Strawberry Rhubarb Lime Pie with Toasted Coconut Meringue and a trip to Driscoll’s Berry Farms and Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival

by Irvin on May 21, 2012 · 37 comments

I’m always thrilled whenever I have a chance to learn a bit more about where my food comes from. So when Driscoll’s berries invited me (along with a number of other food bloggers) to visit their berry farms and learn more about what they do, I immediately said yes. Of course, as a bonus, they gave us food bloggers tickets to one of the hottest food events in the Northern Hemisphere – the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival. Long time readers will remember the ridiculous amounts of food that I ate when I was down there last year with my partner-in-crime Sabrina of The Tomato Tart. This year, I only got into two different events at the festival, but it was enough to inspire my Strawberry Rhubarb Lime Pie with Toasted Coconut Meringue.

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I woke up crazy early (for me) to get downtown and meet the other bloggers for our trip down to Watsonville for the berry farm. Kamran from The Sophisticated Gourmet had flown in from the East coast, and the rest of the San Francisco food blogger crowd, including Anita from Desserts First, Stephanie from Desserts for Breakfast, Shauna from Piece of Cake, Leslie and Nina from Foodbeast as well as Sabrina from The Tomato Tart were all there barely awake and ready for our trip. We boarded the crazy tour bus and proceeded out of the city and onto our two-hour drive down south.

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Arriving at the Driscoll’s distribution plant, the lovely folks that brought us down had breakfast waiting for us. The breakfast potatoes, bacon quiche and pork sausage were all great, but of course, we were there for the berries. Blueberry French Toast Casserole, Berry Parfait, berry filled scones and (of course) fresh berries were all there in plentiful amounts. The bloggers went crazy taking pictures (of the food and of everyone else) and tweeting up a storm, as bloggers often do. As we climbed on chairs and composed beautiful plates of food for our hero shots of breakfast, a few Los Angeles based bloggers arrived including Greg from Sippity Sup with his partner Ken and Pam from My Man’s Belly.

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After breakfast, we all squeezed into rubber rain boots that Laura of The Baddish Group had kindly run out and gotten for us (though Kamran, being the fashion plate that he is, had actually run out and gotten his own the day before). The past few days had been crazy rainy and the fields were muddy. I got some pretty stylish baby blue boots that were ever so slightly small for me, but they looked fab so I sacrificed comfort for fashion. We all trucked out to the farms to see the berries being grown.

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If you've ever met Kamran, you'll notice he makes that face a lot.

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Stephanie hates it when I take pictures of her.

The Driscoll’s farmer showed us around the muddy fields and the raspberry plants, that weren’t quite ready to be picked yet. Driscoll’s works with a number of family owned and run farms all over the area. The average crew of 60 people can pick from two to five crates worth of raspberries. Once picked, the raspberries go into a clamshell package and are never touched again until the consumer uses them. Apparently one of the reasons that raspberries are packed in small half pint packages is that they are so fragile that anything larger and the weight of the berries will ruin the ones at the bottom. The raspberries themselves are on an 18 month cycle, with two different yields before they need to be replanted.

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We didn’t have a chance to visit any strawberry farms (but I did snap a picture of a field out of the truck window as we passed by) but they did talk about the process of Driscoll’s cross breeding their strawberries to find the best, most durable and tastiest strawberries. Some of the varietals that they come up with are so persnickety that a planting them one day before or after the optimum plant date can shift the yield up to 10 -15%. Because of that, only 1% of the berries that they cross breed make it to market. The average US consumer apparently eats ten pounds of strawberries, which seems ridiculously low to me. I can go through a flat just by myself in just a few days!

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Once we finished up at Driscoll’s we headed to the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival, for the Grand Tasting pavilion. The road trip itself was, exciting as we nearly died going off-roading in our tour bus, but thankfully we survived intact, ready for the festivities. On the way to the festival, we even picked up a couple of rich hitchhikers that thought our shuttle bus was the official festival shuttle (silly rich people). Of course, I immediately ran off, excited by the bountiful food and wine, and lost everyone in the hustle and bustle, too busy trying to grab a picture of the fantastic food (as well as, you know stuff the food in my mouth while it was still hot – ‘cuz I’m classy that way). Oh the food!

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Pebble Beach is gorgeous

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Shauna gave me the evil eye, because I kept on taking pictures of her.

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The "hitchhikers" that we gave a ride to the festival tent. Silly rich people.

I have to say that I went a little crazy sampling and tasting foods in the Grand Tasting pavilion. I sort of wish there were less people and more time to go and eat everything (and sip wine, oh I didn’t even scratch the surface of the wineries that were there). But that’s the nature of these events. People lining up to sample fantastic cuisine, and everyone standing around moaning about how wonderful or amazing their little bite was. Yeah, I was one of those people. Though, in the end, I’m not sure if I was moaning from how good the food was or how much food I ate.

