Pebble Beach and the circus tent: part I

Pbmontage

That’s how it was referred to all weekend: the circus tent.  And what a fun circus it was.  It’s madness too, mind.  Try finding your way among throngs of people grabbing and reaching for wine and food.  Well, they are hardly to blame.  You’d go a little off in the head too with that much food and wine.

I must admit I’m not exactly an walking around eating in a tent kind of girl.  I have the appetite of a horse and the metabolism of a humming bird, so I just never have enough food at these kind of affairs.  Usually the walk between one bite and the next burns basically all the calories than the bite affords me.  It’s a zero-sum game, which I guess could be a good thing.

Even with my skeptic’s hat on, the big tent at Pebble Beach was great fun.  The food was amazingly good–there wasn’t a lot of gratuitous dousing of truffle oil which seems to be the norm in these big tent foods.  No, no I’m not going to mention which "famous" chef served me the most gnarly burger "slider" with dodgy meat that was positively soaked in truffle oil.  Certainly not here for sure. 

While truffle oil was thankfully missing in action, foie gras–holy goodness foie gras–was everywhere.  My favorite three bites here all involved foie gras in one form or another. 

Foieterrine
One was a deceptively simple terrine of foie gras.  This wasn’t one of
those "terrine" with dubious quality foie gras all whipped into a paté, but a proper one made with whole lobes bind together into a terrine form.  It’s hardly surprising though, considering the source, Michael Ginor from Hudson Valley Foie Gras.  The terrine was delicious, and the pear and apricot chutney served with it was a perfect compliment. 

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My two other favorite bites both had foie gras, but in very different forms.  Cal Staminov of Bernardus made a classic seared foie gras dish that’s served atop sliced duck breast and a handful of dressed greens.  The creamy, quivering foie gras was done just right, and the duck–hung in house said Cal–had a properly gamey and livery flavor of good duck.  It certainly didn’t taste like chicken!

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The last of my three favorie savory dishes was foie gras was Joel Huff’s complicate construction of fried mini cube of foie gras sitting precariously over a squab "sausage" on a mini skewer, the whole thing barely balancing on the rim of a beautiful shot glass filled with cut noodle and a gingery dashi broth.

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The Slanted Door’s Charles Phan was there offering yummy little dumplings.  I threatened to run off with a big bowl full, and Charles was good enough to actually offered to give me the one in his hands.  The DIE-NOW stares from the people lining up to get a bite of this gave me pause.  I looked around and decided the crowd was too thick for a quick getaway, so I just took one, ok, two, enduring only a mildly hateful stares from two well-dressed (and clearly not drunk enough) ladies at the front of the line.

(to be continued)

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12 Responses to “Pebble Beach and the circus tent: part I

  • Jess said:
    April 3rd, 2008 at 1:17am

    circus tents and food?
    the best combination ever.
    *steams in jealousy*

  • elarael said:
    April 3rd, 2008 at 2:08am

    Admirable survival skills in the face of hungry hordes! Looks like it was a lovely time considering it was in a tent. I love that glass noodle bowl holding the skewer. Wow, how fun!

  • Velops said:
    April 3rd, 2008 at 4:52am

    You piqued my interest about those dumplings. I’m dying to know what they were made of now.

  • Casey said:
    April 3rd, 2008 at 7:24am

    that first foie dish — a perfect terrine with chutney — is my idea of bliss.
    Great reporting and I’m trying not to hate you for your metabolism.

  • Erin said:
    April 3rd, 2008 at 10:51am

    I know what you mean about wander and nibble meals, my appetite is much too large. Unlike you am not blessed with the metabolism of a hummingbird.
    The dishes look just lovely.

  • Jeremy said:
    April 3rd, 2008 at 12:48pm

    I feel your pain!

  • Carolyn Jung said:
    April 3rd, 2008 at 6:35pm

    How can I get a metabolism like that, too?? ;)

  • faustianbargain said:
    April 3rd, 2008 at 8:19pm

    have the west coast/california foie gras producers stopped their production? is that why pebble beach is showcasing hudson foie from the east?

  • Phil said:
    April 4th, 2008 at 11:21am

    I’m not sure if we’re thinking about the same sliders but if it was the pig one (as they called it), I thought that was the best one.

  • Food Tyrant said:
    April 4th, 2008 at 12:19pm

    Gnarly sliders of dodgy meat?
    I can’t imagine that it was the pig burgers that flew out of the Bastide booth, because those babies were made from Four Story Hill Farm pigs, a ridiculous amount of Perigord truffles (not a drop of truffle oil was used), cornichons, fresh tarragon, freshly baked bacon brioche made with Plugras, and live butter lettuce. I know because I was in the prep kitchen the night before where Walter and crew was getting these ready.
    The pig was braised and picked and shaped into sausage rounds, sliced and breaded in panko. (so far no soaking in noxious truffle oil). Shortly before assembly batches were fried off and the crispy hot rounds were sandwiched in the brioche, with a dollop of truffle/cornichon/tarragon mayo (made the night before), and topped with the butter lettuce.
    These were positively scrumptious (sweet pig meat grounded by the earthy richness of the truffles and highlighted by the bright acid from the cornichon finished with a licorice mellowness of tarragon and surrounded by the soft billowiness of the warm brioche with the final note of BACON!).
    So where else were pig burger sliders served as Walter’s could hardly be the culprit?

  • Pim said:
    April 4th, 2008 at 1:01pm

    Not the Bastide slider, no. I wasn’t even there that day. I’m talking about a hamburger slider that was served at a similar food festival, but another time, and a whole other venue–much higher in altitude. And it certainly *was* doused in truffle oil.
    Sorry for the misunderstanding.

  • Jmonday556 said:
    October 17th, 2011 at 6:10pm

    California was right to pass a law banning the cruel force-feeding of ducks for foie gras. Even California’s sole foie gras factory farm supported passing the law! See http://www.humanesociety.org/CAFoieGras for more info.

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