After a little hesitation, I finally signed up for the Wine Bloggers Conference taking place in Lodi, California from August 11th-14th. Why did I wait so long? Well, I wasn’t sure what to expect, really. But after chatting with a few other wine bloggers (Traveling Wine Chick in particular) and Public Relations Pro Heather Atherton, I was convinced it was a weekend not to miss!
I am very excited to attend my first blogger conference and that it will be specifically for people who blog about wine. In the past five years or so, I have moved more towards the grape and have had the opportunity to travel to different wine regions throughout Northern California, and write about my experiences. A big reason for this is because I have the best travel partner in Andy, as shares my love for food, wine and travel.
I look forward to a weekend full of learning, making new friends, networking, incredible food, and of course tasting wine.
If you haven’t signed up yet, I urge you to do so. There are lots of fun surprises planned for Friday, August 12th during the afternoon-evening dinner excursion. I’m not even sure what exactly has been prepared, but the conference attendees will be splitting into small groups and taken to different wineries/locations for dinner. I can hardly wait!🙂
I am attaching the conference itinerary below in utter anticipation of the upcoming conference (and perhaps to encourage you if you have a wine blog or are in the industry to attend!)
2016 WINE BLOGGERS CONFERENCE, LODI CALIFORNIA AGENDA
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 10
2:00 PM – Arriving bloggers picked up at Sacramento International Airport and whisked away to Pre-Conference Excursions in several wine regions (in Lodi, bloggers will walk through vines and meet winegrowers showcasing “Experimental and Ancient Vines”)
THURSDAY, AUGUST 11
4:00 PM – Drop Off at Host Hotels from Pre-Conference Excursions
6:00–8:30 PM – Registration and Lodi Opening Reception
FRIDAY, AUGUST 12
8:00–9:00 AM – Registration
9:00 AM – Opening & Welcome
9:10 AM – Keynote Address by Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson
9:55 AM – History of Grape Growing and Winemaking in Lodi: A talk on how Lodi became a pre-eminent wine region; moderated by Mark Chandler (Lodi City Mayor and former Executive Director of the Lodi Winegrape Commission), with panelists Aaron Lange (LangeTwins Family Vineyards Manager and Vice Chair of California Association of Winegrape Growers), Kevin Phillips (Michael David Winery/Phillips Farms Vice President of Operations), and Markus Bokisch (Bokisch Vineyards Owner/Grower).
11:00 AM – The Truth About Viticulture Panel: Moderated by Stuart Spencer (Program Director of Lodi Winegrape Commission and St. Amant Winery Owner/Grower/Winemaker), with panelists Tegan Passalacqua (Turley Wine Cellars Director of Winemaking), Stan Grant (Viticulturist, Progressive Viticulture), and Chris Storm (Viticulturist, Vino Farms).
11:55 AM – Lunch and Expo (including the new Writers Corner)
1:45 PM Wine – One of three Wine Discovery Sessions, including sessions hosted by
• U.C. Davis : U.C. Davis alumnus Loyal Miner discusses Clarksburg Viticultural Area and Miner’s Leap family estate.
• Visit Oakland
• Consorzio Italia diVini & Sapori: Deborah Parker Wong DWSET presents the varied and delicious wines of Italy’s Veneto, from Prosecco to Amarone
3:00 PM – Live Wine Blogging (White & Rosé): The Wine Bloggers Conference’s pre-eminent event, in which 25 winemakers have five minutes each to pour their wine, present their story, and answer questions from a table of bloggers. At the end of five minutes, winemakers will rotate to a new table. Bloggers will analyze and describe their impressions live via social media or their blogs.
4:00–8:30 PM – Excursions into Lodi Wine Country: Eight different excursions going to eight different Lodi winery/estates; each excursion to include hands-on winery or vineyard activities, tastings, and dinner.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 13
9:15–10:15 AM – Breakout Sessions, including
• Advanced Social Media for the Wine Industry: Beth Peluse (Zephyr Adventures) and Maria Frangieh (wine industry digital marketing consultant) discuss their favorite social media platforms and how to utilize them to promote blogs and Web sites.
• Traffic Analysis – Dan Morris and Rachel Martin of Blogging Concentrated discuss data usage such as Google’s Search Console, BrainstormTools, and Facebook Insightsto increase traffic and revenue.
• Wine Samples: Marisa Indelicato (Fox Run Vineyards), Frank Morgan (Drink What YOU Like), Rebecca Gomez Farrel (The Gourmez) and Chris O’Gorman (Rodney Strong Vineyards ) discuss the intricate, often indelicate dance involving procurement of bottle samples from the wine industry.
10:30–11:30 AM – Breakout Sessions, including
• Social Media Platforms: Beth Peluse (Zephyr Adventures) and Maria Frangieh (wine industry digital marketing consultant discuss Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and Periscope, the four hottest photo and video social media platforms on the internet, and best practices and tips and tricks of the trade for building community and audience.
• Climate Change: Michael Fagin (West Cost Weather LLC) discusses how climate change in United States wine regions will impact the major wine growing regions of Washington, Oregon, California, and New York, and how the industry is adjusting.
• Monetization: Dan Morris and Rachel Martin of Blogging Concentrated discuss earning a respectable income through blogging with use of Ad Networks, Adsense, Affiliate programs, display ads, product sales and by becoming a paid consultant.
1:00–2:00 PM – Wine Discovery Sessions, including
• Discovery Session : Wine Educator May Matta-Aliah DWS presents Au Natural Alsace: The leadership role taken by France’s Alsace region in Organic, Biodynamic and Sustainable Wines, sponsored by Wines of Alsace.
• Discovery Session: Yealands Family Wines Winemaker Tamra Kelly-Washington leads a tasting/discussion of the world’s first carboNZeroCertTM certified winery, located in Marlborough, New Zealand’s extremely windy, cold, coastal Awatere Valley.
2:15–3:15 PM – Wine Blog Award Winners Panel: Five winners of the 2016 Wine Blog Awards tell their stories; including Sophie Thorpe from Berry Bros. & Rudd, Mary Cressler from Vindulge, Jill Barth from l’Occasion, Susan Manfull and Jerry Clark from Provence WineZine, and moderator Sujinder Juneja from Town Hall Brands.
3:15–4:15 PM Live Wine Blogging (Red Wines): The Wine Bloggers Conference’s pre-eminent event, in which 25 winemakers have five minutes each to pour their wine, present their story, and answer questions from a table of bloggers. At the end of five minutes, winemakers will rotate to a new table. Bloggers will analyze and describe their impressions live via social media or their blogs.
