Girl-Power met Chef-Power in a deliciously empowering afternoon to kick off the gustatory and oenophilic delights of Food & Wine Festival Palm Desert 2015.
The James Beard Gourmet Luncheon is the much-anticipated launching point to the Palm Desert –based festival under The White Tent just off El Paseo.
• To view a photo gallery of the event, visit Food + Wine Festival Palm Desert.
In keeping with the mission of The James Beard Foundation, which cultivates and trains the next generation of culinary talent, the luncheon’s focus was on food and planetary sustainability. Wines from Australia were paired for culinary complement to each course.
The James Beard Gourmet Luncheon chef lineup included (from left) Gale Gand, Lulu Powers, Brooke Williamson, and Cat Cora.
VIDEO: Brooke Williamson creates her Cucumber-Tomato Water, Dungeoness Crab and Green Apple Salad.
Brooke Williamson, chef and owner of three restaurants, began the food and wine-paired luncheon with her recipe for Cucumber-Tomato Water, Dungeoness Crab and Green Apple Salad with Watermelon and Sorrel Gelee. With outside temperatures hitting the 100-degree mark, Williamson selected her course to be “refreshing, cold and bright” and to feature tomatoes and cucumber, which are hitting peak of season in the Coachella Valley this time of year.
The addition of watermelon and sorrel-based gelatin created bursts of cooling, vibrant flavor and created a visually curious plate. The fresh, slightly briny flavors of the crab paired well with the 2013 Voyager Semillon Sauvignon Blanc.
VIDEO: Lulu Powers demonstrates how to make Kale and Sweet Potato Hummus and Stracciatella.
Lulu Powers presented the second course, combining her talents for food, design, and relaxed approach to style to create a Kale and Sweet Potato Hummus and Stracciatella course garnished with tomatoes, dates, kumquats and basil. The mix of eclectic, fresh ingredients are reflective of Lulu’s approach to entertaining with multiple elements of color, texture, and flair.
She was inspired to serve this dish by her own mother, a caterer, based on a favorite recipe for Sweet Potato Aioli. Lulu added kale and included dates as a nod to Palm Springs’ claim to fame as the “date capital.” The tart kumquats and caramel notes of dates were tamed by the slightly sweet, fruity pairing of 2014 Yalumba Organic Viogner.
VIDEO: Cat Cora prepares her Halibut entree.
Cat Cora, known from the Food Network Iron Chef, was perhaps the most anticipated featured chef at the festival this year. She spoke of her “love” of Palm Springs and the warm reception she has received by the press and residents with appreciation.
She presented Halibut with pepitas, capers, cherry tomatoes and basil as her featured demonstration course because it was “fresh and light for the hot temperatures” and paid homage to the Lent holiday leading up to Easter. The halibut course was paired with the only red wine of the day, the 2014 Dalrymple Pinot Noir from Tasmania.
VIDEO: Gale Gand stirs up Passion Fruit Soup.
James Beard award winning pastry chef, Gale Gand, brought a fitting end to the afternoon. The author of multiple cookbooks chose a Passion Fruit Soup with Pistachio Meringue sticks.
The brightness and acidity of the passion fruit was enriched by a cream-based custard, thickened with gelatin. Floating atop the fruit soup were airy, piped meringue sticks, with nutty notes and subtle crunch from ground pistachios. This vibrant and palate-puckering dessert was paired beautifully with a lighter-than-air, sweet, but not-cloying, 2014 Innocent Bystander Moscato.