Thursday, April 21, 2011
So there’s this little party coming to town next weekend. Maybe you’ve heard of it.
OK – there’s no real question whether you’ve heard of Pebble Beach Food & Wine unless you’ve been hidden from cell-phone signals counting bottles in your wine cellar for, oh, half a decade.
But endless other questions do enter into the PBF&W free-for-all of fromages and Ken Franks. How’s Michael Symon’s short game? Have you tried the escargot Tyler Florence is cheffing? Can I lay down and expire in your Spanish Bay suite now that I’ve tried 12 first-growth, 20-year-old Bordeauxs in a row?
Perhaps the most compelling question this year, though, in the epic’s fourth iteration, is this: When is a dinner no longer a dinner?
Is it still a “dinner” when it features That ’70s Show alum and Hollywood-DJ-of-the-Moment DJ Mom Jeans (Danny Masterson) on the wheels of steel? Or when there is enough Krug Champagne to drown Prince William’s wedding? (Krug CEO Maggie Henriquez, who will lead the bubbly adventure, calls it “the most elaborate Krug dinner of the decade.”) Or when the kitchen staff is a unprecedented alliance of five of the biggest celeb names on the whole damn domestic circuit in Daniel Boulud (of Daniel), Michael Chiarello (Bottega), Dean Fearing (Fearing’s), Christopher Kostow (Restaurant at Meadowood), Masaharu Morimoto (Morimoto) and Michael Symon (Lola)?
Isn’t that like calling Godzilla a trail lizard? Google a website? Charlie Sheen an outgoing personality?
Shouldn’t this “Remix: A New Spin on Haute Cuisine” merit a new word?
Some were surprised to see the beer appear. The same folks likely flinched at the tequila. This was Food & Wine they said – who would want beer and cactus juice when there are hundreds of wineries like Penfolds and Pedrosa de Duero?
It was that Stella Artois involvement, with the velvet bags for the keepsake glasses, and the Patron presence, with the VIP area and oh-yes margaritas, that served as some of the earliest indicators of what PBF&W will be doing ad infinitum: adding draws and impact players wherever it can.
For PBF&W doesn’t seek to merely eclipse last year’s insanity, it wants to compete in an increasingly crowded country of obsessive-gourmet food and wine events. (As this goes to print, in fact, PBF&W co-founders David Bernahl and Rob Weakley are helping launch a massive L.A. Food & Wine that will wash floodlight, limos and celeb chefs all over the sprawling city – see story, p. 10.) In other words, upper-crusty PBF&W goers don’t want to slap down $4,750 for an Imperial Package that toes the status quo. A dinner has to be more than a dinner.
Last year, spirits made a bigger splash than ever with a much-buzzed-about “Interactive Seminar in Mixology” – starring author-cocktail diva Tracey Toomey, BAMBOO London Drink Director Ben Hehir – and Patron and Belvedere were ubiquitous presences at the nightly afterparties at Spanish Bay.
One of the most magnetic spirit sessions this year is already sold out. “Blues, Brews and BBQs” is restaurant owner, author and Playboy spirits columnist Dan Dunn’s love poem to expert cocktails, saucy meats and the kind of lifestyle that would be ideal for blues lyrics, only with less heartbreak and more happy endings.
There are other inventive elements afoot. An “ESPW” tasting will get “Entertaining Sports Personalities and Their Wines” in the game. New, more-intimate cooking demos will plop guests right next to Guy Fieri. A career tribute series launched last year (with Jacques Pepin) will grow stronger with a toast to Tom Colicchio and a “10 Years of Craft” dinner. A sold-out “Delicacy Dinner” will lavish folks with Joachim Splichal (Patina Restaurant Group), Charlie Trotter (Charlie Trotter’s), Daniel Humm (Eleven Madison), Gale Gand (TRU) and seven wineries like Veuve Clicquot, Hundred Acre and Rubicon. But the biggest evolutionary step will be made in music.
While the aforementioned DJ Mom Jeans enjoys big-league crossover appeal – like a Fieri of the music world – DJ talent will traverse sound barriers all weekend. Two-time International Turntable Federation champ Vinroc spun himself into the most cred-centric Bay Area circles with an ensemble called Triple Threat as they broke out as many as six turn tables at once, creating a whole new composition out of other songs – live – without laptops. Now he’ll do Friday’s afterparty and Saturday’s Grand Tasting. You might say his ability to pull morsels from the whole animal anatomy of music evokes Chris Cosentino, the man with the dyed hair most famous for his pioneering snout-to-tail tastings in which he maximizes offals and all the other “lost cuts.”
For his part, PBF&W Music Ambassador Hanif Wondir might be best described as a Christopher Kostow type: a young talent unfairly unheralded for his outsized gifts because he’s chosen a smaller pond (Monterey) than bigger names. (Kostow quietly earned three Michelin stars at Meadowood.) Wondir will take to the turntables himself at both tastings and each afterparty.
But all the bells and whistles in the world won’t make a sound if the PBF&W team doesn’t keep its feet on the ground.
That footing is celeb chefs: Dozens of Michel Richards and Ming Tsais, Peter Armellinos and Roy Yamaguchis, Walter Manzkes, Nancy Silvertons, Hedy Goldsmiths, Rick Tramontos and Cal Stamenovs. That assemblage doesn’t happen every day. At PBF&W it happens for four straight.
That star power is the primary reason there is no greater value than the midday Saturday and Sunday Grand Tastings ($195), where 30 of those chefs (and 200 wineries) spend three hours reinventing indulgence. As that much talent comes together – and the outcome is somehow far greater than the sum of its many parts, however sumptuous they are individually – and fashion shows, caviar bars, golf-swing simulators and all sorts of other elements go off, eager “Have you… ?” questions will circulate and words like “tasting” will inevitably fail to do it all justice.
One thing, though, won’t fail: PBF&W’s ability to demonstrate that it has firmly entrenched itself on the luxury-lifestyle landscape.
No question there.
FOURTH ANNUAL PEBBLE BEACH FOOD & WINE runs April 28-May 1 in various venues throughout Pebble Beach. 1-866-907-FOOD or www.pebblebeachfoodandwine.com.