March 27, 2018 – There will be 23 Champagnes—yes, 23—hand-picked from France’s best boutique bubblies, including Bérêche et Fils, Pierre Peters, Savart, Vilmart & Cie. There will be six courses like dry-aged Flannery Beef rib over Japanese barley porridge and salmon smoked in an Ibushi Gin clay pot with steelhead roe. There will be the team behind Single Thread Farms—one of the most anticipated U.S. restaurants of the decade and one that has had such a great first 18 months (with nods from the likes of James Beard and Wine Spectator) that chef Kyle Connaughton and company joined the micro population of restaurants who have earned multiple Michelin stars in year one (four restaurants, ever) and had critics calling their immersive, farm-forward and Japanese-inspired experience a whole other genre of eating. There will be the striking Santa Zamuele, a celebrated wine importer who created the popular Magnum Wine bar in Latvia’s capital of Riga and edited Cosmopolitan’s Baltic edition for six years, curating the Champagnes and hosting the evening.
Pebble Beach Food & Wine’s Single Thread-Grower Champagne Dinner on April 6 is a devout celebration of food and drink. But, in all fairness, PBFW always comes stuffed with memorable events and this year, its 11th and biggest, is no different.
Standout events include a bold pop-up supper club from NoMad, the New York Michelin-starred hot spot by Will Guidara and chef Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park, which recently added a Los Angeles sibling. That happens in an oceanfront Pebble Beach home with the NoMad’s allegedly life-altering foie gras-truffle chicken, its celebrated mixologists (led by mastermind Leo Robitchek), chef Chris Flint and live soul music from Allen Stone (and that’s one supper-club installment of two; the second stars Citizen Cope on grand piano). Both occur on a dramatically smaller scale than, say, the expansive Lexus Grand Tastings Saturday and Sunday with 300-plus wines and 30 celebrity chefs apiece.
“Spiritually, intimacy has been the push for a long time,” Bernahl says. “In some ways we ended up doing more functions as [events] shrink, but we wanted to make the experience more intimate, wanted it to feel magical, not just impressive.”
Other singular events include a record 120-plus chefs (and a record 30 local standouts); new casual outdoor parties at Asilomar Conference Grounds including the Coastal Grillin’ tasting with eight seafood savants like Jerry Regester (Schooners), John Cox (The Bear and Star) and Matt Beaudin (Monterey Bay Aquarium); more female-driven events than ever (like The Future is Female: The Next Generation of American Wine); trending ingredients like charcoal, chickpeas and California caviar; and a series of lunches that will summon a 53-foot truck with 250 pounds of 28-day prime rib tomahawk steaks from Pat La Frieda Meats of New York City.
“Shades of Fred Flintstone and his brontosaurus ribs,” says long-term PBFW culinary event manager/chef whisperer Dorothy Maras-Ildiz.
Also of note: a very rare cooking demo and over-the-top tribute dinner starring OG celebrity chef Jeremiah Tower of Chez Panisse fame, coming out of retirement on the heels of celebrated film The Last Magnificent.
More star appeal pops via the Top Chef Three Bears demo and dinner with Top Chef stars Bruce Kalman, Tyler Anderson and Fatima Ali. Star wattage also illuminates audiences as first-time participants Julia Collins-Davison and Bridget Lancaster from time-honored America’s Test Kitchen do a demo based on their accessible-but-exacting PBS and radio programs.
“They were doing Alton Brown-esque stuff before Alton was Alton,” Maras-Ildiz says.
For her part, Maras-Ildiz also ear-marks the Historically Hawaiian lunch at Roy’s Spanish Bay with Roy Yamaguchi (the Steven Hawking of Hawaiian fusion), Ravi Kapur of Liholiho Yacht Club in S.F. and Mike Lofaro from the Grand Wailea in Maui; and the Taco Takedown with Lorena Garcia. Meanwhile, new VIP vintage wine tastings with 125 prestige brands pouring will precede the opening-night gala. More small-scale events like wine tastings set up in circles with further increase the personal feel.
Then there’s the best event of all: a free Sunday Grand Tasting for locals who volunteer for four events—helping raise funds for PBFW’s five charities of choice along the way.
As PBFW flows into its second decade, the festival has an appropriately historic—and fresh—feel to it. All that Champagne will come in handy when it comes time for a toast.
Tickets and more at www.pbfw.com.
Mark C. Anderson is a freelance writer based in Seaside (and in his backpack). Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @MontereyMCA.