Flavor! Napa Valley has been on my calendar for nearly a year. The inaugural event, the brainchild of Karlitz & Company, piqued my interest from the very beginning. A food and wine event in Napa seemed a natural choice – the mecca of spectacular food and wine in this country, where some of the finest wines in the country are created next to some of the finest restaurants in the country.
And in the fall, no less!
It was the colorful countryside that met me upon my arrival this last Tuesday to the heart of northern California wine country. Vineyards in every direction, hills of autumn all around. I spent my first day in the area aboard the luscious Napa Valley Wine train, stepping back in time on the renovated locomotive and enjoying the view with a wine glass in hand. In the evening, I made my way to Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc, and emerged full of prime rib and fudge brownie sundae, a peaceful smile on my face.
My Flavor! Napa Valley adventures officially began Friday morning, with a culinary demonstration from Meadowood’s Christopher Kostow. Like most of the weekend events, the demo was held at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. Best described as a foodie’s Hogwarts, the castle-like campus nearly glows, oversized spoons and forks hanging from the stone walls, display cases filled with tools and history of both the school and the valley.
Kostow’s session featured the lauded chef offering tips on ‘mouthfeel’, or utilizing different textures effectively within a dish. With sous chefs on hand, he created a goat’s milk yogurt dish, with shiso sesame “rocks” and pickled plums. Even better, there was enough for everyone.
Nighttime offered guests the opportunity to taste all that Napa has to offer, with the Appellation Trail grand tasting event. Grand white tents, as well as chef Richard Blais, greeted revelers before they made their winding way through a handful of CIA kitchens and up to the royal food and wine spread on the building’s second floor. Showcasing restaurants and wineries from each winemaking region, the room was packed with everyone from Ad Hoc to Zahtila Vineyards, with chefs Scott Conant, Thomas Keller, Michael Chiarello, Masaharu Morimoto, Cindy Pawlcyn, and Tyler Florence on hand for meeting and greeting.
My favorite wines of the evening included Mumm Napa’s magnum of champagne, Flora Springs, Lang & Reed, Stags Leap, Marketta, Peju, and V. Sattui. All of the bites available were remarkable, including a fantastic golden beet salad, vegetable samosas, pulled pork, curry scallops, mini fish tacos, escargot, mini cheddar biscuits with ham and pepper jelly – and everything in between!
Can you imagine? Just incredible! Not only was I blown away by the superior quality of all the food and wine I sampled, I was impressed with the coordination and planning it took to accommodate nearly 1400 attendees! Kudos indeed!
Tomorrow – my adventures on Day 2 of Flavor! Napa Valley – including an interactive luncheon that had us cooking in the CIA kitchens!
*Photo credit: Jennifer Heigl / Daily Blender
**Many many thanks to Napa Valley Wine Train for inviting me aboard, as well as Flavor Napa Valley sponsor Silverado Resort for hosting me during my stay!