Chefs from around the country throw caution to the desert wind when the annual California Date Chef Competition rolls around. They pair the sweet fruit of the palm with duck, lamb, rabbit, salmon, beef, and chicken. They dream up amazing desserts such as brie cheesecake with date compote, chocolate pecan date phyllo wrap with vanilla bean ice cream and chocolate sauce, and black tea-laced dates with ginger cream, cardamom, and almonds.
Last year’s event drew chefs from Hawaii, Wyoming, and New York, as well as California. Of the 14 finalists, eight hailed from the Coachella Valley. A panel of food writers and chefs selected the winners in a blind tasting. They included Elaine Khosrova, Santé magazine; Chef Lloyd Soleta, an American Culinary Federation certified competition judge; Henry Fenwick, food writer for The Desert Sun; Chef Jackie Olden, Cooking with Jackie radio and television hostess; and me, the fortunate food editor for Palm Springs Life.
The California Date Administrative Committee presents the competition to raise money for culinary scholarships — last year through California Women for Agriculture. La Quinta High School graduates Miriam Mastro (Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.) and Giselle Urieta (Johnson & Wales University in Denver, Colo.) received $1,000 scholarships. Both completed four years of training at La Quinta High School’s Culinary Institute.[…] This article continues in the April 2006 issue, or subscribe to avoid missing future issues!