From the beginning of his interactive luncheon, Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s message was clear: “You think you know about sushi, but you don’t know anything,” he told his audience.
Morimoto’s demonstration at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone continued with a brief lesson on how to properly consume the dish. Japanese cuisine and culture emphasize etiquette, and eating sushi—even in America—is not an exception. For example, nigiri must always be dipped in soy sauce fish side down. “Fish side down,” the chef reiterated to the crowd.
|Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto leading an interactive luncheon at Flavor! Napa Valley.|
Attendees watched as Morimoto, with deft fingers, produced piece after piece of beautifully geometric sushi rolls. Afterward, he escorted guests to the CIA’s kitchens to attempt the feat on their own, stopping between stations to offer advice and pose for photos.
The luncheon was one of many anticipated events at Flavor! Napa Valley, Northern California’s annual food and wine festival benefiting programs and scholarships at the CIA at Greystone. Each year, the celebration delivers an impressive array of Napa Valley and CIA alumni celebrity chefs, restaurateurs, vintners, sommeliers and artisan food producers offering demonstrations, tastings, dinners, lunches and one-of-a-kind experiences.
|Chef Jeffrey Jake preparing Peruvian spiced duck breast with pickled chanterelle mushrooms at First Taste Napa|
In 2012, food aficionados could observe the Forgione family chefs—father Larry and sons Bryan, Marc and Sean—cook a rib-eye steak to marbled perfection; listen to Chef Thomas Keller, who launched his remarkable career in Palm Beach, illustrate the importance of selecting fresh produce; discover Chef Christopher Kostow’s methods of harvesting and preserving vegetables; learn the art of making sushi alongside Morimoto; and witness an Iron Chef-style cooking competition between Chefs Michael Chiarello and Geoffrey Zakarian. Other featured master chefs included Scott Conant, Johnny Iuzzini, Jeffrey Jake, Charlie Palmer and Cindy Pawlcyn. Each culinary demonstration concluded with celebratory samplings or, in the case of Morimoto’s event, an astounding three-course meal with wine pairings.
At tastings, oenophiles gleaned valuable knowledge from some of the industry’s finest, including Jon Bonné, wine editor at the San Francisco Chronicle; Kerrin Laz, wine director at Dean & DeLuca; Rajat Parr, wine director of the Mina Group; and Andrea Robinson, the only woman ever named Best Sommelier in the United States. From blind tasting competitions to wine and cheese presentations, experts indulged festivalgoers in their best wine secrets and tips. (Hint: When in doubt, choose sparkling wine.)
The festival’s crown jewel, however, was the Appellation Trail, an exhilarating tasting trek featuring more than 100 wineries and 30 restaurants. Attendees explored Napa’s sub-appellations with a wine glass necklace, sampling everything from Albariño to Zinfandel.
Demonstrations and tastings were housed in the castle-like Greystone Cellars building at the CIA, and the historic setting was more than fitting. Founded in 1889, it was the largest stone winery in the world, and today it operates as one of the most prestigious culinary institutions in the country. Between events, guests could browse the campus store, snack on fresh pastries at the café or depart to one of Napa’s famed wineries or restaurants.
And though the region is a mere 35 miles long and five miles wide, there are 400 wineries and 125 restaurants from which to choose. The “Great Wine Capital” has been awarded more Michelin stars per capita than any other wine region in the world, making it the ultimate food and wine destination.
Flavor! is held in November—the perfect time to appreciate the beauty and bounty of Northern California. Surrounded by rolling vineyards blanketed in mustard blossoms, visitors can marvel at the picturesque combination of vivid fall colors, gnarled grape vines and swirling mist—with a hearty glass of wine in hand.
Five Must Dos:
- Cozy up at Meadowood Napa Valley and treat your palate to its award-winning modern American restaurant.
- Experience 13,000 square feet of breathtaking wine caves at the intimate Vineyard 29. Tours available by appointment only.
- Satisfy any craving at the Oxbow Public Market. The eclectic collection of restaurants and shops offers anything from cupcakes to oysters.
- Make reservations at least two months in advance for Thomas Keller’s legendary restaurant, The French Laundry.
- Plan a golf outing at one of the championship courses at the Silverado Resort and Spa.
Culinary Institure of America at Greyston, St. Helena.
- The third annual Flavor! Napa Valley will be held November 20-24.
- A limited number of tickets packages are available each year.
- Events range from $75 for an introductory tasting to $3,500 for a definitive tasting of rare and extraordinary Napa vintages.
- For more information, visit flavornapavalley.com.
Larry Forgione’s cedar-planked salmon with egg sauce at the welcome dinner.
Legends Wine Tasting at Flavor! Napa Valley.