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Monterrey Magic

For sheer beauty and peace, look no further than Monterey, California
Thomas Matthews
From the Print Edition:
Kevin Bacon, May/Jun 00

(continued from page 2)

At the 14th annual event this past February, 26 chefs gathered to give demonstrations and cook meals for groups ranging from 20 to 200. The culinary stars included Jacques Pepin and his daughter, Claudine, Chicago's Charlie Trotter, and three of America's top French chefs, Jean-Louis Palladin, Michel Richard and Jean Joho. Forty-eight wineries poured their best bottles, during the lavish meals and at small-session vertical tastings that featured such standouts as Roederer Cristal Champagne and Bordeaux's Château Mouton-Rothschild.  

Nearly 10,000 plates of food were served at this year's event, including 260 pounds of foie gras. About 18,000 crystal glasses were hand-polished by 45 sommeliers who poured 3,500 bottles. Despite the extraordinary scope of the offerings, the Masters remains an intimate event, because the hotel's size limits the crowd and facilitates friendly interaction between the participants and the guests. It's not often that home cooks and wine collectors can mingle with top chefs, winemakers and sommeliers from around the country at "cast parties" that last well into the wee hours.  

The most extravagant meal of the event was the Rarities Dinner on Friday night. Seating was limited to 24 people, who paid $2,500 for a nine-course feast prepared by Trotter of Charlie Trotter's, Richard of Citronelle in Washington, D.C., and Lincoln Carson, the pastry chef of Picasso in Las Vegas. The dinner was held at the James House, an extraordinary private house built of local granite on a cliff overhanging the sea, designed by architect Charles Sumner Greene.  

An amazing lineup of 23 rare wines was served in flights organized by region, which encompassed four countries on three continents. Among the highlights were a rich and vibrant 1969 Montrachet from Maison Leroy, a long, graceful 1949 Château Cheval Blanc, a muscular 1971 Château Petrus, and an extremely rare 1971 Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley's famed Eisele Vineyard.  

"The ticket prices don't even come close to covering the cost of this meal," commented Highlands Inn general manager Ulrich Samietz, as he surveyed the small but happy crowd. "But we wanted to prove we could deliver the ultimate dining experience."   No one present would have disputed his success, and the satisfaction of both chefs and diners heightened the anticipation for the sequel, at the Masters of Food and Wine in 2001.   --TM

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