Beautiful Community & Delicious Fun in Big Sur
I scanned the pastures of Hearst Castle—looking for zebra—while driving past on Highway 1 toward Big Sur: no luck but the incongruity of the effort made me laugh. Soon, the sunset sky turned glorious while we zigged and zagged along this most scenic highway. We were headed to the Henry Miller Memorial Library to partake in the lively Wine & Swine tasting-party and other events throughout the Big Sur Food & Wine Festival weekend. Good humor and delicious beauty knitted together a delightful experience for participants indulging in the fifth year of this super-fun festival, from the tasty landscape to the entertaining Big Sur residents to the delicious contents of plate and glass.
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Big Sur’s Giving and Getting Community
The whole community helps to produce this intricate, elegant, not-too-serious foodie festival, which lends a special “down home” quality to every event. From the charming Merrymakers to the friendly LEXUS shuttle drivers to the ubiquitous and helpful “Grand Crew” volunteers at every event, the Big Sur community once again turned on its collective charm for visitors. Money raised from events such as the Saturday Auction Luncheon and silent auction during Sunday’s Grand Public Tasting returns to the whole community through enhancements to health, safety, education, and arts resources across Big Sur: full circle.
Hosting such an extensive collection of events requires everyone’s help, so it’s nice that so many folks lend a hand. The 2013 weekend included several iterations of Hiking with Stemware and (foodie) Magical Mystery Tours, eight different winemaker/winegrower/sommelier dinners at locations throughout Big Sur, the Pinot Walkabout, Wine & Swine party, Ten Tap Takeover, AND a weekend-capping Grand Public Tasting (with live music and after parties sprinkled throughout).
The organizers of this festival thank everyone for their crucial contributions, especially winemaker coordinator Matt Peterson and chef coordinator Adam Olthof. These gourmet food and drink project managers served as key players in helping produce this Big Sur marriage—nay, honeymoon—of fine food and drink across the many events of the weekend. Matt, Adam, and the other members of the BSFW committee with all the festival volunteers presented an event brimming with sincerity and sense of fun that reflects the Big Sur everyday and makes this a festival worth seeking out.
It pleases me to no end that every year my birthday generally falls somewhere during this festival weekend. Based on the number of pleasure-monger Scorpios I met this weekend at Big Sur, it looks like many of us have gravitated toward this special place at this unique time to celebrate. Thanks to SLO County’s Morro Bay Oyster Company and Monterey’s Local Catch, I had fresh oysters at every foodie event I attended across the weekend and good friends always made sure something delicious was poured into my wineglass.
I’m 44 this year and having the time of my life: it’s such a gift to make changes to have a happy life and to live it fully, especially after surviving significantly less-cheerful years. Like memorable tastes of special wines and foods produced by old and new friends, it’s important to appreciate and share always. Life is long and life is short, if you know what I mean.
The following list highlights the gifts I received during this year’s Big Sur Food & Wine Festival. Thanks to everyone: much love and dancing!
Gifts of Big Sur Beauty
- A delightful literary conversation-ette with Chelsea, who helps with the festival and who grew up here: “When you grow up in Big Sur, you don’t turn on the TV: you pick up a book.” Yes.
- A split of 2009 Hitching Post Highliner Pinot Noir: thanks Gray!
- Several tastes of Paul Lato’s extremely limited Grenache (he only produced two barrels) that he generously offered along with his lovely Pinot Noirs and Syrah: the best Grenache I’ve ever tasted [more about Paul Lato on CCFoodie]
- The opportunity to visit with my friend Kimberly Smith of LaMontagne Wines and taste through her several delicious wines she brought to Dinner with Friends
- Having friendly Mark Pisoni pour me a taste of the delicious Santa Lucia Mountains Pinot Noir his family famously produces near Soledad in the Northern Central Coast [more about the Pisoni Family on CCFoodie]
- Pretty morsels nuanced with flavor throughout the weekend including…
- the wholesome and thoughtful kale salad from Esalen
- creative pairings with wonderful cheeses à la Cacheagua General Store such as lavender-pineapple chunks paired with bleu cheese
- mega-jars filled with colorful Happy Girl Kitchen pickled niblets
Gifts of Big Sur Fun
- the swine butchery demo of a Niman Ranch half hog by Pig Wizard & friends—these folks know how to make some seriously delicious sausage, including Sunday’s Thai curry blood and tongue sausage, on a peanut butter pork rind “rice crispy treat,” with green papaya salad and a keffir lime coconut sauce: delicious!
- the tail-waggin’ Saturday night dance music of Beso Negro
- the candy spliffs produced by Monterey County dessert master Ben Spungin offered via ashtray at his booth during the Grand Public Tasting: “It’s Big Sur, after all,” says the talented pastry expert, with a wink
- people having fun everywhere including those ordering and making silly swine & wine t-shirts, screen printed on the spot at the public tasting
- the hospitable, performative Merrymakers and their splendid costumes
- making new connections and seeing old friends
Pacha Mama Gets the Last Word
Visitors to the Henry Miller Memorial Library who strayed off the path by the enormous stump of the monster redwood that fell across the fence (but not the library) last winter could see and touch the slabs from Pacha Mama’s redwood that gave its life for the library’s maintenance. After so many years of vertical life growing as a tree above the lawn near the HMML, the gorgeous wood grain and 4+ inch thick slabs will live on horizontally as enormous tables hopefully peopled by many friends and much good food.