Pairings with a Purpose Event Recap

Over the weekend I was invited to Pairings with a Purpose, a charity event that raises money for Feeding San Diego, whose mission is to fight hunger by providing efficient access to food and nutritious meals to those in need. The event took place at the Bobby Riggs Tennis Club in Encinitas, CA.

Pairings with a Purpose featured collaborations between local San Diego chefs, breweries, and wineries to create a special pairing of food with one of the drinks. Each attendee received a small tasting glass to sample the wine or beer pairings. 

There were 20 different pairings available to sample. If you were a VIP, you could hobnob with three chefs who have been on Top Chef, including Chad White, Javier Plascencia, and Jeremy Ford. I didn’t have VIP passes, just Media passes, and I didn’t try and wander over there. I wonder what they had! 

The event was on the tennis courts. There were lots of lounge areas with umbrellas and cushioned benches to sit on. 

There were also high tables available for munching on your treats. I liked that there was a good mix of shade available and plenty of seating so you could take a break. They also had a raffle and a silent auction to help raise more money for the event. 

Jake and I started in the lower corner and this was our first taste!

Featured item: North East IPA Braised Short Rib Steamed Bun with caramelized pineapple, mango pea shoot salad by Chef Barry Layne of Coast Catering by Barry Layne

Wooo, starting off with bao! This was a lovely little bite. Quite flavorful! I liked the sweetness of the pineapple paired with the rich short rib.

This is the whole box. I adored the bamboo box that the food came in. It elevated the presentation! On the other half of the box is: Half Door Char Siu Pork Belly Potsticker with Roark Red Ale Foam. The potsticker was excellent. That beer foam was nuts to me. It was airy and yup… tasted just like beer! 

Featured item: Braised oxtail, chorizo, refried mayocoba beans, cotija cheese, braising jus, in a tortilla chip cone by Chef Roberto Alcocer of Malva Cocina de Baja. 

Chef Roberto explained to us that down in Ensenada, this is a type of street food you’d get after being at the bar and it would only cost you a dollar. The tortilla cone was quite thick so it held together really well. The refried beans were very creamy and if you hadn’t told me there was oxtail in this, I could have sworn it was pieces of pork belly! The oxtail was so tender and delicious with the beans.

Featured item: Mesquite Grilled Quail with heirloom beans, plantain caramel, jalapeno caviar, confit tomato, tomatillo, serrano dust by Chef Jason Gethin of Farmer & The Seahorse. 

The grilled quail was a bit on the cold side when I tried it. It had a good flavor but the item that really caught my tastebuds on this plate was the plantain caramel that was underneath the quail. That was amazingly good and even though Jake didn’t want to try the quail, I made him try the plantain caramel since I thought it was THAT good. 

Featured item: Lamb Barbacoa Taco with Guadalajara-style lamb barbacoa, whipped avocado mousse, kumquats, and basil by Chef Katy Smith of Puesto. 

Puesto was at Pairings with a Purpose with a nice lamb barbacoa taco. I always love that they always use their bright pink plates at all of their events.

Featured item: Beer braised pork mole tostada with avocado crema, habanero sauce, pickled onions, queso fresco and micro cilantro by Chef Keoni Simmons of Hollywood Casino

There were a few things going on here that I wasn’t a fan of, namely spicy ass habanero sauce and pickled onions, but I gave it a go. The pork mole wasn’t too bad and it did have some interesting flavors but wasn’t totally my cup of tea. 

This is another tostada from Verbena Catering Co. They didn’t have a sign that displayed what food item they were featuring so I don’t remember exactly what is on this one. Sorry. I do remember that Verbena Catering was paired up with Julian Hard Cider who had a Pear Hard Cider that I LOVED. What a bummer I didn’t photograph that cider! 

I skipped Blind Lady Ale House. They had something that looked fishy and raw-ish and I couldn’t do it right then. Sorry Blind Lady Ale House.

We skipped on over to try this Chilled Corn & Shrimp Soup with chives, oil, and smoked salt by Chef Katherine Humphus of Savory Made Simple. How darling are these little cups of soup?! I loved the pop of color from the edible flowers on top. The soup was more… lukewarm-ish than cold. I loved the taste of the soup though. The corn soup was thick and sweet and there was a whole shrimp hidden inside which I happily munched on. 

At the next booth we sampled some “Beer”amisu: a sponge cake soaked in stout beer with mascarpone cream and chocolate covered coffee beans by Chef Olivier Bioteau. There were not a lot of sweets at this event so I happy to see a unique twist for a dessert offering. The sponge cake was very moist had definitely had a beer-coffee flavor going on. I loved the crunchy chocolate covered coffee beans on top as well which added a nice bit of texture to the tasty cake. 

Featured item: Smoked Beef Bao with bourbon barrel aged dipping sauce by Chef Tim Kolanko of Stake Chophouse & Bar and the Mess Hall at Liberty Station. 

There was a deep, rich flavor to this smoked beef bao. I found it a bit overwhelming to be honest! Jake enjoyed it though, he’s into those deep, rich flavors. 

Featured item: Crispy rice toasted sesame with King Salmon, midori salsa, poblano miso by Chef Shihomi Borillo of Azuki Sushi.

