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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Pebble Beach and the circus tent: part I

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That's how it was referred to all weekend: the circus tent.  And what a fun circus it was.  It's madness too, mind.  Try finding your way among throngs of people grabbing and reaching for wine and food.  Well, they are hardly to blame.  You'd go a little off in the head too with that much food and wine.

I must admit I'm not exactly an walking around eating in a tent kind of girl.  I have the appetite of a horse and the metabolism of a humming bird, so I just never have enough food at these kind of affairs.  Usually the walk between one bite and the next burns basically all the calories than the bite affords me.  It's a zero-sum game, which I guess could be a good thing.

Even with my skeptic's hat on, the big tent at Pebble Beach was great fun.  The food was amazingly good--there wasn't a lot of gratuitous dousing of truffle oil which seems to be the norm in these big tent foods.  No, no I'm not going to mention which "famous" chef served me the most gnarly burger "slider" with dodgy meat that was positively soaked in truffle oil.  Certainly not here for sure. 

While truffle oil was thankfully missing in action, foie gras--holy goodness foie gras--was everywhere.  My favorite three bites here all involved foie gras in one form or another. 

Foieterrine One was a deceptively simple terrine of foie gras.  This wasn't one of those "terrine" with dubious quality foie gras all whipped into a paté, but a proper one made with whole lobes bind together into a terrine form.  It's hardly surprising though, considering the source, Michael Ginor from Hudson Valley Foie Gras.  The terrine was delicious, and the pear and apricot chutney served with it was a perfect compliment. 

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My two other favorite bites both had foie gras, but in very different forms.  Cal Staminov of Bernardus made a classic seared foie gras dish that's served atop sliced duck breast and a handful of dressed greens.  The creamy, quivering foie gras was done just right, and the duck--hung in house said Cal--had a properly gamey and livery flavor of good duck.  It certainly didn't taste like chicken!

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The last of my three favorie savory dishes was foie gras was Joel Huff's complicate construction of fried mini cube of foie gras sitting precariously over a squab "sausage" on a mini skewer, the whole thing barely balancing on the rim of a beautiful shot glass filled with cut noodle and a gingery dashi broth.

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The Slanted Door's Charles Phan was there offering yummy little dumplings.  I threatened to run off with a big bowl full, and Charles was good enough to actually offered to give me the one in his hands.  The DIE-NOW stares from the people lining up to get a bite of this gave me pause.  I looked around and decided the crowd was too thick for a quick getaway, so I just took one, ok, two, enduring only a mildly hateful stares from two well-dressed (and clearly not drunk enough) ladies at the front of the line.

(to be continued)

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