4:30–5:30 PM – From Passion to Pro – Getting Paid to Write About Wine: Moderator Randy Caparoso (LoCA’s lodiwine.com and The SOMM Journal Editor Editor-at-Large) discusses how to make the jump from personal blogging to paid wine journalism, while sharing secrets of their success, with panelists Debra Meiburg MW (Debra Meiburg Master of Wine), Jameson Fink (Wine Enthusiast Magazine) and Deborah Parker Wong (The Tasting Panel Magazine, Vineyard & Winery Management, and Consorzio Italia diVini & Sapori).
5:30-7:00 PM – Wines of the World Receptions featuring Wines of Alsace from France, Yealands Family Wines from New Zealand, and wines from the Consorzio Italia diVini & Sapori from Italy.
7:00–9:00 PM – Dinner with LoCA (Wines of Lodi)
9:00 –9:30 PM – Wine Blog Awards Presentation: Presentation of 2016 Wine Blog Award winners will be presented their awards.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 14
9:30 – 10:30 AM – Breakout Sessions, including
• The Big Jump – Austin Beeman (of Understanding Wine, former Ohio wine retailer and Bonny Doon Director of Marketing) discusses why wineries are “desperately seeking” the skills of wine bloggers.
• Increase Your Audience & Engagement: Mary Cressler and Sean Martin of Vindulge discuss going from social media groups to television producers, freelancing to working with other media sites, and finding ways to promote your blog and increase your community engagement.
10:45 – 11:45 AM – Blogger Reports: Five-minute reports shared by fellow bloggers describing what they are doing to contribute to the world of wine blogging.
11:45 AM – 12:00 PM – Conference Closing
12:15 PM – Departure for Post-Conference Excursions to Ironstone Vineyards in Calaveras, and in Lodi (an exploration of Lodi’s “Heritage Vineyards and Ancient Vines”
You can find me there from Friday-Sunday morning!
You can find the Wine Bloggers Conference on Facebook here.
(SAN FRANCISCO) – Eat Drink SF, the premier food, wine, and spirits festival that celebrates the Bay Area’s world-class chefs and restaurants, announces full main stage programming and festival activations for both the Taco Knockdown presented by Milagro Tequila on August 25, and the four signature Grand Tasting sessions at the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason, August 26 – 28.
Presented by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, Eat Drink SF invites food and drink enthusiasts to connect directly with top local chefs and bartenders and get a taste of what makes San Francisco a top-rated food city. From Thursday to Sunday, more than 160 restaurants participate and guests will enjoy bites as well as unlimited pours of beverages from more than 70 bars, distilleries, breweries, and wineries.
In addition the comprehensive line-up of local culinary talent, Eat Drink SF is thrilled to announce new activations in the festival line-up:
All four Grand Tastings will feature San Francisco’s Buena Vista Café who will be serving their famous Irish Coffees featuring Tullamore D.E.W. to bring guests a quintessential flavor of San Francisco.
This year, Eat Drink SF has added a special Grand Tasting on Sunday, August 28, to celebrate the Golden Gate Restaurant Association’s 80th anniversary and honor the legacy restaurants in the Bay Area. The Sunday Afternoon Grand Tasting will feature Bay Area bars and restaurants that have been open for at least 20 years and that have helped shape the distinct flavor of the local culinary experience including Scoma’s, Sutro’s at the Cliff House, Tosca and Goat Hill Pizza.
Eat Drink SF has added the “Bay Bar” to all Grand Tastings, which will feature a rotating lineup of San Francisco’s beloved cocktail bars, such as Hard Water, Prizefighter, The Treasury, Whitechapel, and more. Additionally, The San Francisco Brewers Guild will be pouring local craft beers at all Grand Tastings in the “Backyard Bites” section.
In addition to the participating restaurants at the Grand Tastings, Eat Drink SF presents 23 culinary, wine, and cocktail demonstrations and panels. A sampling of Main Stage programming and talent includes:
Friday Evening Grand Tasting, August 26:
Emcee: Joel Riddell of iHeartMedia
Cocktail Demo with Selena Donovan of Maven & California Gold of Beretta Presented by Sipsmith Gin
Beer Pairing Demo by Chef Anthony Strong of Locanda Presented by Stella Artois
Saturday Afternoon Grand Tasting, August 27:
Emcee: Margo True of Sunset Magazine
Culinary Demo with Elaine Johnson of Sunset Magazine
Cocktail Demo with Alex Smith of Whitechapel Presented by Imbibe Magazine
Culinary Demo with Brandon Jew of Mister Jiu’s Presented by All Clad and Fine Cooking
Saturday Evening Grand Tasting, August 27:
Culinary Demo with Andrew Le of The Pig & the Lady Presented by Hawaiian Airlines
Cocktail Demo with Erik Adkins of The Slanted Door Group
Sunday Afternoon Grand Tasting, August 28:
Emcee: Liam Mayclem of KCBS Foodie Chap
History of the Tiki Drink by Martin Cate of Smuggler’s Cove
Culinary Demo with Thomas McNaughton of flour + water and Ryan Pollnow of Aaxte Presented by All-Clad
Inside the Grand Tasting, San Francisco Wine School Beverage Classroom announces the following classes:
Friday, August 26: “Wine 101: Speak Like a Geek”, “50 Shades of Gris”, and “Cabernet is King?”
Saturday, August 27 (Afternoon): “Discover Beaujolais”, “Bubbles, Bubbles, & More Bubbles”, “Chardonnay: Burgundy, Butter & Beyond”
Saturday, August 27 (Evening): “Do Points Matter?”, “Savvy Blanc: Too Cool for the Pool”, “The Dark Side of Pinot Noir”
Sunday, August 28: “ViniPortugal Class”, “Summer Through Rosé Colored Glasses”, “Que Syrah Syrah”
Guests can kick-off festival weekend with Taco Knockdown presented by Milagro Tequila at Folsom St. Foundry on Thursday, August 25. Returning after a sold-out debut in 2015, this year’s taco competition has added a “Milagro Margarita Mix Off” with local bar stars: Brandon Bigalke (Wingtip), Brian Nelson (Whitechapel), Ted Ronnie (Mosto), Oz Serafin (Trick Dog). Reigning champs DOSA and Trick Dog will defend their titles against a new batch of fierce taco contenders: AQ, Bar San Pancho, Delfina, La Urbana, Matador, Mr. Tipple’s Recording Studio, Myriad Gastropub, Palm House, Picco, and Souvla. From 6:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m., taco lovers will sample 12 unique tacos from participating restaurants and drink beer, wine, competing margaritas and other cocktails crafted by The Bon Vivants.
