The annual Pigs & Pinot feast-cum-competition-cum-fundraiser starts Friday, but you can hear the squealing from here.
Friday and Saturday, Chef Charlie Palmer and friends will take over the Hotel Healdsburg and his Dry Creek Kitchen for the Eighth Annual Pigs and Pinot Weekend. Tickets are long-gone, but locals can savor the aromas and glory of this growing annual event.
Heading the list of participating chefs are several from out-of-state, speaking to the national appeal of a food-and-wine festival built around the other white meat (pork) and the other red wine (pinot noir).
This year’s participating pork authorities include: Elizabeth Falkner, chef/owner of Krescendo, Brooklyn; Dean Fearing, chef/partner of Fearing’s Restaurant, Dallas; Jose Garces, chef/owner of Garces Restaurant Group, Food Network Iron Chef; and Craig Stoll, chef/owner of Delfina Restaurant Group, San Francisco.
The popularity of the Healdsburg food fest, which started in 2005, was given a huge boost in 2010 when Palmer appeared on the “Pigs & Pinot” episode of Top Chef. Once again this year, most ticket packages sold out online shortly after they became available on January 8, and the individual event tickets followed suit on their release Jan. 10.
These events are priced for devotees of the classic pairing. The more comprehensive packages, which include participation in all of the weekend's line-up and hotel accommodations at either the Hotel Healdsburg or H2 Hotel, sold out quiickly despite their $1623 - $2,892 price tags (less 5% for Visa Signature card-holders).
The attention given the festival remains national, if not wider: Haute Living called it "Healdsburg's hottest ticket," Wine Spectator has taken note of its success, Zagat lists it as an "annual swill-and-swine bacchanal," and the Aspen Times featured a travel special about it earlier this year.
Despite all that, there's always a local hook for the Healdsburg wine-loving community. Every year the winner of the Pinot Cup is chosen from some 60 highly-acclaimed by a distinguished judging panel in a blind tasting at the Friday night kick-off dinner. The winner and runner-up are revealed at the end of the night. Past winners of the Pinot Cup have included Healdsburg's Papapietro-Perry in 2009 and Forestville's Woodenhead Vintners in 2010.
Another chance for locals to join in the fun begins Thursday and runs through Saturday at Relish Culinary Adventures, a "pop-up pig roast" with chef Christopher Greenwald. It starts at 7 p.m. each night, and costs $29 plus tax. Details are on the Relish website.
At the main event, this year's featured "pinot pros" include Brian Maloney of De Loach Vineyards west of Santa Rosa; Caroline Parent of Bourgogne's Domaine A.F. Gros; Michael Brown of Sebastopol's Kosta Browne; Lee Martinelli of Windsor's Martinelli Winery; and Victor Gallegos, of Sea Smoke near Santa Barbara.
They've even got actor and comedian Mario Cantone ("Sex in the City") to act as host and judge.
Lest we forget, Pigs & Pinot is not just about bacon and bouquet. Net proceeds benefit Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign to end childhood hunger in America, as well as local Sonoma County schools, scholarships and charities.
“The fact that enthusiasm continues to grow for this event while raising significant resources for deserving charities is an accomplishment that we are truly proud of," said Palmer in a press statement.
After March 25th, the winning dish from the Pigs & Pinot Gala Dinner will be paired with the Pinot Cup winner on the menu at DCK, until Apr. 14.
Other pork and pinot pairing dinners, events and specials are now available as well, such as a P&P-influence list of special pinot noir on the wine list, available by the glass.
Note: This article was originally published in a slightly different form in February.