(Perfectly captured photo by attendee Christina Orlovsky Page)



What a day. Months and months of meetings, planning, dodging obstacles, ditching our day jobs to file permits, staying up late after the kids go to bed to post updates on social media, making trips to the printer again and again and again… all for this incredible day! SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-Off 2015 was definitely one for the books, and although we are still tying up loose ends and putting supplies away (and gearing up for our committee after party, yee-haw!), we are taking a moment to reflect on the day.

This event blows us away every year; the Chefs bringing their a-game and loads of awesome chili, the brewers delivering donated kegs of the best beer in town, all the hard-working craft vendors setting up their 10×10 shops in the street and the team of tireless parent volunteers arriving at the wee hours of the morning and staying late into the deep, dark night on a Sunday to make this all happen. Our gratitude overfloweth.

We don’t call this event a Chili Cook-Off for nothin’! A little friendly competition between 40 of San Diego’s most generous Chefs to determine who can create and serve the best chili in the coolest ceramic bowls did not disappoint this year. The chili game was strong, and the judges had no easy task awarding first place winners in the following categories:

Best Overall: Toronado San Diego 

“Totally Rad” Chef Missy Sandoval // Smoked Lamb Leg, Tri-tip Chipotle Chili

Best Vegetarian: Monkey Paw Brewery

Chef Onan Davis  // Vegan “Blairsteak” Chili with Mushrooms, Peppers and Monkey Paw Corneilius Stout

Most Unique: South Park Brewing Company 

Chef Luis Aguirre  // Shrimp and Seafood “Sausage Style” Smoked Chili Topped with Roasted Corn Bread and Smoked Jalapeno Cream

People’s Choice (awarded by attendees!): West Coast Tavern

Chef Abe Botello  // West Coast Style Chili with Short Rib, Tri Tip and White Navy Beans


Congratulations to all the winners, and a big shout out to all the Chefs and their teams for participating. Hauling chili is no small feat!


Finally, on a personal note if I may… one day post-SoNo my 1st grade son came home from school ecstatic that he had learned some cool new words in Spanish (we are now only saying colors in Spanish around the house..) and that he got to partner with his best friend in dance class. These are just a few of the programs offered to our McKinley kids because of the funds SoNo Fest raises! They are called “enrichment” classes for a reason- they really do enrich the lives of the students. If you attended SoNo and bought a bowl, a beer, a kids zone wristband or a gift from a vendor, you have personally contributed to the programs these kids love. If you donated your time, spread the word about this event, made food, popped tents, picked up trash or let this event take over the street in front of your house, you have personally contributed to enriching the lives of the students at McKinley! Our hearts are full of gratitude. And from my happy 6 year old to you: Thank You.



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SoNo Beer Garden: More Brewery Love…

It’s almost here…SoNo Chili Fest! This weekend is the big one and we are working to make sure everything is set for our always-epic fundraiser. We wanted to make sure to give a last shout out to some more of the awesome breweries who have donated to our beer garden this year so without further ado…



Green Flash is near and dear to our hearts because their newly promoted Brewmaster, Eric Jenson, is a Mckinley parent. They also happen to make some great beer and have been growing their business, bringing San Diego style brew to the rest of the country.



Rip Current Brewing kicked ass at this year’s Great American Beer Awards and it’s easy to see why. Paul has been brewing quality beers for years and we love having a tasting room in our own North Park, back yard.



Ballast Point has had an outstanding year. Their $1 billion price tag speaks for itself, and Constellation were no fools to put their money on Ballast Point moving forward. We can’t wait to see what good things are coming for this San Diego craft beer institution.



Pizza Port is another San Diego craft beer pioneer and also another big winner at this year’s GABF. Their many locations throughout San Diego bring together two of our favorite things…pizza and beer!



Coronado Brewing Company also won big in 2014 at the World Beer Cup when they won for Best Mid-sized Company and Brewmaster. They are always willing to help out in our beer garden and we couldn’t be more excited to have them pouring on Sunday.



