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Lexus Grand Tasting @ Pebble Beach Food & Wine 2009

Welcome to Foodie Paradise! If you can only go to one event during Pebble Beach Food & Wine this is it. You’ll find a little bit of everything here…famous chefs serving up their tasty bites, 100’s of wines from premiere wineries, cookbook signings, photo ops and panels. The slide show below will show all the highlights. Mike and I have decided Pebble Beach Wine & Food will be a yearly event for us.

Noteworthy dishes & wines:

michael-schulson-braised-pork-belly-w-kimchi

My favorite dish: Michael Schulson's braised pork belly and kimchi slider. This was sweet & spicy an awesome combo.

cindy-pawlcyn-duck-burger

Mike's favorite dish: Cindy Pawlcyn's duck burger. Sweet & Succulent.

mark-estee-blt-pork-bellyromaine-ice-creamtomato-jelly

Most clever dish: Mark Estee's BLT (pork belly,romaine ice cream, tomato gelee on a mini english muffin)

Best red wine: O’Shaughnessy Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Best white wine: Morlet Vineyards “La Proportion Doree” Sonoma County
Best wine find: Terrazas de los Andes “Cheval” 2005
*tons more of Mike’s wine analysis can be found at the end of this post!


*to turn the groovy accompanying music on/off, click on the speaker in the top left corner

Tips for those going for the first time:

  • Many online food communities had discounts for this event including FoodBuzz and Zagat about 1 week before. I even saw some cheaper tickets on Craigslist.
  • Make sure you pick up a map from the guy working the entrance to 17 mile drive. One wrong turn and you’ll be lost.
  • If going to a cooking demo and you have a cookbook from the featured Chef bring it with you. Usually there is a signing after the demo. They also sell books on site.

Check out more of Mike’s wine notes here… Continue reading

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Farm-to-Table Lunch, Pebble Beach Food & Wine 2009

clubxix

Mike and I arrived at The Lodge at Pebble Beach ready for an extraordinary 4 course lunch prepared by celebrity Chefs: Ressul Rassallat (Club XIX), Traci Des Jardins (Jardiniere), Richard Reddington (REDD) and Nicole Plue (REDD). The meal would be served in the historic Club XIX restaurant which overlooks the 18th green at Pebble Beach Golf course. Our 2.5 hour culinary adventure began with a champagne reception outside on the grass with stunning views of Carmel bay. After some small bites and many refills of bubbly we were finally seated inside.

Our MC for the afternoon was Food & Wine Magazine Deputy Wine Editor Ray Isle (he was actually seated next to us and Mike had a field day talking about all kinds of wine stuff with him. For a wine writer he was very down to earth and super nice). As an added bonus to the meal before each course Ray (we are on a first name basis now…) would introduce the winemaker and/or rep from the winery that produced the wine that was paired with each dish. They would give a little info about the winery and the wine. The food was served immediately after the wine was poured. Enough talk! Here is a photo tour..

Hors d’oeuvre reception (Chef Rassallat)
Duck Nuggets w/ Honey Mustard &
Thai Lobster Shooters w/Avocado,Broccoli & Mango
MV, Champagne Louis Roederer, Brut Premier

reception
Comments: The Lobster shooter was a perfect bite, one of the best of the day. The Champagne was light, fruity and refreshing.

THE MENU

each course was prepared by a different chef

farmtotable

Amuse Bouche (Chef Rassallat)
Foie Gras Parfait w/ Port Wine & Parmesan “Air”

foie-gras

This alone has made me want to come back to Club XIX

Comments: What a surprising and fantastic way to start the lunch. Mike and I had not eaten Foie Gras before and others at the table that had said it never tasted like this. It was sweet, warm and creamy with a flavor close to caramel. Simply Amazing.

1st Course (Chef Des Jardins)
Devil’s Gulch Rabbit Escabeche w/ Chantenay Carrots, Fava beans, Cara Cara Oranges & Fingerling Potato Chips
wine: 2007 Davis Family Vineyards, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley

salad

This also had fried rabbit skin which tasted like bacon!

Comments: The rabbit was poached and marinated in an acidic mixture. A very light and fresh salad. The paired Chardonnay was complex, full bodied with nice citrus and mineral flavors and a hint of oak. Davis gets his complexity in his wine by fermenting a third of the grapes in stainless and two-thirds in Oak (divided evenly between new, one year and two year old barrels). This attention to detail produces one of the best California Chardonnays we have had in a long time. The wine with the orange was a perfect match. This was Mike’s favorite wine.

2nd Course (Chef Reddington)
Alaskan Halibut Saltimbocca w/ Spring Onion Fondue & Confit-Giblet Jus
wine: 2006 MacPhail, Pinot Noir, Goodin Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, CA

halibut

Sorry... I took a bite before I took a picture...

