Craft, education and innovation took the main stage this year, showcasing the Coachella Valley as not only the ultimate culinary destination, but an area forging ahead in the craft beer revolution. Sampling, seminars and a slew of wine were also in the spotlight of Coachella Valley’s chic spot of El Paseo.
Saturday kicked off with California Dreamin' feast celebrating our local chefs and wineries, with samples from more than 50 Coachella Valley restaurants and 70 wineries, brewers and spirit makers. Sunday showcased “Brunch, Bubbles and Brews,” with champagne, sparking wine and microbrew samples and of course, cooking demonstrations.
The taste of the Golden State lifestyle shined with California wines and Coachella Valley craft beers.
After picking up a plate of hickory smoked chicken osso bucco braised in BBQ sauce on a summer slaw from Babe’s Bar-B-Que Brewhouse, I wondered over to the South Australian wine table. Wine Australia global education director, Mark Davidson quickly noticed my dish and suggested the 2012 McLaren Vale Shadow Chaser Grenache. The grapes used in crafting the 2012 Shadow Chaser Grenache came from two 40-year-old vineyards in South Australia's McLaren Vale area. Offering notes of raspberry, soft red berries, herbs and pepper, this is a delicious pairing with mild meats or cheeses.
Jon Tice, the executive at Tinto and El Jefe at the Saguaro, served a Spanish style octopus dish with paprika and confit potatoes. I noshed on this delicacy with Coachella Valley Brewings Desert Swarm, a 7% ABV honey double wit. The slightly sweet flavors of citrus, honey and apricots paired beautifully with the potatoes and spice of the dish.
After all, craft beer is the perfect culinary accompaniment.
Chef Valerie Gordon, owner of Valerie Confections in Los Angeles, prepared gorgeous berry pies, while local Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar showcased shot glass size cups of spring pea soup with blue crab meat.
Cathedral City’s Dish Creative Cuisine offered innovative pipettes filled with a port sauce skewer meat balls. And local chef, François de Mélogue of Figue Mediterranean Restaurant, demonstrated his popular Moroccan Scallops, prepared with preserved lemon farrotto, red onion, chicken broth and parmesan. This year marked de Melogue's and Figue's first appearance at the Food + Wine Festival.
I enjoyed a fantastic Syrah from Turnbull out of Napa. National Salesman, Joel Portmann said, "What does it take to make a great bottle of wine? A whole lotta' beer." I concur.
Wine, beer and delightful delicacies weren’t the only attendees at the gluttonous paradise. The brand new high end rum company, Selvarey, hailing from Los Angles, made their debut. Selvarey is the creation of legendary master blender Don Francisco "Pancho" Fernandez, former Cuban Minister of Rum and thirty-five year veteran of Havana Club. The Selvarey White is an elegant blend of three and five-year-old rums, distilled in 1922 copper column stills and aged in bourbon casks. The young trio of owners served it neat and with fresh grapefruit juice, with the moniker, the “Reyhound”. The three brothers are aiming to change the way people think about flavored spirits with their Sevarey Cacao. This innovative rum scored a 95 by The Tasting Panel, the most widely circulated trade publication in the beverage industry. This dry and silky dark rum is infused with natural Panamanian cacoa and aged for five years in bourbon casks. Selvarey Cacao was a perfect example of innovation at the festival, becoming the world’s first premium chocolate rum.
Innovation continued its course when Coachella Valley Brewing’s, Chris Anderson spoke on Sunday about not just what they’re brewing, but how they’re brewing. The brewery has found creative ways to reuse what other breweries discard. The left over spent grain is sold or given to local agricultural business to be used in livestock feed. And of course, the rare high efficiency brew system (H.E.B.S.) enables them to brew with 60% less water and producing 65% less spent grain solids. Anderson also spoke about how they can strip the valley's water via reverse osmosis, making it pristine clear, perfect to replicate Munich's water. Served in the private tent were their Desert Swarm and Condition Black, two of their popular farm to glass crafted beers. Did you know their Desert Swarm is made with Belgian styled water?
The stellar epicurean themed event featured celebrity chefs that inspired and educated foodies and tourists alike. This festival has established itself as Coachella Valley’s premier event for the celebration and tasting of the finest foods, wines, beers and spirits.
Coachella Valley is indeed a culinary hotspot. If you didn’t know, now you know.
Food Pictured: Andie Hubka, Executive chef and owner of Cork & Fork Wine Bar & Kitchen provided her dish at Saturday's chef demonstration. Hubka talked about how the black & white sesame seeds added a pop of color, while the micro greens gave it texture and a hint of flavor.