Sunset Celebration Weekend

It’s probably been 10 years since we’ve been to the Sunset Celebration Weekend.  Located At Sunset Magazine’s corporate headquarters in Menlo Park, the two-day weekend show features food, wine, travel, gardening, remodeling and crafts.

We chose to get the VIP access pass for this year’s Sunset Celebration Weekend.  For what I recall to be an extra $60, we got a dedicated retreat area with seating, snacks, water, soda and wine and beer tasting.  You get a free cooking or wine class.  You also get the souvenir glasses for both beer and wine, and you have the privilege of a real live bathroom instead of porta-potties.   

It’s a 35-minute drive down 101 from San Francisco.  Parking is located around the Sunset headquarters, and they have shuttle buses for those not wanting or able to make the short walk.  As VIPs, we were personally greeted after checking in and escorted to our special retreat area.  Daryl was serving beer and wine in the kitchen as he does every year when his wife helps out with event setup.  Not such bad duty for Daryl – he gets to play golf for three days while his wife works.

You’re given a goodie bag upon entry, and it’s great to store your collection of goodie items, brochures, and products you may want to buy.

Tesla was out in force at the Sunset Celebration Weekend.  People, if you haven’t gotten up close and personal with this amazing vehicle, you will be astounded.  There’s no engine in the front OR back – both are lined with carpet for storage.  The Tesla rep told us that the engine is about 10” in diameter and is stored just behind the back seat.  It’s an engineering miracle and what I think is the most beautiful car on the road today.

The exhibitors at the event are nicely organized.  You’ll go through a few rows of travel folks.  Particularly heavy in appearance this year was Alaska and California coastal counties.  

Climbing TowerThere are a few stages offering sessions on cooking, garden, outdoor living, travel, wine and home.  Fabio Viviani and Ryan Scott of Top Chef fame were the highlights on the cooking stage.  There’s even some fun activities for kids, like a climbing tower and painting clay flower pots.   

There are all kinds of service companies.  The roll-back screen door seems to be a hot trend.  There’s painters, bathroom redesign, roofing.  Lost of olive oil, some local jams, and Morning Star Farms had a booth serving vegetarian ‘burgers’.  

Weber had a great setup of the latest and greatest from them.  The coolest we saw was the Gourmet BBQ series.  If you have a kettle, you can get a round grill grate with a hole in the middle that holds about 8 different supplements, like a grill grate, wok, griddle, pizza stone, Korean BBQ.  It’s really cool, as in Father’s Day present????  DONE!!

As a VIP member, we got to sign up for a free Weber cooking class or wine tasting seminar.  We chose Weber as there’s always something to learn about grilling.  We were let in to a grilling area equipped with Weber’s cool Q2000 portable grill on a nice collapsible stand.  The grilling units were turned on by the staff to get the grill hot enough.  This puppy has a lot of heavy metal to it, so it heats up to 600 degrees.  Jamie Purviance, Culinary Director for Weber Grills and author of Weber’s Big Book of Burgers, presented the half hour session.  

Jamie explains that 80/20 named meat is preferred.  That means choose 80/20 ground sirloin or chuck, the latter is preferred by Jamie.  The fat helps retain moisture.  Jamie says add the spices to the meat prior to creating the burger.  Offerings for this session included Worcestershire, Paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Don’t over knead the burger meat.  It should have air in it, and over kneading causes it to become pasty.  With the grill between 400-500 degrees, place the burger on the grill and CLOSE IT AND DON’T PEAK!!  In a few short minutes, you can peak, and if your burger lifts easily from the grill, it’s time to turn over.  To be honest, none of us had that experience, but could have been temperature or that no one told us to grease the grills before putting on the burger.

Weber had everything for us to use.  We made some guacamole, added garlic to mayonnaise, fresh sliced tomatoes, lettuce, and ready-cooked bacon.  There was also ketchup and mustard.  We were able to finish up our burgers with the perfect taste additions and head to a seating area to enjoy them.  Although there was plenty of food stations and food trucks, we were quite the envy of those around us.

Sunset Celebration Weekend is the coolest, and I highly recommend choosing the VIP Access Pass so that you can take advantage of all of the perks.  The people working the show are amazing, and the crowds on Sundays seem to be less than Saturdays.  And if you aren’t a subscriber to Sunset Magazine, you should be.  It’s all about the best in the West.  If you get the print edition, you qualify for the iPad edition at no additional charge.  

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