I almost didn’t try this but I’m glad I did. The toasted sesame served as a chip for eating the salmon. The whole thing packed a punch of flavor. The salmon tasted sweet and I loved the sauce in this cute little dish. 

When we were coming up to Chef Tommy Gomes of Catalina Offshore Products booth, a lady looked at this and said, “Oh, I don’t like squid, I’m not going to try it.” Chef Tommy replied, “But you haven’t tried it this way!” I must admit it looks off putting, but this Squid and Seaweed Salad with red pepper soy vinaigrette was incredibly surprising in its light flavors and sweetness. The squid is incredibly tender and nothing tastes “fishy” or “weird” about it, despite it looking like someone just dredged it up from the sea. 

At Chef Julie Darling of Just Call Us Catering booth,  they were serving Paella, but both times I went by they were out and were cooking up another batch so I never did get to try it. Boo hoo! 

I also skipped Chef Katie Grebow’s booth because they were serving rabbit and well… I just can’t bring myself to eat rabbit. I had rabbits as pets. I don’t want their little souls to haunt me. 

At Chef McLaggan’s (of Ballast Point Brewing) booth they had TWO offerings. First offering: tiny little Cajeta Tartlets. 

I ate four of these. 

Damn they were GOOD. 

They also had this sweet lettuce cup filled with Duck Confit, bitter greens, Stilton blue cheese, candied walnuts, macerated cherries, mole vinaigrette, and portobello mushroom. I just ate this with a fork and stuffed it into my face. I loved the multiple textures and flavors going on – from the hint of blue cheese, to the crunch of the candied walnuts, to hints of sweetness mixed with the savory, tender duck confit. Delicious! 

Next booth: Chicken Mole with 10 spiced sauce, chili verde and Mexican rice by Chef Jaime Lozano of Tiger! Tiger! 

After seriously one bite of this chicken mole I started to feel some heat and my mouth said, “Whooooa.” A bit too spicy for my weak palette. I handed this off to Jake who took one bite, said “OooOoo” and immediately took two more bites. He really enjoyed this and didn’t want to try it at first because he’s had bad experiences with mole, but I think this dish has turned him around a little. He really loved the spice on this sucker. 

I was happy to see something Filipino at the event with this Lumpiang Sariwa “Fresh Lumpia” with shrimp, chicharrone, heart of palm and a garlic peanut sauce from Chef Anthony Sinsay of J-Six. i loved the garlic peanut sauce, that sauce was aweesssooooommmmeeee but I don’t think I like fresh lumpia all that much. I’d rather it be CRUNCHY!

This is a Pork Belly Slider with a bunch of damn lettuce and endives hiding the amazing beauty of the this tender, delicious pork belly. The downer on this slider (by Chef Sharon Wilson of Panama 66) was that the rhubarb compote on the bottom of the slider made the entire bottom bun incredibly soggy. Soggy = meh! I basically just flipped the pork belly onto the non-compote side of the bun and ate it like an open faced sandwich. Damn that pork belly was tender! 


I like that I’m holding this little thing of beer. I didn’t drink a whole lot at this event, but I wanted to pretend that I enjoy beer with this photo. (Psst, I don’t really enjoy beer). 

The next booth also had two offering but I just tried one: the Shrimp Ceviche with pico de gallo, serrano, avocado, cilantro, and a crunchy blue corn tortilla. This is by Chef Trey Foshee of Galaxy Taco. I bit into something spicy right away on this sucker and I was like “NOPE I’M OUT”. 

One of the last items I tried was this Shrimp Taco with yuzu chimichurri, ginger-miso crema, pickled daikon, cabbage, and pear on a charcoal olotillo tortilla by Chef Andrew Spurgin. That’s a lot of words for “crazy good incredibly tasty shrimp taco”! 

In another area they had a big water tank, samples of Suja juice to sample, and a few distilleries. I tried out a little sample of Old Harbor’s Cold Pressed Coffee Liqueur.

Intense and really nice coffee flavor. I bet it would taste good in a creamy cocktail! 

At first no one was manning this cotton candy booth but after I got my coffee liqueur I saw someone was make and making cotton candy! Hellz yeah!

This cotton candy was bigger than my face.

Sugar Bouffant had a bunch of different flavored sugars and I got to sample the Watermelon Cotton Candy. I was happy to note that it was not tooth-achingly sweet and had a nice light watermelon flavor. Score!

I leave you with this photo. The end. 

4 thoughts on “Pairings with a Purpose Event Recap

  1. Now THIS was an EPIC post! Wow! Everthing looked delicious and it was cool to see Chef Sinsay’s entry (the fresh lumpia; his was the ‘gourmet’ take on it). I have only tried rabbit a few times and I have to say that it really does taste like chicken. I did feel bad though, eating Bugs Bunny/Peter Cottontail. The oxtail dish looked really good as well as the flavored sugars and the desserts. Bert would like that Beer-amisu. Very clever. Good food for a good cause.

    1. Hi CC – Yeah this was a really fun even to attend. I liked the size of it and I liked the variety of dishes (though I did think there were too many tostadas, haha). Really nice event for a great cause!

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