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
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Benjamin Brown is a seasoned restaurant writer and hospitality consultant, serving up SoCal's hottest food news and reviews.