in Palm Desert. A chocolate and sparkling wine reception is among the highlights.

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