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Because Missing Out Is Never Fun!

Lodi Wine & Chocolate Weekend - 02/09/13 - 02/10/13

Your cork collection begins here.


Lodi Wine & Chocolate Weekend
Lodi, CA

If ever there was an event perfect for entrepreneurial types looking to earn some extra cash as designated drivers, this would be it.

Lodi Wine & Chocolate Weekend celebrates the underrated bounty that is Lodi wine country.  Throngs of people will descend upon more than 40 wineries, barrel tasting and snacking on chocolates as well as savory (and mostly meaty) appetizers for those with less of a sweet tooth.  Each winery will pull out all the stops, attempting to outdo each other with live bands, photo booths and amazing giveaways.

Speaking of giveaways, at participating wineries you'll have the chance to win prizes such as a Wine Country Getaway if you unwrap the Golden Ticket a la Charlie Bucket.  Don't worry, you won't have to bring Grandpa along.

Riverbank Cheese & Wine Exposition - 10/13/12 - 10/14/12

These should get me through the weekend.
Riverbank Cheese & Wine Exposition
Riverbank, CA

My favorite thing to do at events like these is to compliment how well someone "cuts the cheese" as they slice into a big block of cheddar.

Actually, that never happens.  I'm far too immature to pull that off with a straight face.

I'm not sure what exactly defines this as an exposition; all that really matters is that there's a ton of cheese and wine for the taking...and that's never a bad thing.  On top of that, over 200 vendors will be selling crafts, antiques, and non-queso-related snacks to balance out all that dairy.

Stroll around, sip some wine, and finally learn what "bandaged cheddar" is so you can finally sleep at night.

Eat Real Festival - 09/21/12 - 09/23/12

Wipe that saliva off your chin!

Eat Real Festival
Oakland, CA

Mobile dining has exploded in the last few years.  Talented chefs with a knack for entrepreneurship are able to cater (get it?) to the masses, and this is a perfect time to market to the average Joe who may be too strapped for cash for a formal dining experience, but is willing to shell out a couple extra bucks to avoid the Taco Bell drive-thru.  Admit it: fresh fish tacos beat a Bellgrande anything 100% of the time.

The Eat Real Festival has enjoyed increasing interest, such that a Los Angeles event was added to meet the demands of Southern Californians. Dozens of trucks are on hand, serving up everything from drinks to desserts...and that's not all.  This festival is sheer heaven for those who not only love to eat, but want to learn where their food comes from and how it's prepared.  You can meet local farmers, watch a butchery contest, witness a master noodle-puller (it's exactly as interesting as it sounds) or explore pretzel-making.

Then again, you can skip all the educational crap and have your own progressive breakfast/lunch/dinner hopping from truck to truck, gorging on everything from paella to plachinta to pork buns.  Cash only.  Come prepared.

SF Chefs 2012 - 07/30/12 - 08/05/12

Time to use those sick days...

SF Chefs 2012
San Francisco, CA

It's a good thing I don't live in San Francisco, because events like this would highly motivate me to play hooky from work.  A lot.

SF Chefs is a week-long celebration of food, wine and spirits.  Venues throughout the city host lectures, classes and other culinary-related events, allowing participants to network with industry professionals, meet celebrity chefs, and even learn how to spot a great piece of pork at the butcher counter.

The largest draw is the Grand Tasting Tent right on Union Square, which hosts three consecutive days of all-you-can-scarf samples that put Costco to shame.  Get your tickets before they sell out or you'll be resigned to watching the crowds from the balcony of the Cheesecake Factory.  Sigh.

Wine, Cheese & Bread Faire - 07/21/12 - 07/22/12

This is no time for sobriety!

Wine, Cheese & Bread Faire
Sacramento, CA

One of Sacramento's best-kept secrets (until now), the Old Sugar Mill is gaining popularity as a food and wine destination for those searching for good eats and drinks off the beaten path.  Home to a handful of wineries as well as a custom crush facility, the vino produced here is of such high quality that the mill is an ideal stop for people like me who are sometimes too lazy to trek it all the way to Napa.

The Wine, Cheese & Bread Faire is the "Ultimate Gourmet Wine & Food Shopping Experience", bringing together a myriad of chocolatiers, cheesemakers, local bakers and other vendors to provide scrumptious munchies to pair with your favorite wines. Your ticket includes winery tours, food and wine tastings, chef seminars and demos, and swag like a commemorative wine glass.

Not a fan of wine?  Your "designated driver" ticket will be discounted and you'll be provided with a free soda or water.  Plus, you'll get to wear one awesome wristband! Score.

Sacramento Wine & Dine - 05/30/12 - 06/10/12

Use these, you savage!

Sacramento Wine & Dine
Sacramento, CA

I have trust issues.  Let's just get that out right now.

A co-worker once offered me a confection shipped in from some foreign country.  A newbie at my office, I wanted to fit in...appear brave...look like a bad-ass, if you will: "Give that to me - I'll try anything!"

Moments later, I had a mouth full of stale, crumbly powder.  It tasted like feet.

