Pebble Beach Food & Wine – How do I love thee?

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Pebble Beach Food & Wine, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Sitting by a warm fire, watching sailboats drift by ocean side as you wind down the afternoon with a sparkling glass of Taittinger Champange, imagining a lunch or dinner that will knock your Louboutin’s off isn’t a bad way to start the day, let me tell you. With over 250 Acclaimed wineries, 100 Celebrity chefs, world-class tastings, cooking demos and some of the most exceptional dining experiences in the world all in one legendary location, this  Food Stalker became a savvy local in no time. How to explain the vibe of this event? It’s as if someone removed your eyeglasses, wiped them clean on your shirttail, then handed them back to you. Every aspect is based on quality, a vision that is clear from the moment a Lexus driver picks you up to the $1,250.00 per person tribute dinner for Cecilia Chaing.

Pebble Beach offered so many opportunities to stalk, ending up in places I wasn’t supposed to be, but hey, that’s where the best stories are. People have characterized stalkers as having a mistaken belief that other people love them and can sometimes consist of a series of actions such as unwelcome calls, emails, texting and sending gifts. Hey, these are all part of my daily routine for crying put loud and for the record, seriously, what’s not to love?

My timing was perfect meeting Chef Todd Fischer of “Sticks Restaurant”. (He’s the bacon king that served the jaw dropping delicious duck sausage in glazed donut topped with truffle mayo, bacon choucroute and crispy tator tots at The Grand Tasting). Once he saw this curious style spy, he invited me to tag along behind the scenes with a journalist from a local paper (much to his dismay). While I asking a chef to pose for a shot, the journalist whispered sternly in my ear “let things happen naturally”. Yea right! Hey, you  know by now I’ll do what it takes to get the story…every time. Suffice to say, Anne Burrell (wild child with a sparkling personality) was happy to meet me after I ambushed her in the kitchen where she was just a tad busy, preparing food for hundreds of guests, and I of course with a thousand questions. Vision of fresh prawns made me want to grab a fork but was able to contain myself and that little green appie in the clear ball bubble? Genius! New York Chef Katie Carey was a rock star, chopping, dicing and dropping a few F Bombs for effect! Keep it coming ladies and thanks to Chef Todd with a heart the size of Texas.

Making a red carpet like entrance, Drew Barrymore arrived to promote her new Pinot Grigio wine named appropriately, Barrymore. Unfortunately I was not granted access on the stage platform. No access…not a problem. The local cheesemonger let me slip my lens between a pile of funky Parmesan cheese wheels and wah-la…mission accomplished. Love the fact that she is not only a beautiful, successful actress but also recognized as a savvy business woman. You rock Drew!

The events highlight was a dinner to honor of the beloved Cecilia Chaing and her indelible mark on Chinese cuisine in America. In case you didn’t know, in San Fran, Cecilia is food royalty. Her story is so rich she has written two memoirs: The Mandarin Way, 1974 and The Seventh Daughter, 2007. A single mother who spoke little English, Chiang faced incredible challenges to become an icon of the food world. Some of her biggest fans came together to pay tribute by preparing dinner including: Daniel Boulud, Tyler Florence, Belinda Leong and Nancy Oakes. The kitchen was like a successful Chinese fire drill, turning out impeccable cuisine served by white-gloved wait staff at warp speed for 150 of the “who’s who” of the food world. (The infamous San Francisco Chronicle critic Michael Bauer was sitting to her right.) Guests indulged in Champagne Louis Roederer, Ornellaia, Tokaj Hetszolo and Chateaud’Esclans. Chaing was elegant in her simple black dress with stitched detail collar and cuffs, simple pin and jade earings. Her most beautiful accessory – her exuberant smile! Featured chefs shared colorful first hand stories about the legendary Chaing. In speaking with Tyler Florence, we shared a common thread, as if something is stirring while in her presence and you realize… it’s your soul. Meeting her, holding her tiny hand in mine, looking into her eyes was a moment I shall treasure. Chiang will also be the recipient of this year’s James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award. At age 94 she’s got the energy of Anthony Bourdain on crack, hitting the after party Saturday evening around 1:00 a.m. long after my dogs were barking and I was in my woolies fast asleep in bed. And by the way, I’ll have she’s having! (Darn those Givenchy heels, they make the fashion statement, but after 5 hours it’s like a Heinkel knife piercing through your toes).

Other highlights included “Taste Perfection with Daniel Boulud” Master Class. Watching him prepare scallops left me feeling like I happened upon a graceful dance performance being played for the many wise enough to select this exclusive cooking demonstration. Thanks to Daniel who regaled me with his amazing culinary skills throughout the festivities.