For a full list of participating restaurants, visit each of the event pages at www.eatdrink-sf.com. VIP and General Admission tickets for the Grand Tastings are available for purchase at www.eatdrink-sf.com. General Admission tickets are $109 but will increase to $119 on July 25 and VIP tickets are $199 – $209. A limited number of tickets for Taco Knockdown presented by Milagro Tequila are still available for $85. For more information, visit www.eatdrink-sf.com or follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Eat Drink SF benefits the GGRA Scholarship Foundation and CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture). GGRA’s scholastic-based scholarship program has given more than $500,000 in the past 14 years alone and was established to encourage and provide assistance for students who wish to further their education in pursuit of careers in the hospitality industry.
Platinum Sponsors include Hawaiian Airlines, Morningstar Farms, PG&E, S.Pellegrino® Sparkling Mineral Water, Stella Artois, Taiwan Tourism Bureau, The Glenlivet, Woodford Reserve, Fine Cooking, iHeartMedia, Imbibe Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, SF Travel, Sunset, Tasting Table, Wine Spectator, DPEM Event Marketing, Noise 13, and San Francisco Wine School. For a complete list, please visit http://eatdrink-sf.com/sponsors.
To purchase tickets to any of the events, please go here.
About Eat Drink SF
Eat Drink SF, (aka SF Chefs), was founded by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association in 2009 to celebrate the Bay Area’s world-class restaurant community. Each year, more than 160 restaurants participate in Eat Drink SF’s events that include Taco Knockdown and its signature Grand Tasting sessions. With more than 8,500 attendees, Eat Drink SF provides an opportunity for top area chefs to connect directly with enthusiastic food lovers. Guests enjoy bites and beverages from more than 70 bars, distilleries, breweries, and wineries. EDSF 2016 takes place August 25 – 28 at Festival Pavilion in Fort Mason Center (San Francisco).
About Golden Gate Restaurant Association
This year, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association is celebrating its 80th anniversary. Founded by restaurateurs in 1936 to give San Francisco restaurants a collective voice, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association (GGRA) has evolved to be the Bay Area culinary community’s representative and trusted partner. GGRA supports and celebrates its members through year-round educational programming, professional development, and annual events including SF Restaurant Week, Eat Drink SF and its Industry Conference. The member community includes restaurants of all sizes and profiles.
Hello meat lovers! I’m working on a few blog posts myself, but in the meantime, here’s some information on one of my favorite food and wine events of the year from my friends at Cochon 555, Cochon Heritage Fire Napa, taking place on August 21st this year at Charles Krug Winery!
SAN FRANCISCO, CA (June 30, 2016) — America’s cult culinary event, Heritage Fire by Cochon555, returns to Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena on August 21st, 2016. Entering its eighth year of existence, Cochon555 events continue to attract sold-out crowds nationwide, most recently at Heritage Fire Snowmass during the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. The greater goal of the Cochon555 family is to promote honest food prepared by singular artisans; to celebrate family farming; and to shine the gastronomic spotlight on the hard-working people who are responsibly (though often silently) raising heritage breed animals.
The Heritage Fire event helps foster the relationship between local farming and emerging chef and restaurant communities, which grapple with having to pay premium prices in order to serve their guests safer, responsibly raised and flavorful food that is also raised locally. Heritage Fire – a premiere, whole animal, live-fire, and outdoor food and wine event – features whole animals roasted over open fires by local and national chefs. The event also benefits Piggy Bank, a farm devoted to providing free heritage breed pigs to small farms in exchange for transparent business plans that are posted online. The all-inclusive ticket is now available online at cochon555.com for $125 (includes beverage pairings, tax and gratuity), along with a mouth-watering Heritage Fire trailer and video.
Heritage Fire Napa Valley will showcase over 50 notable chefs and butchers, each grilling heritage breed animals en plein air amongst the area’s impressionistic hills and vineyards. The event features responsibly raised food and traditional outdoor cooking techniques, paired with free-flowing wines from more than 35 boutique producers, craft beers from Magnolia Brewing, and small-batch Common ciders. The list of heritage and heirloom foods includes dry-aged beef, whole pigs, lamb, goat, squab, rabbit, duck, fish, chicken, artisan cheeses, oysters, and heirloom vegetables.
Participating chefs include Thomas McNaughton and Evan Allumbaugh of Flour + Water (SF); Adam Sobel of Michael Mina Group (SF); Albert Ponzo of Le Select Bistro (TOR); Andy Ricker of Pok Pok (NYC); Cristiano Creminelli of Creminelli Fine Meats (SLC); Rafael Barrera of Puerto Rico; Marc Zimmerman of Alexander’s Steakhouse (SF); John Sundstrom of Lark (SEA); Jose Mendin of Pubbelly (MIA); Timon Balloo of Bocce (MIA); Kim Wiss of Antica Napa Valley; John Manion of La Sirena Clandestina (CHI); Greg Laketek of West Loop Salumi (CHI); Tiffany Friedman of Butter Root; Joshua Schwartz & Tony Incontro of Del Dotto; David Bazirgan of Dirty Habit (SF); Sacramento’s Ella Dining Room and Bar; Jason Kupper of Heritage Eats (NAPA); Duskie Estes and John Stewart of Zazu Kitchen (SON); Robin Song of Junju (SF); Peter Jacobsen of Jacobsen Orchards (NAPA); Michael Thiemann of Mother – Empress Tavern (SAC); Michael Ginor of Hudson Valley Foie Gras (NY); Jeff Weiss, Author of Charcuteria: The Soul of Spain (SF); Lars Kronmark of Culinary Institute of America Greystone; Trevor Kunk of Press (NAPA); Sophina Uong of Calavera (OAK); Nicolai Lipscomb of The Battery (SF) and many more.
“It’s always an honor to host Heritage Fire in St. Helena,” says Brady Lowe, Founder of Cochon555. “And to have amazing partners like Charles Krug, and the Napa Valley welcome us for this special weekend means things are really heating up this summer. We’re putting the spotlight on heritage species, responsible agriculture, and amazing chefs. St. Helena is now home to Cochon555’s best expression of live-event immersion in the good food movement featuring the best chefs, farmers and sponsors around the country. Guests can expect an epic culinary experience paired with the region’s best wines; this is eating and drinking for a cause.”
In addition to the meat-laden feast, the event also features The Pop-Up Butcher Shop featuring Rob Levitt of Butcher & Larder (CHI); Tracy Smaciarz of Heritage Meats (SEA); and David the Butcher of Marina Meats (SF) alongside Master of Ceremonies Billy Harris (LA) leading the butcher demonstration which raises money for Piggy Bank. Guests can help raise $5,000 by bidding on packages including rare bottles of wine, monster steaks, etched cutting boards and custom knives from Town Cutler. In addition this year, Wines of Germany presents the Wood-Fired Ramen Bar featuring a notable chef, a delicious Tomahawk Pop-Up served with Faust Wines, Wood-Fired Artisan Cheese Bar with California Artisan Cheese Guild and Foie Gras from Hudson Valley amongst many other delights. This is the eighth year in a row Heritage Fire has made its way to California. It is the nation’s only hyper-local, whole animal, live-fire outdoor culinary event cooking and serving 3,500+ pounds of heritage breed animals in celebration of agricultural and animal diversity.
Where: Charles Krug Winery, 2800 Main Street, St. Helena, CA 94574
When: Sunday, August 21, 2016
VIP Admission: 4PM
General Admission: 5PM
Tickets: $125 General Admission
$200 VIP – 1 Hour Early Entry, Reserve Tastings, and Seminar Invitations apply
Purchase tickets HERE
Heritage Fire Napa would not be possible without our amazing lineup of sponsors including, Williams-Sonoma, Wines of Germany, The Perfect Puree of Napa Valley, DRY Sparkling, Martinez Lacuesta, Creminelli, Lake Sonoma Winery, Faust Wines, Magnolia Brewing Co., Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Alysian Wines, Common Cider, Antica Napa Valley, Hedley & Bennett, Cypress Grove Chevre, Coach Farm, Parrano, Sun Noodle, Rappahannock River Oysters, 34 Degrees, and Gulfish.
About the Cochon555 US Tour
The Cochon555 US Tour executes a yearly host of authentic, hyper-local food events focused on raising awareness for heritage breed pigs through the world’s first nose-to-tail pig cooking competition. Created in response to the lack of consumer education around heritage breeds, this epic pork feast visits 20 major cities in North America annually and stages over 60 events. The tour is comprised of an array of live-event expressions including Heritage BBQ (global cultures); Heritage Fire (live-fire event); EPIC Cochon (hyper-premium); All-Star Cochon (fan favorites); and Cochon Island; (agri-tourism). All Cochon555 events cultivate a long-term impact for heritage species raised by family farms, reaching the top culinary markets in North America, while promoting our sponsors’ messages to 16,000 guests by drawing from the biggest names in the hospitality industry, including 2,200+ chefs, 150+ family farms, and 16 culinary schools. Since 2009, 50,000+ consumers have experienced heritage pork for the first time, more than $500,000 has been donated to charities, and over $750,000 has been paid directly to our farmers. Together with winemakers, brewers, distillers, and craft food makers, they create authentic culinary events celebrating champions of the good food movement. For more details about the events and to see videos referencing all the events in the Cochon555 family, visit http://www.cochon555.com or follow @cochon555 on Twitter and Instagram.
About Piggy Bank
Launched in 2015 by Brady Lowe – founder of the Cochon555 US Tour and Taste Network – Piggy Bank is a pig farming sanctuary. Harboring a Noah’s Ark-worthy selection of heritage breeds, it provides free genetics and business plans to emerging family farms. Piggy Bank aims to change the future of food by creating a community in which small farmers can come to learn about safer, more responsible practices, and can benefit from the sharing of genetics, livestock, and the very information needed to not just survive, but to thrive as small businesses. Piggy Bank is dedicated to creating the first Open Source agricultural platform of its kind. The Piggy Bank farm, located in Missouri, raises pigs to be gifted only to communities dedicated to elevating the cause and expanding through a model of social and agricultural transparency. Piggy Bank is a project of The Giving Back Fund, Inc., a Massachusetts nonprofit corporation with federal tax exempt status as a public charity under Section 501(c)(3). Follow the Piggy Bank conversation on Twitter @PiggyBankOrg. For more information about Piggy Bank or The Giving Back Fund, please contact Kerith at piggy-bank.org, watch the video http://j.mp/PIGGY_BANK or visit www.piggy-bank.org.
Over $60,000 Raised for Charity at the 7th Annual HALL Wines Cabernet Cookoff and an Interview with Duff Goldman!
Here’s a little press release (combined with some photos I took that day and some of my comments) on the recent HALL Wines Cabernet Cookoff from my friends at the winery. After that, scroll down to read my interview with Duff Goldman of Charm City Cakes and Food Network’s Cake Masters!
On Saturday, April 23rd, over 700 hundred wine and food aficionados helped raise over $60,000 at the sold out 7th Annual Cabernet Cookoff at HALL Wines in St. Helena. Thirteen impressive Napa and Bay Area Restaurants teamed up with a nonprofit of their choice with the goal to create the best dish to pair with 2013 HALL Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Competition was fierce, the wine was inviting, and the weather paired beautifully with this lively philanthropic event.
“Our team is humbled that such talent, both in competing chefs and judges, clear their schedules each April to help us raise money for these noteworthy charities,” says Vintner Kathryn Walt Hall. “Thank you to our generous sponsors and loyal attendees for joining our efforts to make a difference in our community.”
Five judges, Duff Goldman, Celebrity Chef from Food Network, Leslie Sbrocco, host of “Check Please!” Bay Area, Virginie Boone of Wine Enthusiast, Ian White, SF Magazine, and Ken Frank, Chef at La Toque, took on the impressive task of choosing a runner up and first place winner from dishes like “Cherry Marinated Skirt Steak with Broccolini, Point Reyes Blue, Chive Blossom” or “Black Currant and Rose Macaroon with HALL Cabernet infused Geleé”.
Mark Dommen from One Market Restaurant in San Francisco took first place with his mouth-watering “Pancetta Wrapped Passmore Ranch Sturgeon Du Puy Lentils, Smoked Garlic, Thyme Jus” benefiting nonprofit Collabria Care of Napa (re-create here). Sorry for the obscene shadow!😦
Restaurants also had the opportunity to raise money for their charity through People’s Choice, a voting system by corks serving as the tallies. First place for People’s Choice was Napa restaurant, Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin’ BBQ, preparing “Fried Chicken with Spring Succotash” with the winnings benefiting Napa Humane.
Paula LeDuc Fine Catering of San Francisco took runner up of People’s Choice with the “HALL Cabernet Roasted Strawberries with White Chocolate Crumble and Mascarpone Cream,” partnering with nonprofit St Helena Hospital.
Proceeds of both ticket sales from attendees and 15% of purchases of 2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 Sauvignon Blanc and 2013 Coeur Cabernet Sauvignon were also donated to the participating winning charities. Sponsors of the event included at Magnum Level: San Francisco Magazine, Bright Event Rentals, Certified Parking Attendants, MyOffice Products, and Nixon Peabody. At the Harvest Level: Signum Architecture, DP&F, Benefit Marketing, Harvest Sanitation, Snap Fiesta, Napa Valley Tours and Transportation, Print Inkorporated, Frank Zimmerman and Co LLC, and Culligan Water. Bergfeld Sponsorships included Yelp, Alkar Staffing, UpOut.com, Napa Valley Engraving, Tre Posti, Barbier Security Group, The Lux Productions and Villagio Inn & Spa. Local radio station The Vine, 99.3 was on site to capture the excitement, led by personality “Good Morning Bob!”.
For more information about the event, please visit HALL Wines. To re-create the winning recipe visit HALL’s Recipe section. Check out the exciting sizzle reel courtesy of Flynn Kelleher here or more pictures from the event available here. Next year, the 8th Annual HALL Cabernet Cookoff will take place on Saturday, April 29, 2017, tickets available now! The event sold out this year, so make sure to reserve your spot for next year.
I had the chance to sample many of the dishes at the event, but my favorite was the Cabernet Braised Short Rib with Cranberry Beans and Horseradish created by Brix on behalf of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. I make short ribs with a wine sauce at home quite frequently, so this was just a dish I already like to eat.🙂
I asked him a few questions about the event and his latest show on Food Network, Cake Masters, which currently airs Monday evenings on Food Network at 8pm EST.
ME: So, how did you get involved with the HALL Wines Cabernet Cookoff fundraiser?
DUFF: Well, I’m not really sure, uh… you know, I went to school here, uh for culinary school (CIA), and I probably do (appear at) about 3 events in Napa every year and my name is around, I’m a friend of the valley, and this is the place where I became a chef.
ME: So your new show is Cake Masters. Please tell me a little bit about that.
DUFF: It’s a really cool show, it’s a lot like Ace of Cakes, you know, it follows my staff, we make big crazy cakes, uh, but it’s in Los Angeles instead of Baltimore, so we really up the stakes. So now what we do is partner with special effects houses, so these cakes are really just wild.
ME: Yes, I heard about the Fantastic Four cake, and that it was pretty cool.
ME: So what cake project were you most excited to do?
DUFF: Uh, well we just made a life-size working R2D2.
ME: That’s so awesome, that’s great. So you’re know for cake decorating, but what on the savory side do you like to make/cook?
DUFF: Well, right now I’m writing a book about soup. I’ve got a soup brain right now.
ME: Yes, I’m sure you probably have soup a lot living in Baltimore, especially during winter.
DUFF: We do, and I actually grew up in Cape Cod, so you know it’s a big soup country up there. It’s cold.
ME: I was reading a little bit about you, and found you started out bread making. How did you transition into making cake and not just cakes but cakes that are really works of art?
DUFF: Well, I was a graffiti artist when I was younger, and I started cooking to make enough money to pay for my spray paint. Uh, I got arrested a lot.
DUFF: Yeah, so I had to stop doing that. So then I started doing metal sculpture, bronzing, welding making giant things like that bunny out front (Duff is referring to Bunny Foo Foo, the large metal rabbit sculpture in front of HALL wines created by artist Lawrence Argent). And then, I started working on cars since a lot of my friends liked working on cars–and I was a really good welder, and they were like, hey can you come over and fix this thing, it’s like you know asking an artist to come over and paint your house, and I really liked doing it, so that’s how I kind of got into mechanics…I’ve been a working pastry chef my whole career and then I’d say when I was about 25, I was in a band in Baltimore and the band was doing really well, we were starting to get looked at by record labels.
ME: And you’re a bassist?
DUFF: Yeah, so I quit my job and I started selling cakes out of my apartment to try and help pay the rent while I was trying to be a full time musician.
ME: You’ve always had the pastry thing in the background and you were in Colorado for a while?
DUFF: Yeah, I used to carve ice out there.
ME: Well it was really cool to hear a little bit more about your background and I appreciate your time.
ME: My blog is kind of small and out of Sacramento…
DUFF: Well send it (the link) to me, I want to read it.
ME: *faints* (KIDDING!) Oh I will! Totally, totally. Thank you so much!
DUFF: Nice to talk to you.
Well, isn’t that something?🙂 Truthfully, I just didn’t want to take up much of Duff’s time, so I kept it short. It was really warm that day and we were standing outside in direct sunlight and he was wearing long pants and a long sleeved shirt so probably not the most comfortable place to be and get drilled with a bunch of questions from a nervous blogger. And yeah, I was nervous about interviewing Duff, I admit it. The funny thing is, I had met Duff before a few years ago at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco when he was kicking off his line of cake products (pic to prove it below!), and he was super nice and complimented me on my pink chef coat. But then I met Thomas Keller the next year (if you want to call it met) and I tried to ask him a question and he basically dissed me. So, the encounter with Thomas Keller (famous person) made me nervous that the Duff (also a famous person) thing would go awry. And well, I’d say it went alright. I want to thank Duff again for coming out to HALL and for putting up with me for about five minutes.🙂
We’re excited to be invited back to the HALL Cabernet Cookoff this year. This competition celebrates Bay Area chefs with 100% of ticket sales benefiting Napa Valley charities! Here’s a press release from my friends at HALL with all the details. I hope you can join us this year!🙂
NAPA VALLEY, CA – The HALL Cabernet Cookoff will return for its seventh year on Saturday, April 23. The annual event will feature an impressive lineup of both Napa Valley and San Francisco based Chef Teams vying for a chance to win money for a charity of their choice, by participating in a food and wine pairing challenge. 100% of ticket sales benefit Napa Valley non-profit organizations.
“This event is a sampling of Napa Valley lifestyle at its best,” says Vintner Kathryn Hall. “Guests get to enjoy the most delicious bites from Bay Area restaurants while sipping on our Napa Valley Cabernet. Each year, everyone involved with the Cab Cookoff comes out a winner.”
Chef teams involved create seasonal bites that pair well with HALL’s signature Cabernet Sauvignon and present it to an all-star panel of judges who vote for two Judges’ Awards. Chef teams are also judged by guests in attendance who vote for two People’s Choice Awards. All four awards are announced by Kathryn Hall, who presents checks to the winning chef teams and their selected charities, towards the end of the event.
The 2016 panel judges include celebrity Chef Duff Goldman from Food Network’s Ace of Cakes; TV Personality and host of Check Please Bay Area, Leslie Sbrocco; Wine Enthusiast Critic, Virginie Boone; San Francisco Magazine Wine Director, Ian White; and Michelin-rated Chef, Ken Frank of La Toque.
Additionally, KVON’s 99.3 The Vine and on-air personality “Good Morning, Bob,” will be broadcasting live during the event and feature real time interviews with chef teams, guests and non-profit organizations. Participating chef teams include The Grill at Meadowood, One Market, Harvest Table, The Patriot, Feast Catering, SIFT Desserts, Ca’ Momi, Paula Le Duc Fine Catering, Zola, Brix, Intercontinental Mark Hopkins, Kara’s Cupcakes, and more.
WHAT: 7th Annual HALL Cabernet Cookoff; a food and wine paring challenge with 100% of ticket proceeds supporting local charities
WHEN: Saturday, April 23, 2016 from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
WHERE: HALL St. Helena – The Great Lawn, 401 St. Helena Hwy. S, St. Helena, CA 94574. For more information call (707) 967-2626.