Stone Brewing is the biggest craft brewery in Southern California and true pioneers in the craft beer industry. Not only do they have some of the best beer around (I’m looking at you Ruin Ten) but they have perhaps the best name in the industry with their Arrogant Bastard Ale. They have just recently expanded overseas to Germany, and we are excited to have such a fantastic brewery representing San Diego Beer over there.



Modern Times opened their tap room, the Flavordome, in North Park a little over a year ago and they are a fabulous addition to the neighborhood. If you haven’t been over to their Lomaland Fementorium in Point Loma, you should definitely make the short trip soon. They tons tasty beers on tap, including variations on core beers, pilot batches and down right delicious experiments.



Mission Brewery has a rich history dating back to 2013. Suffice it to say they are passionate about the craft with over 30 national and international awards to prove it. Their renovated brewery, in the old Wonder Bread building in East Village, is gorgeous and a destination for any beer lover looking for an excellent beer in a cool space.



Latitude 33 Brewing is bringing the Vista love along with their delicious beer to SoNo Fest’s beer garden. They took over the North County space after Green Flash expanded and have been making a name for themselves in both San Diego County and L.A.


Absolution Brewing Company came all the way down from Torrance, CA to lend their support and we couldn’t be more appreciative for their delicious beer and their generosity. Although this brewery is one of the little guys, they produce high quality, small batch beers that are seriously terrific.


and last but not least…


Thorn Street Brewery opened its doors during SoNo Fest, three years ago and has been a T-32 hub since, for family, dogs, and friends alike. Although they only have a 7 barrel system presently, they manage to turn out an impressive number of beer styles that are sure to please any palette. You can often find SoNo volunteers and Mckinley parents in TSB unwinding or planning the next fundraiser.


We really want to thank all of the breweries that are participating in SoNo Fest this year. We couldn’t do it with out them, and their generosity and strong sense of community spirit are heart warming to say the least.

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Rocking Out With Acoustic Ales

Located in the historic Mission Brewery Plaza, Acoustic Ales has been brewing delicious, one-of-a-kind, craft beer since 2012. Owner/Brewmaster, Tommaso Maggiore, spent years traveling all over the world learning about different brew styles, systems and brewing techniques. With this experience, he is able to create unique and delicious recipes using the freshest of ingredients, that will delight any craft beer lover.


If you like a hoppy beer, you have to try their Run for the Hills double IPA. This incredibly drinkable beer packs a punch, clocking in at 8% ABV, and has hints of ripe pineapple, orange marmalade throughout, with a bright, clean finish. If you like something a little darker, grab a pint of their Shake Your Money Maker, nut brown ale. This 6.25% ABV brown ale is nutty and chocolaty, finishing with notes of roasted coffee.


We really appreciate Acoustic Ales for their support at this year’s SoNo Fest and look forward to having one of their tasty beers in our beer garden on the 6th!


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Getting Lost with The Lost Abbey


For craft beer aficionados and newbies alike, The Lost Abbey is San Diego’s go-to brewery for sours, barrel aged beers and Belgian styles. Co-housed in the same facilities as Port Brewing Company in San Marcos, The Lost Abbey has been brewing high quality, specialty beers since 2006. This monastic themed brewhouse boasts a library of more than 1000 oak, bourbon, brandy , sherry, and wine barrels that help them to curate one of the most impressive barrel-aging programs in the world.


The Lost Abbey has won a plethora of awards over the years, for both individual beers and as a company. One of my favorite beers from these guys is Avant Garde Ale, a Biere de Garde. What is a Biere de Garde, you ask? It’s a traditional, French, farmhouse beer that was historically brewed in the winter months to help control the yeast process of the brew. Avant Garde is golden in color with malty notes of caramel, and freshly baking bread. This 7% beer is a must-try when you visit the brewery or are lucky enough to see it in a restaurant.


We are really excited to be able to include this San Diego brewery power-house in our SoNo Beer Garden lineup this year, so make a trip up to San Marcos soon and taste your way through some of the best craft beer in San Diego at The Lost Abbey!