A Day in Italy with Paul Bartolotta Fabio Viviani at Peppoli Restaurant was arguably the most picturesque. Those soft shell crabs and pasta…talk about orgasmic! Let’s just say that these guys know how to turn even a pesky stalker like me into a fan, and if I could have hauled some back to Laguna Beach for Husband I certainly would have. Fabio, stop by Laguna on your way home and cook me a little something… I’ll have some bubbly with your name on it!

Guy Fieri, what can we say about you and your spiky blond hair and little billy-goat goatee? At the age of ten he had his own business, “The Awesome Pretzel Truck”. It’s all about the food for this Dad, who had to leave early for son Ryder’s Little League Baseball game. Nothing more important Dude. He believes Mom and Pop joints are what build young chefs and he’s definateley a Pabst Beer kind’ve guy rather than Pinot Noir. That tropical beverage you made for the crowd made my heart pulse race. Here’s to big BBQ with Guy!

Southern Calling: Lexus Chef ‘s Table Lunch with Michele Bernstein and  Dean Fearing. Tall and strapping with a pair of kick ass cowboy boots, Dean showed us why he is affectionately called “The Grandfather of Southwestern Cuisine”. OMG was that really Pork you made and not steak? No Michele Bernstein, you didn’t have a french accent or  polka-dotted pants that day, but your warm smile, adorable dimples, spanish accent and that banana desert sent us to the moon Alice!

Carla Hall – Her signature line is “If you’re not in a good mood – make reservations”! Starring on ABC’s hot show The Chew with Mario Batali she is a firm believer that great food can only come from a place of love.  We always dig seeing what hip, cool style eyeglasses she’ll be wearing~ perhaps a Guest spot on the show Carla?

Cheese & Wine with Laura Werlin- Laura is the Queen of Cheese and her annual event is the one that hungry sommeliers fight to attend because they know there’s something new and delicious to sample. Wine and Cheese? Oh yes please….

Exotic Origins Coffee was the talk of the event, featured at the Opening Reception, Cecilia Chaing’s Celebration and dinners. “Selecting a fine coffee should be as unique as selecting wines for your cellar” states Priscilla Broward V.P. of Marketing. Every reserve they offer has been awarded an excellence rating of 88 points or higher in blind tastings by expert panel tasters. They are the Opus One, the Screaming Eagle, the 90+ wines, bottom line -the best coffees in the world. I see a future story here my friend! (With you too my fellow fashion food lover Kaye Cloutman- Editor-in-Chief of GEV MAGAZINE).

The Lexus Grand Tasting Tent at the Equestrian Center is the weekend’s most spectacular venue with over 300 top notch wineries from around the world along with 30 celebrity chefs. One of my favorites was drinking the grapes from Vitalie Taittinger’s backyard. Well, not exactly a backyard…a vineyard. The ever so lovely Vitalie was on hand to personally share her family legacy as one of the few remaining family owned houses in Champagne. Their champagne seduced me utterly; wonderfully elegant, full of finesse with a complexity and richness on the palate. Champagne is one of the elegant extras in life. Here’s to the woman who continues to champion the mix of old tradition and the present while paving the way for the future. Perhaps her beauty secret is a daily glass of Champagne? I simply must try it to be sure…Champagne please, strawberry on the side, from Driscoll’s of course. ( Great seeing you Tess Masters –The Blender Girl).

Annoyed by frequent sudden urges in your internal travel clock like me? Go ahead and make your reservations now for next year to experience rich cultural encounters with friendly faces from around the globe. You can thank me later….

What an iconic weekend, one this Food Stalker can’t wait to repeat.

Engage, Inspire, Indulge!

* Special thanks to David Alan Bernahl ( yes, best dressed) and Sarah C. Potter- Coastal Luxury Mangement, LEXUS, Food & Wine Magazine and all the great sponsors!





With an Italian background, she cites her Mother and grandmother ( Mamie ) as the major influence of her love for food.  Yes, homemade pasta hung from the clothesline in the kitchen and rolling 100 meat balls for a holiday dinner was the norm.  Raised in Pennsylvania. she spent time in Atlanta, Georgia and ultimately settled along the stunning coast of Laguna Beach, Ca. Self taught in everything, she learned to appreciate the amazing flavors, scents and uses for exotic herbs and spices and applies her knowledge to cooking today. Despite enjoying other creative endeavors like painting, photography and clothing design, she realized she would never love another career the way she loves all the stories surrounding food.  And it's capturing those stories that has not only become her greatest passion but a culinary drug worth passing around!  After all, food is a shared experience and no one better to share it with than the entire world. And thus the Food Stalker was born, utilizing all that passion and her fearlessness to capture even the most impossible stories. It's one thing to write about food, but far more exciting to actually capture it and all those stories that make every scent come to life.  And once she sets out, there's no stopping her, because no one follows that scent better than her---and no telling where she'll end up next.  

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