Breakfast began with a crispy rice cake topped with sweet pork and a rich eel sauce, followed by cannelloni filled with Dungeness crab, which came just before the butter-poached, lemon-scented Malpque oysters finished with Sevruga caviar.
And by the way, each course was accompanied by a glass of wine. What was going on, some sort of mad buffet brunch? In a way, it was, but it was billed as the culinary competition of the North Lake Tahoe Autumn Food & Wine Festival.
For about four hours, seven judges were sequestered in a conference room of the Resort at Squaw Creek to see which of 30 teams, each consisting of a restaurant and a winery, could come up with the most impressive pairing of food and wine.
In the end, Coyote Moon Bar & Grill, the restaurant of Coyote Moon Golf Course at Truckee, won the pairing with one of the simpler dishes of the day, a strip of smoked-duck prosciutto wrapped around a Mission fig with a small bouquet of arugula and a slice of pecorino cheese. It was simple but it also was rich, and it needed a fairly assertive wine, which turned out to be the Morgan Winery 2004 Santa Lucia Double L Pinot Noir ($55), which was peppery and smoky in its own right.
Judges also chose a best red wine and a best white wine in the tasting. The red results provided a shot of confidence and esteem for a couple of wineries in the Sierra foothills. The gold medal for best red went to the Mt. Vernon Winery 2003 Placer County Cabernet Franc ($23), while the bronze medal went to the Lucchesi Winery 2003 Sierra Foothills Cabernet Sauvignon ($26). The silver medal for second place was awarded the Handley Winery 2004 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir ($28).
The wine judged best white in the competition also was out of Sacramento's back yard, the Van Ruiten Family Winery 2004 Lodi Pinot Gris ($12).
Competition in both divisions was keen, with the other wines including such highly regarded releases as a ZD chardonnay, a Frank Family cabernet sauvignon, a Duckhorn merlot and a Taz pinot noir.