Prestige and Pizzazz at Healdsburg’s Annual Event
by Barb Rybicki
Signs of spring’s arrival abound: daffodils and mustard mingle in the vineyards, newborn lambs frolic on ranches, and Pigs & Pinot dazzles food and wine enthusiasts at the Healdsburg Hotel and its Dry Creek Kitchen restaurant.
Now in its eighth year, the sold-out-in-three-minutes benefit for Share Our Strength and local scholarships and charities proved that pork is still king. Chef Charlie Palmer, cooking on home turf, once again played master of ceremonies, carving and plating juicy spit roasted pork with his sons in the central courtyard. Celebrity chef-restaurateurs helmed other stations: Jose Garces a.k.a Iron Chef, “father of Southwestern cuisine” Dean Fearing, Elizabeth Falkner (Citizen Cake) and Craig Stoll of S.F.’s Delfina Group.
Chef Garces prepared cones of Ecuadorean Fritada di Puerco, cumin-rubbed pork shoulder seared in pork fat and stock (a technique learned from his mom). Blended with a salad of steamed hominy, favas, English peas, micro greens, and crispy garbanzos with a just-right kick of heat, cilantro, and lime, it was one of the night’s star dishes. Other favorites among the many delicious treats cooked à la minute at the 18 stations: a knock-your-socks-off BLT bite from Barndiva – sunny side up quail egg on toasted brioche with tomato jam butter, crisp prosciutto and chervil, and Arista Winery’s Caldo Gallego, cured ham hock in collard green broth on potato custard medallion with chorizo foam and collard green chip.
More than five dozen Pinot Noirs paired perfectly. The range of outstanding curated selections hailed mostly from local producers, but interlopers included French and New Zealand bottlings. Memorable tastes included Kosta Brown, Sea Smoke, Rochioli, Papapietro Perry, Failla, Patz & Hall and a premier cru Burgundy from Verdet. The instantly recognizable actor Mario Cantone from “Sex and the City” and other stage and screen gigs awarded the night’s coveted Pinot Cup to Roth’s audacious 2010 Estate Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. Runner-up prize went to Te Kairanga 2011 John Martin Reserve, Martinborough, New Zealand.
The celebration lingered late, to no one’s disappointment, buoyed by unusually warm temperatures. Guests sipped together in the hotel’s inviting lobby, reconfigured with long communal tables in front of a contemporary glass fireplace. Some lucky ticketholders continued their epicurean explorations at weekend seminars, smackdowns and chef collaboration dinners.
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