Food and Wine in Pebble Beach, Food and Music in New Orleans

The end of April is a great time for foodies but those who truly love to eat are left with a tough choice.  Do you want great food, top notch chefs, amazing wine with a view of the Pacific or great food in a casual outdoor venue accompanied by an eclectic choice of music. Oh, the choices that people who live to eat have to make. Either way you can’t lose.

The Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival (www.pebblebeachfoodandwine.com) tees off on April 28th and runs through Sunday May 1st.   The top of the top chefs are available through the weekend, presenting lectures, cooking gourmet dinners, signing books and stopping to chat.

You can ride the shuttle bus from The Inn at Spanish Bay and sit next to Chef Jacques Pepin and his daughter Claudine.  You can taste an exquisite California red and chat with the French Laundry’s Thomas Keller who will sign your copy of his cookbook. Take a class with Ming Tsai, who is more personable in person than he is on TV.

Bottega’s Michael Chiarello is all over the place, cooking, dining and chatting in between events leading up to his lunch at the Lexus Grand Tasting.  Sip, savor and enjoy as you watch one of the most amazing chefs in the country,  Michael Chiarello of Bottega in Napa, working his culinary magic right in front of you.

Chefs Terrance Brennan, Jacques Pépin and Roy Yamaguchi are part of the opening night event Thursday where 23 chefs and 100 wineries offer up their best for noshing, sipping and savoring.

There are wine, champagne and port tastings.  Play winemaker for a day in a master blending class to see if you can produce the next great, must have wine.  It’s like a science class for wine aficionados as you take vino from several different grapes, use beakers, pipettes and suggestions from Winemaker Ashley Hepworth and you mix your own vintage.

Sit in on cooking class with Dan Dunn as he talks about “ Booze, Blues & BBQ” or let Laura Werlin educate your palate on pairings with “A Love Affair Between Cheese & Wine.”

The Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival is not inexpensive but several package options will fill your body with food, your mind with cooking tips and your soul with contentment.

Speaking of soul, foodies option two is to head to Jazz Fest in New Orleans (www.nojazzfest.com), which is held the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May.

It’s difficult to tell if Jazz Fest is a music festival with the best food around, or the most yummylicious food festival surrounded by the greatest music on Earth.   There are seven full days of music over two long weekends and  more than 1,000 blues, rock, jazz, country, gospel and other musical performers pick guitars, strum banjos, blow horns and beat drums  and join voices on 11 different stages.

10,000 of your newest and neatest friends have more than 100 food vendors to tempt the taste buds, quench their thirst and satiate the tummies of those moving to the beat.

Sure, you can satisfy the basic yearnings for the New Orleans staples: po’ boys, beignets, muffuletta, crawfish etouffée and ribs are all here. But Jazz Fest foodies are famous for trolling the fairgrounds and spying on people’s plates looking for something new and different, as the sweet sounds of music mix with the aromas of things baking, broiling, frying, roasting and grilling on Toyota-size smokers.

There’s always someone pushing the limits with traditional Cajun ingredients. Look for crawfish strudel, or white chocolate bread pudding or the spicy crawfish sushi roll. You’ll find several different versions of gumbo, but none more upscale than the pheasant, quail and Andouille sausage version. Make sure you sample the crawfish sacks from Patton’s Caterers.

Try the crepe beggar’s purse stuffed with a spicy crawfish mixture and tied with a leek string. They sell more than 25,000 of these handmade delectables during Jazz Fest and you can be sure there will be a long line in front of their booth as an army of Patton relatives and their friends toil to serve the masses.

New Yorkers will feel at home listening to waiters scream out orders in a Brooklyn-like Cajun Patois in the food tents that surround Jazz Fest.

But the real strength of Jazz Fest is the music, the big names that show up every year and are consistent crowd-pleasers: Buckwheat Zydeco, the Neville Brothers, Tower of Power, Marva Wright and the BMWs to name a few.

This year, Bon Jovi,  Cyndi Lauper , Jimmy Buffett ,  Kid Rock ,  Arcade Fire, John Mellencamp , Willie Nelson, The  Strokes, Robert Plant, Lauryn Hill , Jeff BeckWyclef Jean , Cyndi Lauper and Mumford & Sons are  scheduled to perform.

But the real fun is wandering from tent to tent all day, hearing old-time jazz musicians or the glorious singing at the gospel tent or catching shows by undiscovered newcomers and eating great snacks all day long.

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See photos from the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival at:

http://www.flyingmanatee.com/photogalleries/pebble-beach-wine-and-food-festival/

See photos from Jazz Fest at:

http://www.flyingmanatee.com/photogalleries/jazz-fest-new-orleans/


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