What: The 4th Annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine event (PBFW). A weekend-long dining event that brought together 7,000 attendees to taste the mastery of 100 chefs and 250 wineries. But it was much more than this. A golf tournament early in the weekend allowed guests to share the world-famous course with celebrity chefs and winemakers. Cooking demos and wine seminars were also part of the itinerary but more importantly, PBFW also hosted an online auction offering unique items to raise funds for three charity beneficiaries.
Where: The beautiful Pebble Beach, California. This place is especially close to my heart–I’ve spent almost all of my last 10 birthdays here. It’s where I was almost married until my husband and I decided to escape to Kauai instead. Its proximity to my home allows me to frequently visit this part of the California coastline and marvel at the magnificent views. But this time, I was there to eat.
When: April 28 – May 1, 2011.
Who: There were many. But the first “who” deserves a big thank you–Foodbuzz–for making it possible for me to attend my first major food and wine event since their very own festival last November. I was giddy with excitement all week at the prospect of seeing, meeting and of course, tasting at the Lexus Grand Tasting event on Sunday, May 1.
Why don’t I take you on my afternoon journey of tastes?
What: The wine. Whether one might be a connoisseur or a beginner wine enthusiast, there was no shortage of offerings of world-class wine from some of the most prominent producers who came together to the central coast for this grand event. A mere few steps would take you from the fruitiest chardonnay to the most alluring smoky cabernet. If you prefer beer, not to worry. Stella Artois was there to represent, as well.
What: A (Virtually) Liquid Diet: From the wine-infused smoothie to soup and dessert, a four-course tasting experience could be had from dainty little cups. Many were bowled over by the buttered popcorn bisque but I was entranced by Chef Roland Passot’s (La Folie in San Francisco) foie gras soup garnished with a piece of smoked meat. He’s been quoted as saying, “Cooking to me is happiness…transferring that to my guests, my family, my friends…” His friendly manner as he served his soup made me feel like an honored guest among the throngs of food & wine enthusiasts around me. Please, Chef Passot, may I have some more?
What: If you fancy seafood, whet your palate with a varied selection ranging from the ubiquitous scallop to lesser known (to me) saberfish and finally to Iron Chef Morimoto’s angry octopus dish. Chef Morimoto’s offering was balanced to perfection in both taste and texture. I also appreciated seeing him with his team captain hat on. As we stood hoping to snap a picture of him, we saw him cheering his staff on in a quick chant much like football players do before a game to pump each other up. So nice to see.
The saberfish was also tender with the milkiest flavor I’ve ever experienced in a fish. The pea purée, lemon verbena oil and fennel were fitting accents to the mellow quality of the fish.
But I must say that the scallop was one of my favorites of the afternoon. My eating buddies and I sampled this early on and the Eastern Sea Scallop accompanied by Mango Dungeness Crab Ceviche and a Blue Corn Crisp was a surefire winner for my taste buds. The scallop was prepared perfectly. Tender, it’s natural sweetness punctuated by the ceviche. Despite all the other wonderful tastes that came after, I did not forget about that scallop.
And the kicker? The scallop did not come from a brand-name restaurant. The U.S. Foodservice Culinary team (San Francisco division) was the group behind one of my favorite dishes of the afternoon. They’re a food service distributor offering over 43,000 national, private label and signature brand items to such varied customers as small independent restaurants to schools, universities and health care facilities. I failed to notice this while enjoying my plate but it was a pleasant discovery while I organized my notes and cards from the event.
Who: Some of the most celebrated chefs today were present to mingle with their contemporaries and of course to showcase why they are considered the best in the food world. It was a sight to behold, some of these star chefs (I did not see them all), creating their special dishes for me and my fellow awed guests.
What: The Meat of the Matter. Sunday’s tasting event was a carnivore’s paradise. I could have dedicated an entire post to the meat offerings alone but you get the idea with these images.
Did I mention there was a lot of meat? The terrine on the top right was made of head cheese. Yes, it was lovely.
Who: My Eating Buddies and the Best Photo Op of the Day. Attending the Pebble Beach Food & Wine festival would have been fun on its own but the icing on the cake was being able to share the time with some wonderful friends.
I arrived a day earlier in Carmel to make a weekend of the PBFW event. Trish (Dish By Trish) was already there to cover the Saturday Lexus Grand Tasting so we agreed to get together for wine and dinner. What a treat to have been able to spend a few hours catching up with each other!
On Sunday, our goody bags in one hand, wine glass or plate of food in the other and our cameras ever ready to snap a shot, Lisa (Authentic Suburban Gourmet), Liren (Kitchen Confidante) and I made our tasting rounds together. We compared tasting notes and laughed all day.
The only drawback was not being able to spend more time with Sara (Caffeina) and Azmina (Lawyer Loves Lunch), two more lovely blogger friends I was so excited about seeing at PBFW. The tasting tent was large and packed with people. Unfortunately, after separating from Sara and a quick hello to Azmina, a reunion never happened. There’s always next time, right, Foodbuzz? It was very nice to be able to say hello to Gina (SPCookieQueen), too!
My wine glass was empty at the end of the afternoon but not only was my belly full, my spirits were high from the wonderful experience. Perhaps you are familiar with IHOP’s slogan (International House of Pancakes): Come Hungry, Leave Happy. Well, it was certainly true for me at the 4th Annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine!