The 2015 edition of Pebble Beach Food and Wine has come to a close, marking the eighth year of collaboration between amazing chefs, sommeliers and producers. Now that the knives have been packed up and the tents dismantled, here are a few final observations from Eater SF's associate editor, Ellen Fort, who was on the ground for the entire affair.
1) If last year's event was defined by an abundance of shellfish, this year was all about sturgeon—and its delicious caviar. The fishy delicacy was everywhere, topping canapés or delivered straight from the spoon.
2) Dominique Crenn was booked solid for the weekend, hosting a lunch with Daniel Boulud and collaborating with Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard for a cooking demo. On Friday night, the French chef said that since she had demos to prep for the next day, she would be "a good girl"—and only drink wine for the rest of the evening.
3) Josh Ozersky's Meatopia event served up a wide variety of land and sea creatures, roasted over live fires on the beach. Highlights included pork belly with pickled apples and smoked peanut butter from Top Chef alum Kevin Gillespie, followed by Chad Colby (Chi Spacca) encouraging attendees to eat his bone-in ribeye with their hands (plates and forks are overrated).
4) Matthew Accarrino of San Francisco's SPQR spit-roasted a 100-pound sturgeon on Monterey Beach for Meatopia, which he served with salsa verde. But the pièce de résistance was his fried sturgeon skin "chicharron," topped with a healthy dollop of hand-selected caviar from Passmore Ranch.
5) Curtis Stone thoroughly charmed the audience at his demo Saturday morning, showing off some easy brunch techniques and mixing up a stiff batch of spicy bloodies. His advice for curing hangovers? "Keep on drinking." And when it comes to choosing competitors for his Food Network show All-Star Academy, "You can put a pretty girl or cat in front of Bobby [Flay] and he's happy." (Considering Flay's divorce from his third wife was made public this week, it appears he'll have plenty of time for looking.)
6) Charles Phan (The Slanted Door) reminisced about his 18 years of participating in food festivals on the Central Coast, starting with the venerable Masters of Food & Wine, and now the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival. His restorative pho with bavette steak brought many over-served attendees back to life at Saturday's Grand Tasting.
7) John Cox (executive chef of Big Sur's Post Ranch Inn) displayed $70,000 worth of caviar inside a humongous sturgeon at the grand tasting—and it disappeared in just three hours.
8) Organizer David Bernahl seemed to be everywhere at once, shaking hands, kissing babies (kidding, no babies allowed), and showing off his signature dapper fashion sense. This year, his look was all about the "critters," including spider cuff links and a lapel pin in the shape of an elephant.
9) During an elegant dinner put on by Michelin-starred chefs, William Werner (Craftsmen and Wolves) and his crew confessed to blasting Slayer and Dio in the kitchen as they plated their course.
10) Philip Tessier and Skylar Stover demonstrated one of the techniques from their silver-winning Team USA performance at the 2015 Bocuse d'Or, detailing the incredibly long hours and dedication required to compete at such a high level. To prepare for the deafening roar of the stadium, the duo blasted techno during their practice runs in the normally serene kitchen of The French Laundry. Tessier also revealed that on the day of the competition, even stoic Thomas Keller had butterflies in his stomach.
11) Chef Masaharu Morimoto wowed the audience during his Ramen 101 demo, and laid down the law about how to eat sushi. "NEVER PUT WASABI IN THE SOY SAUCE!"
12) The crew of Sacramento's Kru restaurant wins the award for "Most Sturgeon in One Bite," serving the fish four ways (including grilled heart), then topping the whole thing with caviar.
13) More caviar insanity: attendees were enjoying "bumps" of the precious pearls at the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas happy hour event, paired with tongue-numbing petals of Szechuan buttons.
14) "High-class white trash" food emerged as a theme, bringing an ironic twist to the Champagne-drenched event. Chef Colin Moody (Monterey Peninsula Country Club) served up kettle corn, flaming-hot Cheetos, lobster-pork belly corn dogs and fried pies with foie gras and strawberry jam at the afterparty, while André Bienvenu (Joe's Stone Crab) whipped up "Redneck Grilled Cheeses" at the Grand Tasting, using a clothing iron to melt a combination of paté, pimento cheese, honey and PBR.
15) Editor-in-chief of Food & Wine Dana Cowin played sous chef to Butter's Alex Guarnaschelli at the grand tasting, serving grilled cheese sandwiches with Brie.