Big Fat Foodie Events to Anticipate, Starting With Salinas Valley Food & Wine
October 11, 2012
When Berlin does an intense "Take My Breath Away" in Salinas tomorrow night, many in the audience might shake their heads at how vivid the memory of Tom Cruise and Kelly McGinnis from the Top Gun scene remains.
I'll shake my head in amazement at how full the local foodie calendar has become, including the Salinas Valley Food & Wine Festival, which returns for year two with two weekends' worth of events and a much grander vision. The Berlin show is actually the official kick-off with $45 VIP packages that include catered grub in a private area (general admission at the Fox'll be $20).
"We are the capital of the greatest wine-growing county in the world," event chair and Salinas City Councilman Steve McShane says. "I don't want to promise the world, but it's going to be awesome."
Case in point: One attendee told me last year's al fresco main event in Oldtown was a cluster-you-know-what. This year the Saturday, Oct. 20, soiree occupies six blocks—and the Steinbeck Center.
Maybe the best thing: The access, food tasting and music are all free. (You pay $40 for a glass to taste a ton of wines and beer and access "premium entertainment.")
There are more exclusive events, like the 160-person "Purple Crush" dinner ($150) this Saturday, Oct. 13, with Chef Don Ferch of Contemporary Catering with Mark Manzoni doing the vino at the swank home of Don and Barbara Chapin (yes, there's a putting green, pool, bay views and a private bowling alley).
And the 100-person "Enchanted Vines" ($150) at Dr. and Mrs. Bryan Mansour's Pebble Beach mansion with five paired courses with Winemaker Steve Pessagno and wildman-budding celebrity Chef Todd Fisher—with dancing in the moonlight—and an "Enchanted vineyards" event spearheaded by
At the main event Oct. 20, there will be 40 pouring spots on the Salinas streets alone, 30 breweries in the beer garden and 30-plus food purveyors.
"Salinas Valley Alley" will have a dozen growers with product prepared for free tastings—salads, artichokes and such; the VIP area ($80), meanwhile, will have special live art exhibits, spirits tasting, a bubble bar and the aforementioned exclusive music.
In a word: Whoah.
••• There's two more biggies sneaking up right behind it in early November, and the two grandest of the year this spring, which are good to jump on now because they—or at least their more exclusive elements—sell out:
Nov. 1-4, 2012 Big Sur Food & Wine FestivalDozens of restaurants from the South Coast’s increasingly foodified redwoods (think Sierra Mar, Ventana, Big Sur Bakery and Deetjen’s) join forces with a few northerners (like Restaurant 1833) and dozens of top wineries from Paso Robles to Oregon’s North Willamette Valley (like Bernardus, Alpha Omega, Talbott and Testarossa) for all sorts of soirees. Think restaurant-hosted winemaker dinners, grand tastings, Big Sur’s trademarked wine-in-hand hiking through private estates, a grand finale night of gypsy swing plus the return of Wine and Swine marrying Niman Ranch pigs and Pinot. (831) 667-0800, http://www.bigsurfoodandwine.org
Nov. 10, 2012 Party in the Hangar The Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association’s wine and food party fills the 20,000-square-foot Del Monte Aviation with wines from 40 wineries and also features local sparkling wines and caviar, a try-and-buy wine market, tastes from 10 local restaurants, appearances from local celebrity chef Todd Fisher (United States of Bacon), vintner Q and As, and food trucks including Bacon Bacon SF, Babaloo, Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Compan y and others. (831) 375-9400, http://www.montereywines.org
April 4-7, 2013 Pebble Beach Food & Wine More than 50 superlative chefs like Thomas Keller, Masaharu Morimoto, Cindy Pawlcyn and Tyler Florence whip up nibbles for grand tastings and fill multi-chef kitchens for increasingly incredible dinners. More than 200 of the world’s most illustrious wineries, meanwhile, also figure into the lunches, panels, demos and after-parties, as do cocktails, chocolate and cheeses. (866) 907-3663, http://www.pebblebeachfoodandwine.com
May 17-19, 2013 Cooking For Solutions Some of the best and most progressive chefs in the country reveal the joys of good-for-the-planet cooking at this Aquarium-based food fest. Dozens of national chefs are honored, rafts of standout local chefs host them and participate as well, and attendees bask in interactive demos, showdown showcases, farm tours, farmers markets, tastings and the sure-to-sell-out gala. The 11th annual promises Duskie Estes, Carla Hall, Chris Cosentino and Art Smith. (831) 648-4800, http://www.montereybayaquarium.org