Food connects people, and that happens here,” chef and radio host Jamie Gwen said as she whisked together a perfectly balanced vanilla bean vinaigrette onstage in a demonstration at the ninth annual Palm Desert Food & Wine. As she spoke, guests passed around a jar of its star ingredient, a Heilala vanilla bean paste, and each took a whiff.
The element of interaction and Gwen’s words sum up the collaborative spirit of the Palm Springs Life–produced event.
The festival offered guests the opportunity to taste, booze, and schmooze with their favorite celebrity chefs at the opening day James Beard Gourmet Four-Course Luncheon. Two afternoons of Grand Tastings followed, transforming the white tents atop The Gardens on El Paseo into a mouthwatering wonderland filled with samples from local restaurants and renowned wineries, breweries, and spirit vendors.
“It’s all about participating in an event that brings good people together,” Top Chef fan favorite Fabio Viviani beamed. It’s safe to say that the James Beard Luncheon did exactly that — Viviani whipped up toothsome fare alongside fellow Food Network stars Antonia Lofaso, Scott Conant, and Zac Young.
Saturday’s Grand Tasting set a theme for the weekend: Let them eat cake. In a demonstration tent, Unique Sweets star Young smoothed espresso-martini frosting over his triple-tiered Guinness chocolate cake. Despite the 10 a.m. start time, attendees didn’t hesitate to dig into the generously sized slices (hey, if it’s coffee-flavored, it’s practically breakfast). Savory samples — from oxtail-and-mushroom burgers (Workshop Kitchen + Bar) to a date-and-avocado salad (California Date Commission) — served as a satisfying chaser. Sunday saw more birthday-worthy bites — a berry-topped white chocolate trifle from “queen of cake” Karen Krasne — and epicurean eats, including crisp ahi tuna cones from La Quinta Cliffhouse.
At both Grand Tastings, the Lexus “frosé” (frozen rosé) and peach bellini station became an unexpected conversation pit where guests shared stories and exchanged phone numbers. A rep from knife company Flint & Flame, known for selling chef-endorsed Rhineland Cutlery, took notice, prompting him to point out a major difference between this event and other heavily vaunted and massively attended food festivals: “There is a genuine interest in food culture here, not only the food.” And guests and chefs alike, as they forged new bonds over innovative tastes, doubtlessly found that refreshing — like a summery salad dressed in vanilla bean vinaigrette or a frosty glass of frosé.
First course by Fabio Viviani
The Top Chef favorite served a baby romaine wedge salad with Gorgonzola cheese, crispy bacon, and Parmesan
Second course by Antonia Lofaso:
At the James Beard Gourmet Four-Course Luncheon, the Food Network personality prepared sweet pea ravioli with yellowfoot and morels, smoked lardo nage, and thyme.
Third course by Scott Conant
The Chopped judge and owner of New York’s L’Impero served a sweet-onion-and-spice-crusted sirloin of beef with maitake mushrooms, parsnip purée, and oxtail sugo.
Dessert course by Zac Young
The Unique Sweets star provided a decadent finish: Negroni mousse with blood orange and Marcona almonds.
James Beard Gourmet Four-Course Luncheon recipes
The James Beard Gourmet Four-Course Luncheon, a special feature of Palm Desert Food & Wine, featured emcee Stuart O’Keeffe, chef, television personality, and cookbook author, and a lineup of award–winning celebrity chefs who hail from California and across the country: Scott Conant, chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, TV personality, judge on Chopped, and frequent co-host on Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay; Fabio Viviani, acclaimed chef, culinary personality, restaurateur, cookbook author, and winner of Top Chef’s Fan Favorite title; Antonia Lofaso, chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, and television personality on Top Chef, Restaurant Startup, Cutthroat Kitchen, and Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games; Zac Young, named one of the top 10 pastry chefs in America, creator of viral dessert sensation The PieCaken, finalist on Bravo’s Top Chef: Just Desserts, and Pastry Director of Craveable Hospitality Group.
Here are their recipes.
BABY ROMAINE WEDGE SALAD WITH GORGONZOLA CHEESE, SMOKED CRISPY BACON, AND PARMESAN TRUFFLE DRESSING
Paired with The White Knight Prosecco D.O.C. Sparkling Wine
Yield: 4 servings
- 4 gem lettuce, cut in half
- 4 oz Gorgonsola or Humboldt Fog blue cheese
- 4 oz smoked bacon (crispy) medium diced
- 4 oz parmesan truffle dressing
- 1 oz pickled red onion or shaved raw
- 20 cherry tomato (blistered or charred)
- Cracked pepper
Parmesan Truffle Dressing
- 1 cup olive oil based mayonnaise • 1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese • 1 tsp black truffle sauce or truffle oil (Be careful not to overdo it) • 1 tbsp chive • Salt and pepper to taste Procedure • Mix well. Season to taste and set aside.
