The Palm Desert Food & Wine Festival saw another landmark year, bringing in a new lineup of celebrity chefs, along with more than 40 restaurants 60 libation purveyors. A weekend celebrating the region’s culinary achievements was highlighted by two grand tastings, both taking place at the El Paseo shopping district. And with a venue split between indoors and outdoors, guests enjoyed the festival’s continued streak of absolutely perfect weather.
Saturday’s Grand Tasting kicked off with a cooking demo from Scott Conant, Scarpetta owner and acclaimed TV personality. Following him, across the event’s three stages, were demos from more culinary artists such as Top Chef Winner Brooke Williamson and restaurateur Fabio Viviani. Adding exciting flare to the day was Martin Howard, also known as Chocolatina, a 6’-7” drag queen [far taller in heels and an updo] who put on a musical show alongside a lesson on chocolate macarons.
Agua Caliente Steakhouse ribeye, Fleming’s lobster mac ‘n’ cheese, and Bernie’s lounge custom prime rib sliders were among the savory highlights of Saturday’s restaurant lineup. The crowd favorite may well have been La Quinta Cliffhouse, however, which served what can only be described as ‘crack in a cone’—seasoned ahi tuna served in a savory, buttery cone made of miso, flour, soy and sesame.
Sunday’s grand tasting came with a worldly theme, focusing on Latin American and Mediterranean flavors. Local celeb Drew Davis of Catalan came out in full swing, dishing out chicken skin chicharron covered with jamon iberico. Joining the ranks were Villa Roma’s massive beef empanadas and dulce de leche alfajores, as well as Adobe Grill’s infladitas, or ‘inflated’ tortillas stuffed with black beans and cochinita pibil and topped with avocado. Then came Carte Blanche’s Gourmet Tacos, serving tostadas with puled pork, bacon, pear and bleu cheese. Another sweet addition was Brandini Toffee, serving their signature creation three ways.
Chef Jaime Gwen led Sunday’s guests in a three-part demo on spring and summer favorites. Additional demos were led be Food Fanatics Chef Bo Marianowits, cookbook author Stuart O’Keefe and Extraordinary Desserts Owner Karen Krasne, among others.
Drink purveyors included a slew of wineries such as Ruffino, Vinemark Cellars, Fallbrook Winery and Malibu Family Wines. Local favorite Babe’s poured their signature honey blonde ale alongside breweries such as Calidad Beer, Chihuahua Cerveza, Towne Park Brewery and Refuge Brewery. New flavors included Boochcraft, with some killer alcoholic Kombucha, and Malfy Gin, pouring cocktails from a very entertaining lemon display.
Palm Desert Food & Wine 2020 is already underway, with Curtis Stone and Carla Hall in the lineup. For more information, visit PalmDesertFoodandWine.com
Masters of Taste, one of LA’s premiere food festivals, makes its way back to Pasadena’s iconic Rose Bowl on Sunday, April 7, 2019. A spectacular lineup of ‘masters’—food, drink and sweet—are set to take the field, led by host Chef Michael Hung of Faith & Flower.
Attendees can expect this event to be top notch, where some of LA’s hottest chefs dish out signature dishes alongside pours from local breweries, wineries, and distilleries. And any festival that makes dessert its own category is bound to have some excellent sweet indulgences…Masters of Taste is no exception. And yes, it’s all bottomless.
Live cooking demos and a festive crowd match the event’s ambiance to its flavors, and the kicker is being able to enjoy the event right on the Rose Bowl’s infield, where countless historic sporting events and concerts have taken place.
All proceeds from Masters of Taste go directly to Union Station Homeless Services, a nonprofit dedicated to the fight against homelessness.
Tickets are selling fast! For $10 off, use promo code FOODIEB19. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit MastersofTasteLA.com
The Planned Parenthood Los Angeles (PPLA) Food Fare brought in its landmark 40th year in grand fashion, bringing together some of the most noteworthy restaurants, wineries, breweries and distilleries in Los Angeles, as well as attracting major players from as far as Las Vegas. The event, held in Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar on the first Thursday in March, per tradition, drew more than 2,000 supporters and food fans and raised $1.3 million for PPLA.
PPLA Food Fare 2019 Chef of the Year, Helene An of Crustacean Beverly Hills, joined PPLA Guild President Karen Morin Green in kicking off the event. An’s legendary garlic noodles were then one of the seemingly infinite offerings that welcomed guests when the Hangar’s doors opened.
Restaurants were out in full force, with staples such as Rao’s, Ayara Thai, Upper West and Momed serving up specialties from curried short rib to killer meatballs. Tacos were among the crowd favorites, with players from Border Grill and Madre to Pinches Tacos and even Firestone Walker dishing out carne asada and fusion poke creations alike. Pink’s, which joins Crustacean as one of the few restaurants that pre-dates the PPLA Food Fare itself, took pride in serving full-size ‘stretch’ dogs. Boneyard Bistro and Granville added to the event’s heavy side with brisket sliders and chicken mac ‘n’ cheese. Viviane, Salt’s Cure and Takami Sushi were just a few more of the incredible list of venues supporting PPLA with signature tastes.
Wine, beer and spirits were much abound, with the likes of Navarro Vineyards, Angel City Brewery, Craftsman Brewing Company, Kikori Whiskey and Infuse Spirits among the libation purveyors. Additional drink providers included Suja, Pasquini Coffee Co. and the ever-growing Elixir G.
Dessert has long been a highlight of the PPLA Food Fare, with groups like Valerie Confections, The Pie Hole and Jennifer Pennifer Bakes creating salted caramel cheesecake, bite-size Nutella pies and other decadent creations. Pazzo Gelato’s ever-changing selection, from hazelnut to raspberry white chocolate and beyond, kept people coming back.
40 years of experience has made the PPLA Food Fare one of the best-run food festivals in Los Angeles, with spectacular ambiance, a jovial crowd, and extreme attention to detail ensures lines are minimal to non-existent. Expect PPLA Food Fare 41 to return Thursday, March 5, 2020. For more information, visit PPLAFoodFare.com
Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.