Sunset Celebration Weekend

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Our One-Block Diet Sunset team garden

Sunset magazine has long been the go-to source for "how to live in the West" especially when it comes to travel, gardening, home improvement and of course, food and wine. Since the centennial of the magazine in 1998, Sunset has been hosting an annual open house called the Sunset Celebration Weekend. The weekend takes place in June, and there is a schedule of chef demonstrations, garden and outdoor living events and live entertainment. The entrance fee is $15 and that gets you admission to all of the presentations although you'll need to sign up for the wine tasting events separately and they fill up quickly.

Many vendors offer tastes and nibbles, but for a meal, you'll have to pay. I was a bit disappointed that the food available was the typical street fair variety such as corn dogs, gyros and overpriced tostada salads. Not very inspiring! The exhibitors and vendors range from Hawaiian Airlines and speciality nurseries to the ShamWow! and everything in between.

Highlights of the experience include meandering through the gardens, including the team garden for the Our One-Block Diet, a tour of the test kitchen and the outdoor kitchen.

test kitchen


Test kitchen has a long counter where finished dishes are evaluated. Once the editorial and test kitchen team is finished with the dish, a green flag indicates the staff can eat it. A red flag means the dish is not yet finished, and a pirate flag means, the dish did not pass muster, eat at your own risk! In the tote bag you receive at the entrance are some coupons, a schedule and a great booklet with recipes from all the chefs so even if you only come one day, you'll have recipes from the whole weekend.

burak epir

My favorite presentations were by chefs Burak Epir of the Pilita Mediterranean Turkish Grill in San Carlos and Cindy Pawlcyn of Mustard's Grill. Epir showed off his kebab technique with a huge knife, and shared tips such as using a small sieve to filter stems and seeds from dried herbs. He used my favorite pepper, maras, in his recipe for Kilis kebab which also included lots of fresh parsley, the most commonly used fresh herb in Turkey.

cindy pawlcyn

Cindy Pawlcyn emphasized the importance of using the ripest produce, explaining it is better to substitute an ingredient than to use something that is not deliciously ripe. She also showed a technique of smashing hazelnuts with the side of a chef knife rather than chopping them to create a better and more uniform texture. Great tips, no matter what recipe you try.

Kilis kebab
10 tomatoes
2 poblano peppers
1 medium white onion, preferably sweet
1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
1 Tablespoon salt
1/2 Tablespoon fresh ground pepper
1 Tablespoon Maras red pepper, also called Marash pepper
1/2 medium white onion, grated
2 pounds ground lamb, shoulder cut

On a charcoal grill cook the tomatoes and pepper until well charred, remove the skins and finely dice.

Also finely dice the onion and mix it with the chopped parsley. Add to the charred tomato and peppers and set aside. Cover and keep warm.

Prepare the kebab by adding salt, pepper, Maras red pepper and the grated onions to the ground lamb. Mix well. Make the meatballs and place on a skewer. Grill indirectly over the heat, until nice and juicy. Place the charred tomato and peppers on a plate and set the meat kebabs over it.

Recipe reprinted courtesy of Sunset and chef Burak Epir