[Photos: Carolyn Alburger/Eater.com]
After what can best be described as a four day bender of wine tastings, food-centric parties and starry eyed interactions with "celebrity" chefs, the fifth annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine event wrapped up yesterday at Spanish Bay. Participants paid anywhere from $250 to upwards of $1250 for the opportunity to ingest greatness. The list of chefs this year included the best of the best from all over. To name a few: Thomas Keller, Christopher Kostow, Nancy Silverton, Michael Chiarello, Geoffrey Zakarian, Tom Colicchio, Roy Choi, Daniel Boulud, Francois Payard, and Guy Fieri (whose "Cookin' It, Livin' It, Lovin' It" demo was among the first to sell out).
Each day's Lexus Grand Tasting Event housed more shiny Lexus cars and measured wine pours than bites of food, but still this is one of the few remaining Food & Wine festival events where TV-caliber chefs are actually standing behind their respective booths doling out food in the flesh. This year made room for some 250 wineries, 75 chefs, Food & Wine editor-in-chief Dana Cowin, and one very enormous yellow pick-up truck belonging to one Guy Fieri. Onwards for booze-addled reflections on the good, the stuffed and the over-served.
· Without question, the longest line of Saturday's grand tasting was for Wayfare Tavern where chef-owner-lady-slayer Tyler Florence nailed photo after photo with his pursed lip pose next to adoring (mostly female) fans.
· The esteemed Dean Fearing of Dallas mingled among guests and re-united with pal Cindy Pawlcyn. Surprisingly, he donned Nike sneaks in lieu of cowboy boots.
· Johnny Iuzzini, wrapped up serving a refreshing macerated strawberry and marshmallow dessert before hopping on a plane to Cozumel for a scuba diving trip with his dad.
· Top Chef cheftestapant and hopeful wine country restaurateur Casey Thompson of Dallas served a blood orange margarita shot from an ice luge. The drink was meant to pair with her fried chicken livers doused in handmade hot sauce. "The acid of the drink cuts the richness," she explained.
· On a poignant note, the trip to Pebble Beach Food & Wine is always a special one for three-Michelin-starred Christopher Kostow who met his wife at the event three years ago.
· Overheard after the sea urchin course (and lots of wine) at the Best New Chefs Alumni Dinner on Saturday night: "I have [chef] Mark Sullivan's gonads in my mouth."
· There were over 300 wines in the Lexus Grand Tasting tent, but surprisingly the media guests invited by the organizers weren't allowed wine glasses to taste any of it. "There are only for ticket-buying attendees," said the wine glass distributor.
· Speaking of the Lexus Grand tasting, ticket-holders who showed up in a Lexus got VIP valet parking on site for free, natch.
· The most exclusive dinner of the event was most definitely the Thomas Keller tribute dinner on Friday night where Daniel Boulud and Francois Payard prepared a tasting menu paired to wines curated by various sommeliers that have worked with Keller through the years. Stand-alone tickets went for $1,250 a pop.
· Big lines by the grand tasting entrance for Anne Burrell, who animatedly signed copies of her new cookbook: Cook Like A Rock Star.
· Each night guests payed $250 to head to an after party at the Inn at Spanish Bay where DJs pumped dance music and the Stella beer, Patron tequila, wine and chef-driven food tastings continued to flow.
· Weekend warriors convened for a "Pretty in Pink" bubbly tasting on Sunday morning. The general feeling: tired.
· Dana Cowin headed to San Francisco on Sunday for her birthday brunch with Nancy Oakes and Bruce Aidells at Prospect.
· Eater got wind of the "after-after" party of chefs. Called "final-final," a party of mostly chefs and sommeliers gathered at an undisclosed location for loads of caviar and a deluge of more food — possibly the best of the entire four-day barrage. Members of the press and cameras of any description were strictly prohibited.