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Flavor! Napa Valley 2012 at the CIA and Silverado Resort

Thomas Keller to the audience, "You know what deglazing is, right?"
Thomas Keller to the audience, "You know what deglazing is, right?"

[Photo: Flickr]

For the past five days, the second annual Flavor! Napa Valley festival lured an alleged 3500+ attendees to various events all over the Napa Valley. Despite some nasty rain on Friday and Saturday nights, Flavor! earned its exclamation point by gathering a solid crew of heavy hitters in the chef department, including Thomas Keller, Christopher Kostow, Masaharu Morimoto, Michael Chiarello, Scott Conant, Johnny Iuzzini and all of the chefs in The Forgione Family. Peruse the picture gallery above for the major event highlights, and check out some additional hangover observations below. · Thomas Keller's demo kicked off Saturday morning with a handful of adoring CIA students filling the back of the room to glean some knowledge. The demo wrapped downstairs with a tasting of sunchoke soup paired to rose sparkling wine.

· Keller talked a lot about the farm-to-table movement ("Do you think it's a new thing?"), molecular gastronomy ("The media got tired of writing about it...but that doesn't make it less important."), and the "nouvelle cuisine" of the moment, which "isn't necessarily about flavor profiles you recognize."

· The best bang-for-your-buck on Saturday was definitely the Morimoto interactive sushi demo and lunch. Guests made their own sushi rolls, enjoyed fun photo opps, got to enjoy a bonus Morimoto vocal performance for no extra charge. Not to mention, the braised black cod served as the second course might have been the best dish of the weekend.

· Pull quote on sushi etiquette from the Morimoto demo: "Eat sushi piece in one bite...some female say 'oh, this is too big, I can't' bite."

· Another highlight was the Food Fight, Iron Chef-style competition between Geoffrey Zakarian and Michael Chiarello. In the end, Zakarian prevailed with a Morrocan spiced duck breast served with squash smashed with carmelized bananas. Here's a video, if you've got three minutes to spare:

· The most intimate events of the five days were the Terroir to Table gatherings on Wednesday and Thursday throughout the valley. People learned to make olive oil, helped with post harvest cellar work at a working winery, made gnocchi, blended wine in a winery cellar, and worked with CIA students to make a meal. Then the star chef and sommelier demos, boozy dinners and lunches began at the CIA and Silverado.

· The warm and fuzzies were out at the Forgione family demo when Larry, Marc, Bryan and Sean Forgione gathered in the demo room to talk about farm-to-table.

wine%20glass%20necklace.png· The shit show award for the weekend goes to The Appellation Trail Tasting, which gathered about 100 wineries, 30 restaurants and 1300 imbibers hoping to get the most out of a $150 ticket. Let's just say this is one of those events where you are glad your wine glass is strapped on like a necklace. See right:

· The thirty minute shuttle ride from Silverado Resort to the CIA ran continually throughout the weekend and was (wo)manned by a flight attendant from Delta, handing out peanuts and water bottles to keep revelers in the vertical position.

· The sun came out for the Sunday finale: sustainable brunch at Silverado Resort, confirming Napa is gorgeous this time of year, and there is nothing like a bubbly sendoff to a weekend filled with food and wine.

· All Flavor! Napa Valley Coverage [~ ESF ~]