Thursday, February 27, 2003
When I get to that beachy little stretch of coast highway just past Carmel, the one where it looks like God took a thumbprint, the pretty little butterflies in my soul start flutterin''. When I hit the old school gas station across from the rocks that pile themselves up I can feel myself elevatin'' from the seat of my own pants. When I hit the curvy, keep your eye on the road, there''s the sign Highlands Inn Next Left, let''s go into and up that spiraling driveway in the pines, I''m floatin''.
Halfway up the hill, cars are parkin'' and molecules are sparkin''. Pretty ones dancing out of coaches, gliding against gravity up the stairway to sensory heaven. Icy smooth saxophonetic single-filing supper seekers sexily ascend and pass through the gateway into a swirling, shimmering setting, simmering sweetly with superior servants of the same supreme spirit: Gourmand. We have all come to indulge the senses.
I glide along, intuiting the wheres and the whiches. Familiar pretty faces flow all around me, occasionally stopping to exchange pleasantries, compare observations, share in the joyfulness. Professionals work behind simple tables displaying anything but simple pleasures. Placards above each place uniformly identify the entity below it: Araujo, Pahlmeyer, Sandro Gamba, Patz & Hall, Bobby Flay, Talbott, Chappellet, Pisoni, Lail, Cakebread, Susan Spicer, Chateau Margaux, Peter Michael, Michelle Bernstein, Robert Mondavi, Etude, Spottswoode, Rick Edge, Alois Kracher, Far Niente, Chalone, Justin, Ridge, Hiro Sone, Evian, Tablas Creek, Domaine Faiveley, Marcel Deiss, Weingut C. Von Schubert, Inniskillin, Paul Kahan, Veuve Clicquot, Louis Jadot, Quintessa, Testarossa, Siduri, Mer Soleil, Jose Ramon Andres, Cardinale...I am a hummingbird living inside a botanical garden.
Simultaneously, all my senses are absorbing precious stimuli, awakening their featured performer this evening: my taste buds. There are the handsome Pisoni boys, Jeff and Mark, proudly pouring Pisoni. My glass is christened, my taste buds are properly prepped, the dance has begun. I allow the music in my ears and nose and soul to guide me through the steps. Here I am in front of Bobby Flay, cool caviar floating atop oysters laying in fire...a few drams of Kabinett Riesling...drifting along currents only found here I sip a little Sauvignon Blanc...a delicate fresh salad from Spicer...lovely Chardonnay...Clicquot to quench and refresh...melt in your mouth filet bullseyes in rings of creamy potatoes and rich sauce at the Edge...how about a nip of Jason''s Merlot, wow, what a jacket...there''s Carissa Chappellet, wow, what a jacket...foie gras everywhere, get me to the Kracher, the Inniskillin, the Spatlese...splash of Clicquot to refresh and quench...big boy muscular cabs from big time California wineries...missed the Cuvee Audrey...ahh, George Edwards, true master of wine...there''s Gary Davis, wow, what a jacket...a lot of industry folks trying to get close to the juice.
THE MEMORIES LINGER...What a night. A few naysayers sprinkled throughout like hot pepper, spicing up the dish a little. Much joy and happiness, contentment and revelry, fire and ice (literally and figuratively). Never enough time at events like this, that''s why the partying has to go long into the night.
It is already days beyond the event yet I still resonate with sensory recollections galore. In my mind''s eye remain the snapshots and videos collected by my retinas. In my taste buds'' hard drive are burned the tastes and textures of the many delights of the evening. In my ears and heart are the sounds and melodies of the event''s sweet music. I am very happy.
Would I were of the fortune to indulge completely in all the activities of the Masters, from the early morning''s arrival of produce through the subsequent morning''s last breath of after-hours partying among the participants--the back of the house titans who stretch human expression to its limits. I want to drink and eat the entire Masters of Food and Wine alive, from first scent to final gasp. I have only now realized how much I miss the action, the parabolic swerve from buildup to wind-down that is the creation and service of great food, wine and spirit. I do love it so.
--Send Ray to next year''s Masters via firstname.lastname@example.org.