TICKETS: Early Bunny Ticket: $70.00 (pre-sale ticket ends March 31), General Admission Ticket: $80.00 (March 31 – April 23, 2016), VIP Sky Loft: $125.00 (Access to historic Bergfeld Building, single vineyard Cabernets and small bites from HALL’s in-house Chef team) Tickets Available: www.hallwines.com/cabernetcookoff
The 2015 HALL Cabernet Cookoff drew more than 650 food and wine lovers for a sold-out crowd, and raised $59,000 for local charities. Last year’s winning chef teams included PRESS and selected charity, If Given a Chance, Capital Dime and charity, Food Literacy Center, One Market and charity, Napa Valley Hospice Adult Day Services and The Grill at Meadowood and their charity, Community Resource for Children. Since inception in 2011, the HALL Cabernet Cookoff has raised $250,000 for charities in and around the Bay Area.
For more information, please visit www.hallwines.com/cabernetcookoff or via social channels using #cabernetcookoff.
Back in September, Andy and I attended the 70th birthday party of the Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar, a legendary tiki bar located in the basement of the Fairmont Hotel. Walking into the room is like stepping back in time to the post-war days of exotic cocktails, food and all things Polynesian. A time when South Pacific food and culture were all the rage, along with the clothing styles to match. Originally, the room housed the hotel’s indoor swimming pool. The pool and its original tiles have been saved, but it’s now equipped with a floating stage for bands to play live music. Every thirty minutes, a thunderstorm erupts, and rain falls into the pool.
The 70th birthday party featured an incredible buffet, cocktails and live music by the Island Groove band. It was surreal to be in San Francisco on a work night surrounded by so many fun people dressed in their best festive tiki attire, laughing and dancing without a care.
The Tonga Room is a true relic, surviving a threat of closure, and thriving to become what it is today. In 2013, the menu was redone and the drink recipes were given an update to match the more traditional style. It was an incredible experience to be part of the celebration.
If you have never been to the Tonga Room, please put it on your list of travel destinations in 2016 or make arrangements NOW to celebrate with them on New Year’s Eve (details below)!!
Get a real taste of what the Tonga Room looks like and all the fun we had at the party. More photos from the 70th birthday celebration can be found by clicking HERE.
Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar New Years Eve Luau
Ring in 2016 in a tropical paradise! Tonga Room offers a decadent Luau buffet package featuring a sumptuous buffet, party favors, Mai Tai or Champagne toast at midnight & dancing to The Island Groove band from 7:00pm until 12:30am.
Tonga Room New Year’s Eve Luau: 6:00pm-close
Cover Charge: $30 per person
1st Seating 6:30pm ~ Dinner Buffet:
$89 per adult, $49 for children under 12
2nd Seating 9:00pm ~ Dinner Buffet & midnight toast:
$119 per adult, $59 children under 12
Tonga Room New Year’s Eve Buffet Menu:
• Raw Kushi Oysters with Rice Wine Mignonette & Wasabi Tobikko
• Chilled Crab Claws with Chinese Mustard Dipping Sauce
• Poisson Cru, Sweet & Hot Peppers, Lime Juice, Coconut Shell
• Chilled Soba Noodle Salad with Ponzu Dressing
• Tropical Green Salad: Toasted Macadamia Nuts, Shredded Carrots, Pickled Peppers, Hearts of Palm, Shaved Cucumber, Crispy Wonton Strips, Sesame Soy Vinaigrette, Rice Wine Vinaigrette, Miso Vinaigrette
• Kona Baby Back Ribs
• Assorted Steamed Dumplings
• Red Lentil Soup
• Chow Mein Noodles, Bok Choy, Oyster Mushrooms, Cabbage, Carrots
Mongolian Beef Stir Fry
• Lu Pulu Taro leaf wrapped Corned Beef with braised Cabbage& Coconut Milk
• Huli Huli Chicken
• Vegetarian Tonga Hot Pot
• Whole Roasted 3-day Hoisin-Brined Berkshire Pig:
• Kalua Pork & Tropical Fruit Stuffing, Sweet Molasses Glaze & Apricot- Star Anise Compote
• Mashed Sweet Potatoes
• Wok Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Black Garlic, Sesame Oil
• Chef Attended Sushi Rolling Station: Tuna, Salmon, Amber Jack & Hamachi with all the accompaniments
Dessert Station: Coconut Clafouti, Petite Pineapple Rum Cake, White Chocolate Matcha Mousse, Assorted Mochi
To make arrangements at the Fairmont Hotel and for a glimpse of everything going on this holiday season, you can click here! You can find Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar on Facebook here and on Twitter here. For more information call (415) 772-5278.
Have you ever just wanted to escape? I mean, just ditch everything and all of your responsibilities?
I was so ready to do that this past weekend!
Lucky for me, Andy and I got the chance to travel to Carmel Highlands and were hosted for an evening at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands. It’s a destination hotel heavy on amenities and a sensory overload of picturesque views of the Pacific Ocean and Big Sur coast.
We were invited to stay there along with a few other writers–including L.A-based bloggers Kat and Kelly of Edible Skinny–and over the course of the weekend (which also included a stay at another Hyatt property) we were treated to dinners, massages, wine tastings and other fun things. For this chronicle, I’ll focus on the sheer excellence of the Hyatt Carmel Highlands and the meals we enjoyed at the restaurants located there. PS: Color me blessed and lucky for sure!
When we arrived at the hotel, we immediately joined up with the hotel tour already in progress. Sacramento is about 3 hours and 30 minutes away from Carmel Highlands. We were welcomed by the hotel staff and a woman from Holman Ranch Vineyards. She poured us a refreshing Chardonnay to sip during the tour. I asked the woman’s name because I thought she just might be “Hunter” for whom one of Holman Ranch’s wines is named, because I had spoken with her before on twitter. She confirmed her name and I laughed saying, “I thought that was you, you’re my favorite wine!” I have written about them before here.
The tour of all the meeting facilities was very interesting. The hotel is equipped with all different sized meeting/banquet rooms to fit different needs (4,945 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting spaces). Although the hotel can support any sort of indoor or outdoor business meeting you can think of and offers full service catering, as well as controlled heat, lighting and audio/visual systems, Hyatt Carmel Highlands is an even more ideal wedding and romantic getaway spot. Below is a picture of the gazebo (the setting for many nuptials).
One of highlights of the hotel for me was the gym/fitness center, which many hotels in Carmel and Carmel Valley do not have. It is small, but adequate for a property of 48 rooms. From the elliptical machines, you can actually see the ocean. I spent a lot of time in that room during my stay!🙂
After our property tour, we gathered by the lounge and enjoyed some appetizers and Holman Ranch wine. Hunter told us a little more about Holman Ranch and their wines as well as the estate-grown olive oils.