Comments: The perfectly cooked halibut wrapped in salty prosciutto was superb with the non giblet tasting Jus. The talk of the table was how the giblet flavor was unrecognizable. I thought they were mushrooms. When it comes to Pinot the MacPhail family are pros. In 2007 they released nine different pinots and in 2006, seven. The wine had a cherry and plum nose with wonderful, spicy fruit up front and a smooth and slightly bold finish. The prosciutto brought out the complexity of the wine.

3rd Course (Chef Des Jardins)
Prather Ranch Lamb, Housemade Ravioli w/ Braised Morels, Spring Garlic Puree & Baby Fennel
wine: 2005 Highlands Estate, Cab Sauvignon, Trace Ridge, Knight’s Valley, CA

lamb

I'm not sure what those little crispy nuggets were on top but they made the dish.

Comments: The lamb was good but the handmade ravioli’s stole the show. The accompanying Cab was a big, bold wine that stood up but did not dwarf the meat. Tons of currants and blackberries up front, full bodied and a slight hint of vanilla on the finish. The tannins suggest that the wine will cellar well for at least a decade but it’s outstanding now. This was my favorite wine.

4th Course (Pastry Chef Nicole Plue)
Strawberry Pain Perdu
wine: 2007 M. Chapoutier, Banyuls, Rhone Valley, France

heaven

I have renamed this to "pure bliss"

Comments: What you see is a slice of buttery french toast with a bread pudding consistency topped with sliced strawberries, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. Let’s just say I can’t wait to go to Redd. So, we learned there was something before Port! It seems Napolean loved Banyuls so much he banned it from being exported and then the World turned to Portugal for its after dinner wines. This was incredible as it was not too sweet but had a strong alcoholic nose (bit too strong for Mike’s liking) but the prune/chocolate finish balanced out the sweetness of the dessert.

The Chefs
Reddington, Des Jardins & Plue

thechefs

The chefs came out of the kitchen at the very end just to say a quick hello. Unfortunately the event had run late so they didn’t get the opportunity to go into any detail about how each dish was prepared. I guess you can’t have everything…

In Conclusion: Our meal started and ended with a bang. The setting, company, food and wine were magnificent. This was an experience Mike and I will forever remember and cherish. Thank you Foodbuzz!

Additional note from Mike – Go visit these wineries! Call ahead as they are small and require reservations.

Thomas Keller Cooking Demo – Pebble Beach Food & Wine 2009

keller
As Mike and I arrived in beautiful Pebble Beach we both headed off to our first events. He went to the Vérité tasting and I went to the Thomas Keller cooking demo. For those of you who need an introduction Keller is the renown owner/chef of The French Laundry, Bouchon, Ad Hoc and Per Se. Things started off with a quick intro by the head honcho at Food & Wine Magazine Editor-in-Chief Dana Cowin. This was the first time I had seen Chef Keller in the flesh and he was very personable and humorous.

He wasted no time and immediately began making two gnocchi dishes: a classic potato gnocchi with mushrooms and peas then a flour based choux dough gnocchi with onions and a garlic emulsion. Keller made the whole process look  easy but I guarantee it isn’t. He grew up making gnocchi with his Nona. She said that you know when the dough is ready when it feels like your earlobe. Thomas said that the key to making great gnocchi is practice. The more times you make it the better it gets. Don’t expect it to turn out perfect the first time.

Throughout his demo he stressed three things:

1.  Seasonal cooking is essential to making a successful dish. Everyone should have a garden.

2. The importance of getting kids in the kitchen and cooking.

3.  Salt, Salt and more Salt (he loves this stuff). He talked about it at length. He feels salt enhances flavors unlike pepper which can change flavors. That is one thing I noticed while eating at Ad Hoc the food is always seasoned perfectly.

goodiesAs the cooking came to a close my mouth was watering and I was ready to eat but the gnocchi would not be mine. This was the first demo I’ve been to where you didn’t get to sample the goods at the end (a bit of a let down) so I can’t tell you if the food was tasty (who are we kidding …of course it was) but I can tell you that it smelled heavenly. What we did receive was a cool gift bag that had 4 chocolate bouchons and a French Laundry/ Pebble Beach apron. Spending the morning with Thomas Keller was a fun experience and I’m excited to make gnocchi at home for Mike, he loves them (ya…he will probably end up making them for me… :lol:).

RECIPES: Here is copy of the handouts I received.

