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Let's eat.

From Big Sur's killer cliff-clinging eateries to Salinas' unparalleled produce, this blog aims to sniff out all things Monterey County can stomach, via picture and prose, curiosity and appetite, hand and mouth.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Higher Spirits

As Paul Robertson, aka one-of-the better-sommeliers-on-the-planet-period (formerly of French Laundry and today one of only 127 master som's in existence), put it, "We think it should be Pebble Beach Wine & Food."

He's got a point. The chefs are spectacular and everpresent, but the wine is truly overwhelming. At the three-hour Grand Tastings, you could sip a nimble Storybrook Zin or test drive a Testarossa Pinot every single minute and still miss out on 80 wineries. (Not wines. Wineries, who were often pouring several tastes.)

But another alternative could work: Pebble Beach Food & Wine & Spirits & Beer. The reason is simple: Each year the event seems to pump up the presence of non-wine delights. Year one Stella seemed the only significant rep on that front, but last year, a Patron bar buzzed with activity at both Grand Tastings and spirits dominated the afterparties. This year, both Patron and Belvedere were huge sponsors, enjoyed swanky digs at the GTs and were all over the late night action downstairs at Spanish Bay (and it was again excellent to have Stella on hand to pair with, say, a head-shaking plate of spicy Vietnamese Alaskan halibut).

Moreover, one of the afternoon seminars was tabbed as "Interactive Seminar in Mixology"—and proved one of the more practical and entertaining sessions.

Would-be mixologists like those pictured at top tore fresh mint, muddled raspberries and budgeted bitters under the tutelege of Penelope Cruz-esque author-writer-cocktail queen Tracey Toomey and BAMBOO London Drink Director Ben Hehir. Tables were blanketed with tools like smashers and jiggers and superb spirits like Pyrat rum and Patron Añejo.
They taught us that Patron has a bee on its label because the buzzers arrive when agave gets matures—and how to make rock star margaritas, mojitos, juleps and "pink grapefruits," with each drink paired with appropriate fare that offered insight into how to pull off a rocking cocktail party.

Mini shrimp tacos on a triangle of freshly fried tortilla with cabbage and creme fraiche, fresh avocado and pickled jalapeños were just right with a reposado margarita we each made. That margy and a Belvedere Black Raspberry Julep were my favorites, though I missed many cut out early to check out "Gary Squared" next door with Gary Pisoni and Gary Franscioni. Here are the drink recipes. Yum yum for dum dums:

Reposado Margarita
2 ounces Patron Reposado
1 ounce Citronge
.75 ounce lime juice
barspoon of agave nectar
splash of orange juice
(Combine in cocktail shaker, shake vigorously and strain over ice and garnish with lime slice)

Belvedere Black Raspberry Julep
3 ounces Belvedere Black Raspberry
3 stalks of fresh mint
10 raspberries
1 teaspoon sugar
crushed ice
(Muddle the raspberries, sugar and leaves of mint in a rocks glass, add crushed ice and muddle more, then add crushed ice, muddle more, and pour over vodka. Stir, then garnish with a raspberry and mint leaf.)

Our table had a damn good time at the mixology gig, but I haven't seen a PBF&W crowd laugh as much as the one next door. Above, a hint why.

At one point Pisoni planted kisses on each of his fellow panelists. At another he announced, "This is the kind of stuff where you drink some on the patio and I guarantee whoever brought it will soon be making out." After sharing 2008 estate silk that goes down like a happy sigh, he invited the entire room over to his house.