Smiles for Miles
PBF&W 2011 flirts with unforgettable, Esteban does pulpo proud.
Thursday, May 5, 2011
A man sat in the front of a Pebble Beach Food & Wine demo on Sunday morning looking grumpy.
“You better start smiling,” Guy Fieri told him. “Or I’m gonna give you a cocktail.”
Soon the dude had a strawberry-rhubarb-vodka in his grip – and had joined the rest of the gathered masses in wearing silly, satiated smiles.
There was plenty to grin about. But what had me smiling widest wasn’t the Grand Tasting head turners like the bacon-wrapped bacon by Ray Garcia of Santa Monica’s FIG or the foie gras pot stickers from Plumed Horse’s Peter Armellino. It was the Sustainable Delicacies from the Sea lunch at Roy’s, where the Aquarium’s Jeff Rogers, town kaimuki’s Ed Kenney, Passionfish’s Ted Walter, Roy’s Roy Yamaguchi and Mindy’s Hot Chocolate Restaurant’s Mindy Segal slathered on a symphony of pole-caught albacore, pork shank cassoulet and tangerine-tamarind halibut, signalling PBF&W can and should move in the direction of the onrushing May 20-22 Cooking for Solutions that’s already just two weeks away. (Get your ticks quick: This thing sold out annually before garden-to-table star Cindy Pawlcyn came aboard as culinary partner and they compiled their best chef lineup ever for the 10th edition.)
Not that other PBF&W elements didn’t have the corners of my mouth stretching toward the blue skies that honored Sunday. Tyler Florence minted his charisma with a heartfelt love poem to his grandma’s fried chicken recipe. Friend-of-the-Weekly/Playboy spirits columnist Dan Dunn tore the top off the most entertaining demo of the weekend by dumping signature cocktails, four kinds of succulent barbecue sauce, moist cornbread and knockout pulled pork on the audience, which at our table included one Daniel Boulud. It was Boulud’s collaboration with fellow Lexus Culinary Masters Dean Fearing of Fearing’s, Michael Chiarello of Bottega, Christopher Kostow of the Restaurant at Meadowood, Masaharu Morimoto of Morimoto and Michael Symon of Lola, though, that set the pedigree for all other events.
As winds whipped the tent walls, each of the six legends whipped through turbo demos designed to flesh out the six tastes (bitter, salty, sour, astringent, sweet, spicy/pungent and umami). The flash flood of flavor, including sous vide salmon with sorrel sauce (Boulud), chicory malt (Kostow) and Cristal-hibiscus bubble teas (Morimoto) – whetted by a touch of Roderer – could be considered the strongest hour of food demo demigodliness seen this side of the Sienne. Look to the blog for more “PBF&W Aftertaste” coverage of all the awesome.
“Has this been a party or what?” Fieri said. “I’ve seen some crazy gigs, but you guys are rolling hard. There are a lot of heavy hitters here.”
Esteban (375-0176) may have a slick, slightly schmaltzy motto – “Sip. Savor. Share.” – but you can’t say it’s insincere. The sharing/community theme surfaces in the tapas-style menu, in the warm staff, in the social setting furnished by the ideal-for-spring patio and also in the partnerships Chef Thomas Snyder prioritizes – PigWizard (try the Spanish sausage), Gnarly Nature Produce (the arugula martini) and Monterey Fish (the pulpo confit) among them.
Look no further than the latest “In Your Dish” video on the blog by the Weekly foodie-filmmaker Joel Ede for further insight. The octopus plate demo’d also keys in on Snyder’s practical approach: he prioritizes simplicity in flavor and prep. That’s what makes the seemingly exotic dish both approachable and… easy to savor and share.
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A chance to aid one of our most visionary local food phenomenons arrives 10am-1pm Saturday, May 7, at MEarth Hilton Bialek Habitat at Carmel Middle – a bunch of native plants go for bargain prices (maybe for mama?) to fund the organic gardening and ecoliterate cooking classes that reach thousands of local youth each year. Cachagua Playboys music and snacks too. Better yet, come June 10, Bernardus Chef Cal Stamenov, sidekick-mastermind Gina Martin and occasional Weekly contributor Tanja Roos are planning a luscious “Dinner in the Vineyard” with food grown in MEarth’s gardens. www.mearth.com… Basil Seasonal Dining (626-8226) in Carmel is doing an evolutionary thing to celebrate its second birthday. After turning away dozens of people on busy nights, chef-owner Michele Cremonese has a new awning, heatlamp panel and set of patio tables assembled to enjoy, outdoors, the treats Mrs. Ito Ripsteen-to-be and I tried the other night – red beet gnocci ($10.75), sweet and spicy jumbo shrimp ($12.75), kumquat duck ($21.50) and tortellini with asaparagus and truffles ($15.50)… … Montrio Bistro has declared Saturday, May 7, as “Taxi Cab Appreciation Day,” and it’s more than talk: 4-10pm, cab drivers in Monterey are invited to get a free dinner and refreshment at Montrio Bistro curbside (!) – pull up, beep the horn and staff will run a meal out (note to self: paint Volvo yellow). That’s my kinda love – wouldn’t be here without those cagey charmers… “I had a job as a paralegal,” Larry David once said. “I drove a cab.”