Luckily, the chefs of the establishments featured during Sacramento Wine & Dine are far more trustworthy, creating special 3- or 4-course prix fixe meals that appeal to the masses.  Some even offer wine pairings, which is great because I'd never guess that one wine could complement arancini, pear salad with goat cheese AND rabbit pappardelle.  Lesson learned!

Try out a new restaurant or two, give in to the chefs' choices, and for the love of God always have a chaser available.  You can thank me later.

Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry - 03/17/12

Go balls out and try EVERYTHING!

Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry
Virginia City, NV

"Rocky Mountain Oysters" are BEEF TESTICLES, people.  There, I said it.

As versatile as any other meat that is ground to a pulp or smothered in spices or sauces, rendering it unrecognizable, it can be found in risotto, tacos, jalapeno poppers and even wonton.  A buck gets you a sample at any of the booths.  A little hesistant?  Start out with some beer-battered balls on a stick - because, quite frankly, anything dipped in beer batter sounds good to me.

Half the entertainment is in a booth's signage.  As you can imagine, every clever reference to nuts, balls, cajones etc. are featured here.

Oddly enough, this is considered a family-friendly event, with face-painting and magicians readily available.  So, bring the kids, munch on some gourmet gonads, then brag to your colleagues at the water cooler on Monday morning.  How can that not impress?

Taste of Solvang - 03/14/12 - 03/18/12

Um, where can I find these?

Taste of Solvang
Solvang, CA

Ah, Solvang.  The old-world charm!  The bakeries!  The windmills!  The bakeries!

In this quaint little village, shopping and dining are king, the weather is usually cooperative, and visitors can be found scarfing Aebelskiver.

Aebelskiver are tennis-ball shaped pastry spheres created, as if by magic, from a batter akin to that of pancakes or waffles.  Sorry, Krispy Kreme...anything that may look like a donut but is made in special pans and are served by locals who know the history of said pastry are entitled to all street cred.

These delicacies are but one treat featured during this event.  Got the metabolism to indulge for three days?  Participate in the Dessert Reception featuring premiere local wineries and chocolatiers.  The next day, make 40 - yes, 40 - stops during the Walking Smorgaasbord.  On the last day of the event, enjoy live entertainment as you BYOP (Bring Your Own Picnic) to Solvang Park, wondering how you gained seven pounds in the last 48 hours.

Afterwards head home and get back to your normal life, "indulging" in sub-par donut holes at the local Winchell's.  Bah.

The 6th Annual San Francisco International Chocolate Salon - 03/04/12

Breakfast of champions!

The 6th Annual San Francisco International Chocolate Salon
San Francisco, CA

Salons are supposed to make you feel pretty and boost your self-esteem. This salon made me hide behind my giant, dark sunglasses hoping no one noticed as I shoveled treat after treat down my throat.

To say, "If you like chocolate, this event is for you!" is an understatement. Not only can you wolf down truffles, cookies, ice cream and exotic cacao bars, you can also learn to pair them with appropriate wines, attend Q&A sessions with chocolatiers and meet local dessert cookbook authors. Explore even further with chocolate body painting!

Fort Mason is a beautiful waterfront property, and if you don't arrive early, closeby parking will be an impossibility.  Get over it, and enjoy the chance to burn off some of that sugary goodness.

Sylvester's Burgers Big One Challenge

80 ounces of beef?  No problem!

Sylvester's Burgers Big One Challenge
Los Osos, CA

Sylvester's Burgers are nothing short of amazing...just like the establishment, which boasts a large variety of unique burger combinations which is almost dwarfed by other menu categories such as sadnwiches, hot dogs and respectable breakfast offerings.

At the heart of Sylvester's is customer loyalty largely due to a friendly staff that administers promotions such as a free birthday burger if you agree to be photographed in one of many ridonkulous pieces of headgear for their Facebook page.  I chose the Hana Burger, complete with bacon, pineapple, Swiss, teriyaki glaze and, of course, Sylvester Sauce.  Sorry, colon.

Once a year, megafans and just plain hungry folks congregate for the Big One Challenge.  Like most food contests, the rules are simple.  The feat?  Seemingly impossible: be the first to consume a 5-pound burger and all its trimming and win $1000.

Luckily, you can practice for the event by ordering the Big One at any time for $32.95.  Attempting to eat it (solo) will get your mug forever posted on their wall.  Finish it and you'll become the proud owner of a Sylvester's t-shirt.  Finish it under 30 minutes and the burger is free.  Start practicing now.

Lodi Wine & Chocolate Weekend - 02/11/12 - 02/12/12

What hangovers look like...the night before.
Lodi Wine & Chocolate Weekend
Lodi, CA

If ever there were an event perfect for entrepreneurial types looking to earn some extra cash as designated drivers, this would be it.

Wine & Chocolate Weekend celebrates the underrated bounty that is Lodi wine country. Throngs of people will descend upon 40 different wineries, barrel tasting and snacking on chocolates along with savory (and mostly meaty) appetizers for those with less of a sweet tooth.  Each winery will pull out all the stops, attempting to outdo each other with live bands, photo booths and amazing giveaways.

Speaking of giveaways, at participating wineries you'll have a chance to win prizes such as a "Wine Country Getaway" if you unwrap the Golden Ticket a la Charlie Bucket.  Don't worry, you won't have to bring Grandpa along.

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