Dining Detectives: Pebble Beach Food & Wine 2012
We had the good fortune this year on a beautiful sunny and warm Saturday, to be able to attend The Fifth Annual Pebble Beach Food and Wine Grand Tasting Tent. This was a well-produced small portion of the four day April 12-15, 2012 event which featured 250 Wineries, 75 Celebrity Chefs, Cooking Demonstrations, Dinners, Celebrity Golf as well as Wine and Spirits Tastings. Thousands of Foodies from around the world came to Pebble Beach to maximize culinary indulgence and to mingle, mix, sip and taste. Having attended quite a few “Tasting Tents” over the years so we know that is important to have a Plan and to wear stylish comfortable shoes. The first thing to accept is that you will never ever be able to eat and drink everything in the three or four hour timeframe which is generally the length of these Tent events. This realization will take away the feeling of being rushed. Avoid the urge to run in and find the first wine pourer, even if they are featuring $200 a bottle Cabernet Sauvignon. Spend a few minutes to review the Program, see the layout, ask where there are areas to sit, check the schedule of Cooking Demonstrations and Book Signings then pick out your “must do’s”. Of course, we always enjoy the food first! The Chefs are busy creating and plating but there will be opportunities when they will be proud to talk about their creations, sign autographs and allow you to take pictures. This we’ve found to be the real value, adds to the fun and gives you some creative ideas for your next dinner party and will be excellent memories from the event! While tasting the cuisine, note the location of the wines that you would like to taste, so on your second time around you know where you want to stop. By the way….they never run out of wine. Look for places to sit down and relax and soak in the total experience. Don’t be afraid to linger and let others in your party go off on their own for a short period of time while you just chill. Chat with others about what they thought was outstanding, found unique and consider a third trip around. This plan lets you maximize your experience and avoids the “I Wish I had” or the “If Only”. Of course you always have the option of coming back for a second day and some “Tent” events offer two day passes at reduced rates.
The Celebrity Chefs who created dinners or tastes at Pebble Beach were notably the best of the best from the USA and resorts around the world. They included Jacques Pepin, Guy Fieri , Food Network’s Anne Burrell , Top Chef Judge Johnny Iuzzini , French Laundry’s Thomas Keller , Boulevard’s Nancy Oakes , Wayfare Tavern’s Tyler Florence , Bottega’s Michael Chiarello , Meadowood’s Christopher Kostow , Calistoga Ranch’s Christian Ojeda, Mustard’s Cindy Pawlcyn , Spago’s Sherry Yard , Incanto’s Chris Cosentino and Lukshon’s Sam Yoon to name a few. The tastes were all spectacular presentations and definitely world class. Sam Choy’s Crab Soup was our overall favorite taste. The shellfish from Miami Joe’s Stone Crab’s Andre Bienvenu was also outstanding.
The participating wineries were international and ranged from world class like Opus One and Dom Perignon to local Monterey Bay wines like Bernardus and popularly priced favorites like Kim Crawford’s New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Ferrari Carano’s Alexander Valley Fume Blanc. We enjoyed tastes of Grgich Hills, Capture, Plumpjack and Silver Oak as well.
We found the ultimate place to sit down for a while at the Belvedere Vodka Lounge. There were three bartenders who were keeping up with a feverish demand for cocktails made with this luxury Vodka from Poland. They also had a waitress that was serving both within the lounge and made stops around the tent serving to the chefs. We had a chance to enjoy their latest flavored vodka made with all natural ingredients called Belvedere Lemon Tea and learned that all of their vodka is made with Dankowskie Gold Rye, pure artesian well water and has no additives. We chatted with Claire Smith who is the Head of Spirit Creation and Mixology. She was very personable and knowledgeable having worked for Belvedere for more than ten years. She mentioned that there has been an explosion of flavored vodkas over the past five years and how exciting it was for her to help create them while respecting the grain and using all natural ingredients. We also learned a few Bartender tips like rolling lemons or limes on the bar for easier juicing and adding salt to cocktails to boost complexity. We asked for comments from some of the other attendees in the lounge. Several had not tried Belvedere before but would certainly order it in the future as it was light, smooth, had no bite or strong alcohol taste. Some enjoyed the cocktails and some loved it neat.
We had an excellent time at the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Grand Tasting Tent. The event was not oversold so it was not too crowded. Most people we talked to afterward felt that they had a unique culinary experience, met and chatted with the Chefs, had unique tastes of excellent cuisine, tried many wines and enjoyed the Belvedere Cocktail Lounge. We look forward to returning next year as this is a world class event.
By Carol & Joe Davis