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Of course, Pebble Beach Food and Wine isn’t anything without the fabulous chefs, but I’ll be completely honest with you. I am TERRIBLE at knowing who’s a celebrity chef and who’s not. I don’t have cable and the last time I watched the Food Network, Too Hot Tamales was still on the air. Sadly Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken weren’t there (or if they were, I didn’t see them). However there were a number of other celebrity chefs, including Tyler Florence, Anne Burrell and Johnny Iuzzini. The last one I know, as he’s a pastry chef, and let’s face it, I’m a total pastry chef geek. That said, I was pretty confident that if they were at the Food and Wine Festival, they were probably a big deal. But you tell me if you recognize any of them.

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That said, I did get a chance to sit next to Michael Chiarello after my second session about blind wine tasting. Michael seemed less than thrilled by me sitting next to him (I think I was crowding his personal space), but since I’m oblivious to that sort of thing, it didn’t seem to bother me. Not that he really spent much time thinking of me, as he soon started to hobnobbed with the other famous chefs (like Nancy Silverton) and became oblivious to any slight I might have given. That’s OK as I was too busy hanging out with the other bloggers and telling the other bloggers what I learned at the Blind Wine Tasting session, which was truly informative.

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Turns out, there’s a method to the madness when master sommeliers taste wine blindly. The session had us tasting the wine along with the sommeliers, and trying to guess the wine varietal and origins. Here are a few tips I learned. The more viscous the wine (leggy) the more alcohol (or residual sugar if it’s off dry) is in the wine. The climate controls the alcohol in the wine, with the warmer the climate, the higher the alcohol in the wine. Conversely, the cooler the climate that the grapes are grown, the higher the wine’s acidity. If you smell things like mushrooms, minerals, earthiness or wood in the wine first, you are probably dealing with an old world wine, while if you smell fruits first, it’s probably a new world wine. If you smells spices like cinnamon or cloves (or anything you woulkd bake a pie with) it’s been aged in a wood barrel. Finally if all else fails, the safest thing you can say is that “It smells like cherries” (for red wine that is, if it’s white, say is smells like green apples). Ha!

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The wine I tasted blindly.

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The panel of master sommeliers

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The wines that we tasted blindly. I guessed maybe two of the correctly.

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This is my favorite pic of the event. The sommeliers high-fiving each other for getting the wines right!

At the end of the day, most of us piled back into the van (while the LA bloggers went off a different route) and drove back up to SF. We did a stop at the airport where we dropped off a number of bloggers who were either flying back home or lived down in the South Bay. I arrived home safe and sound, happy to have spent the day with some fantastic bloggers, and having learned a ton about berries, food and wine.

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Johnny Iuzzini's dessert, that inspired my pie.

For more blog posts about the Driscoll’s and Pebble Beach trip, check out these fab posts by my fellow bloggers:

Special thanks goes to Driscoll’s Berries and the Baddish Group for hosting me for this trip to their farm, and the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival. All travel, meals and tours were provided by the hosts. That said, I was not compensated otherwise for what I wrote above and everything I have written is my own opinion. 

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar May 21, 2012 at 6:02 am

This pie sounds mad tasty. AWESOME idea!

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Irvin May 24, 2012 at 7:36 pm

Thanks Katrina! It is MAD tasty actually.

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Gail May 21, 2012 at 6:27 am

Did I spy Lee Anne Wong in one of those pix?

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Irvin May 24, 2012 at 7:34 pm

Why yes, you did! I love Lee Ann Wong. She was SO nice and her food was excellent!

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Redd H from Salted Spoon May 21, 2012 at 9:48 am

What an amazing excursion! Those food pictures are simply amazing and I can’t imagine how much fun you must have had! Lots of famous faces in those pics too!

This pie recipe looks really interesting. I wouldn’t have thought to put Coconut and Rhubarb together :-)

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Irvin May 24, 2012 at 7:35 pm

It’s a great combination actually. The toasted coconut really works well with the tart sweet rhubarb/strawberry filling.

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Julia May 21, 2012 at 11:49 am

I love your blog!!! It´s so much more than just a food, you really inspire me!

http://azucarpastel.blogspot.mx/

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Irvin May 24, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Thank you! You blog is pretty inspiring too. I love your idea of using Mamey fruit in a macaron! Lovely way of combining food cultures…

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Garrett May 21, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Jealous. I am jealous. There. I admitted it. ;)

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Irvin May 24, 2012 at 7:39 pm

You should come down next year! Seriously worth the trip.

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tami May 21, 2012 at 1:17 pm

what a wonderful post, irvin :) so nice to see photos of amazing peoples and, of course, your food shots are just lovely. xoxo

- tami

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Irvin May 24, 2012 at 7:41 pm

Thanks Tami! Coming from you, that’s a true compliment! Though, in truth, it’s not hard to take bad photos of food if it looks that good…

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merri May 21, 2012 at 1:24 pm

it all looks fun and yummy.

