Haute Lunch

Fine dining meets high fashion every week at table modeling shows

Sarah Lucas-Glassman models apparel from Divas of the Desert at La Brasserie Bistro & Bar in La Quinta.

Photo by Elena Ray

Aficionados of all things chic descend on the desert for Fashion Week from March 16 to 22. At the heart of the celebration is El Paseo in Palm Desert, a world-class dining and shopping mecca alive with an array of high-style events to feed appetites for fine food and fabulous fashion.

Locals, however, maintain this fashion focus throughout the Coachella Valley during the entire “season” — roughly October through May — with the decades-old tradition known as the Luncheon Fashion Show. Some of the valley’s best restaurants participate, bringing in collections from designers, boutiques, and specialty houses to entertain lunchtime patrons.

Insiders and well-heeled socialites have flocked to these affairs since the 1980s, when Wally’s Desert Turtle in Rancho Mirage introduced the original Friday Fashion Show. Pleasing palates and establishing a venue to see and be seen, Wally’s Friday Show became a mainstay on the local social scene.

Since those early days, the concept of couture and cuisine has blossomed into an industry, with a number of valley restaurants playing host to luncheon shows nearly every day of the week. Catering to affluent patrons who expect personal attention and an upscale dining experience, table modeling shows have developed a following, meeting the demand for an entertaining environment that combines posh plates with appetizing apparel.

Informal modeling with one or two vendors takes place almost daily in the Coachella Valley, with “big shows” — featuring multiple vendors and models — at stylish eateries Wally’s Desert Turtle and Cuistot each Friday.

Vendors such as Saks Fifth Avenue join local favorites Fe Zandi, Tarah Jade, Canyon Road Jewelry Collection, Earth Spirits, BB One, and Nina McLemore, to name a few, enticing guests with the latest in desert-friendly resortwear as well as more expensive brands and jewelry to complement the many facets of the desert’s leisure lifestyle. Representative models are knowledgeable about the items they are wearing and engage with guests to provide a preview of selections found at sponsor stores. Some products are available for purchase directly off models on the floor and “incentive cards” offering discounts are often passed on to customers.

Most models are well-known by regular clientele, who enjoy visiting with them, and many guests look forward to a sneak peek at familiar clothing or accessories lines. Models move from table to table, gracefully marketing their collections and giving special care to ensure that hungry customers enjoy their meals without interruption.

Be sure to make reservations for your cuisine-meets-couture experience, as models, vendors, dates, and times are subject to change.

Café des Beaux-Arts
The French are known for fashion and food; what better way to share in these pleasures than at this Paris-inspired, lively French bistro in the heart of El Paseo’s shopping district? It’s the perfect spot to people-watch while feasting on mouthwatering menu items, including savory crêpes and salads. Modeling takes place Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. during season. 73640 El Paseo, Palm Desert. 760-346-0669; www.cafedesbeauxarts.com

Serving fine California–French cuisine, owner and Chef Bernard Dervieux delights with a sophisticated menu and a beautiful environment to complement his culinary expertise. Dine indoors or on the patio at this unique, award-winning location. Informal table modeling takes place Tuesdays through Fridays, with a special jewelry presentation on Thursdays and the “big show” on Fridays. 72595 El Paseo, Palm Desert. 760-340-1000; www.cuistotrestaurant.com

JC’s Patio Café
Known for its great sandwiches, salads, and desserts, this casual breakfast and lunch spot welcomes with pleasing American fare. Sample its offerings indoors or on the charming outdoor patio. Diners can relax and enjoy informal modeling each Wednesday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. JC’s Patio Café, 73200 El Paseo, Ste. 1A, Palm Desert. 760-568-0733.

La Brasserie Bistro & Bar
Experience authentic French cuisine in this lovely La Quinta setting, complete with a desert-friendly patio, water features, and cheery sun umbrellas. The menu features fresh and traditional bistro cuisine prepared by award-winning French chef and owner Emmanuel Janin. The restaurant’s Premiere Fashion Show takes place each Monday and Thursday from noon to 2 p.m. La Brasserie Bistro & Bar, 78477 Hwy. 111, La Quinta. 760-771-4400; labrasserielaquinta.com

Wally’s Desert Turtle
Savor the impeccable contemporary California cuisine of Executive Chef Richard Pelz and view the latest fashions in Wally’s elegant surroundings. Wally’s is the desert’s most highly recognized restaurant, earning the prestigious Mobil Travel Four Star Award, AAA Four Diamond Award, and DiRōNA awards. Wally’s Original Fabulous Friday Fashion Show & Luncheon features looks from local designers and retailers from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. 71775 Hwy. 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-568-9321; www.wallysdesertturtle.com

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