- Warm butter poached lobster can be added
- Smear 2 tbsp of dressing on the bottom of the plate.
- Place the lettuce halves on top and garnish with equal amounts of the rest of the ingredients all around. Finish with cracked pepper.
- Top with warm butter poached lobster (optional)
SWEET PEA RAVIOLI WITH YELLOW FOOT AND MORELS, SMOKED LARDO NAGE, AND THYME
Paired with The White Knight 2016 Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie I.G.T.
Makes 4 to 6 servings
For the Pasta (can also use store-bought fresh pasta)
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 15 large egg yolks
- 3 tbsp EVOO
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- Place all ingredients in the bowl of a Kitchen Aid Mixer fitted with the dough hook.
- Mix/knead until on medium speed for approximately 10 minutes to form a smooth dough.
- Remove dough from mixer and wrap in plastic wrap.
- Allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator for at least 2 and up to 24 hours.
For the Pea Filling
- 1 lb. frozen peas
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 sprigs fresh marjoram, stemmed
- 2 tbsp kosher salt
- 12 ounces Mascarpone cheese
- 3 cups finely grated/microplaned parmesan Procedure
- Place the peas in a sauce pan with cream and simmer over medium-low heat for 25-30 minutes. Consistency should be like a thick stew.
- Working in batches as needed, to the container of an electric blender add the cooked peas including cooking liquid, garlic, marjoram, and salt blend until silky smooth. You may need to blend in batches, filling the container only half full each time, as the hot mixture will expand as it blends.
- Pour the blended mixture into a mixing bowl and fold in the mascarpone and parmesan cheeses. Store in the refrigerator until completely cooled.
- The filling can be made up to three days in advance.
To form the Ravioli
- Unwrap the pasta dough, cut in half and cut each piece in half again. Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out, leaving one piece out. Using a hand crank pasta sheeter or the Kitchen Aid Pasta Attachment, roll out the dough until it reaches 1⁄2” thickness and 3” width. Dust with flour as needed as pasta is sticky.
- Place the pasta sheet on a lightly floured surface. Drop approximately 1 tablespoon of the cooled pea filling onto the dough every 2 inches.
- Take 2nd piece of dough and roll out as above. Brush edges of filled dough with egg yolk and water and cover with the second rolled out piece of dough. Cut the ravioli into squares, crimping the edges with a fork. Repeat until you have 24 ravioli.
- The ravioli can be made in advance and stored up to six months in the freezer.
For the Mushrooms
- 1⁄2 pound fresh morel mushrooms
- 1⁄2 pound fresh yellow foot mushrooms
- 1⁄2 pound unsalted butter
- Clean and quarter morels and yellow foot mushrooms.
- Sauté in butter and EVOO over medium-high heat until golden brown.
- Add salt and pepper to taste, set aside.
For the Sauce
- 4 pounds button mushrooms, cleaned
- 1⁄2 pound unsalted butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1⁄2 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups smoked bacon lardo
- Place the button mushrooms in a large stock pot and crush by hand.
- Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes.
- Strain the mixture, discarding the solids and pour the sauce into a large sauce pan set over medium heat.
- Allow the sauce to reduce by half. Hold at low temperature to keep warm until ready to use.
To Finish the Dish
- 1 cup fresh English peas, cleaned and blanched
- 24 English pea ravioli
- 2 tbsp freshly chopped Italian parsley
- 2 cups finely grated/microplaned Parmesan
- Place 4 quarts of water in a large stock pot and bring to a boil.
- Add a large amount of salt, then add ravioli and cook for 4 minutes to blanch until they float.
- Gently remove the ravioli from the water using a slotted spoon and slide into the reduced sauce.
- Add the morel mushrooms and English peas and cook for approximately 4 minutes.
- Place 4 to 6 ravioli on each plate, topped with sauce, parsley and Parmesan.
SWEET ONION AND SPICE-CRUSTED SIRLOIN OF BEEF, MAITAKE MUSHROOMS, PARSNIP PUREE, OXTAIL SUGO
Paired with Lombardeli Barbera d’Asti 2012, Piedmont, Italy
- 3 lbs oxtail, trimmed of fat (may substitute beef short ribs)
- 10 cloves garlic
- 1 lb mirepoix (1/2 lb diced onion, 1/4 lb diced celery, 1/4 lb diced carrot)
- 1 cup canned tomato, whole plum/ peeled
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 1 cup red wine
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 qts low sodium chicken stock
- Preheat the over to 350 F.
- Season the oxtail with salt, and in a heavy bottomed saucepot brown the meat in vegetable oil on all sides. Remove the meat from the pan, set aside.
- Add the mirepoix to the pan and roast on high heat until evenly colored but not burnt.
- Add the tomato, rosemary, thyme and allow to cook for 3-5 minutes.
- Add the red wine, red wine vinegar and reduce by half.
