Pebble Beach >> Over the span of three months, the Monterey Peninsula will host three gastronomic galas, a testament to our region's bounty from land and sea. Carmel's fledgling GourmetFest debuted to considerable accolades in March. Next month, the annual soiree of sustainability, Cooking for Solutions, will make a splash at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
But nothing quite compares to the culinary opulence that will return to Pebble Beach this week — the seventh annual Pebble Beach Food and Wine festival.
The foodie fete brings in the epicurean elite: More than 100 chefs and 250 wineries will take part in the festivities Thursday to Sunday, with a roster of celebrity chefs that includes Food Network favorite Tyler Florence and sushi sage Masaharu Morimoto. Chefs, sommeliers and winemakers will host a weekend jam-packed with cooking demonstrations and chef's tastings, wine seminars and pairing lunches.
Festivities kick off Thursday with a sold-out celebrity chef and winemaker golf tournament, followed by an opening night reception (6 to 9 p.m., $250). Attendees will enjoy decadent bites from an impressive collection of chefs, including pastry prince Johnny Iuzzini, hipster heroine Jenn Louis and local legend Cal Stamenov. And that's just the amuse bouche — the weekend will include many more opportunities to mingle with the who's who of the culinary world.
Pebble Beach Food and Wine's penchant for spectacle also brings some colorful characters from the intersection of food and television.
Food Network stars Guy Fieri and Robert Irvine will join forces for Friday's live "Dinner in the Kitchen" showcase (6:30 to 10:30 p.m., $350). Andrew Zimmern, host of Travel Channel's "Bizarre Foods," will hold a cooking demonstration on Sunday (10 to 11:15 a.m., $100).
Fans of Bravo's "Top Chef" will find several "cheftestants" in attendance, including heartthrobs Fabio Viviani and Michael Voltaggio. The effervescent Carla Hall will host a cooking demonstration on Friday (10 to 11:15 a.m., $100), no doubt eliciting plenty of "hooties" and "hoos" from the crowd.
As with years past, expect an eclectic mix of cuisines under the Lexus Grand Tasting tent (Saturday and Sunday, noon to 3 p.m., $225 each day). This year, many familiar faces from local restaurants will be in attendance, including Brad Briske (La Balena, Carmel) and Cy Yontz (Rio Grill, Carmel).
Local heavyweights are prepared to pull out all the stops to impress attendees. Chef Todd Fisher will preach from the bible of bacon, serving barbecued oyster with cornbread and divine swine. And Aubergine executive chef Justin Cogley — one of Food & Wine magazine's Best New Chefs, 2013 — will bring his signature California coastal cuisine to diners attending Sunday's Lexus Grand Tasting with a dish of Dungeness crab paired with seaweed vinegar and beach succulents.
This year's program is clearly influenced by Los Angeles, home away from home for Pebble Beach Food and Wine co-founders David Bernahl and Rob Weakley of Coastal Luxury Management. Friday's "Dinner with the Stars of Los Angeles" (6:30 to 10:30 p.m., $350) will give diners a taste of three of LA's hottest restaurants — Bestia, Animal and ink. And Michael Hung — executive chef at the newest addition to the CLM family, Faith and Flower in downtown Los Angeles — will make an appearance this weekend.
Oenophiles will find a number of seminars and luxury wine tastings to accompany the festival's lineup of cooking demonstrations and gourmet eats. Pairing lunches prove a good way to get the best of both worlds.
On Friday, Sierra Mar executive chef John Cox will team with Aussie chef Jordan Toft for "Restaurant Australia," a lunch highlighting the food and wine from Down Under (noon to 2:30 p.m., $200).
Saturday afternoon takes a tour of Spain. "Spanish Wine and Tapas: The Wines of Cariñena" (3:30 to 4:45 p.m., $100) will find Jeffrey Weiss — executive chef of Pacific Grove hotspot Jeninni Kitchen + Wine Bar, and champion of charcutería — pairing tapas with sips of Spanish wines. Expect old-vine Garnacha with mouthwatering morsels. Chef/author Weiss said, "I have been dying for an excuse to make blood sausage the way I learned in Spain and feature in 'Charcutería: The Soul of Spain.' It's going to pair great with the amazing wines from Cariñena."
Pebble Beach Food and Wine also recognizes the growing trend of pairing elegant eats with beer or cocktails. Friday's beer-pairing seminar with Goose Island Beer Company is sold out, but as of this writing, there are still tickets available for the "Four Martini Lunch" at Restaurant 1833 (Friday, noon to 2:30, $200).
The liquid lunch will reunite Bernardus alumni Matt Bolton, Abby Burk and Ben Spungin in the kitchen with a dash of razzle dazzle courtesy of Coastal Luxury Management's new Las Vegas nightclub, Rose. Rabbit. Lie.
Expect cocktails prepared by the dynamic duo of Mariena Mercer, chief mixologist for The Cosmopolitan, and Restaurant 1833's resident mixologist, Biggie. Biggie will debut The Consequentialist, with reposado tequila and lemon. "I wanted to bring something bright and citrus-based," Biggie said of his new concoction that will pair with Wesley Holton's slow-poached Mary's chicken. He continued, "But I didn't want it to taste too upfront and familiar," hence the twist of Cocchi Americano and crème de cacao, with a dash of cardamom bitters.
There's a charitable heart beneath the layers of decadent food and drink; the annual event will benefit a suite of charities, including the Berkley Foundation, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Monterey County, the Monterey Wine Educational Foundation, the Pebble Beach Company Foundation and CASA of Monterey County/Voices for Children.
The festival will also honor the late chef Charlie Trotter, who died last year. Chefs Michael Rotondo, Michelle Gayer and Daniel LeFevre join Charles Phan and Paul Bartolotta to pay tribute to their mentor, with a portion of proceeds going to the Charlie Trotter Foundation (6:30 to 10:30 p.m. Friday, $1,250).
For tickets and more information, see www.pbfw.com.
If You Go
What: 7th annual Pebble Beach Food and Wine
When: Thursday through Sunday
Where: Multiple venues, including the Inn at Spanish Bay and the Lodge at Pebble Beach
Tickets and information: 866-907-3663, www.pbfw.com