After a few rounds of appetizers and the fabulous Holman Ranch wines, our group relocated to the restaurant, just a few feet away from the lounge. The restaurant at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands is called Pacific’s Edge, and oddly enough, Andy and I almost went there for my birthday in June, but we were staying in Carmel-By-the-Sea, and opted to eat somewhere within walking distance of our hotel. I was thrilled to learn we would be enjoying dinner at Pacific’s Edge with other travel writers that evening at the only restaurant in Carmel with a view of the ocean!
Soon, we were served two new wines: a 2012 Chardonnay by Domaine Eden and a 2004 Austrian wine: Brundlmayer Cabernet Franc, “Vincent’s Cuvée”. Below is a picture of the Chardonnay. Andy and I had more of it with our dinner, as it was a better pairing with our food.
Everyone in our group was given a menu crafted just for us, just for that evening. We were told to choose one appetizer and one main course. For my appetizer, I chose the Zucchini Carpaccio with wild arugula, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, picked mushrooms and lemon olive oil vinaigrette.
Andy went with the Octopus “Confit” with fingerling potatoes, smoked paprika, extra virgin olive oil and Maldon salt. Since octopus doesn’t have it’s own fat to be a confit, the olive oil was used to slowly cook it, hence the name.
Then for our main course, Andy and I both ordered the same meal. We usually try to order something different, but this time we couldn’t resist the special being offered for the evening:
It was a line-caught Chilean Sea Bass with grapes and crispy sunchokes. It was one of the best fish dishes I have ever had. There were several layers of flavor and textures going on within the plate: flakey, creamy, crispy, savory, sweet, umami. It was everything I want in a bite of food. Comforting, but not too heavy. And so perfect I had to show you another picture:
We also happened to capture a picture of one of the other journalist’s dinners:
Then came dessert: I chose the fromage plate and a glass of 2005 Château Guiraud Sauternes.
The next day, after a few hours in the gym at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands for myself—Andy opted to go on a 5 mile run—we were treated to lunch at another one of the hotel’s restaurants (open for breakfast and lunch): California Market.
It was bubbles for me (Domaine Carneros Brut) as I decided what I should order for lunch. The patio of California Market features space heaters to keep you warm when the sun is busy hiding behind the clouds, and gorgeous views of the ocean and the beautiful landscaping of the property. I took the picture below from my table at the restaurant.
I order Cobb Salad a lot in restaurants because it has the trifecta of love: avocado, bacon and blue cheese!🙂 I ordered the dressing on the side (which was actually a very good Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette). It was the perfect low carb lunch after a long workout! The Cioppino was fragrant of mussels, clams, shrimp and cod with a spicy tomato broth. Andy jumped ship on the gluten free boat (momentarily) to enjoy the crusty garlic bread as a mop, catching every drop of the soup. What a satisfying lunch and sure to keep us full until dinner.
Following our meal, we said goodbye (reluctantly) to the staff at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands–one of the nicest stays I have had in recent memory. I think for me it was really all about the views and the cozy fireplace in our room. And OK, someone DID leave a bottle of my current favorite red wine in my room (how did they know about my love for Talbott Kali Hart??) accompanied by a cheese plate.🙂
Indeed it was hard to leave, but incredibly excited to tour and stay at the next Hyatt property on our agenda for the weekend: The Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa, which I will be writing about in the upcoming week!
You can find Hyatt Carmel Highlands on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter here and on Instagram here. You can find Holman Ranch on Facebook here and on Twitter here. Thanks to Hyatt Carmel Highlands for their generosity and hospitality.
I just found out about another fun food and wine event, this time featuring wine regions north of I-80. It’s called the 2nd Annual Golden Wine Festival and it’s going to happen on October 31st, 2015 from 11:00am-4:00pm at Bishop’s Pumpkin Farm in Wheatland. (Bishop’s Pumpkin Farm is located at 1415 Pumpkin Lane in Wheatland, CA).
Up to 25 top wineries and olive oil companies from the Sierra Foothills and Sacramento Valley will showcase their products.
This is an opportunity for wine lovers throughout the North State to interact directly with the vintners themselves while sampling a wide range of varietals and wine-making styles from this unique wine producing area of Northern California.
The event will take place in a beautiful hand-hewn, timber-frame barn, and will be accompanied by tasty hors d’oeuvres, a sampling of other locally-grown products and the option of Bishop’s famous barbeque lunch.
Bishop’s Pumpkin Farm will have its full facility open to allow adults as well as children to enjoy its corn maze, special baked goods, shops, miniature train, petting zoo and other down-home attractions.
Proceeds from the event will go to the Yuba-Sutter United Way to benefit grants for non-profit organizations providing services for “Healthier Children.”
Tickets are $25 — all tastings and hors d’oeuvres included. To purchase tickets, please CLICK HERE. If purchased before October 21st , the usual parking fee will be waived.
Andy and I attended the dinner as guests of the restaurant and were thrilled to be back at one of our favorite places to dine. I enjoy the wine dinners in particular because we always meet new people who are just as into wine as we are, as well as the wine representatives who are more than happy to talk about the wines in great detail that are featured in the dinner.
At a Dawson’s wine dinner, the evening typically begins at 6:30 in the form of a sparkling wine reception. Guests are given light appetizers and bubbly to kick off the evening and to open their palette and appetite for the incredible food and wine pairings to come.
Soon after the appetizers and bubbly, the chefs and wine representative come out into the reception area to introduce themselves and explain the meal and wine pairings that will be served for the evening. Below, chef Jason Poole gives a rundown of what he’s created for the night.
Following the menu introduction and the featured wines, guests are led into the restaurant to their assigned seats. There are a few communal tables and a few booths that are used for wine dinner guests. Andy and I were happy to be seated across from the wine representative as well as the wife of a well-known Sacramento chef.🙂
Soon, the servers poured our first wine and brought out our first course of the evening: A Maple Glazed Pork Belly with a quail egg, pickled chanterelle mushrooms and green onion grits. This course was paired with a 2013 Jayson Pinot Noir. (Jayson is a secondary label of the Pahlmeyer brand.) Of course, Pinot Noir is a classic pairing with pork, and it was almost like an upscale breakfast for the first course with the pork belly (bacon), egg, and grits. I completely approve of that!
Next up was the second course and wine pairing: Yellow Watermelon and Yellow Tail Tuna: Avocado cream, cocktail sauce, feta and cilantro flowers, paired with the 2013 Pahlmeyer Chardonnay.
I loved the plating of this dish most of all and the fun flavors that resounded. Yes, feta really does go with almost everything, and it was great to have yellow watermelon (something I don’t get to enjoy that often) featured in a dish. The 2013 Pahlmeyer Chardonnay served with this dish could really stand on its own. I actually think I found a new favorite white wine.
