It’s been about nine months since chef Aric Ianni returned to his native Palm Springs. But it was in San Diego where his interest in pairing food with beer took root when he helped open Cork and Craft.
“We got into the beer scene and started collaborating with other chefs and breweries and began doing these massive collaboration dinners which were amazing," Ianni says. "The camaraderie, the energy in the kitchen, the energy of the guests, the dining room – just the fact that other chefs and brewers are coming together in one space to share what we did...”
San Diego was among a series of stops his chef career has taken him to since finding his passion in the kitchen through the Inland Empire Job Corp. He's also logged stints in Mammoth, San Francisco, Los Angeles and most notably in Chicago where he worked for the three-star Michelin restaurant, Alinea. Named the Best Restaurant in America three times, Alinea is the only Chicago restaurant to earn three stars from Michelin.
In the fall of 2018, the Rowan Kimpton brought Ianni on as sous chef for the property, as well as chef of the quaint, open and airy downstairs restaurant, Juniper Table. Ianni revamped the menu and began a series of beer dinners.
La Quinta Brewing Co. is the second brewery (the first was San Diego’s Ale Smith Brewing) to participate, and Derek Lloyd, director of sales for La Quinta Brewing Co., talked about the process from his end. "It's a lot like wine where you want the weight of the beer to match the weight of the food," he says. "And the flavors should match up. But this whole thing was really Aric’s brainchild. He was the one that chose the beers.”
Ianni takes the story from there. “La Quinta Brewing showed me some options, and we selected the beers. Later on that day I sent an email to the chefs and said, ‘Hey guys, here are my tasting notes, here's what I picked up off the beer, and I want you guys to have fun with it in your head and collaborate with what we're doing here.’ We went back and forth with emails, text messages, bounced off each other's ideas and put this menu together."
La Quinta Brewing Co. is the first valley beer company to participate in the Juniper Table dinner.
Ianni prepared three dishes of the five-course meal, one by 4 Saints and Kimpton Rowan executive chef Troy Thompson, and one by the Rowan property’s pastry chef Jasmine Alcala, with guest chef Sandfish’s Reese Murakami. He and Iannai know each other from their days at Kobe Steakhouse where Murakami was sous chef and Ianni a teppanyaki chef.
The two beer dinners have been great experiences for Ianni, his staff, and most importantly the patrons. “We set up two long banquet tables cafeteria style with tablecloths. Everyone starts talking to each other, and after all five courses and our food and beer presentations, we all come out, kitchen staff, etc., and thank everyone for joining us.
Chef Aric Ianni supervises the prep work in the kitchen at Juniper Table inside the Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs.
Dessert tacos included carmel mousse, hibiscus raspberry jam, and banana ice cream paired with Koffi Porter.
Both times the guests decided they were going to a bar together and asked us to join. So, you've got like 40 people who never knew each other who are suddenly best friends, including the staff, piling into a local bar," Ianni says, laughing. “That must have been some surprise for that bartender.”
There will be several more beer dinners, one per month, says Ianni. “We want this to be more of an experience and have fun, that's why we chose Wednesdays, they're a bit slower day of the week.”
The next dinner is set for 7 p.m. June 26 partnering with Coachella Valley Brewing Co. and guest executive chef Jennifer Town from The Purple Palm inside the Colony Palms hotel. In July, Ianni is teaming up with Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewery at 7 p.m. July 24.
For tickets to both dinners, visit eventbrite.com.
Donuts made from curried chicken and Cardamon sugar were part of the Juniper Table beer pairing dinner.
Quality coffee in the mornings to cocktails by night, Juniper Table invites you to lounge as long as you like, indoor or out. All-day menu, from grab-and-go lunches to shareable snacks with dinner service beginning at 5 p.m. and features Mediterranean-inspired flavors.
Location: 100 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs. 760-904-5032; junipertable.com (inside the Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs hotel).
Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Prices: Shared plates: under $17; Salads: under $21 with protein, less without; Sandwiches: under $16; Dinner entrees: under $30; Desserts and sides: $7 and under.
Recommended dishes: Steak and Frites (in Peru this is called lomo saltado, and is of Chinese/Peruvian origin called Chifa. In Palm Springs it’s called Gary Oldman’s favorite dish); Impossible Burger (vegan unless you add bacon); Wild Arugula Salad (with roasted grapes); Shishito peppers.