From the desk of Jessica:
A quick survey of the tweets from other attendees of the third annual Pebble Beach Food and Wine festival confirms a few things—everyone is still hungover, and everyone is regretting finishing the foie gras loco moco that the chefs from Animal prepared for the Food and Wine Best New Chefs Alumni dinner on Friday night. Yes, indeed, as the three-day eating and drinking bonanza has now come to a close, it's time to reflect on what we've learned.
For my part, I learned that pastry chef Gale Gand can still take most other pastry chefs to the cleaners, first with a banana cream pie she served on Friday night, then again on Saturday when she created a chocolate pot de creme topped with the genius addition of black pepper-flecked whipped cream.
I learned that although you might want to like Animal's sweet-and-sour veal sweetbreads, inspired by Chinese takeout (especially because the cooks at Animal are so cute and it was even Jon Shook's birthday), they will actually be a little bit weird, a little bit too much like Chinese takeout.
I learned that Michael Chiarello, lord grand master of Napa and its style, rises before 8 am to go for a jog, even in Pebble Beach.
I learned from the inimitable Burgundy expert, Raj Parr, that a bottle of 1978 Domaine Romanee Conti Echezeaux would likely retail for about $1,300, should you be able to get your hands on it, which you can't. That makes the one ounce sip that I had worth about $52. I also learned, from various wine experts hanging out throughout the weekend, that rare wine is "a very fine investment." Take that, 401K.
I learned that over the course of the weekend the festival uses over 17,000 stemmed wine glasses.
After I left the festival on Saturday afternoon, Sara Deseran came in to pinch hit. What did she learn? Read on.
From the desk of Sara:
Although I only made it to a couple of events, at the Grand Tasting (which by Saturday was a crush of people, already rather pickled and weebly-wobbly from a couple days of consistent drinking), I learned that the power of television celebrity is huge and Tyler Florence had a bigger line of people (ahem, women, mostly blonde and giggling) waiting to get a taste of his "cooking" than anyone else in both tents combined.
I also learned that sommeliers might look like they're living the glamorous life, but they're working their butts off. For nothing but the glory of being there (and a few nights at a nice hotel), local SF somm Rebecca Chapa was up at 8:00 in the morning helping to unload the trucks and set up the huge tents for the tasting, helping break it down when it was over at 3 pm, and then rushing to help pour wine at the "Tribute to a Legend: Jacques Pépin" dinner that started that evening at 6:30. And that was just Saturday.
At the Pépin dinner that I was lucky enough to get a ticket to, the dream team of chefs that cooked included Thomas Keller, Charlie Trotter, Michel Richard, Ming Tsai and Ken Frank with dessert being prepared by Quince's new pastry chef Joel Reno, who I figured must have been pretty stoked to be in that lineup. Thomas Keller got up to toast Jacques and recalled how he had bought La Technique, Pepin's first book, to learn from since culinary schools were not the thing in his day. Masaharu Morimoto was also at the dinner, and although he didn't cook, he sat down to eat, dressed in traditional garb amongst all the suits; I asked him when he really plans to open his Napa restaurant and he said the first week of July. You heard it here first.
And last but not least, I learned that Carla, from Top Chef (a.k.a. "Big Bird") is not a bad dancer. At the after party, she was cutting a good (if tall), rug in her very proper, lady-like dress. In fact the whole room was full of people dancing like crazy (whether or not the women's chests moved with them), celebrating the good food, good wine, and good times. Ensconced if but for a few days in the beautiful bubble that is Pebble Beach, hard times can quickly seem very, very far away.