You know those meals that you know you will remember forever? The ones that reach every single one of your senses? The ones with excellent conversation, a gorgeous backdrop, where you’re greeted with wine at the entrance, and not to mention phenomenal cuisine? Well, thanks to the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau, I was lucky enough to experience one of those unforgettable meals recently. As I spent the evening with local foodies and writers like myself, Monterey area wine purveyors and chefs teamed up with the Sanctuary on Camelback to bring us a Taste of Monterey. With awe-inspiring coastal views and the breathtaking Santa Lucia Mountains as the backdrop, Monterey County invites travelers to grab life by the moments. This renowned travel destination boasts 99 miles of coastline that begs for exploration, one of the largest wine growing and producing regions in California, new and renovated properties making a debut in 2017, a diverse culinary scene influenced by a year-round growing season and an abundance of locally procured ingredients, and that’s just the beginning.
The evening was kicked off by Rob O’Keefe, Chief Marketing Officer for the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau, as he introduced us to a wonderful group of people, helping to bring Monterey to life and sharing their experiences with us. We also had the pleasure of watching life chef demos from Executive Chef Beau MacMillan of Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort, Executive Chef Johnny De Vivo of Porter’s in the Forest at the Poppy Hills Golf Course, and Chef Matthew Beaudin of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. They each brought something special to the table, using all freshly flown-in ingredients from the Monterey area. Everything was beyond special. And when I say everything, I mean it. Chef Beaudin even makes his own sea salt, so farm to table was the epitome of the evening. Wines were curated by the lovely Kim Stemler, Executive Director of the Monterey County Vintners & Growers Association, as she described how each wine paired with the courses that we enjoyed. She was an absolute delight to talk to, as I was seated at her table for the duration of dinner.
Speaking of dinner, let’s take some time for me to brag about the unreal culinary fusion of styles that was bestowed upon my palate. The canapés of Mariquita Farms Carrot and House Made Ricotta Cennelloni , Monterey Wharf 2 Spiny Lobster Papillon and California Grass Fed Beef Tartare were the perfect note to start the night off right.
First up was Chef Matthew Beaudin’s dish. Chef Beaudin has a farm of his own with goats, ducks, you name it, and we had the pleasure of dining on some of his own duck eggs! Wild Foraged Mushroom Salad; Candied Walnuts, Frisee, House-Farmed Duck Egg, Lardons, Dijon Viniagrette paired with Manzoni Vineyrad Syrah 2013.
Next up was an artistic dish by Chef Johnny DeVivio; the Red Triangle with Kellet’s Welks, Santa Barbara Uni, Mike Gram’s Seweeds, and Shitaki Mushroom Dashi. Perfectly tender uni and a broth that I could drink out of a bowl if they would let me. Paired with a 2015 Wrath Ex Anima Chardonnay as well as J.Lohr 2014 Arroyo Vista Chardonnay.
Santuary’s own Chef Beau MacMillan presented us all with a main course dish of Slow Roasted Duck, or what I like to call #duckdrunk. A Brioche Toaste topped with Duck Confit, a Pistachio Crusted Monterey Farmed Abalone and Foie Gras, Roasted Duck Breast and Leg, served alongside a sweet potato carrot puree . Everything was as Chef Macmillan would say “phenomenal”. Paired with Bernardus 2013 Garys’ Vineyard Pinot Noir and Carmel Road Pinot Noir.
To round out the night we made a little more room for dessert, and it was beyond worth it. When I read the menu I was stopped in my tracks by the words Brown Butter Gelato. All of my dessert dreams had come true thanks to Chef Ana Garza of the Sanctuary. Paired with an Olive Oil Rosemary Financier and Meyer Lemon Cremoux, plus a glass of Rosé, it was a trifecta of flavors and an excellent note to end the night on.
And you don’t have to be invited to a media dinner like this to get the Taste of Monterey. With non-stop flights from Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport straight into Monterey’s own airport, you can be sipping locally grown wines and dishes in no time. For more information visit SeeMonterey.com