Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival: Day Two

Day Two. Saturday. I woke up and took a complimentary ride in a Lexus from my hotel back to the Inn at Spanish Bay.

Did I mention that Lexus was a huge sponsor of the festival and basically had a fleet of Lexus’ (or Lexi maybe?) to chauffer all of the guests around? So basically, in order to get around from each of the venues, there were Lexus’ there ready to take you! I have to admit, it was weird being driven around, and I insisted sitting in the front seat when I was in the car alone. (BUT, I will also say, that another time when I was in the car with my friend Tatiana, I lucked out and sat in the seat that RECLINED--it was a full on massage chair!)

We grabbed coffee, and then hit the Grand Tasting Tent where we worked the Grand Tasting Tent (helping Incanto restaurant at their booth!)

Chris' amazing Liver and Kidney Pie—a foie gras torchon, rabbit kidney and Guiness gelle, on a suet crust with ramps, celery and carrot.

It was so good. And it was a long day, of passing out tastes, explaining to people what it was, delivering plates to some of the other chefs there (Morimoto bowed and thanked us when we brought him a taste!) and of course going on some beer runs (yes, the Hoogarden guy knew me by the end of the day!)

I did a few quick walk abouts and tried to see what was going on everywhere and what everyone else was serving. But sadly, I didn't taste too much. And I was horrible about taking photos. But I will say that meeting Sherry Yard and having her personally make me a taste of her doughnuts (with special VIP jam!) was amazing. And also serving Michelle Bernstein at Chris' Incanto booth was a highligh--she LOVED the dish, and was so kind!

There was a quick break after the tent before the evening festivities. I (regretfully) passed up the chance to go to a seminar that sounded like a lot of fun and opted for a quick nap instead. Although that plan didn’t work so well, and instead I enjoyed some tequila on the ‘porch’ of my hotel room with my roommate. Nothing better than a good chat and tequila outside while decompressing from the day. After realizing how quickly the time had passed, we rushed to get ready and back to Inn at Spanish Bay for the L.A. Michelin Stars Dinner.

All in all, although I didn’t actually taste the SF Michelin Stars dinner, I’d have to say, SF chefs should have won. I had some high expectations for this meal, and even though I’m the BIGGEST SF fan, I wanted to be wow’ed by these LA chefs. And I wanted to taste really good food.

Japanese kanpachi with soy salt, creme fraiche, endive sous vide
Prepared by Chef Michael Cimarusti

Turbot fillet and Japanese leek with licorice sake nage, Manila clams
Prepared by Chef David Feau

California squab 'roulade' with red onion veloute, lentils du Puy, hibiscus gelee
Prepared by Chef Josiah Citrin

Millbrook Farms venison with crispy brussels sprouts, tomato-kumquat jam, negi power Prepared by Chef David Myers

Dessert! Cioccolato, bittersweet chocolate cake with Perugian chocolates
Prepared by Chefs Nancy Silverton and Dahlia Narvaez

Overall, the food wasn’t bad. But I also felt like the flavors were a little off with each dish. Needing a little of this or a little of that. I know (or actually, I don’t know, but I can imagine), how hard it would be to cook for this many people—and banquet style—and not in your own kitchen. It can’t be easy. So I realize these chefs were tasked with a difficult challenge, but I was still wanting to be wow’ed a little bit more.

Post dinner, we hit up the after party (where I was wishing there was another showing of fried chicken from Ad Hoc since I was still hungry…) But alas. Sans fried chicken, I was left to consume insane amounts of alcohol and lots of dancing. It was a great night. And a fun way to kick back a little after a long day.

That was the end of my first Pebble Beach Food & Wine experience--hopefully not my last. Some random thoughts when I stopped to compare Aspen Food & Wine to Pebble Beach Food & Wine? In no particular order…

- A SIGNIFICANTLY more diverse group of chefs at Pebble Beach (aka not the super New York centric scene of Aspen)

- Aspen has the great industry track of seminars—which would have been fun at Pebble Beach

- Obviously a much smaller scale event at Pebble Beach

- The wine at both events was amazing…but I noticed in Aspen, there was also an emphasis on spirits. Not as much at Pebble Beach.

- As I’ve mentioned before, Aspen is all about the super top secret and exclusive after parties. Pebble Beach? Not so much. I mean sure, there were different after parties, I'm sure many that I didn't even know about. But not in the same way as Aspen. Maybe it's because it's a smaller event overall? Or maybe it's just me. But it seemed to me that just about everyone was in the official chef after party each night.

My conclusion? One's not better than the other--they're just different. Would I return to both of them again? Definitely!

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