Ask vintner Robert Mondavi the secret to living a perfect day and he'll ask you a question.
"What's wrong with living well--eating and drinking well?" asked Mondavi on Sunday at the kickoff dinner for the new Orange County chapter of the American Institute of Wine & Food.
In other words, the perfect day begins with fine food and ends with fine food and wine. Unless, perhaps, you're Mondavi. Then your day might begin with some wine, too.
"You know what I had for breakfast this morning?" Mondavi asked, sipping Cabernet Sauvignon at the Costa Mesa wine and food center that bears his name. "Scrambled eggs with stewed tomatoes and a bit of garlic, and coffee with red wine."
Coffee mixed with red wine? Exactly. "About 8 ounces of coffee, an ounce and a half of wine, and sugar to taste," said Mondavi, who wore a charcoal gray suit with a burgundy stripe (and a tie sporting a grape design). "When I was growing up, my mother would give me a little coffee with a little red wine in it. I grew accustomed to it." Lesson learned.
Learning about wine and food is the purpose of the institute founded by Mondavi and Julia Child a few years ago. Since the local chapter was founded in May, about 200 people have joined.
"The institute is for people who aren't necessarily professionals in the wine and food business," explained AIWF chairman E. Keith Owens. "It's for people anxious to learn more. Some of us want the chance to participate in these kinds of events. And some of the group represents the very young--people just entering the world of wine and food.
"We try to take away some of the stigma and stodginess that is associated with wine and food--it doesn't all have to be sit-down and black-tie."
On Sunday, it was stand-up and summer-casual.
Guests grazed at buffet tables that displayed the signature dishes of local restaurants such as as Gustaf Anders, Royal Khyber, the Pacific Club and Bangkok 4. (Paul Piazzese, owner of Cuisine/Cusine--the only caterer represented--was dinner chairman.)
One of the day's culinary hits was the jumbo scallop dish served up in a lotus cup by Pacific Club chefs.
"I could use a bucketful," said Mitch Mitchler, staring down at the solitary scallop in his porcelain dish.
Another magnet was the table that displayed a bowl brimming with chocolate truffles (wrapped in gold tissue) from Le Cake. "I wish I'd brought a bigger purse," Lorie Porter teased.
Pass the calorie counter, please.