- Re-introduce the oxtails to the same pan, add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer.
- Cover the pot with a piece of parchment paper or lid and cook in a oven for 3-4 hours or until the meat is meltingly tender.
- Once the meat has cooled enough to handle, remove from the bone and strain the liquid.
- Reserve the picked meat in the now strained liquid (discard the mirepoix, herbs and garlic).
Onion Ash Spice Rub
- 1 lb vidalia onions (may substitute yellow or any other large sweet onion)
- 1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns (toasted)
- 8 tbsp smoked paprika (toasted)
- 3 tbsp cumin (toasted)
- 2 tsp red chili flake (toasted) • 2 tsp all spice (toasted) • 5 tbsp yellow mustard seed (toasted)
- 2 tbsp picked rosemary leaves (toasted)
- Preheat the over to 275 F.
- Peel and largely dice the onions.
- On a baking tray spread the onions out and cook in the oven until they are completely dehydrated/burnt. It’s OK that they’re burnt, just ensure that you cook them at the low temperature for a long period of time to avoid any drastic bitterness.
- In a blender or spice grinder, puree the burnt/dehydrated onions into a powder.
- Combine the remaining ingredients with the ground onion and blend on high in the blender or spice grinder until thoroughly combined.
- Set aside in a airtight container until ready for use.
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 4 shallots, sliced thin
- 1 lb parsnips, peeled and chopped up
- 3 cup water
- To taste salt, kosher
- Using half of the olive oil sweat the shallots in a heavy bottomed saucepot until tender.
- Add the chopped parsnips to the shallot and season lightly with salt. Cook for about 2-3 minutes but do not color the parsnips at all.
- Add the water to cover the parsnips and bring to a simmer.
- Simmer the parsnips until tender then transfer to a blender.
- Puree on high while streaming in the remaining olive oil.
- Adjust seasoning to taste with salt.
- 1⁄2 lb whole cipollini onions
- 1⁄2 cup olive oil
- Kosher salt (as needed)
- Preheat the over to 350 F.
- Cover the bottom of a baking tray with kosher salt.
- Spread the cipollini onions over the salt covered tray and bake for approximately 30 minutes until the onions are fork tender.
- While still warm remove the peel from the onions and split in half horizontally.
- Warm the olive oil in a large sauté pan and over medium heat caramelize the halved onions.
- Season with additional salt if desired.
- 8-10 lb whole beef sirloin
- Onion ash spice rub
- To taste salt, kosher
- 2 cups EVO
- 6 sprigs thyme
- 6 springs rosemary
- 3 tsp chili flake
- 8 each garlic cloves, crushed
- Preheat the over to 300 F.
- Season the meat liberally with the onion ash spice rub and salt.
- Sear the meat heavily on all sides in a heavy bottomed pan or on a hot grill.
- Cover the bottom of a baking dish with the olive oil, thyme, rosemary, chili flake and crushed garlic cloves.
- Place the seared meat in the dish and cook, rotating frequently in the oil mixture.
- Once the meat has reached an internal temperature of 120 degrees (for medium rare) remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes in the pan with the oil and herbs.
- 1 lb maitake mushrooms
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 sprig thyme
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- Preheat the over to 400 F.
- Toss the mushrooms with all the other ingredients and spread on a baking tray.
- Roast in the oven for 10–15 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender.
- Place parsnip puree on plate.
- Place sliced/roasted beef on top of the puree.
- Sauce with the oxtail meat/jus overtop of the meat.
- Garnish with the cipollini onions, mushrooms, and shaved Parmesan.
NEGRONI MOUSSE WITH BLOOD ORANGE AND MARCONA ALMOND
Paired with Averna-Amaro Cream Liqueur
• 1⁄2 cup heavy cream
• 1 oz Campari
• 1 oz Vermouth Rosso
• 2 oz gin
• 2 sheets gelatin (bloomed)*
• 2 egg yolks
• 7 oz Valrhona IVOIRE chocolate
• 1 cup heavy cream
• In a small sauce pan, bring the 1⁄2 cup cream, Campari, vermouth, and gin to a simmer. Add the soaked gelatin. Place the egg yolks in a small bowl and whisk one third of the liquid to “temper” the eggs. Pour the yolk mixture back into the pan and cook on medium low heat until thickened, about 1 minute.
• Pour the custard over the Valrhona IVOIRE chocolate and blend with a hand blender, until smooth and shiny. Let cool to room temperature.
• Whip the 1 cup of cream to soft peaks and then fold it into the Valrhona IVOIRE chocolate base. Portion into 6 glasses. Refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours.
• To serve, garnish with blood orange segments and toasted marcona almonds. * Alternate use 2 tsp powdered gelatin and sprinkle the gelatin over the liquids before bringing to a simmer.
* Alternate use 2 tsp powdered gelatin and sprinkle the gelatin over the liquids before bringing to a simmer.