Epicurean delights at the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival

Walking into the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival in the spring of 2010, something occurred to me. Why had it taken so long for someone—anyone—to come up with the idea for this annual event? I mean honestly, Pebble Beach is luxury incarnate — hulking mansions fronting some of the most beautiful coastline in the world, super luxe shopping, and, of course, a legendary golf course that has hosted the U.S. Open ten times. This is the playground of the rich and famous, princes and kings, captains of industry and celebrity superstars. An over-the-top gourmet fest showcasing the elite of the international restaurant biz and masters of the grape is a no-brainer. This is decadence at its very best.

And now, with its fourth year looming large, planners are once again rolling out the red carpet for rockstar chefs and A-list oenophiles. And what a list it is. Among the luminaries cooking for this year’s Delicacy Dinner in Club XIX (one of the most historic restaurants at Pebble Beach) are Joachim Splichal of Patina Group in Los Angeles, Charlie Trotter of Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park in New York, Geoffrey Zakarian of The National in New York, and Gale Gand of Tru in Chicago.

The highly anticipated cooking demonstrations for the weekend (April 28-May 1, by the way) are no less star-studded. Southern trained chef Tyler Florence will whip up a family-style feast at the Inn at Spanish Bay; Food Network icon Guy Fieri will show off his inimitable style and wit; five-time James Beard Award winner and Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio will bring his nothing-short-of-amazing talents; and cookbook author and educator extraordinaire Jacques Pepin will do what he does best—make gourmet food easy and accessible.

Lest you think your amateur palate unfit for such an event at this upscale venue, have no fear: remember, this is fun and educational. And in addition to all the household names adding their flair to the fest, they’ll be plenty of locals strutting their stuff, especially in the wine arena. Alongside the requisite French, Australian, Italian, and Spanish vintages will be dozens of Napa and Sonoma producers as well as a nice showing of Monterey County and Carmel Valley representatives. During the dozens of tastings—designed for all levels of oenophiles from beginner to experienced—you’ll learn to sip (or spit) like a master sommelier while learning about food pairings, best years for what grapes, and much more.

For those who don’t want to get too fancy with upscale dinners, the festival also includes six different chances for luxe lunches, which run the gamut from barbecue to sustainable seafood dishes. I was disappointed I missed them last year, and I don’t plan on making the same mistake a month from now. And although my golf game has improved (slightly) of late, I still don’t think I’m ready to take part in the quick-off event for the festival—a golf tourney with some of the biggest names in food and wine. I’ve heard they serve up some amazing food and wine at different points on the course, and I’d be interested to see if Colicchio or Fieri can drop a 20-foot putt.

If you really want to get up-close-and-personal when it comes time for the chefs and winemakers to relax and unwind, at the end of each day is an after-hours party where you can hobnob with the best and brightest. Last year I couldn’t resist the urge to ask several of them what they cook on a typical weeknight, when dinner has to be squeezed in between karate lessons, baseball practice, homework, and bedtime stories. I’m not revealing their answers, as amusing as some were — you’ll just have to ask them yourself.

Peter Rerig is a Senior Writer for Vacations.com.

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