It’s all over, except for the telling.
Thursday, March 1, 2007
LET THE STORIES BEGIN… each dressed in timeworn, mothball-tinged embellishment: “I remember when that Michelin 3-star French chef insisted his ducks be brought in from Gastony, or Normandy, or somewhere. I heard they were smuggled through a Hyatt in France and ended up in the employee cafeteria, 100 ducks, heads on, piled on the tables like specimens in an alien abduction.” Or: “Shoot, I remember the first time CHARLIE PALMER came here, I think it was back in the early ’90s. He and another big name chef, like BRADLEY OGDEN or ROY YAMAGUCHI or somebody, were hanging around late, drinking old Armagnac that MARK JENSEN got them from the cellar, and they got a few of the female staff members to join them naked in the swimming pool at like 3:30 in the morning.”
That’s the way it goes when something wonderful fades away. We’re left with memories, make-believe and dreams. Gone now is The Masters of Food and Wine.
Last Thursday night, the closing opening night, foodies and winos from far and wide flitted about, tasting here, sipping there, reveling as usual, callously disregarding wines most folks never get to try, thoughtlessly tossing tidbits of tastiness most folks never will experience, either forgetting, denying or plain unaware of the collective conglomeration of culinary and oenological mastery encapsulated in that one space and time.
It will sink in, slowly at first, then forcefully and frequently, especially in the wintertime, when biological alarms will sound in the souls of fortunate individuals who regularly visited the Masters. They may be drawn to revisit the Highlands, to retrace the curlicue drive, ascend those majestic steps and enter the long hallway to tasting nirvana. Small groups may gather to reminisce, share tableside conversation a la Shawshank Prison associates of ANDY DUFRESNE, left behind laughing and lamenting their departed friend. That’s the way it goes when something wonderful disappears.
Oh, you’ll be able to go to New Orleans and taste the magical mixtures of SUSAN SPICER or hop a plane to New York to eat at WD 50. Anyone can buy a bottle of wine from Flowers or Weingut Brundlmayer or Chateau Palmer, but you can’t taste them all, along with dozens more, under one roof, atop a hillside in Carmel Highlands anymore. There will be no more corner cheese craziness with KENT, MICHAEL and the Carmel Cheese Shop gang, no more downstairs dessert decadence, no more PISONI et fils profiles, or piano corner flash fires, or BRODIE/BUSSINGER camera crews…but there will be stories, some true, some false, some fantastical.
The Masters of Food and Wine is continuing abroad, now in Argentina, later perhaps elsewhere. Who knows, maybe the PRITZKERS, owners of the Hyatt Hotel dynasty, just didn’t see the point of regularly losing $150,000 just so a relatively few lunatic food and wine fanatics could have a yearly playground full of the best cooks, the brightest winemakers, the beautifulest tastes anywhere. Maybe sometimes decisions should be pointless, or pointed in ways that don’t normally make sense—sense, the very part of us most indulged in during The Masters of Food and Wine, betrayed by sensibility, or perhaps simply set free, spent, satiated, certainly saddened, remembered always by everyone who was there…just listen for the stories.