Why Big Sur Food & Wine 3 Went Off: A Love Story (and a Video)
November 9, 2011
People fall in love with Big Sur. And people fall in love in Big Sur. This weekend at the third Big Sur Food & Wine, a little bit of both took place.
OK—more than a little bit.
Brotherly love reigned at the opening Gateway to Big Sur event, where folks flocked to new-release wines from the likes of (from left) Gary Franscioni, Adam Lee and Gary Pisoni and food from at least a dozen impressive chefs—David Lawrence of 1300 Fillmore, Phillip Burrus of Esalen and Kurt Grasing of Grasing's among them.
Tim Hrusa of Treebones (805-927-2390) gave his melt-in-your-mouth ahi a splash of spicy lime-ginger vinaigrette, a coriander crust and an escort of baby kale, chard and edible flowers from the on-property garden.
Domingo Santamaria of Deetjen's (667-2378) did a house-cured salmon with olive tapenade on an olive crostini with arugula and truffle goat cheese, a good indicator of the creative stuff he's scheming in the redwoods.
Truman Jones of Ventana (667-2331) had one of the most inspired head-turners of the evening with his savory Sonoma rabbit and porcini mushroom "bon bons." He used a thin layer of not-so-sweet white chocolate to hold together the luxurious fall flavors.
Kent Torrey of The Cheese Shop (625-2272) stacked and spread endless curds for the masses. If you haven't been by his Carmel Plaza spot to test and taste and tempt the wine bar, then pull yourself together and make a play.
The place was packed—the event actually oversold. When I congratulated Volunteer Coordinator/Band Leader Alicia Hahn on turnout, she told me the entire weekend booked up, which should mean an even bigger slate of events come year four—and more Magical Mystery Tours of prime Sur homes paired with wine and food, as this year's sold out before they could even plan the stops.
The auction is a chief driver of funds. This custom built growling beauty—a chopper designed by Matt Hotch, the only back to back winner of The Biker Build-Off—will go on eBay to help raise money for the Big Sur community. Only BSFW Founder-President-"Top Hat" Toby Rowland Jones draws a stipend from the event. The rest is entirely driven into Big Sur health, safety and education. Year one it was Big Sur Fire Brigade then; year two, the wellness center. This year it went to education: Local kitchen kid Erika Duarte will get a $3,100 scholarship to culinary school in the Big Apple.
The following night brought on a debut event that went gangbusters, Wine and Swine at Henry Miller Library.
A Weekly team of Joel Ede, Nic Coury and I put together a brief video to help capture some of the spirit.
Todd Champagne, who is doing more different and delicious things with preserves and pickling than anyone in the area code at Happy Girl Kitchen Co. in Pacific Grove (373-4475), brought a wig along with his incredible carrots and other well-kept garden gems.
Believe it or not, that is thick-ass bacon from the folks at Hitching Post. The swiney name of the event was no misnomer.
That went into meaty tostaditas. Hint: What starts with a "y" and rhymes with "tummy"?
Pisoni roared. And poured. Here he raps with BSFW VP/Ambassador of Instigation Aengus Wagner and drops a little juice in volunteer Rosie Kenworthy's glass.
Around 60 wineries participated, from Kongsgaard and Kristi-Lynn to Perception and Pride.
Lisa Haas spearheaded decor. Don't know if she was behind this clever accent, but hard not to heart it. Weekly photog Coury captured this frame and most of the porky night pics. Kenworthy also contributed shots to this post on behalf of BSFW, and Tanja Roos and I took some too.
As he readies for his new Lokal restaurant to open in Carmel Valley, Brendan Jones of Cachagua General Store (659-1857) fame sliced up a whole hog that allegedly ate a lot of chocolate. Sounds expensive, but the results were indulgently delicious, with a rich texture you might expect and a smoothness you might not.
Of course it helps when the chef knows exactly what he's doing. Stick with the blog for updates on his ongoing adventures with code enforcement and a Lokal official opening.
Bernardus repped impressively, as is their wont. The chef team starred at the Gateway opener, with Cal Stamenov and Ben Spungin on the premises, while Vineyard Manager Matt Shea was a vital volunteer who schlepped the you-know-what out of the Henry Miller trash come Sunday.
I've written it repeatedly, but it bears mention again. Of all the elements BSFW enjoys, the most treasured is also one thing many such events find most elusive: a truly familial feeling that dominated the weekend and the HML parties in particular.
Sure, most every wine dinner is a lovefest, and sessions like Heller-Treebones and Big Sur Bakery-Hitching Post (above) were no different this year, but this is a special chemistry the team has fermenting.
Henry Miller Library's never looked like this. While tents kept everyone dry, the rains kept the sky scrubbed and the forest fragrant.
Before Saturday's Grand Tasting, Stephan Asseo toured a full-house audience at Big Sur Lodge through a decade of L'Aventure Estate Cuvée, a Cab-Syrah blend, a first-ever vertical tasting for one of Paso Roble's prince winemakers.
It was a telling study on how world-class wine ages—and a world-class personality. "In the end wine is pleasure," he said at one point. "I make wine to be drunk, not to be tested."
"I traveled Spain, South Africa and Australia," he said later. "I was looking for a nice piece of dirt. If you have s** dirt, you have s** wine. If I'm proud of anything, it's that I'm a good grower."
Former Weekly reporter Ryan Masters (left, with sweetie Shereen Eltobgy and Seaside's Brian Conway and Maya Freedman) came from Atlanta to enjoy the grand tasting. Another couple I met journeyed from Alabama for the long weekend—and even gave up box seats to the No. 1-No. 2 Alabama-LSU football game to attend.
Brian Overhauser reminded folks he's a creative fiend for flavor with his goat cheese-smoked duck-red pepper coulis parfait with scallion garnish.
On the back perimeter of the HML property a landslide-stopping line provides another reminder—of the Basin Complex Fire that inspired BSFW 1 to direct a big chunk of proceeds to the all-volunteer Big Sur Fire Brigade.
Firestone Brewery out of SLO has become a steady presence at both BSFW and the Chanterelle Cook-off in February/March.
If you're wondering how a rogue team of charming but goofy volunteers pulls off an epicurean operation like this, you're not alone. You're also in luck, because here's your answer: Power pep talks, like the one Ambassador of Instigation (not kidding—it's on his business card) Aengus Wagner is giving Rowland-Jones here outside the main tent.
Wine Coordinator Matt Peterson (above) and his honey Alicia Hahn deserve props for an elevating wine roster—and the rare hospitality comprehensiveness that inspired them to put up at least one winemaker and one loose food reporter at their Apple Pie ridge paradise.
Volunteer DJ Hanif Wondir, meanwhile, deserves props for playing a raucous BSB after party despite a torn labrum that had his wing in a sling.
Then there was the Wiz. Whatta weekend for Pig Wizard Jonathan Roberts. His demo dominated, his pork played beautifully and despite the fact that....
...he looked more in love with a dead pig that will remain nameless...
...and at times a lil' lonely on stage...
...even a bit reflective, if you will...
...his weekend enjoyed a storybook ending. At Rowland-Jones' barbecue closer on Partington Ridge in Big Sur, Wiz asked for a little attention and then asked his girlfriend Nicole to marry him.
Safe to say she said yes—and that some nice wine was cracked for the toast.