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Monday, October 24, 2005

"Inside The Kitchen" At The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay

The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, in conjunction with Gourmet magazine, is hosting a special food and wine event this coming weekend.   Called "Inside the Kitchen", this three-day extravaganza consists of a variety of lectures, demonstrations and meals spanning from Friday, October 28 to Sunday, October 30.   I should note at the outset that this is not cheap;   in fact, it is downright expensive.   But if you suddenly find yourself flush with disposable income and are looking for a culinary event on which to spend it, this might be for you.

The weekend kicks off with an Opening Night Benefit Reception and Dinner on Friday, hosted by Bay Area television personality Joey Altman.   A number of local chefs will be behind the stove, and diners will be able to watch them plate and finish their dishes in the hotel ballroom.   The chefs who will be participating include Hubert Keller of Fleur de Lys, Roland Passot of La Folie, Michael Mina of Michael Mina Restaurant, Nancy Oakes of Boulevard, and pastry chef William Werner of the The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay.   Sommeliers from around the Bay Area will also be on hand, offering wine pairings with each course.   Look for Larry Stone of Rubicon, Shelly Lindgren of A16, Eugenio Jardim of Jardiniere, Matthew Turner of The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, and Richard Betts of The Little Nell in Aspen, Colorado.   The price?   $300 per person all inclusive, $75 of which will go to Meals on Wheels of San Francisco, Inc.   And as if that weren't steep enough, the hotel appears to be requiring an overnight stay for anybody interested in attending this dinner.

On tap for the daytime on Saturday are a number of lectures and/or demonstrations, including sessions on The Perfect Brunch, Afternoon Tea for the 21st Century, New World Wines, and Secrets of Weeknight Meals (the last of these being taught by Food Network host Sara Moulton).   Each of these presentations lasts two hours and costs $100 per person.   That evening, the hotel will present a Grand Cru Wine Dinner - with wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux poured by the sommelier from the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, and a meal matched to those wines by the executive chefs from the Half Moon Bay and Battery Park (New York) Ritz properties.   Here again, the price per person is $300 all inclusive, and an overnight stay appears to be mandatory for participants.

The last day of the event offers a field trip, for $100 per person, to two regional farms - Harley Farms Goat Dairy and Farmer John's Pumpkin Farm.   And on Sunday afternoon, the weekend draws to a close with the Chef's Challenge and Grand Tasting ($150 per person).   The first portion of this is essentially an Iron Chef-type competition, in which two teams of chefs will have one hour to prepare a three-course meal using a secret ingredient.   The idea was to set this up as a Napa Valley versus San Francisco battle, so Keith Luce from Press and Scott Warner from Bistro Don Giovanni will go head to head with Ron Siegel from the The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco and Gregory Short from Masa's.   The competition will be hosted by Joey Altman and judged by Sara Moulton, Narsai David, Peter Rudolph, and a few others.   Immediately afterward, guests will get to sample signature dishes from the executive chefs of seven different Ritz properties.

The hotel is offering a number of different packages in which one-, two- or three-nights' lodging is combined with one or more of the above events.   Incredibly, if you and a companion want to go all out and stay at the hotel for three nights, attend all three dinners, and enjoy Sunday brunch at the hotel's restaurant Navio, you can do so for the bargain basement price of $3150 double occupancy.   And if you both want to go to all four of the Saturday classes as well, make that $3950!

I am all for supporting food and wine events such as this one, and I realize that the overhead involved precludes them from ever being cheap.   Nevertheless, some of the pricing here strikes me as being seriously out of whack, and I can't help but wonder what kind of a turnout the Ritz is going to get.   I also cannot fathom why the hotel decided to require everybody who wants to attend the Opening Night Benefit to purchase a package that includes a hotel room.   After all, this dinner is a fundraiser for Meals on Wheels;   you'd think that the hotel would want to encourage as many people as possible to attend - not artificially limit the guest list to those who are also willing to shell out the extra money for a room.   Put simply, this inexplicable decision makes it appear that the Ritz is more interested in lining its own coffers than in helping a good cause.

At any rate, if you end up going to any of these events, please do let me know!


Blogger Amy Sherman said...

Ah yes. I slobbered over the brochure for weeks before accepting reality--I ain't got that kinda dough!

October 24, 2005 9:12 AM  
Anonymous js said...

i just started reading your blog and happened across this entry. you're right; the "inside the kitchen" events were seriously overpriced. i think harley farms does group tours for $20/person regularly! but i went on the harley farms/farmer john's field trip anyway, and it was a lot of fun. there were more people there than i had expected, but i think a lot of them were food writers covering the weekend events.

November 08, 2005 7:10 PM  
Blogger NS said...

JS: Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for the comment! I'd be very interested to find out whether you went to any of the other events and, if so, your general impressions of them. It sounded like a great, albeit expensive, weekend.

November 09, 2005 8:03 AM  

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