Forage To Feast Chef’s Table Lunch at Pebble Beach Food & Wine. This is not like any camping trip or foraging expedition from childhood memory.
I went on a foraging expedition with two James Beard award-winning chefs, Michael Symon and Joseph Lenn. Michael Trujillo, winemaker at Sequoia Grove Winery came along as well to make sure any culinary creation was paired with the perfect wine. Else, no feast would be complete.
This was not like any camping trip conjured up from childhood memory.
No, this was the type of excursion you only have at the 7th Annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine.
The Forage to Feast: Lexus Chef’s Table Lunch opened with a sampling of hor d’oeuvres paired with Sequoia Grove Winery, Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley, 2012).
Sequoia Grove Winery, Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley, 2012) paired well with not only the hors d’oeuvres, but also the swell live music playing. “When the moon hits your eye…It’s amore!”
Looking for some great pairings with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc? Look to these tasty bites for inspiration:
Marinated Artichokes & Speck (Michael Symon, Lola Bistro): The artichokes were a nice backdrop to the smokiness and saltiness of the speck. Marinating the artichoke made sure it still had enough backbone to stand out and the acid cut through a bit of the fat of the speck.
Fava Beans & Pecorino (Michael Symon, Lola Bistro): I’ll admit I love fava beans and this was no exception. The fava beans were nicely pureed with pecorino to give it a savory kick.
The look before the devour.
Smoked Quail Legs with White BBQ Sauce (Joseph Lenn, Blackberry Farm): What can I say? These were some mighty fine and flavorful legs. The white bbq sauce was a nice change up from the traditional BBQ sauce which many of us remember as a staple next to the Weber.
Pork Belly Biscuits, Pickled Ramps, Blackberry Jam (Joseph Lenn, Blackberry Farm): Of all the hors d’oeuvres being passed around, this was be far the most decadent. The pork belly had a healthy layer of belly fat and the pickled ramps and blackberry jam had enough tartness to balance the dish. I’ve had many pork belly dishes and will say it is the crumbly, buttery biscuit that truly rounded out this dish.
The main lunch took place under a large tent which was very fitting for the Forage to Feast theme. The table arrangement was inspiring and made me once again think I was part of an idyllic camping scene composed by an Impressionist painter or on the cover of some romance novel. There was a wide variety of wild mushrooms which together provided an earthy, comfortably musky scent that I love.
Gorgeously inspired tablescapes of a fantasy foraging expedition where food and wine fairies grant our every whim. This is Pebble Beach Food & Wine after all!
Michael Trujillo, Director of Winemaking and President for Sequoia Grove Winery guided us through some wonderful wine pairings during the course of lunch.
First Course: Halibut with Yellowfoot Mushrooms, Spring Onions and Brown Butter by Chef Michael Symon. Paired with Sequoia Grove Winery, Chardonnay (Carneros, 2012). Halibut makes for a wonderfully textured canvas for other flavors to really shine. In this case, the brown butter and fava beans (which were not called out in the description) gave this dish a decadent edge. This is probably one of the best use of brown butter that I’ve tasted. The Chardonnay chosen for this dish was crisp with hints of lemongrass which played well with the Yellowfoot mushrooms.
Second Course: Country Ham Wrapped Rabbit with English peas, ramps, morel mushrooms by Chef Joseph Lenn. Paired with Sequoia Grove Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley, 2010). The rabbit sausage had a hint of sweetness which was nicely complemented by the saltiness of the crisp ham that encased it. The morel mushrooms provided the earthiness needed in an forage expedition-inspired dish. While the Sequoia Grove Cabernet Sauvignon on its own, could have stayed in the bottle for another year or two, when paired with the rabbit was stellar. The tannins did a wonderful job in enhancing the flavors of the dish.
Tweet it or it didn’t happen. I did give folks who follow my Twitter handle (@lonistark) a visual treat during the entire meal.
A lot goes on during a Lexus Chef’s Table Lunch besides the tasting great food and sipping superb wine. Here’s a surprise visit from Chef Donatella Arpaia who had just finished a demo earlier. Salute!
Third Course: Leg of Lamb with spring peas, baby cucumbers, and radish by Chef Michael Symon. Paired with Sequoia Grove Winery “Cambium” (Napa Valley 2009). Let me just say, the lamb was flavorful and oh so tender. Chef Symon had marinated the lamb in a combination of lavender and rosemary and cooked sous-vide for 15 hours sealing in all the tenderness and juices. A final charring gave the lamb the camp fire smokiness. A hind of mint gave the whole dish a freshness. This luxury was paired with Sequoia Grove’s ultimate wine, Cambium” which has complex aromas of black pepper, black cherry and a long arc that was just cradling me in that warmness that only great food and wine pairings can create.
Chef Joseph Lenn of Blackberry Farm stops for a quick smile during the course of lunch. Loved his dishes, but he really gave his grand finale with dessert. The fat lady was singing and I wanted an encore.
When in doubt, use a blow torch. Here, one is being use to make crispy chocolate mousse. This is something I haven’t tried in the past, but I am now a believer!
Fourth Course: Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream with Crispy Chocolate Mousse, Bacon-Graham Cookie by Chef Joseph Lenn. Paired with Sequoia Grove Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon “Lamoreaux Vineyard” (Napa Valley, 2009). While inspired by campfires and s’mores, let me assure you this is not your childhood s’more. This is that plain girl next door that you meet in adulthood and she has turned into a brown-haired bombshell. What made this dessert out the of the world? The crispy, yet chewy bacon-graham cookie that provided the perfect flavor and texture profile for the toasted marshmallow ice cream. It appealed both to the child in me and the foibles of a foodie. Oh, I was in love. The Cabernet was stellar on its own. Unfortunately, together as a pair, they did not make. It was as if there was just too much star power there for the palette. Alas, I had to eat the dessert and then sipped on the beautifully crafted Cabernet. I know, the suffering to have to sequentially enjoy a dessert & wine! The need for some semblance of restraint!
Sensory Expedition: The nose knows. In this case, I found the Sequoia Grove winery, Cabernet Sauvignon “Lamoreaux Vineyard”.
Part of the team that pulled off the Forage to Feast: Lexus Chef’s Table Lunch for myself and a few hundred of my closest friends.
Rumor has it that by the time Pebble Beach Food & Wine is done, there will have been over 144,000 tastes of wine. Glad that at this lunch, we were doing our part.
“Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized.” ― Andre Simon.