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Feeling the URBN St. Brewing love…


Urbn St. Brewing Co. opened its doors in El Cajon just last year, but it’s already making an impact on the San Diego craft beer scene. Co-founded by Executive Chef Alex Carballo, Restaurateur Jon Mangini, and Head Brewer Callaway Ryan, this was a natural progression for Mangini, who is responsible for bringing us Basic as well as three Urbn Coal Fired Pizza restaurants.

Having had the opportunity to drink many delicious Urbn St. beers while noshing down on Mashed Potato pizza (yes, that’s mashed potatoes, bacon, fresh mozzarella and parmesan pizza heaven), the two that stand out for me are their IPA (6.5 % ABV) and their Saison (6.8% ABV). The IPA is well balanced with floral and citrus notes and was exceptionally easy to drink for this hophead. The award winning Saison is also a delight! With hints of grass and apricots, this farmhouse ale was dry, yet oh-so refreshing.


We are super grateful that Urbn St. Brewing is joining us in the Beer Garden at this year’s SoNo Fest. So make the trip to El Cajon, or hop on over to Urbn Pizza in North Park for some of their delicious beer and some of the best pizza around!

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Five things you might not know about Mike Hess Brewing…


Another North Park brewery that is near and dear to our hearts, is Mike Hess Brewery. Located on Grim, just below University Ave, Hess Brewing is a large and airy space filled with all the production equipment necessary to grow produce some of the most popular beer in San Diego. Open and airy, long community tables allow for conversation to flow between parties and there is often a taco cart serving food in the back. There is so much to learn about Mike Hess Brewing, we thought we would break it down for you in five, bite sized, pieces:


1. After tasting all of the delicious beer, you can get a 32 oz draft beer of your choice to take home in what is known as a “purrowler,” a large can that is sealed right there while you watch!


2. Their Rye IPA, Habitus, took gold at the 2014 World Beer cup and just happened to unseat the reigning champ, Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye.


3. Mike is considered a national expert when it comes to opening and running nano-breweries and is sought out for advice from brewers across the country.


4. Mike Hess Brewing was named San Diego’s most popular brewery in a 2011 poll.


5. They are the first brewery to purchase a canning line for their beers and their cans can be found in stores and bottle shops all over California as well as Arizona.


With over 26 beers across 14 different styles, Mike Hess Brewing is must visit brewery here in San Diego. They are also awesome all around for joining us in our beer garden at the SoNo Fest this year. Stop by and taste their delicious beer on December 6th!

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Get ready for Beer and Chili from Monkey Paw Brewing!


Another acclaimed brewery joining us in the SoNo Fest beer garden this year is Monkey Paw Brewing. They’re going be in the beer garden and competing in our chili-cook off and we couldn’t be more excited!


Situated in the East Village, in what used to be a dive bar called The Jewel Box, Monkey Paw’s pub and tasting room retains all of that laid back charm while offering killer bar food and truly outstanding beer. Although they serve beers from many other breweries in the area, they have stand-outs from their own lineup that shouldn’t be missed.


Sweet Georgia Brown (5.8% ABV) started out as a traditional, Southern English Brown ale but has evolved into a caramel nosed rustic brown ale, heavy on the malts, light on the hops and incredibly drinkable. This beer has won numerous awards and medals and is a superior pair to the fried pretzel that they have on their menu.


Another one of their stand-out beers is Mighty Joe Young (6% ABV), an American Stout with a full bodied yet not too rich flavor profile. This stout might be hoppier than your average stout, which is probably the reason why I love it so much, but it’s still incredibly balanced with a malt-forward flavor that is reminiscent of iced coffee, dark chocolate and toast.


Monkey Paw is more than just beer though. Their menu of inspired bar food includes gooey cheese steaks, spicy wings and “stoner fries” which are waffle fries topped with any meat, cheese and veggie that you want. Yum!