Vérité Wine Tasting – Pebble Beach Food & Wine 2009

veritesign

**GUEST BLOGGER: MIKE – THE WINE GUY**

I usually attend wine seminars with a bit of hesitation. Too many times I have been excited only to have my hopes dashed as I sit for an hour-long “sales pitch” of a particular winery. Nothing could have been further from the truth with the seminar “Vérité Winery – Bordeaux Blends from the Best Sonoma Terroirs” at the 2nd Annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine weekend. Why was this one of the best wine seminars I have ever attended? Simple. Vigneron Winemaster Pierre Seillan. He was affable, funny, knowledgeable and so inspirational that I wanted to start planting my own vineyard ASAP. Not only did I get to taste 8 (yes, I said eight!!) wonderful wines, but I also learned a ton.

The Vérité name comes from the French word for “truth” and Seillan believes his job as a winemaker is to bring forth the truth of the terroir. In Sonoma, he has found some of the best terroirs in the world for growing Bordeaux-style reds that knock your socks off. And is he ever picky. For each vintage he selects grapes from nearly 100 micro-crus, hand selects the oak for his barrels from 10 different forests and uses up to five degrees of toasting on any one barrel. What are micro-crus? Well, Seillan doesn’t just settle for mico-climates, instead believing that within one vineyard there could be rows of micro-crus that each have their own separate climate/terroir combination that gives the grapes in that row unique characteristics. Walk 50 yards and you will find another micro-cru.

Each year, Seillan might start 40 different wines that lead to a release of just three Vérité wines per vintage. Why does he do this? To create a well balanced, complex wine that can be cellared for decades or enjoyed the day you buy it. The process always avoids any one overwhelming characteristic to the wine, thus allowing for sustained complexity as it ages.

I think the real reason I enjoyed listening to Seillan so much is best captured by something he said at the end of the tasting. He mentioned that chemistry shouldn’t drive winemaking, but that the farmer (that’s what he sees himself as) should let the soil, wind, elevation, rain, exposure (the terroir) dictate what to do. He related winemaking to raising a child, “feed them (the vines) well, keep a watchful eye and stick to the basics.” Well, Mr. Seillan, your children have grown up to be the leaders of industry!!

Here is what we tasted. Watch out for the 2005’s… as a group they were amazing!!
Each bottle retails for ~$200

veritemoz

1998 La Muse (90% Merlot, 10% Cab Sauvignon)
Beautiful color, nice nose of chocolate and great sweet blackberry fruit with the first taste. Not too heavy, soft tannins.

1998 La Joie (70% Cab Sauvignon, 30% Merlot)
Much bigger, bolder wine than La Muse. Heavier tannins with rich dark fruity flavor.

2002 La Muse (92.5% Merlot, 7.2% Cab Franc, .3% Malbec)
Incredible nose of rich blueberry and herbs. Full bodied, yet soft on the palette.

2002 La Joie (64.2% Cab Sauvignon, 28.5% Merlot, 7% Cab Frac, .3% Malbec)
Wow!! This wine knocked me on my butt!! Big, bold and complex. Nose of blackberries and chocolate, with soft tannins and an explosion of dark, “jammy” fruit.

2002 Le Désir (52.7% Merlot, 41.2% Cab Franc, 4.5% Cab Sauvignon, 1.6% Malbec)
Wonderful berry and floral aroma with tons of juicy fruit up front. Smooth tannins leave you with a very refreshing sense.

2005 Le Muse (88% Merlot, 10% Cab Franc, 2% Malbec)
An outstanding wine. Great aroma of licorice and cherries followed by a burst of dark fruit through the middle. Tannins are a bit heavy but this wine is young.

2005 La Joie (67% Cab Sauvignon, 12% Cab Franc, 12% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec)
Another wow wine!! Great deep purple color. Incredible currant aroma and full of “jammy” dark fruit across your palette. Big, bold, well balanced, this will age exceptionally well.

2005 Le Désir (50% Cab Franc, 39% Merlot, 9% Cab Sauvignon, 2% Malbec)
Nice nose of dark cherries. This wine tastes “cool.” Very refreshing, fruit forward with a bit of spice in the aftertaste.

Pebble Beach Food & Wine 2009

Our friends over at FoodBuzz were extremely generous and gave Mike and I tickets to the second annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine extravaganza. This is one of the premiere culinary events in the Country with over 60 celebrity chefs and 250 Wineries. It is the ultimate Foodie weekend and we had a fabulous time!

We went to the following events:

  • Thomas Keller Cooking Demo
  • Vérité Winery Bordeaux Blends Wine Tasting
  • Farm-to-Table Lunch
  • Lexus Grand Tasting – Saturday

We will blog in detail about all of these soon, but in the meantime here is a little taste of what’s to come…


*to turn the music off, click on the speaker in the top left corner

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