March 10, 2011
Big names attend "Flavor! Napa Valley" luncheon launch

By Blair Anthony Robertson

Napa 014.JPGOfficials announced Thursday the launch of Flavor! Napa Valley, the four-day food and wine festival that will celebrate the region's culinary and winemaking bounty while promoting the area as a major destination to much of the world.

Additionally, proceeds from the event will go toward scholarships for students attending the Culinary Institute of America's nearby Greystone campus.

Judging from who was in attendance, this event has some major star power behind it. Among those attending the announcement and luncheon at the Silverado Resort were Thomas Keller, the chef behind the French Laundry, Per Se, Bouchon and Ad Hoc. Keller, wearing a white chef's coat and shiny black clogs that looked like they haven't been near a prep table any time recently, mingled for a while beforehand, stood and listened during the brief announcement, then slipped out before lunch was served.

In prepared remarks given ahead of time, Keller said, "I am excited to participate in the first 'Flavor! Napa Valley' in November as the weekend promises to be filled with wonderful culinary experiences. More importantly, I am eager to support the event in its goal to raise funds for the CIA and provide scholarships for deserving students."

Also chatting and laughing with folks at the Silverado event was celebrity chef Michael Chiarello, who owns Bottega Restaurant in Yountville and the upscale store NapaStyle, and is a longtime promoter of the Napa Valley. Other notables at the event include Cindy Pawlcyn of Mustard Grill and Charles Henning, the manager director of CIA.

"I have been pushing for this for a long time and I am very excited it's finally happening. Given how much talent is here and our community's well-known leadership in crafting the finest food and wine experiences, a signature culinary event in the Napa Valley is long overdue," said Chiarello in remarks given ahead of time.
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Masaharu Morimoto, the acclaimed Japanese chef who rose to fame as a champion on "Iron Chef," did not speak at the event Thursday, but he did sit at our table during lunch and seemed especially impressed with the first course of dayboat scallops sashimi with an avocado puree and soy-lime vinaigrette

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My favorite course was the vanilla-parsnip soup made with saffron kumquat confit and marcona almonds. Very creamy and an interesting flavor, almost like a sweet polenta.

We also had the lamb loin, which the menu said was Dixon Ranch, a place unfamiliar to me. This was a nice peppery dish and the lamb was thick and tender. It was also a very pretty dish, served with carrot puree.

When we arrived around 11:30, waiters stood with trays at the door handing out Domaine Chandon sparkling wine. A nice glass of bubbly always helps make press conferences seem more interesting. Throw in a glass of Newton unfiltered chardonnay with the soup and a sip or more of Domaine Chandon's Carneros Pinot Noir, and we were finding this soiree downright entertaining.

In the coming months, watch for more details about Flavor! Napa Valley from Nov. 17 to Nov. 20 at Silverado Resort and the CIA campus. It promises to be a big deal and, for wine and food lovers, another great reason to explore all the area has to offer.

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