We are super thankful to these guys for their SoNo Fest support, so stop by their pub the next time you are in the mood for a beer and a bite!

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SoNo Sponsors: Buona Forchetta + Community Realty Co. show their local love


Where would any of us be without the warm, plucked-out-of-Italy twinkle of lights and goodness that is Buona Forchetta? One shudders to think of the corner at 30th & Beech before owner Matteo Cattaneo transformed it into the lively, cozy, family dining destination that it is today. One ‘Buona Sera’ from any of the very friendly employees makes you believe you’ve crossed the Atlantic as you’re swept to a table under the lights and instantly transported to a little piece of Italia perfectly situated in South Park.  The always-packed pizzeria has been been turning out authentic wood-fired pizzas (thanks to the famed Sofia, a hand-crafted pizza oven) and handmade pastas since its inception in 2013 and it just keeps getting better.

Not only is the food something to marvel at (and eat too much of and maybe even bathe oneself in), owner Matteo Cattaneo is himself a neighborhood treasure. Ever present around South Park as a resident and business owner, his success hasn’t changed his amiable and genuine demeanor. He is quick to raise a hand in greeting or flash a wide smile to anyone he comes across.

It’s a natural fit then for Cattaneo to sponsor SoNo Fest (he’s also a McKinley dad) and bring the ever-popular Dante, his wood-fired pizza oven on the go, to serve the masses some of Buona Forchetta’s delectable goodness on wheels. Thank heavens, because I for one, wouldn’t want to imagine a world without Buona Forchetta in it.



Another local devotee, Community Realty Co., established in 2014 by Realtors and McKinley parents Jorge Vega and Jean Rivaldi, proudly lends its support as a SoNo Sponsor this year. Vega and Rivaldi forged a business relationship after a playground conversation turned to shop talk. Vega, an Altadena resident and Rivaldi, a South Parker, focus their attention and expertise on the local San Diego urban center that they both know and love so well.

Together they combine their varied backgrounds (marketing + product development + branding and real estate brokerage management + community housing) to bring a boutique real estate concierge service to the local area that focuses on detailed attention to each and every client.

Rivaldi hailed originally from Chicago and fell in love with South Park and North Park at first sight, “It reminds me of the urban walkable neighborhoods I was used to in Chicago, but almost with the hometown feel of Nebraska where I grew up. What we have here in these neighborhoods is very unique and special.”

Vega grew up in Northern California, but made his way to San Diego for college, and ever since it’s been home, “I love knowing all of my neighbors and really feeling like I belong to part of a community that comes together as friends.”

Vega and Rivaldi also feel strongly about supporting public education. In 2014 they started the Buy>Sell>Give Back campaign to support San Diego’s urban center public schools. For every transaction closed with Community Realty Co. in the area a minimum of $500 is donated to the public school of the buyer or seller’s choice. When a client doesn’t have a school preference, the funds go to McKinley School Foundation.


Thank you to both Buona Forchetta & Community Realty Co. for your generous support of SoNo Fest & Chili Cook-Off 2015!

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Beaver Fever at Belching Beaver Brewery


Belching Beaver Brewery is another one of the fabulous breweries that is supporting Mckinley Elementary at this year’s SoNo Fest. If you haven’t been to their charming tasting room in North Park yet, then you are missing out!


Belching Beaver launched onto the San Diego craft beer scene in 2012. They built a state-of-the-art space in Vista and have been offering truly delicious brews ever since! Their high quality beers have been consistent medal winners over the last few years which has helped them make a name for themselves here in the San Diego craft beer scene and beyond.


