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BBQ Enthusiasts Tour Cali Comfort, Coop's As Part of National BBQ Association Conference

The two East County restaurants were among the five restaurants in San Diego County included on the exclusive tour.

About 100 barbecue experts, enthusiasts and restaurant owners got a taste of how East County holds its own in the barbecue world, as in Spring Valley and in Lemon Grove were two of five San Diego area restaurants selected as part of a presigious BBQ tasting tour Wednesday afternoon.

The tour coincides with the National Barbecue Association (NBBQA) annual conference and trade show, which is being held Feb. 22-25 at the Crown Plaza San Diego in Mission Valley this weekend. Abbey's BBQ (Clairemont Mesa) and the ever-popular Phil's BBQ (Point Loma) were also included on the tour.

Cali Comfort was able to get on the tour thanks to its relationship with longtime BBQ expert Gene Goycochea, vice president of the NBBQA.

"Gene has been great for us," said Cali Comfort owner Shawn Walchef. "His expertise and teaching about proper methods and ingredients has really helped or BBQ plates become popular.  We've been selling so many tri-tip sandwiches and plates, and pulled pork. They've almost become the leading items we sell."

During the tour, guests were treated to tours of the kitchen, the r, and samples of Cali's tri-tip, pulled pork, and specialty baked beans. They were also able to sample craft beers, including the John Henry 3 Lick Spiker Ale, which contains 9 percent alcohol content.

The NBBQA conference is in its 21st year, and features about 1,000 attendees, including 250 members of the organization. Goycochea said that San Diego was selected because of its great weather and to support all regions of the country.

"A lot of the biggest restaurant owners in the country will be here," he said.

This fun and informative conference is ideal for BBQ restaurateurs, caterers, competition team members, and “backyard” enthusiasts who support the barbecue industry and are interested in learning and networking with others who love barbecue. The conference will include seminars from notable BBQ experts, including Goycochea.

"This is a great opportunity for us to promote Spring Valley and East County, and let people try what we've been doing," said Walchef.

The highlight event of the conference happens on Saturday. It is the "Old Fashioned BBQ Bash," which will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The public is invited to attend the celebration, which will allow guests to "learn from the best" with a series of seminars, as well as BBQ cookbook signings, and a marketplace where they can purchase accessories, rubs, sauces, and more.

Additionally, there will be the chance to sample items from some of the best BBQ competition teams in the country, and vote on winners of the Excellence Awards. Tickets for the bash are $20 (while they last) and can be purchased by calling (888) 909-2121 or by visiting http://nbbqa.org/public-bbq-bash

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