Photograph by Chris Ayers
Kinch the Deal: David Kinch of Manresa will help inaugurate Pebble Beach's new luxury food fest.
Pebble Beach Food & Wine picks up where Masters of Food & Wine left off.
By Amber Turpin
Last year saw the end of the Masters of Food and Wine at the Highlands Inn in Carmel when the Park Hyatt hotel group bought the inn and transplanted the event to Argentina. The hurt is fresh; the annual event of colossal consumption and culinary stardom, which brought a spotlight to our region, is mourned by both participants and guests. But the stage is set for a new version with the inaugural Pebble Beach Food & Wine festival. Robert Weakley, former director of the Masters, is heading up this tremendous debut. Hundreds of chefs, wineries, producers and sommeliers will gather from near and far March 27-30 to present seminars, tastings, dinners and galas to those who have the means to attend (wine tastings start at $100, meals at $150). The guest chefs roster reads like a celebrity gastronomic all-star team: Tom Colicchio, Gary Danko, Thomas Keller, David Kinch, Susan Spicer, Michael Mina, Charlie Trotter. Imagine being treated to a special chef's tasting menu from dozens of destination-worthy restaurants around the United States, paired with mind-blowing wines, all at one heart-stoppingly gorgeous venue. Whoa. (www.pebblebeachfoodandwine.com)
I stumbled onto more than just an expanded new dining space the other day when I spent some time at Black China Bakery & Cafe on Soquel in the back of Ironwood. Not only did I discover an amazing cake and coffee deal for $3.50 (they have a decadent selection of both vegan and conventional cakes that even the most experienced baker may not be able to distinguish), I also did some sleuthing (some would call it eavesdropping) and found out about a few excellent nonmenu items. While killing time during a lull, a former employee created what the staff now calls the Dirty Earl, hot chocolate infused with Earl Grey tea. This brilliant concoction, made from Black China's bittersweet cocoa blend, is not too sweet and offers a long, earthy finish from the quality loose-leaf tea. Another invention born from a customer's whim is The Chelsea, which mixes tart homemade lemonade with fragrant, floral jasmine green tea. Both secret (not anymore) beverages are lovely to sip on a sunny spring day at this tucked-away cafe. (831.460.1600)
It seems that the Santa Cruz Mountain Winegrowers Association never sleeps. Saturday, March 29, marks the first day of Pinot Paradise, in which participating wineries offer barrel samples and some limited library wines made from the finicky grape. On Sunday, Villa Ragusa conference center in Campbell extends the festivities at the Grand Cruz Tasting with more than 30 wineries and various restaurants offering their best. Michael's on Main and Davenport Roadhouse will travel over the hill to join leading restaurants from that neck of the woods such as Dio Deka, Trevese and Restaurant James Randall, all offering bites of pinot-friendly foods. Also on Sunday, join experts for technical sessions about the challenging varietal and a chance to get an in-depth look at our little slice of paradise. (www.scmwa.com)
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