For those who want to take their food and wine knowledge to a whole new level, you'll want to circle March 27 on your calendars - and prepare to dole out $170 for an evening that could last five hours or more.
That's the night you'll be able to rub elbows with Anani Lawson, the sommelier at the French Laundry, one of the world's great restaurants. Lawson is doing the event on his own and he is careful to note this is not a French Laundry-sponsored evening. Nevertheless, he's the wine expert at the restaurant and he will be holding court and talking about wines all night while tasting an apparently lavish multi-course dinner.
Lawson told me by phone that this could be the first of many such wine events he will conduct when he's not on duty at Thomas Keller's famous Yountville restaurant.
"I'm still finalizing the selection of wines. The plan is to have a forum where people can be exposed to wines that they don't instinctively think about and wines they see all the time but don't necessarily see the value of them," Lawson said. "Everyone wants to have the trophy wines, but they might not think about the everyday wines."
Affordable? The French Laundry fixed price dinners are $240 per person. So what does the sommelier consider affordable, everyday wine?
He says he is thinking of a pinot noir that retails for $48, for instance, and a Riesling or white Rhone blend that sells for as little as $15. Those wines and many more will be on site for tasting at the clubhouse at the Pavilions, a new residential development behind Loehman's Plaza off Fair Oaks Boulevard.
Part of the evening will involve pairing wines with food, but the rest will be open to participants to chat with Lawson about anything they choose. Thus, registration is limited to 18 people.
Speaking of pairings, the event itself involves an unusual pairing - the highly regarded Lawson with the unheralded and youthful Pajo Bruich, an ambitious cook who runs a part-time gourmet catering operation but is all but unknown even in the local food community.
Turns out, Bruich and Lawson hit it off when Bruich dined at the French Laundry months ago and eventually decided to join forces to showcase food and wine at a high level. Bruich says he plans to present several culinary surprises during the evening, employing a multitude of modern cooking techniques.
"We are planning to go all out. We are trying to bring the element of surprise to the meal," Bruich said.
If Bruich pulls it off, this could be the start of big things for him. His parents run a restaurant repair business in Lincoln and he says his catering business is not yet allowing him to devote his full-time efforts to it.
Lawson says he was impressed when he presided over Bruich's table at the French Laundry.
"Just like most people I meet, we exchanged business cards. I looked at his Web site and said, 'Hey, maybe we can do events together.' I was the sommelier for his dining table. He showcased to me some type of passion as we described the food to him. It lead to me believe he had a unique passion that I had a connection with."
Lawson added, "When I met him, I said, 'Wow, Sacramento. Why not Sacramento?'"
Those interested in a long, intense, inspiring, educational and more than likely delicious evening should act quickly to reserve a spot.
Here is information from Bruich's promotional mailer. The Web site at the end is the place to register for the event:
This is guaranteed to be our best event to date, with the most dramatic food ingredients and preparations experienced yet! Without giving away too much of the surprise, here is a snippet of the menu....
~ Ultra Grade Wagyu "Calotte" or Cap of Rib Eye
~ Royale De Foie Gras
~ Purebred Japanese Kurobuta
~ Brillat Savarin
~ Valrhona Chocolate and much more! It will definitely be an amazing night in food and wine. Anani has access to some of the rarest and hardest to get wines. He promises to deliver on some memorable wines to enhance the food and create a fabulous dinner!
Beth Daane, of Beth Daane Photography will be on site to capture the magic of the evening.
The evening will start with a cocktail and canape reception at 5:30, followed by a formal seating at 6:00pm.
• March 27th, 5:30 pm
• The Club At Pavilions
• 2430 Pavilions Place Lane
• Sacramento, Ca 95825
• $170 per person, inclusive of service