Who to See, What to Eat, and How Much to Drink at Pebble Beach Food & Wine

Play a few holes with Thomas Keller, then go down the rabbit hole of food bacchanals.
Play a few holes with Thomas Keller, then go down the rabbit hole of food bacchanals.

Right up there with the annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, in the echelon of the more tony foodievents around the country, is Pebble Beach Food & Wine, which kicks off a week from Thursday at The Inn at Spanish Bay and The Lodge at Pebble Beach, as well as on the legendary golf links. It’s been going on for four years now, and the event’s put on by American Express Publishing and sponsored by the likes of Lexus and Viking Range Corporation. Such big sponsorship dollars brings in big names, and we’re not talking just a bevy of Top Chef alums, but the old guard too — everyone from Daniel Boulud to Wolfgang Puck, and there’s the opportunity to attend cooking demos by the likes of Michael Chiarello, Tom Colicchio, and Yigit Pura. But how to survive a weekend of such non-stop decadence, with more wine and booze than a person should really need to consume in 72 hours?

Let us offer you a few tips, via some highlights of the fest. If you still want to get à la carte tickets or packages you can by clicking over here, but be forewarned that most of the “luxury” lodging is sold out.

(Also, if you can’t swing it this year, Grub Street will be on hand to dutifully document — and consume — what we can and report back.)

Wednesday, April 27

For the wealthiest guests who purchased the more expensive packages early, there’s a Founders’ Dinner Wednesday night featuring a closely guarded celebrity guest list and taking place at an undisclosed location. It is sold out, we were sadly not invited, and neither were you.

Thursday, April 28

Things kick off with a Celebrity Chef & Winemaker Golf Tournament, which opens with an 8:30 a.m. champagne toast on the first tee. Guests of the festivities can join in and tee off alongside Thomas Keller for a cool $1,000 greens fee. Just don’t do what Playboy scribe Dan Dunn did back in ‘09 and get deliriously drunk by 10 a.m. and start hitting up T-Kel for comped meals.

Tip #1: Stay hydrated! This should go without saying, but keeping it classy is going to depend on keeping your whistle well wetted.

The Opening Night Reception doesn’t start until 6 p.m., so there’s plenty of time for afternoon naps for those who may have been drinking their way across the golf course. Then, for the “insiders,” there’s an After-Hours Party from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., but for any “insiders” who want to be bright and spiffy for Yigit Pura’s chocolate demo on Friday morning, staying out late at this is not advised.

Friday, April 29

Yigit Pura: The Pleasures of Chocolate kicks off at 10 a.m., and we feel pretty confident in saying that the crowd here will be primarily female, with a few gay men thrown in, and this really ought to be renamed The Pleasure of Watching Yigit Pura Play with Chocolate.

Also bright and early at 10 a.m., for those who want to start drinking early, Joseph Phelps Winery is doing an interactive blending lesson and a tasting of their fancy, $100+ blend Insignia.

At noon there’s a Lexus Chef’s Table event with Michael Chiarello and Graham Elliot, and a Family Meal lunch with Tyler Florence.

That evening, big names Boulud, Chiarello, and Kostow will be cooking at this Lexus: REMIX dinner, but we’ll be attending the Food & Wine Best New Chefs Alumni Dinner, with an as yet undisclosed chef roster.

Tip #2: Asking a celebrity chef, politely, if you can take a picture with them is totally fine. They’re used to it. But definitely don’t do this if they’re a) in the middle of a conversation, or b) in the middle of cooking. Also, keep drinking water.

Saturday, April 30

First thing in the a.m. we’ll be at Tom Colicchio’s ‘craft of a Top Chef Judge,’ which appears to be a talk but might involve some cooking too. Then there’s an Interactive Lunch with Guy Fieri that we’ll be skipping (love you, Guy!) because we want to make a beeline for the Lexus Grand Tasting tent, where the real marathon-eating action will be at.

Come afternoon, the aforementioned Mr. Dunn will be doing an event called Booze, Blues & BBQ (sold out, sadly), so we suppose he didn’t disgrace himself so badly two years ago, as he described. Also, noted California winery Ridge will be doing a special tasting. Also, Ramos Pinto is doing a tasting called 300 Years of Port at 3:30 p.m. which sounds like a bad choice if you want to make it through dinner, but perhaps your livers are stronger than ours!

That night there’s a dinner Tribute to Tom Colicchio, as well as the Grand Finale Dinner cooked by Charlie Trotter, Michel Richard, and Gary Danko. We ourselves will be at the Stars of Napa Valley and Robert Mondavi Winery dinner honoring Food & Wine’s Best New Sommeliers of 2011, which will be cooked by Tyler Florence, Masaharu Morimoto, Ken Frank of La Toque, and Richard Reddington of Redd.

Sunday, May 1

We plan to be too hungover to do anything, but Guy Fieri’s popping up again at 10 a.m. to do a talk, or something, subtitled Culinary Rock Star. And then there’s a whole ‘nother day of Grand Tasting.

Tip #3: Take a lesson from Vegas and quit while you’re ahead, and alive.

Earlier: Which Chefs Will Be at This Year’s Pebble Beach Food & Wine Fest?
What We’re All Missing at the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Fest

Who to See, What to Eat, and How Much to Drink at Pebble Beach Food & Wine