400 cyclists gathered in Geyserville this past Saturday for a rollicking, rolling Northern Italian-themed feast catered by a stellar group of notable Bay Area chefs. At the 2014 Chris King Gourmet Century, the Portland-based cycling company's chefs Chris DiMinno and Robert McSpadden oversaw a $175 multi-course culinary event spread out over 62 miles in Sonoma County. (Learn more about the history of the event in my previous post.)
Tucking into a big breakfast of bagels (with smoked trout, capers, red onions and cream cheese for toppings), housemade chorizo, potato, scrambled egg, Chris King salsa and cheese burritos, granola with yogurt and fresh fruit, oatmeal and even congee with smoked pork and pickled mustard greens, riders were fueled up and well-caffeinated for their ride (courtesy of Sebastopol's Taylor Maid Farms and the espresso bar) at the Alexander Valley Hall in Geyserville.
With the weather a perfect temperature of 74 degrees, the gently rolling wine country route led to the Raymond Burr Vineyards 19 miles later. Savory squash "Pop-Tarts" were delightful twist on the popular breakfast pastry as a mid-morning snack.
After pedaling for 35 miles, it was already time for lunch at the Arnaut Roberts Winery. Chef Matt Accarino of the illustrious SPQR restaurant and his staff had prepared a bountiful, rustic spread that was bursting forth from the buffet table: grilled chicken with sunchokes, salsa verde and Meyer lemon; jasmine rice with gold raisins and wild fennel vinaigrette; a vegetarian autumn squash curry; coco beans with tomato conserva, crispy kale and herbs; farro with roasted beets and persimmons; quinoa and goat cheese; lentils with Brussels sprouts, za'atar, feta cheese and mulled red wine dressing; fregola and chickpeas, arugula, apples, sunflower and pepitas; chocolate cookies and more Taylor Maid coffee for dessert. Cyclists lounged on the vineyard's picturesque property to stretch their legs and enjoy their delicious picnic meal in the shade.
In case riders were still hungry after that generous lunch, respite was just 12 miles away. Michael Gyetvan of Napa's Pizzeria Azzuro served up sausage, Margherita and potato, red onion and bacon pizzas at Shiloh Ranch Regional Park. And each rest stop was also well-stocked with water, beverages, energy bars and other cycling supplements given away as treats.
By 4 o'clock, it was already time for dinner as cyclists rolled back into Geyserville. Preceded by a cocktail hour, the wine was provided by local wineries Arnot Roberts, Bouchaine and Innisfree and beer from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. A generous assortment of passed appetizers helped whet the cyclists' appetite with Five Dot Ranch bite-sized meatballs with sofrito and micro-basil on crostini, Boccalone salumi cones and local farmers' cheese with port wine-braised figs.
The first seating commenced in the early afternoon (the second wave of diners would sup at 6:30pm.) with live music and Ari Weiswasser of Glen Ellen Star's mixed chicory salad garnished with persimmon, harissa-spiced walnuts and blue cheese dressing.
The decadent second course of chicken liver bruschetta, shaved Brussels sprouts and pomegranate seeds with giblet vinaigrette was overseen by acclaimed chef Chris Cosentino of Boccalone and Porcellino.
To cap off the sumptuous dinner was a lovely selection of housemade ice cream -- chocolate, vanilla maple, Nutella and peanut served with Florentine cookies -- also from Glen Ellen Star.
With a well-marked course, a fantastic set of volunteers who attended to riders off and on the route (such as advising to proceed with caution in traffic-heavy sections using flags) and an exemplary culinary experience -- the Chris King Sonoma Gourmet Century is a wonderful way to spend the day if you're fond of combining your passion for cycling with a delicious, four-star dining event. Follow them on Facebook or Twitter to stay informed about next year's events.
All images by Jenny Oh