Sunday, March 15, 2015

Food Preview: Food + Wine Festival Palm Desert

by: guest blogger @iam_robot

The Food + Wine Festival Palm Desert is back for its fifth year, and this year’s celebrity chef and culinary master includes Iron Chef Cat Cora, Award- winning pastry chef Gale Gand, Broke Williamson, Ari Taymor, Zack Bruell, and Brian Malarkey, among others.

Aiming to benefit The Friends of James Beard Foundation, these chefs will educate attendees with cooking demos, unique exhibits, and various industry panels on March 27 – 29 in Palm Desert’s famed El Paseo shopping district. And let’s not forget about the Grand Tasting event – sip, nosh, and party your way through the heat with more than 70 premium spirits/wines/ beers and 50 premier Palm Desert-area restaurants.

Last week I had a chance to sample of the wonderful bites and wines to be featured at this desert food festival. There were many memorable dishes but my favorite was the English muffin with burrata, caviar & licorice herbs by Ari Taymor of Alma (named “Best Restaurant in America” by Bon Appetit).

This dish is the ultimate comfort food – Initially I was over the moon with the fresh briny character of the uni but as I chewed through, I loved the flavor mesh of the burrata creaminess and subtle saltiness from the caviar. Everything gels like a perfect symphony on top of this bite-size pillow soft English muffin. I could eat a tub of these!

My other highlight was Brooke Williamson’s (of The Tripel, Hudson House, and Playa Provisions) Gougere - a baked savory choux pastry made of choux dough mixed with cheese. It was buttery goodness – I had to jot down the step by step when she was demonstrating.
Brooke Williamson demonstrating her gougere recipe
Gougere by Brooke Williamson
Finally, I also enjoyed a couple of the heartier dishes – a pumpernickel toast with pork belly pastrami and the smoked salmon dish with blood orange & avocado mousse. I thought the pork belly toast had the best interchanging flavors of savory and sweet by incorporating homemade kraut and caraway-beer mustard. On the healthy side, The Purple Room was serving up delicious purple pear salad with goat cheese mousse, spiced pecan, and pomegranate vinaigrette dressing.

Pastrami Pork Belly on Pumpernickel Toast
Salmon with Blood Orange & Avocado Mousse
Purple Pear Salad by The Purple Room
Moving along, drinks are plentiful for this event. As expected, many California wineries will feature their greatest hits but I really enjoyed Mulderbosch’s Faithful Hound Red Wine from South Africa. It’s a tribute to Bordeaux blends with a potent mix of Cabernet (54%), Merlot (27%), Petit Verdot (8%), Cabernet Franc (8%) and Malbec (3%). The result is a rich, dark blend with spicy notes of cinnamon and peppermint and berries – black currant and blackberries.
Other notable imported wines are Martini & Rossi’s award winning trio – the Sparkling Rose, Moscato, and Prosecco.
All in all, I think the Food and Wine Palm Desert Festival will offer plenty of thrills. The festivities kicks off Friday, March 27 with James Beard four-course gourmet luncheon created by James Beard Award-winning and nominated chefs. Then Saturday and Sunday, you’re free to roam for the Grand-Tasting event from noon to 4pm. The way to go is with the VIP Grand Tasting Pass – you get an hour early entrance (vs. the general grand tasting pass) plus the caviar/ champagne tasting, and the chef cooking demo. Definitely you do not want to miss the Chef Demo by Brian Malarkey (Top Chef Miami) and Cat Cora (Iron Chef) on Saturday. And just like many big industry gatherings, I expect plenty of after-parties around the area.
Chef Ari Taymor
The Food and Wine Palm Desert Festival will be held in The Ferguson Grand Tasting Tent on Larkspur Lane at El Paseo. James Beard luncheon ranges from $125 -$150. Grand Tasting Pass is $90/ day and VIP Grand Tasting Pass is $125/ day. You can purchase the tickets here.


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