The cast assembles for a group photo at Cakebread’s Dancing Bear Ranch on Howell Mountain — from the left, wine educator Michael Weiss, Dennis Cakebread, chef McDowell, Bruce Cakebread, and chefs Biggers, Severson, Haugen, and Turley.
Back at the winery, menu preparation begins in the Cakebread’s expansive garden, where Marcy Snow goes over the vegetables in season with chef McDowell as the other chefs forage among the tomatoes and corn.
The winery has set up a special marketplace in their tree-lined courtyard where 18 local food purveyors display everything from meats to chocolates, cheeses, and oysters. Bob Engel of Gourmet Mushrooms in Sebastopol, Calif., goes through his magic mushrooms catalogue with the chefs.
The next morning, after a hearty breakfast in Cakebread’s Suscal Vineyard overlooking the lower valley, vineyards director Toby Halkovich gives an alfresco lecture on how grapes are grown and an update of the 2013 harvest in progress.
Julianne Laks has been at Cakebread since 1986 and head winemaker since 2002. With the heady aroma of fermenting grapes hanging in the air, she gives the pro and amateur chefs a behind-the-scenes tutorial on winemaking.
Chef Severson woke at 4:30 a.m., still trying to put together the elements of his oyster dish for the first public dinner this evening. But he is now wide-awake and ready to pick grapes at Foster Road vineyard. A half-hour and a ton of sauvignon blanc later, everyone emerges with fingers intact.
During the course of the workshop, visits are made to various food purveyors. After a tour of the cow dairy at the family-run Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese operations, everyone is treated to a mid-morning snack of cheese and Cakebread wine.
Then we go to Tomales Bay for more high-on-the-hog food touring at Hog Island Oysters. As oysters are being cleaned and graded in the background, market manager George Curth tells where oysters come from and how they are grown before we slurp down a bivalve or two.
Culinary director and workshop manager Brian Streeter (in glasses) is the person in charge of making sure all food and wine events at Cakebread run smoothly. As final menu preparations take place, he and the chefs share a laugh discussing which wines to serve with their courses.
Show time! Chef Haugen demonstrates sauce preparation for an antelope loin to amateur chefs Larry and Karen Cress of Spring, Texas. The kitchen rocks with more than two dozen chefs and winery staff as 65 guests on the Pecan Patio dig into chef McDowell’s lardo-crusted wild salmon.
Dr. Timothy Wilson of Rochester, Minn., adds a finishing touch to the dessert course as all the chefs gather in the kitchen to help plate the final course. Outside, sommelier Weiss explains the reasoning behind the evening’s pairings of food and wine.
It’s all chefs are on deck as the five join in to take a curtain call as they pour hot chocolate sauce with the evening’s dessert. Chef Severson serves a table at a ladies’ night out. Soon, the chefs re-assemble in the kitchen for a wrap-up and a raid on any un-poured Cakebread. Workshop over!