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Irvin May 24, 2012 at 7:41 pm

Totally fun and yummy!

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kellypea May 21, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Photos are definitely excellent, but I love your writing. Smiled the whole way through — especially about Chiarello’s “personal space.” Need, need, need to go to this event next year.

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Irvin May 24, 2012 at 7:43 pm

Ha! Thanks! Sometimes I wonder if I just ramble too much on this blog, and people would prefer if I just posted pictures. I’m glad someone appreciates my writing. And Kelly, you should totally come up from SD for this event! Totally worth it.

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Kim May 21, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Ugh, how do you get to go to such awesome events?! I am drooling in envy…that berry yogurt granola parfait? Looks divine. As does everything else…

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Irvin May 24, 2012 at 7:44 pm

The berry yogurt granola parfait was awesome. Sadly I couldn’t take a picture of the heaping scoop of it that I took on my plate, as it just didn’t look as nice scooped up as it did in that gorgeous glass trifle bowl. But it sure did taste wonderful…

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vanillasugarblog May 21, 2012 at 4:16 pm

I’m horribly jealous right now that you went to Pebble Beach. It is just so breathtakingly gorgeous there. AND you had all that good food.
I cannot stand it! But I’m happy you got to be a part of that amazing event!

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Irvin May 24, 2012 at 7:46 pm

You should come next time! It was really a fantastic time. And yes, Pebble Beach is gorgeous. I actually revisited PB a few weeks later. Stay tuned for another post about that trip, with way more photos from Pebble Beach and the 17 mile drive…

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sippitysup May 21, 2012 at 5:26 pm

I hadn’t heard about Michael Chiarello, that’s funny. GREG

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Irvin May 24, 2012 at 7:49 pm

I feel like I barely saw you and Pam that trip! It went really fast. Hopefully we’ll see each other soon…

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Belinda @zomppa May 21, 2012 at 6:31 pm

This is several great desserts in one!! Gee….. That train trip looks so romantically adventurous!

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Irvin May 24, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Thanks Belinda! The flavors actually really go well together.

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baker in disguise May 22, 2012 at 1:44 am

You really do a good job of making people jealous of you!! I am mad crazy about berries… more so cos we hardly get any in India.. just strawberries!!! That trifle with all those berries… ohh yess!!

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Irvin May 24, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Oh man, I LOVE my berries. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries. I get SO excited when berry season comes around. I’m sad you don’t get those over in India. But then, you get other awesome food over there, so I guess it’s a tradeoff…

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Kim Bee May 22, 2012 at 7:14 pm

I have to admit to being wildly jealous again of your foodie excursions and meet ups with other bloggers. Looks like so much fun. Love the boots, I have a horse and don’t even have those schnazzy boots for the barn yet. Loved the recipe although I’ll admit I’m not a huge rhubarb fan. My family likes it though. We just happen to have some growing in our yard.

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Irvin May 24, 2012 at 7:52 pm

What? You don’t like rhubarb but you grow it? Send some my way! I adore rhubarb. As for those schnazzy boots, I think I’m giving them to a friend of mind, who will get much more use out of them than I will…and who has smaller feet.

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Kim Bee May 29, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Lol, we bought my dad’s place and he loved it. I kept trying to kill the plant but it just keeps coming back. Now I make bird feeders with the leaves. Yup, I’m strange. But my neighbours love all the free rhubarb.

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brandi May 23, 2012 at 8:54 am

goodness gracious, what a trip! everything looks incredible. especially this pie.

do you ship to VA? :)

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Irvin May 24, 2012 at 7:53 pm

If I had a way to ship that pie (and I had any leftover) I’d be sending it ASAP!

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Brian @ A Thought For Food May 24, 2012 at 6:57 am

Holy crap, Irvin! This was one fabulously epic post! So many fantastic pictures! So glad you had a great time.

And yay for pie! This looks like a keeper!

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Irvin May 24, 2012 at 7:54 pm

Thanks Brian! I had a great time eating and taking pictures. So much fun.

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Debi Shawcross May 24, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Hey Irvin! Wow–tequila in the crust–really? I’m excited to try this one! I love Greg & Pam, you are so lucky to have had fun with them on this trip, which looked amazing!

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Irvin May 24, 2012 at 7:55 pm

Yep! Tequila in the crust. It’s there, and subtle, but totally awesome with the lime curd. I love Greg and Pam too, but I felt like I barely saw them this trip. Sadness. Hopefully next time.

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Vijitha May 27, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Awesome post Irvin. Amazing pictures and I must say that your writing is more amazing. I love it. Note to self: Must try to make it to the event next year. Lovely pie and coconut and rhubarb together ? I would not have thought about that combination. I am so curious to try it soon.

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Irvin May 28, 2012 at 1:20 pm

It’s a great combination actually! The hints of vanilla that coconut adds works really well with the rhubarb. And yes you should totally try to make it to the event next year! So much fun.

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