30 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY february 29-march 6, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com The fine wines, the rare spirits, the big name chefs—as Pebble Beach Food & Wine returns after a four-year break, these will be familiar. Yet its organizers have not set out to recreate the past. An obvious difference will be the tasting pavilion, reenvisioned as an indoor-outdoor culinary excursion with 30,000 additional feet of space. And the four-day spree from April 4-7 will begin with a dinner featuring a lineup of award-winning chefs thanks to a partnership with the James Beard Foundation. “We want it to feel fresh and unique because we have that opportunity,” explains Patrick Kelly, vice president of brand and marketing for the Pebble Beach Company. Yet the more important features may escape notice. The Roots Fund will have a big presence at the event— it’s an organization dedicated to providing young people of color entry into the world of fine wine. Several Roots Fund recipients will be pouring alongside master sommeliers during tastings. Playing host to the food and drink splendor is the company’s charitable arm, the Pebble Beach Company Foundation, which helps support almost 100 area nonprofits with a focus on youth programs. So at a preview lunch on Thursday, Feb. 22, the team from Pebble Beach spoke more of community and charity than fine dining. The foundation has donated over $14 million to local organizations since it was formed in 1975. Its association with Pebble Beach Food and Wine promises a chance to increase their charitable presence. “Historically, we wanted to be a bigger part of the community,” Kelly says. “This year it’s a priority.” To that end, Pebble Beach plans to offer discounted Sunday tickets for anyone with a local zip code. Bryan Anthony, director of food and beverage, says with some 150 wine and spirits labels and 100 chefs, “No one will be leaving thirsty or hungry. We want the community to feel appreciated.” Pebble Beach Company was set to stage Food & Wine in April of 2020, but we all know what intervened. The company took over the event, founded in 2008 by friends—later contentious partners who parted ways—Rob Weakley and David Bernahl, whose company collapsed under the weight of unpaid bills and taxes. In 2020, Bernahl filed for bankruptcy citing almost $15 million in debt. Yet the event itself was unshaken by all of this. Ten years in, it was drawing crowds of over 8,000. “From top tier—that’s where it was in 2019—we want to build on that,” Anthony says. “Our focus is to be the top quality food and wine event in the nation.” Judging from the lineup, they are well on their way. Pebble Beach apparently raided the Chopped judging panel, as Maneet Chauhan, Scott Conant and Geoffrey Zakarian are participants. Andrew Zimmern, known for his gastronomic tolerance—Bizarre Foods—will prepare a meal with the help of students from Rancho Cielo’s Culinary Academy, continuing the local community theme. Indeed, Monterey County’s wineries and restaurants are well represented. Chalone Vineyard, Scheid Family Wines and Pelio Estate are pouring, among other local labels. At least 20 area chefs are participating. Of course, Pebble Beach chefs make an appearance, as well. They are hosting, after all—and they are all really good, too. Despite the luxurious emphasis, the relaunch of Pebble Beach Food & Wine is more than white tablecloth dining, fine wines and mixology. There are barbecue pitmasters among the toques, and Rudolfo Ponce, representing his Sunday Pacific Grove pop-up Heatwaves, serving Nashville hot chicken…which is probably a bit hard on the wine tasting palate. For the Pebble Beach team, this year’s return marks a starting point. “We’ll take the lessons learned and make it even better next year,” Anthony promises. One suggestion, even before the event begins: If Heatwaves is back next year, include a milk vendor nearby. Pebble Beach Food & Wine takes place April 4-7 at locations in Pebble Beach. Tickets for the tasting pavilion start at $475. Tickets for seminars, master classes and dining events vary. pebblebeachfoodandwine.com. First course The tasting pavilion at Pebble Beach Food & Wine will be much larger this year. “It’s a good opportunity to enhance the experience,” says Pebble Beach’s Patrick Kelly. Strawberry Blast…Feb. 27 was National Strawberry Day, but Café Carmel is continuing the celebrations through March 3. They have all the strawberry classics—shortcake and chocolate-covered and tarts and more treats made with this seasonally celebrated berry. Ocean and Mission, Carmel. 6243870, cafecarmel.com. Snacks By The Sea…There is a new beach-adjacent cafe in town. 831 Beach Kitchen is open and ready to meet your caffeine and food needs. From soups and salads to coffee beverages and baked goods, they have what you need to get you through the day. 1098 Del Monte Ave., Monterey. instagram.com/831beachkitchen. baked good…There is a new owner of Paris Bakery, but expect the same beloved pastries, cookies and sandwiches at the Monterey and Seaside locations. “The bakers are all staying on,” says Vivianne Borges, who has been heading operations for the family business started by her father, master baker Jackie Jegat. “It’s the same name, the same recipes.” Read more at mcweekly. com/food_wine. More To Mangia…Rudolfo’s Café, known for Italian offerings like homemade pastas and pizzas, is adding brunch to their repertoire. Friday and Saturday they now serve from 11am to 2pm. In addition to staple menu items, they have coffee drinks and brunchy bevvys. Is there any better way to start the day than with a mimosa? If you’re wondering why this isn’t also on Sundays then you must not have discovered Heatwaves yet. Do yourself a favor and look into it. 543 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove. 920-1381, rudolfoscafe.com. New Yet Not…Though Monterey Donuts isn’t new, their social media presence is—and so are some menu items. Keep an eye on their new Instagram page to keep up with menu additions, like the spicy brunch’wich. 2440 N. Fremont St., Monterey. 3330281, instagram.com/monterey.donuts. Shop And Chop…Head to Everyone’s Harvest’s Marina Farmers Market on Sunday, March 3 for a cooking demonstration starting at noon with Chef Rondi Robinson. Learn to make a healthy Buddha bowl, mostly with produce that can be bought at the market (handy). Grab the ingredients to make your own nutritious, locally sourced meal at home. 215 Reservation Road, Marina. 384-6961, everyonesharvest.org. By Jacqueline Weixel morsels Send a bite to eatanddrink@mcweekly.com “We want it to feel fresh because we have that opportunity.” Eat + DrinK nic coury Finer Things Pebble Beach Food & Wine returns with the same high standards, but a new commitment. By Dave Faries