This past weekend marked the grand, cholesterol-enhancing, tooth-staining, eighth annual Pigs & Pinot at the Hotel Healdsburg and Dry Creek Kitchen. It’s been a nearly impossible ticket to get for the past five years or so, despite the fact that chef Charlie Palmer had only ever imagined it would be a locals-only, wine country event for Pinot nerds. Things have snowballed, though, with the help of some national TV coverage, into a foodie draw with more caché, perhaps, than things like Aspen Food & Wine, mostly because the crowd here is small, and the events pretty intimate. Grub Street had the privilege of cruising around the Taste of Pigs & Pinot event on Friday, tasting as many of the 62 Pinot Noirs being highlighted in this year’s Pinot Cup competition as we could — maybe twenty? we lost count. And Saturday we attended the Swine & Wine dinner at Spoonbar, featuring four courses prepared by John Paul Carmona, Louis Maldonado, Evan Rich, and David Bazirgan, and wines by Cobb Wines and VML.
Simultaneous to that event was the coveted Gala Dinner, at which there were five courses from visiting chefs Elizabeth Falkner (formerly of Citizen Cake, now chef-owner of Krescendo in Brooklyn), Jose Garces, Dean Fearing (known as the Father of Southwestern Cuisine, chef at Fearing’s Restaurant in Dallas), Dry Creek Kitchen chef Dustin Valette, and Delfina chef-owner Craig Stoll. Their food was paired with wines from De Loach, Domaine A.F. Gros, Kosta Browne, Martinelli, and Sea Smoke, and the whole event was MC’d by actor and comedian Mario Cantone, complete with a Julia Child impression.
All proceeds from the weekend went to Healdsburg charities and Share Our Strength, and it was estimated they brought in approximately $100,000.
As for the winery winners of the weekend, Roth Estate was the surprise winner of Pinot Cup, besting dozens of other more expensive bottles with their 2010 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, which retails for about $28.
And in Saturday’s Pinot Smackdown, in which four sommeliers compete with pitches for four of their favorite wines, the winning wine in the “sweet sixteen”-style bracket was Pisoni Vineyards’ 2011 Lucia Soberanes Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Santa Lucia Highlands, California.
We’ll begin with one of our favorite bites — possibly our single favorite bite — of the evening on Friday, which was the quail egg BLT amuse from Barndiva. On it was a tiny bit of tomato jam, a touch of parsley, and some house-cured bacon.
The scene in the courtyard of the Hotel Healdsburg as things got rolling for a Taste of Pigs & Pinot on Friday. In total, 62 Pinot Noirs were being poured at different, alphabetical stations.
Inside Dry Creek Kitchen during the event.
Dallas chef Dean Fearing, the “Father of Southwestern Cuisine,” made another of our favorites, a perfect pulled pork street taco topped with salsa verde and two kinds of cheese.
The Delfina/Locanda table was serving a delicious pizza bianca with mortadella and pickled onions and peppers.
Chef Ralph Tingle of Healdsburg’s Bistro Ralph.
Bistro Ralph’s delicious, tender, spicy Moroccan-style ribs, topped with Meyer lemon and salt.
Iron Chef Jose Garces, of the Garces Group.
Former S.F. chef Elizabeth Falkner and her sous chef from Krescendo in Brooklyn.
Mario Cantone (right) of Sex and the City fame, seen here with fan Brian Flynn, was on hand to MC a couple of the weekend’s events.
Another winning dish: Scopa’s excellent, perfectly spiced pork meatballs.
Scopa/Campo Fina chef-owner Ari Rosen.
Chef Mateo Granados, of Healdsburg’s Mateo’s Cucina Latina, made some amazing, complex pork tamales topped with pickled onions.
Chef Charlie Palmer getting ready to announce the Pinot Cup winner.
Roth Estate winemaker Jesse Katz accepting the first place trophy.
The scene at Saturday’s Sommelier Smackdown.
The first course at the Swine & Wine Dinner was this delicious dish by John Paul Carmona of warmed head cheese with early spring vegetables and a kale and seaweed pistou.
Second course, from Rich Table’s Evan Rich: A salad of green asparagus and sorrel with sunchoke puree and Chinese-style crispy pork belly.
Third Course: Louis Maldonado made this decadent bowl of sunchoke and rice congee and sesame-glazed pork belly topped with a Perigord truffle veloute and onion shoots.
Fourth Course: To cap things off, David Bazirgan created this elegant bowl of spiced dashi, peppered with Japanese seven-spice powder, to compliment a classic pork crepinette with English peas, hon shimeji mushrooms, green garlic, and a crostini topped with boudin noir and pickled rhubarb.
One of our two favorite wines of the evening, the 2009 Cobb Emmeline Ann Vineyard Pinot Noir.
Our top pour of the evening was Virginia Lambrix’s 2010 Ivywood Vineyard Pinot Noir, from her VML Winery.