Thursday, April 22, 2010

Call This Short Rib a Cab!

As a wine and food junkie, I look forward to the Taste of Palm Springs each year and to the pairing possibilities it undoubtedly affords. As in years past, the wine sponsor was Jacob's Creek, Australia's largest wine brand. That being said, this behemoth of the industry still offers easy drinking wines that are of great value and high quality.
After sipping the Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet and Shiraz, I determined the tobacco and blueberry-inflected 2006 Reserve Cab to be the most food friendly wine of the night. My decision was strongly influenced after tasting the incredibly tender braised short ribs with onion straws and mushroom risotto from Mr. Parker's. The meat was a great match for the Cab's smooth tannins, and I encountered more of the same with the Riviera's roasted lamb loin (cooked sous vide), which brought out the wine's subtle fruit. 
One of my favorite dishes of the night guessed it...a delectable morsel of short rib perched atop carrot puree courtesy of Matchbox Pizza. The beef flavors were intense and joined well with the hints of tobacco in the Cab. A return visit to this restaurant and its own wine list is in short order.
Dessert was a tiny morsel of a velvety chocolate cherry cupcake from Sisters Cupcakes by Design, followed by a sip of the subtly-oaked red. Not the most traditional of pairings, but why stick with the tried and true when you can step out of the box and still be delicious? If I have learned one thing about this smorgasbord of a night, it is just that.
Special thanks to:

 Taste of Palm Springs Highlighs Tried and True Gems and Newbies to the Scene

A week ago I attended my first Taste of Palm Springs at the Palm Springs Convention Center. The premise was simple—get any and all Palm Springs area restaurants together under one roof to offer their best culinary wares and raise money for AIDS Assistance Program in the process. I found it very fitting that the organization in our community that gives free food vouchers to those living with HIV should be a beneficiary of a food event. I had never been before so didn’t know what to expect for the $50 ticket fee and was pleasantly surprised to find that the price was an extreme deal that allowed one to try copious amounts of good food and four glasses of fine wines.
One of the best highlights of the evening was the sheer scope of the food from convenient and quick restaurants like Chipotle to the upper echelon of fine dining establishments. A sampling of cuisines for every occasion and pocketbook presented itself in a wide array of booths and I enjoyed not only finding new wonders at already-beloved restaurants but being introduced to good eating from places I might not ordinarily try. In the true spirit of representing the diversity of our valley’s food, I will discuss what I consider the surprises and true treasures of the evening, with props to the chefs and restaurant staff who decided to go a little beyond the norm to provide a creative taste to us guests of this great event and to all for helping raise money for those who need to eat!

The Greek-owned restaurant JOHN’S has been a local favorite forever with its cheap food, no nonsense diner style atmosphere and an eclectic menu of things that never go out of style like huevos rancheros for breakfast and fried zucchini for late night appetites. What makes John’s different than the traditional diner are the customized special items like the spaghetti with the clove-spiked sauce and an amazing saltibonca chicken entrée that begs to make the restaurant a top of mind awareness spot for quick and easy comfort food dinners when you want to dine in jeans with no pretension.

On Arenas Road across from the bars where the boys come out to play, the old pizzeria Just Pizza used to sit where you would go after dancing for hours to refill the carbs with some greasy slices. Now, it’s a new place called Café Palette and they still serve pizza, but it is much better than it used to be and comes in thin crust versions with savory toppings like spicy, crumbled sausage. Could become a new, favorite stop in place on the way home on Sunday afternoons.
For those who love short ribs, there were two standout versions at the event. One from MATCHBOX (which, along with Spaghetteria and Papa Dan’s has the best pizza in the valley) that was served falling apart tender on a mash of carrot puree (which I predict will be the next trend at all black tie galas). The other was served on top of faro with crispy onion curls from MR. PARKER’S.
Another normal pizza stop, CPK, handed out generous portions of tamale and corn ravioli which was so rich, sweet and filling I could only eat two pieces. Would be a great accompaniment to share with a BBQ chicken salad and a friend.

SISTERS CUPCAKES were doling out miniature versions of cupcakes in all flavors like cherry chocolate, red velvet and peanut butter but it was the crème brulee version that took the cake.

NEW LEAF CATERING served samples of their big fat pan seared scallop with coconut beurre blanc served atop a creamy polenta gory with cheese.
RIVIERA RESORT dished out slices of lamb with an ancho raspberry sauce that was so perfectly cooked it made me want to actually dine at the restaurant at least once to overspend on this fine meat dish.
But the highlight of the night was the molecular gastronomy experiment being orchestrated on hand at the PEAKS TOP OF THE TRAM RESTAURANT booth. Each visitor was handed a push up pop type ice cream contraption that contained brown sugar bacon and cinnamon ice cream. Sounds bizarre yes, and created an equally surreal experience in the mouth when the spicy cold cinnamon and vanilla melted on the tongue to produce remaining bits of crispy sweet bacon. I will definitely be trekking up to the tram to try this again.

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