@PBFW: Legacy of Jess Jackson

(Pebble Beach, CA) — Our first dinner event at Pebble Beach Food & Wine is entitled “The Legacy of Jess Jackson” and pays homage to the famous winemaker, with courses presented by famous chefs and Jess Jackson’s family. We wind our way among the impeccably dressed attendees to enjoy the complimentary pours and bites in the hall before dinner...

He Fed:

Out in the lobby, we wait for the ballroom to open, sip glasses of wine — 2009 Cambria Pinot Noir, “Julia’s Vineyard”, Santa Maria Valley for me — and set up shop at the end of the hall where we know the appetizers will emerge. Sure enough, we get first crack at a velvety House Smoked Salmon with Blood Orange-Hollaindaise Espuma from Michael Chiarello; Gulf Shrimp Tempura with Creme Fraiche from Richard Reddington (which we never actually see); and bright, lively Asparagus Soup shooter with Morel Mushroom Butter from Cindy Pawlcyn.

Finally, the doors open and the crowd rushes in. After enduring too many squab dishes at the last Pebble Beach event, years ago, I am a little wary that this menu might also produce something not quite palatable. A quick scan of the planned courses sets my mind at ease, though. Glasses of 2010 Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay, “Vintner’s Reserve” are poured all around, followed by a toast to the recently departed Jackson, then the march of culinary pairings begins!

First up is a Justin Wangler’s Panna Cotta of Roasted Sweet Potato with Mendocino Uni & California Caviar with Crispy Drakes Bay Oyster dusted in Chardonnay Grapeseed Flour. Try saying that five times fast! The caviar is briny and tender; uni tastes more like a mild white fish; but the sweet, smoky roasted sweet potato really makes the dish pop, and the addition of edible flowers adds a slight perfume aspect that accentuates the 2009 Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay, Highland Estates, “Camelot Vineyard”, Santa Maria Valley.

Next is a simple Grilled Quail with Coffee Vinaigrette & Spring Greens from Cindy Pawlcyn. Unfortunately, it’s a bit overdone and the meat sticks to the bones. The 2009 Hartford Court Pinot Noir, “Hailey’s Block”, Russian River Valley is smoke-bright and very drinkable, though.

After, Richard Reddington offers his Blue Ribbon Pork Tenderloin with Onion Confit and Proscuitto Jus. This is easily my favorite dish of the night. Fork tender and redolent with earth and salt and pig goodness. It’s all I can do not to lick the plate. Instead, I wash it all down with the delicious 2002 Verite “La Muse”, Sonoma County. (Can it really get any better than Sonoma and pork? Trick question.)

Dry-Aged Prime Rib Eye with Cabernet-Braised Oxtail Jus and Spring Pea Gnudi from Michael Chiarello is our final savory dish for the evening. It’s a bit awkward on the plate, intimidating even, but it’s a solid beef dish with nice marbling and perfectly cooked. No complaints, either, about the 2007 Stonestreet Cabernet Sauvignon, “Christopher’s”, Alexander Valley. Can’t go wrong with cab and beef.

Last up, Elizabeth Faulkner (of runner-up Next Iron Chef fame) brings out a nicely composed dish of Sticky Date Pudding with Creole Cream Cheese, Cane Syrup Sauce & Kentucky Bourbon Gelee. There is definitely booze in that gelee; it adds a punch of soulful alcohol. Not to be outdone, the walnuts topping the cake have been dusted in tabasco. Spicy! It’s fun to eat and a solid end to the dinner.
She Fed:

As we wait for the dining room doors to open, hors d'oeuvres are heavily circulated through the crowd. Warm asparagus soup shooters with morel butter is one of my favorites, as is the torchon of Sonoma foie gras on brioche toast. The smoked salmon with blood orange hollandaise foam atop a potato crisp is attractive, though slightly soggy. There's rumors of a tempura Gulf shrimp...but it never makes it to our side of the room.

Once the doors open and we find our table, I notice the impressive stemware line-up. We are clearly in for a wine adventure with seven pours planned. Dinner begins with a toast to Jess Jackson, led by his wife and daughter. We savor the 2010 Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay; the wine most associated with Jackson. It's rich with honey, pineapple and toasted oak flavors.

Our first course is a roasted sweet potato panna cotta with Mendocino uni, California caviar and a fried oyster. The panna cotta is thin and sauce-like while the “uni” is actually raw fish, not the yellow egg sacks I've had before. It's all delicious, however, and the caviar is especially tasty. The citrus and green apple overtones of the 2009 Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay from Camelot Vineyard pair wonderfully.

Grilled quail with spring greens and a coffee-infused vinaigrette is served next. The quail is tough, making it difficult to eat, but the vinaigrette is out of this world. The 2009 Hartford Court Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley has distinct notes of brown spices and earthiness. I’m not a huge Pinor Noir fan, but I enjoy this one.

By now we’ve made friends with our tablemates, staff from California Caviar and a food writer for Huffington Post. All lovely, quick-witted ladies, and I’m sure Jeremy is in heaven right now! Aided by heavy pours from the generous sommelier, our table becomes fast friends and lively conversation ensues.

2002 Verite “La Muse” from Sonoma County accompanies spring ramp stuffed pork tenderloin with onion confit and proscuitto chips. The tender meat is flavorful, while the lush, full-bodied wine exhibits layers of berries and smoke. Each dish and wine offering just gets better!

And the next one does not disappoint. A 2007 Stonestreet Cab from Alexander Valley is rich with currents and earthy undertones. It stands up to the juicy beefiness of the rib eye in oxtail jus and compliments the brightness of the basil-green pea gnudi.

Our meal concludes with a sticky date pudding and a 2010 Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve riesling. The slightly spicy cream cheese sauce takes the sticky pudding over the top. Never fond of sweet wines, I am learning that what it’s paired with makes all the difference.

The first glass of wine I ever drank was a Kendall-Jackson Chard, back before buttery oaky chards got such a bad rep. What a treat tonight, trying so many other wines in the Jackson portfolio.

Popular Posts