Tinto at the Saguaro Hotel in Palm Springs features innovative modern Spanish and Basque cuisine by Chef Jose Garces, a 2009 winner of the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic” award and one of eight chefs to hold the Iron Chef America title.
Garces is the owner and operator of 15 successful restaurants in five cities, and for the second straight year he returned to Palm Springs to produce his "Dinner in the Garden".
A 50-foot gorgeously decorated, candlelit table stretched across the grassy lawn just adjacent to Tinto’s patio. Some 50 guests were served an intimate five-course dinner under the stars – and several chandeliers suspended from a lighting framework over the party area.
A diaphanous yellow-dotted table runner, bright yellow napkins, bowls of lemons and limes, yellow and red spikey flowers and votive candles in square glass vases illuminated warm, spring evening. Platters of thin-sliced Serrano ham and bowls of spiced almonds and Spanish olives were already on the table.
The warm and affable Garces described the first course, Ajo Blanco, as “a square of smoked trout, with roasted garlic, red grape escabeche and toasted almonds.” A silky creamy soup was poured over these elements that arrived in a wide bowl. The dish was paired with a white port aperitif.
Next course, Langosta, incorporated fava beans, spring vegetables, ricotta, morels, and bites of lobster, Meyer lemon, with a poached farm-fresh egg on one end of the rectangular dish.
“Break the egg and mix it all around,” instructs Garces.
This was paired with winemaker Markus Bokisch’s Clements Hills Albarino Terra Alta Vineyard, 2012, a crisp, white wine. Bokisch’s love of Spanish wines began as a child when he and his brother spent every summer in Spain with his mother’s relatives. The viticulturist spent several years at Joseph Phelps Vineyards specializing in Rhone varieties before he and his wife, Liz, moved to Spain to work in the wine industry there. Upon their return, they purchased property in the Lodi area and planted their first vineyard, Bokisch Ranches, LLC.
As a rare treat, Garces showed everyone how to eat the grilled green onions called Calcots con Romesco a seasonal specialty from Granada, Spain, and the south of France.
“They are charred on the grill and then wrapped in newspaper to steam,” he says. “You peel away the charred skin and eat the onion with the Romesco dipping sauce.”
Kurobuta pork ribs, that had been marinating for several days and braised for hours, were glazed with paprika and served with shaved fennel and spiced yogurt. Tinto’s executive chef Jon Tice was in charge of this dish. Paired with Bokisch Vineyard’s Clements Hills Garnacha Terra Alta Vineyard 2011, this light red, fruity wine balanced the flavorful pork ribs and fennel.
The fourth course featured grilled Wagyu sirloin with a chocolate Valrhona jus and Nora chile paste, reminiscent of a mole. A luscious, full bodied Graciano 2012 from Bokisch’s Clements Hills Terra Alta Vineyard accompanied this course.
“Graciano is quintessentially Basque,” says Bokisch. “A blend of petite syrah, this has dark blackberry and blue berry notes.”
Dessert (pictured at left) was an equally elegant symphony of black currant mousse, passion fruit sorbet with white chocolate, and paired with a lightly sweet dessert wine by Bonny Doon Vineyards.
Tinto at the Saguaro, 1800 E. Palm Canyon, Palm Springs, 760-322-1900