Even after the last course was served, guests couldn’t stop talking about the Farmers Market Lunch at Relais & Châteaux’ GourmetFest in Carmel-by-the-Sea. With a four-course menu from a quartet of well-accomplished chefs from California, Vermont (United States) and Sapporo (Japan) it was a highly motivating reason to wake up that breezy, beachside morn
Prior to the luncheon, Chef David Kinch (Manresa) presented a cooking demo and book signing at La Playa Hotel’s well-manicured courtyard where he walked guests through the components and preparation of his signature “Into the Garden” course in the outdoor Gaggenau kitchen. During the session, he shared insightful thoughts on current matters in the restaurant industry including the growing concern of American diners requesting to make menu modifications, that are non-health related, but strictly out of personal tastes. He said that on a nightly basis, they’ll often have to create seven different menus in addition to the one he has in place for his restaurant because of these adjustments. For a chef of a restaurant with a staff/guest ratio of 35 to 50 mentioning that this is an apparent issue, it must indeed be a concern that many restaurants and chefs are now facing. In fact, later at the GourmetFest luncheon I witnessed a guest who had requested vegetarian for their courses, but then was eating the beef from the person’s plate next to them. Considering how much extra work, time and cost goes into making these changes in the kitchen, it’s an interesting subject that I’m sure will soon have to be confronted.
During the demo Q&A, an audience member asked Chef Kinch how he felt about having recently attained three stars in the Michelin Guide. He emphasized the great honor, responsibility and importance of being in the guide and mentioned that the star recognition has led to an increase in nightly guests from Europe and Asia to his South Bay restaurant. He said that back in the day he was curious about having his restaurant in San Francisco, but now truly believes that there is nowhere else he’d rather be than in Los Gatos. And along with the thrill and excitement of having been awarded three stars, he shared how terrifying it can be since from here you either stay at three or go down. He shared a past conversation in which Chef Joel Robuchon told him, “Michelin has given us stars for the moment – they are on loan. We do not have them.” That sentiment has resonated with him until this day and reminds and inspires him daily to know that just because you attain the Michelin stars, you must continually work hard and evolve with your team to maintain them and not ever take them for granted.
First Course: Chef David Kinch (Manresa)’s “Spring Vegetable ‘Royale,’ Into the Garden”
During the demo, we witnessed Chef Kinch misting nasturtium powder on the cool, warm, raw, vibrant, “green and bitter” dish that is served as the second course on Manresa’s tasting menu. At the restaurant, this dish is specifically paired alongside a beer within the optional beverage pairing.
At GourmetFest, the “Into the Garden” dish was paired with Crocker & Starr Sauvignon Blanc, St. Helena 2014
Relais & Châteaux GourmetFest Founder David Fink at the Farmers Market Luncheon
Second Course: Chef Nathan Rich (Twin Farms)’ Hambsch Farm Head Cheese with Beetroot, Vermont Cheddar, Apple, Mustard Seed and Twin Farms Maple Syrup – I never thought I’d enjoy head cheese this much, but one can never say never.
Charles and Rose Ann Finkel (The Pike Brewing Company, Seattle) and Franz and Angela Inselkammer (Brauereigasthof Hotel Aying & Ayinger Brewery, Bavaria )
Chef Rich’s exqusitie Head Cheese course was paired with both the Ayinger Celebrator and the Pike Post Alley Porter beers. I appreciated that the festival showcased the featuring of high-quality beer pairings as a match with fine cuisine.
Chefs from Aubergine (Carmel) and Molière (Sapporo) collaborating In the kitchen above. During the entire GourmetFest, all the local and visiting Relais & Châteaux chefs worked together to prepared and plate the courses out as a team. The family spirit was very high and present in the kitchen.
Hokkaido Wagyu on a bed of pine presented and served tableside for the third course from the Restaurant Molière team from Sapporo, Japan. Chef Hiroshi Nakamichi’s son Hirokazu has been working at Noma for the last year and a half and mentioned to me that he was inspired to present the Wagyu with the pine due to his time spent at Noma.
Chef Hiroshi Nakamichi (Restaurant Molière)’s Hokkaido Wagyu Fliet with Charred turnip, and Wasabi paired with the local Bay Area Mount Eden, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains 2006.
The desserts are coming…
Chef Stephanie Prida (Manresa)’s Satsuma Creamsicle with Fennel Fronds and Graham Cracker
Dessert was paired with Williams Selyem, Late Harvest Gewürztraminer, “Vista Verde” Tres Pinos 2014
Chef Stephy Prida (Manresa) and Nathan Rich (Twin Farms)
Clean plates and huge smiles are a true indicator of a successfully executed meal. A glass in each hand is also a good sign that you are thoroughly enjoying the beverage pairings. Earlier in the day at the demo, Chef David Kinch talked about how “dishes that are well balanced linger in people’s minds.” All four courses of the Farmers Market lunch delivered that goal with chefs exceeding expectations with each of their presented dishes and the winemakers and breweries harmonizing a well-matched pairing for each.