When their North Park taproom opened up a couple of years ago, local beer drinkers were thrilled with the diverse and creative beers which were offered there. Belching Beaver has a solid core line-up of beers which includes the gold medal winning, Beaver’s Milk Stout (ABV 5.3%). This beer is an absolute must-try! It’s dark in color yet surprisingly light to the taste. Silky and frothy, there is a hint of coffee flavoring that tapers off to a very slight sweetness that rounds out this beer so wonderfully at the end. Another medal winning stout that they are well known for is their Peanut Butter Stout (5.3% ABV). This irresistible blend of dark chocolate and roasted peanut butter helps make this stout truly outstanding. Ask for it as a float and they will put a scoop of ice cream in it for you too. Not only is the space inside the taproom inviting and airy, with open garage style doors in the front, but they often have food vendors selling anything from artisan grilled cheese sandwiches to gourmet tacos to wood fired pizza.


I had the pleasure of attending the Taste of North Park this last weekend and Belching Beaver was set up inside The Fresh Yard. One of the beers they were pouring was called Great Lei IPA and it was delicious! I was somewhat skeptical of the pina colada flavor profile, but after the first sip I was a happy coconut IPA convert! Thanks to its galaxy hops, this beer was refreshing and tropical without being sweet. I’m not sure how long this one will be around so get on over to their taproom for a pint soon!


And don’t forget to stop by Belching Beaver’s table in the SoNo Beer Garden for more of their award winning beers!


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SoNo Foodtruck

    Chili may be the main dish at the Sono Fest & Chili Cook Off every year, but our food (and treat) trucks will be on hand when you’re ready for something different. Why offer other dishes when we’ll have so much amazing chili to fill your bowls? You’ll be surprised how hungry you may be after taste testing your chili samples then playing with your kiddos in the Kids Zone, jamming out to the live music, shopping for holiday gifts from all the great local vendors and cooling off with a craft brew.

    You’ll see some familiar faces in our food truck lineup; McKinley parent Matteo of Buona Forchetta is bringing his gorgeous wood burning oven on wheels (Dante!) to the beer garden and will be serving up their award winning pizzas. Don’t take our word for it, check out the praise for their food here. Buona Forchetta is a huge asset to the McKinley community and the South / North Park neighborhoods; they participate in our Thursday pizza nights and donate proceeds back to our PTC, have supplied dinner for various meetings and open houses at the school and are just all around amazing people. Grab a brewski and a slice at the event and be sure you visit their location in South Park often!

Another returning food truck, Devilicious (perhaps you saw them on The Great Food Truck Race?), serves up lobster grilled cheese and hearty burgers, so save some room! Or pick up a plate of comfort food from Two for the Road; try their captain n’ crunch crabcakes or spinach and artichoke grilled cheese. Mmmm..

Regular SoNo chili cook off participant Carnitas Snack Shack is bringing their chili AND their brand new food truck this year. Chef Hanis is an amazing supporter of McKinley Elementary and serves up great eats at his North Park restaurant. Now you can look forward to their always-tasty chili recipe (we’re guessing pork will be an ingredient) and grabbing your favorite Carnitas dish at the festival!

Still hungry? Chef Daniel Rojas rolls Mexican infused sushi aboard his Sushi Uno food truck and dishes it up all over San Diego. They started in local farmers’ markets (our very own neighborhood North Park market!) in a 10×10 tent, then they made the leap to a truck and got rolling! You can find them at Thorn Street Brewery every week and at various other stops around town. They are new to the event this year and we couldn’t be happier. Order a tropical mango roll (my favorite) and don’t forget the jalapeno poppers. Speaking of something spicy, grab a dish from Hadd Sai Thai Food and feel the burn… in a good way. They bring the food of their homeland to the streets of our fine city. Be warned: everything they serve is very delicious and highly addictive.

Now it’s time to cool down with the best ice cream in North Park; Hammonds! Returning for a second year at SoNo, Hammonds will be bringing their Tropical Dreams ice cream. All of their ice creams and sorbets are handmade with a decadent creamy texture. Make sure you grab a scoop at SoNo and check out their shop on University Ave in North Park any day of the week.

Another SoNo newbie this year: Bullseye Kettle Corn & Shaved Ice. Check them out in the Kids Zone and treat yourself after all that chili tasting! Now that you know there are plenty of dining and sweet options at the festival this year, make sure you bring your appetite.



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