Friday, August 24, 2007

Pebble Beach to the rescue with Food & Wine

Herald Food Writer
Monterey County Herald
Article Last Updated:08/23/2007 01:48:03 AM PDT

When the famed Masters of Food & Wine ended its gluttonous 21-year run earlier this year, whispers quickly began about someone organizing a similar event.
But who? In retrospect, there was only one entity capable of resuming the culinary tradition of the famed event — Pebble Beach Resorts. Only Pebble has the financial and logistical credentials to pull off such an annual miracle (housing the chefs, buying ingredients, tracking down rare vintages, plying food writers with obscene amounts of champagne and caviar).

So it is, then, that our famed resort will host in March of next year the first-ever Pebble Beach Food & Wine. That's it. No flowery nouns such as "gala" or "extravaganza" — just Food & Wine (geez, with all the creative energy behind such a project, they could at least impress us out of the gate with some innovative wordplay).

I digress. The important thing to remember is that a giant culinary void has been filled — and an economic one, as well. We are a tiny region driven by big-time events, and March 27-30 will provide a four-day boost to our local economy.

Local food and wine enthusiasts Robert Weakley and David Bernahl are the first two people to thank. Weakley is the former food and beverage director for the Park Hyatt Highlands Inn and pulled all the strings behind the last few Masters events. Bernahl is founder, president and CEO of Pacific Tweed in Carmel and self-professed gourmet and connoisseur of wine.

Weakley and Bernahl are careful not to compare this event to the Masters, which continues its legacy, albeit in South America next year, alternating sites around the globe. But let's be honest; it may not be a direct rip-off of the Masters, but it certainly looks, tastes and smells very familiar.

The list of chefs for the March event is impressive. Look for, among many others, Cat Cora, Gary Danko, Daniel Humm, Michel Richard, Charles Phan, Eric Ripert, Rick Tramonto, Mark Miller, Hubert Keller and Jaques Pepin; huge names, but still regulars at past Masters. Add Chef Mark Ayers (the muscle behind the Masters at Park Hyatt Highlands Inn for years), Bernardus Lodge Executive Chef Cal Stamenov (former top chef at Highlands), and locals such as The Cheese Shop's R. Kent Torrey, and the scent of familiarity fills the air.

Improvements will abound, however. Speaking of top chefs, restaurateur and television personality Tom Colicchio (Bravo's "Top Chef") will join the party, along with "Top Chef" regular Ted Allen. And the four-day spectacle will handle larger crowds (more than 2,000 to be sure). The events will be spread throughout the property, using facilities at The Inn at Spanish Bay, The Lodge at Pebble Beach, Casa Palermo, The Beach and Tennis Club and the Pebble Beach Golf Links.

There will be four celebrity chef cooking demonstrations each day, four cult wine tastings and many other side events. The most prestigious event takes place Friday night when well-to-do culinarians fork over $1,000 a seat for the Pinnacle Dinner at the Beach and Tennis Club at Pebble. The dinner includes a rare wine auction and plenty of supreme sipping.

All total, more than 200 wineries from around the world will participate. Part of the proceeds from the event will be given to local charities and to help create culinary and enological scholarships.

For information, visit the newly constructed Web site The home page describes the event as "the most memorable experience in culinary history."

Let's not get carried away, yet allow the excitement to build. Only seven more months until the first ever Pebble Beach Food & Wine ... thingie.

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