When visitors need the perfect bottle of wine or specialty cheese to complete their picnic in Balboa Park, San Diego offers notable local gourmet shops and culinary markets that cater to the most discerning palates.
Long before downtown San Diego became a hotbed of dining and nightlife, the Wine Bank in the Gaslamp Quarter began aggressively amassing one of the finest collections of wine and liquor in the world. Now the historic building's large antique bank vaults house rare vintages, cult, and limited edition wines, and visitors are invited to meander through its labyrinth of rooms and endless stacks of wine, single malts, small batch bourbons, cognacs, and just about every other spirit available from aquavit to pisco. The shop's underground vaults are also home to wine tasting and pairing events on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons. Look for other trendy wine bars such as Wine Steals in various neighborhoods throughout San Diego county.
Stepping through the doors of Chuao Chocolatier is the adventuresome chocoholic's fantasy. Named for the region in Venezuela where some of the most prized criollo cacao beans are grown, all the chocolate used in the shop comes from Venezuela. Eyebrow-raising bonbons are among the chocolatier's most popular offerings. Spiced with chili pepper, the Picante is filled with a California raisin "fondue" and Napa Valley cabernet caramel. The Chevere, a dark chocolate-covered buttercream blend of goat cheese, Pear Williams and crushed black pepper, truly captures the taste and texture of the cheese.
An authentic five-ton stone oven imported from France browns the bread at Hillcrest's Bread & Cie, where an open layout lets customers watch the busy bakers at work. Guests can sample the daily selections - traditional country levain, French white batard and sourdough baguette along with more unusual bread choices like jalapeno & cheese, fig & anise and black olive - in any of the region's finest restaurants, or right there at the store where seating and a small, well-executed menu are offered.
Venissimo, located in Downtown San Diego, Mission Hills and Del Mar, is the shop cheese lovers dream about. Offering approximately 120 world-champion cheeses at any given time and a knowledgeable staff that encourages visitors to try before they purchase, everyone is sure to find a cheese most pleasing to their palate. Those serious about their fromage appreciate the fact that Venissimo is a favorite off-duty destination for many of the region's chefs. Venissimo's cheese tasting and wine or beer pairing events are held frequently at the Downtown San Diego shop and in partnership with local restaurants and wineries.
Local culinary treasures, along with the freshest fruits, vegetables and flowers can also be found at a Farmers Market. There's one every day of the week in neighborhoods throughout San Diego County. Find the nearest market to you!