Moving on to the third course, beef, a Wagyu Flat Iron. It was plated with butternut squash cream, charred jimmy nardello peppers, eggplant, quinoa and currants. It was paired with a 2012 Pahlmeyer Merlot.
The beef course was my favorite because for me it was the most cohesive. Also, this was the best pairing—the wine did not compete with the food, but enhanced the flavors of its smoky eggplant and rich fruit (currants).
The fourth course brought us a Rabbit Saucisson (a sausage which originates in France that is typically made of pork, but here with rabbit and looked to have been made as a terrine). The saucisson was arnished with cornichons, white peach, pickled green tomato and a red wine mostardo.
This course was paired with a 2012 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red (a classic Napa style Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot). This full bodied wine paired well with the richness of the sausage, the boldness of the mostardo and the pickled items on the plate. Even a month later I remember how much I liked this particular dish and how unique it was.
For dessert we enjoyed a caramel tart filled with a nut trio of almonds, pistachios and cashews and served with a vanilla gelato. The crust was much like a buttery shortbread, filled with a thin layer of chocolate ganache, followed by a thicker layer of caramel. It was one of the best desserts I have ever eaten in a restaurant, and that’s a high compliment, as I myself am a pastry chef who rarely indulges unless it’s just fruit or a cheese plate. Old Soul coffee was poured for guests to enjoy with their dessert. Depending on the winery, sometimes a late harvest wine or a port is served with the last course.
Up next for Dawson’s wine series is their wine dinner featuring Silver Oak. It will be on Friday, November 13th at 6:30pm, 5 courses for $95 per person. To make a reservation, call (916) 443-1234. Hope to see you there!🙂
Last Sunday, not one but two dinners took place on a bridge to celebrate Farm-to-Fork and the amazing bounty we are lucky to enjoy living in the greater Sacramento region.
One of those dinners took place on the Deadhorse Island Bridge and was hosted by the California Pear Advisory Board. The menu featured locally grown produce, namely pears, in almost every course, and the signature beverage of the evening was a pear martini crafted by Jay Yoon of Dawson’s Steakhouse.
From the moment I heard this dinner was going to take place for people who were unable to attend the Tower Bridge Gala dinner, I was very excited for the organizers, and very interested in attending. Especially when I heard my friend and fellow blogger (Munchie Musings), Catherine Enfield would be attending.
It’s really something when you anticipate something so much and it turns out to be everything you expected, but so much more. On the evening of September 27th, we arrived in Walnut Grove and the Dead Horse Bridge (given its name from retired work horses who spent their last days on the island), located across the water from Giusti’s (a local restaurant responsible for the main course to be served that evening). The table and the bridge were beautifully decorated for the guests slated to dine there.
Soon Andy and I were mingling amongst the other guests, as well as Catherine and her guest. The starter was a pizza from Hot Italian in Sacramento, featuring pears and gorgonzola cheese, their Murino pizza.
Being gluten free 95% of the time did not stop me from tasting the appetizer and I enjoyed it with a pear martini, crafted by the aformentioned Jay Yoon of Dawson’s Steakhouse. If you haven’t been to Dawson’s, you’re missing out. Dawson’s is one of the most underrated restaurants in Sacramento. If you’re a wine lover, check out the wine dinners they have every few months. Here’s Jay making my martini!
I loved the addition of the pizza and the pear martini. It was such a touch of class, and made the Dead Horse Bridge Dinner seem so much like a private cocktail party. Then there was the wine, all provided by Bogle Wines and the beer, provided by Sudwerk Beer. The sodas were provided by River City Sodas, and the drinking water was even infused with pear. I could tell the organizers were beaming with pride and showcasing their product (pears) in the best way possible.
On display were several works of art (photography) by Skyler Stanley, including the piece below. Skyler was also the event photographer and took all the photos that were made into a video slideshow of the event that can be viewed by clicking here.
Then the courses began. First, a Delta Islands organic tomato and basil with fresh mozzarella salad. The Bogle Chenin Blanc was a perfect pairing with this salad and the next salad to come.
The first salad was a traditional mozzarella salad, but the endive salad really showcased the pears. Blue cheese and walnuts are a classic sidekick for pear. and the platter of salad didn’t last long amongst my table mates.
Then following the salads was the main course: A barrel-roasted pork rib roast with caramelized pears. Some meals just go down in history as the best you have ever had, no matter how simple the preparation. This meal was headed that way, and the pork we had next only added to my enthusiasm.
It’s really the atmosphere and the company with which you share your meal that makes it great, but it doesn’t hurt to have one of the best pieces of pork you have ever had in your life in front of you as well. The pears in the dish gave a sweet element that danced with the well-seasoned pork. Guests were also served sweet corn-on-the-cob from Dixon with the main course. Bogle’s Petite Sirah and Phantom Red Blend rounded out the wine selections.
OK, so I was all ready for seconds. I really was. But next came dessert, a delightful array of items from Golden State Fruit including dark chocolate crumbs, dried and fresh pears, almonds and Fiscalini cheddar cheese. It was like I was in charge of the dessert plate because it was a stunning combination of all of my favorite things on a plate!
With the dessert items, Bogle’s Petite Sirah Port was also served.
The words amazing and incredible can’t even describe my experience. The Pear Bridge Dinner was such a great success, but could not have been without the help and donations of time and goods by the following people… I want to give a round of applause to the chefs who put the meal together: Mark Morais of Guisti’s and his team –Sam Rainwater, John Baranek and Katie Morais. More thanks goes out to J.B. & Jeannie Morais of Delta Islands; Sudwerk Brewing Co.; Rich Collins, California Endive; Jim Boyce, Produce Express; Dixon Ridge Farms; Bogle Vineyards; Rivermaid Trading Company and all of the local Delta pear farmers, as well as Golden State Fruit.
More kudos goes to Chiles Wilson, Daniel Wilson, Chiles Wilson Jr., CJ Jensen, and Dixie Wilson for the use of her bridge. Rivermaid Trading Company was responsible for set-up, serving and clean up before, during and after the event. Big love to Jay Yoon and his assistant, Susan, from Dawson’s Steakhouse in the Downtown Hyatt for the delicious pear martinis. More thanks to Jody Bogle, Janice Lucas, Steve Lucas, Tim Lucas and Judy Rhea for pouring wines and beverages. Emily Allen of EJA Designs created the beautiful flower arrangements for the event.
To say the Pear Bridge Dinner was memorable evening is simply an understatement, and if you’re reading, one I hope you’ll take part next year. To keep up with future events, you can find the California Pear Advisory board on Facebook here, follow them on Twitter here, on Instagram here and on Pinterest here.