Imagine a gourmet Italian dinner, designed by a French chef, on a plaza overlooking a golf course, with a dozen seven-story-high hot air balloons glowing nearby. Add a glass or two of Chianti, plus a chance to make new friends, with music and dancing, and you’ve got a quintessential desert evening that is part of Cathedral City Hot Air Balloon Festival, Nov. 17-19, at a variety of locations in Greater Palm Springs.
Expect balloon races, musical performances, a craft fair, a Fairy Tale Kids Zone, candy drop, tethered balloon experiences, fireworks and more. A balloon race and breakfast kicks off the festival Nov. 17, then events continue through Nov. 19. A pair of Balloon Glow Dinners will be held starting with the Master’s Plaza Nov. 17 at Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort and Spa in Rancho Mirage, and followed Nov. 18 with Wally’s Desert Turtle Sunset Dinner in Cathedral City.
Executive Chef Joel Delmond of Pinzimini restaurant at Westin Mission Hills will encourage guests Nov. 17 to stroll among food stations and engage with each other at this Tuscan-themed event. “I want to have fun!” he says. “I want people to connect.” He says Tuscany is one of most preferred places for ballooning. “It’s because of the views and all the hills and valleys and wind currents. There are many different ecosystems.”
VIDEO: Watch Executive Chef Joel Delmond prepare the Polenta dish to be served at the Nov. 17 Balloon Glow Dinner. (Video by Steven Salisbury)
His menu is a study in the Italian language and flavors: sopressa, calabrese, foraged mushrooms, hand-pulled mozzarella, di Stefano stracciatella, porchetta, pine nut cassoulet, salmon with fennel, chicken alfredo, tiramisu and affogato. Delmond says he will make the porchetta by carefully pulling the skin over the pork loin.
“This is very classical,” he says. “There’s a mix of herbs including rosemary and garlic. It will be wrapped and marinated and roasted slowly. There will be crispy, crunchy skin. Then, on the inside, it will be very tender.“
Delmond says the fruit mostarda at the salami station is made in-house and is “very Italian, sweet and spicy and will go straight to the front of your nose. Don’t take too much,” he says. The salads will come from a company whose family “supplies the Vatican.” The polenta aligot will be “creamy, with lots of cheese. It pulls like a ribbon,” Delmond says
Delmond fell in love with cooking as a young child, while dining out with his grandparents, who were restaurant food vendors in Paris. As an adult, he studied at formal French cooking schools and traveled to Italy, Switzerland, Holland, Greece, Egypt and Morocco to learn recipes in their native environment. “If you don’t understand the culture, you really can’t cook a meal well,” he says.
Delmond has been with Westin Mission Hills for more than 25 years. He was honored to be a guest chef at James Beard House in New York in 2002. “I really enjoy what I do,” he says.
Five years ago, he began keeping bees. “They’re fascinating,” he says. For one Balloon Glow dessert, he’ll drizzle his honey and orange zest over ricotta fritters.
Tickets for the Pinzimini dinner are $59 for adults; $29 for children ages 6-12; free for younger children. Service charges and taxes also apply. An extra fee applies to online reservations.
Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort and Spa is at 71333 Dinah Shore Dr., Rancho Mirage. 760-328-5955; westinmissionhills.com
Admission to the general Balloon Festival is free. For information about all events and ticket prices, visit hotairballoonfest.com/festival-info