Oct. 5 2011 02:08 PM

Our picks of San Diego events this week

Zensei Sushi is one of the restaurants participating in Taste of North Park
1. Foodie fiesta

There’s a reason CityBeat chose to move its offices from Mission Valley to North Park two years ago. North Park’s a happening ’hood with a walkable ecosystem of restaurants, bars, shops and art galleries—exactly the kind of place that contributes to a healthy local economy and healthier residents.

From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, take advantage of North Park’s food offerings and pedestrian-friendly layout when roughly three-dozen bars and eateries participate in the annual Taste of North Park.

“The quality of food we have here in a pretty small space is unique,” says Angie Landsberg, executive director of North Park Main Street.

Some don’t-miss items: El Take it Easy’s pork-belly street tacos and URBN’s coal-fired chicken wings. New this year, Landsberg notes, is the emphasis on vegetarian options (and vegan, too, like Toronado’s vegan sloppy Joes) and the inclusion of galleries and boutiques that’ll be serving tastes of local craft beer and booze. Tickets are $30 if purchased in advance and $35 the day of the event. To see a full list of participating restaurants and shops, go to tastenorthpark.com.

Also on the food tip: The Gourmet Experience takes place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 8 and 9, in O’Brien Hall at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Tickets are $25 for one day, $40 for both, and get you access to 250 vendors who’ll be pimpin’ everything from kitchen gadgets to wine, beer and craft spirits. There’ll be celebrity chefs, cooking demos, a fish-taco cook-off and a two-day “confection artist” competition during which you can watch pastry chefs build elaborate Halloween-themed cakes. thegourmetexpo.com

2. Dark days in Sunny City

If you haven’t read 2005’s Under the Perfect Sun by Mike Davis, Kelly Mayhew and Jim Miller, put it on your list. It’s a history of San Diego that’s not all sunshine and surfboards. After that, move on to Paradise Plundered: Fiscal Crisis and governance Failures in San Diego, a just-released book by UCSD professor Steve Erie, UCSD doctoral candidate Vladimir Kogan and UC Davis assistant professor Scott A. MacKenzie, which details the more recent and current dysfunction that plagues our city. Challenges facing San Diego are shared by cities up and down California, but, the authors argue, poor decision-making puts our town in a dubious class by itself. Erie and Kogan will discuss the book at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, at D.G. Wills Books, 7461 Girard Ave. in La Jolla.

3. Chalked full

Give an artist a few pieces of chalk and a patch of cement and watch as streets and sidewalks become colorful canvasses of creativity. The “Gesso Italiano” chalk-art competition—more than 140 artists will participate—is one of the spectacles you’ll see at this year’s Little Italy FESTA!, happening from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 9, on India Street in Little Italy. The Little Italy Association has also lined up Italian-cooking demos, a stickball exhibition game, bocce ball tournaments, vendors, raffles and a beer-and-wine garden featuring Italian and local beer. There’ll be plenty of Italian-inspired live music, too. One of our favorite buskers, good ol’ Smilin’ Jack, will play his accordion on the piazza between Fir and Date streets.

Does your event deserve to be in our top three? Email our events editor, Alex Zaragoza. You can also bug her on Twitter.