We recently attended Sonoma Valley’s “Feast of the Olive Dinner” – an extraordinary dining experience that attracts olive, food and wine aficionados from around the world. The annual dinner is held during Sonoma Valley Olive Season (January through February) – a two-month long wine country celebration featuring all things olive. The Feast of the Olive Dinner is so aptly named because it brings together 18 of Sonoma Valley’s top chefs and every bite of their incredible olive-inspired culinary creations was a feast to our palettes!
The intimate 150-person dinner was held in the stunning Vineyard Room at Ramekins Culinary School, nestled in downtown Sonoma. At first sight, the long expansive tables (which were set to perfection) looked like a scene out of a State Dinner. Each table had a dedicated team of executive chefs who prepared a unique five-course dinner of scrumptious olive-inspired dishes – and each course was paired with award-winning Sonoma Valley wines.
This year’s featured chefs included Andrew Cain of Santé at The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa; Ari Weiswasser of Glen Ellen Star; Jeffrey Lloyd of Café La Haye; Adolfo Veronese of Aventine; John Toulze of the girl & the fig; Andrew Wilson of The Renaissance Lodge at Sonoma’s Carneros Bistro; Carlo Cavallo at BV Whiskey Bar; Catherine Venturini at Olive & Vine; Dana Jaffe at Saddles at MacArthur Place; Andrea Koweek & Moaya Scheiman at Crisp; Gary Edwards at Carneros Caves; Antonio Ghilarducci at Depot Hotel; Amando Navarro at El Dorado Kitchen & Hotel; Manuel Azevedo and Ed Metcalfe at La Salette/Shiso; Lisa Lavagetto and Doug MacFarland at Ramekins; and Sheana Davis at The Epicurean Connection.
Special guests included the feast’s Master of Ceremonies – Gary Saperstein from “Out in the Vineyard”), Liam Mayclem from KCBS-FM’s “Foodie Chap” and CBS’ “Eye on the Bay” and Joel Riddell from KKSF-FM’s “Dining Around.”
An inviting Welcome Reception kicked off the evenings festivities. We sipped on Gloria Ferrer champagne and Sonoma’s Citrus Sunset Blood Orange Cocktails. Tasty appetizers (all featuring olives in some form) whet our appetites for what was to follow. They included Savory Olive Clafoutis with 5th Street Farm Tomato Confiture (pictured above), Picholine Olive and Goat Cheese Croquettes with Fennel Aioli, Arbequina Olive Oil Cracker with Quinoa and Truffled Mushroom Duxelle, and (our favorite) Ginger Lime Olive Oil Ahi Tuna on Black Sesame Wonton Crisps.
The delectable five-course menu (see pictures above) started with a mouth-watering salad of Marsala Glazed Pork Belly with Winter Chicories, Pine Nuts, Blood Oranges and Picholine Olives) – paired with Pangloss Cellars, 2012 Sauvignon Blanc.
A fabulous second course fish dish featured Black Cod, House Made Cavaletti, Spicy Tomato Marmalade, Black Olive Emulsion, and Chorizo – paired with Roche Winery & Vineyards, 2013 American Oak Reserve Chardonnay.
The main course was oh so tender Braised Boneless Short Ribs, Red Cerignola Olive Cake, Parmesan Crisps, Ruby Red Port Reduction – and Olive Oil Caviar (a first for us). This was paired with VJB Vineyards & Cellars, 2013 Nero d’Avola.
Being a Brit, I love it when there’s a cheese course and this didn’t disappoint. Cave-Aged Cheese from Tuscany to Tonopah (Beer Washed) included six exquisite cheeses complemented with a tangy chutney and figs. By this point, I had eaten so much that I couldn’t even finish the plate – wish we’d had a doggy bag! The cheese dish was paired with Highway 12 Vineyards & Winery, 2012 La Piazza Super Tuscan.
Last, but certainly not least, we enjoyed a decadent dessert – Bellwether Farms Sheep’s Milk Ricotta Panna Cotta with Meyer Lemon Olive Oil and Wild Huckleberry Sauces and Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Hazelnut Cookie – paired with Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, 2013 Late Harvest Aleatico — a perfect end to a perfect meal 🙂
Stay tuned for more on next year’s Feast of the Olive Dinner during Sonoma’s Olive Season – it’s a feast of the senses that foodies won’t want to miss!
Tips for Visiting Sonoma Valley during Olive Season
Contact the Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau for information on lodging, restaurants, wineries, spas, and other fun wine country activities.