Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Pigs & Pinot: A weekend of culinary wonder

This post is SO SO overdue and I must apologize for the delay.  I feel I must apologize because this event was so freaking AMAZING on every level.

Getting to this event was a journey that started about 5 years ago.  I had first seen this event while doing an online search for events that my husband and I could go to in wine country over a weekend. The name itself expresses two of my favorite culinary pursuits so I knew it would be an amazing experience.  But there were no tickets available that year (because, as I found out later, they sell out in about 15 minutes), then there were scheduling conflicts, and work obligations,  and graduate school just to name a few roadblocks.  So I resigned myself to the hope that I would get to attend this event "someday."  Well, someday came this year! 

My "food and wine" stars aligned and I was very fortunate to finally get to go to this event.  I had a dual role as I was an attendee and a self-designated brand ambassador for DCS Grills (a platinum sponsor for Pigs & Pinot).  My friend Gina, the brand manager for DCS, is the reason they are a key sponsor and the reason I was there.  She is one of those people who's presence enriches an experience.  And she gets as excited as I do about wine, cuisine and the chefs that create it.  We flew into Sonoma and after a quick 20 minute drive we were being greeted in the lobby of Hotel Healdsburg with a glass of  wine...Aaahhhh, bliss.  Then it was spa time for a very relaxing 1 hour massage....aaahhhh, more bliss.

That evening there was an intimate dinner at Chalkboard with the guest chefs and some VIP guests.  Multiple courses were presented, each more delicious and dynamic than the one before.  That and ample amounts of wine made me quickly realize that this weekend was not going to be about moderation.......

Friday during the day we had a leisurely day of walking around town, eating, and shopping. Healdsburg is a lovely little town that leaves behind pretence and is just genuinely welcoming and warm in it's feel. 

After some shopping we stopped in the cutest cafe  MOUSTACHE BAKED GOODS for coffee and a little sweet treat.  There were delectable offerings and delicious coffee.  I wanted to stay all day and try one of everything.  Keep up the good work ladies!

A stop at the La Crema tasting room....because it would be rude not to stop and sample a wine or two! Girl talk and wine tasting in the afternoon is a wonderful thing.

Friday night was the Taste of PIGS & PINOT. Holy pig, what a taste it was!  The courtyard of Hotel Healdsburg was filled with cooking stations where chefs were creating mini-masterpieces on DCS grills.  Then, multiple wineries presented the finest wines and vintages.  I was such a happy girl!!!! 

Ludo in Action! 

This was my favorite dish of the night by Levi Mezick.  A perfect homage to traditional southern cooking, which is a food group close to my heart.

Proscuitto tasting....melted in your mouth, you know I went back for seconds, twice!

Saturday was the Tournament of the Pig. Two teams of chefs with too much genius "battling" to create the best three-course menu. About 40 of us got to watch these masters as they cooked for us (yep we got to eat what they made) it was heavenly.  All while Mario Cantone MC'd, flirted, sang, and made us laugh until we cried.  Saturday Brunch just went to a whole new level! 

This weekend was such a rich culinary experience I feel as though my vocabulary is not extensive enough to adequately describe the dishes.  But when food is so good that is triggers an intense emotional reaction, you know it's good.  I kept thinking, how am I going to go back to eating normal food?

And then there's the man of the hour.... Charlie Palmer (aka Chef).  Pigs & Pinot is what it is because he is at the helm of this event.  Not only is he an American culinary icon, he's also one of the nicest people you will ever meet.  I'm not going to lie, I was a bit star struck, ok a LOT star struck. Many of the chefs participating this weekend, have worked for Charlie at some point in their careers and have gone to have their own (huge) successes.  That generational success has to be one of the best legacy for a chef.  Along with this, Charlie also has some amazing women on his "team"-His wife, Krista and Kristen to name a few (I was lucky enough to meet all of these fab ladies).  Krista and Kristen work (their butts off) with Charlie and make this event so smooth and effortless you feel like you're spending a weekend with old friends. They are hard working, gracious, and do it all with a smile (in heels)! Fist bump ladies, you rock!!! 

Saturday night was the Gala dinner the culmination of the weekend. Just when we thought you couldn't eat anything else that would blow your mind, the chefs and winemakers amazed us once again.  I was excitedly nervous because at our table was Tom And Terry Rochioli.  Tom is one of THE premier wine makers of our time.  During dinner we were talking about his vineyard, it's history and wine and he said, " I'm really just a farmer and that's what I love to do," while his wife put her arms around his shoulder and nodded in agreement.  Wow, mind blown....yet again!

I think I floated out of the hotel on Sunday when we left.  I have always said that chefs are my "celebrities" who make me sit in awe of what they create.  The creative insight they have is inspiring.  Food is such a dynamic thing, it brings people together and creates memories.  At Pigs & Pinot, food is elevated to this art form that is sophisticated yet approachable.  This type of food feeds your belly and your soul, leaving you satisfied yet wanting more.  To be a part of this was such a privilege-something I will never forget. 

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