By Denise Ortuno-Neil

With a hip, cool ambience, fabulous food and an ample wine selection, Cork & Fork in La Quinta has a winning recipe and has become one of the go to dining spots in the Coachella Valley. Even in the midst of high temps, this desert gem keeps their guest’s taste buds excited with their summer menu.

I had been wanting to go to Cork n Fork for quite some time, but had yet to go. Recently, thanks to my good friend Colette Del Braccio-Stanley (who works for the restaurant) invitation, I finally did. It was worth the wait, but I honestly couldn’t help but feel that I had cheated myself by not going sooner. Now that I have, it is at the top of my list of desert restaurants.

Led by Chef Andie Hubka, Cork & Fork was created from their “Cooking with Class” cooking school. It has since seeped into the fast lane of fave’s for many foodies.

The restaurant has a very stylish bistro feel, and a different vibe from most desert dining spots. It drips with a distinctive sense that this is something special. For a Thursday night in heat of summer, the place was filled from the bar to the dining room. I was pleasantly surprised that despite the unpopular weather, people were still willing to go out and enjoy what I came to find out, is pretty fabulous food.

One of the things that makes Cork & Fork so unique, is their small plate offerings, bigger than Tapas, but smaller than a traditional entrée. The small plate practice allows guests to try out (and share) several dishes, without being completely anchored down to one section and becoming filled by it. It’s attractive to me and how I enjoy dining, I was thrilled.

Our party of four, which consisted of myself, my boyfriend Todd, and Colette’s husband Mark, were fortunate to have Colette with us for our introductory experience there, it was like having our personal restaurant tour guide. She instantly took the lead and ordered away…it made sense to relinquish control on this occasion.

She first ordered the wine from their extensive wine list, one of her favorites, Possessor from Paso Robles. The restaurant serves wine and beer, and is known for their abundant selection of both. They even offer flights of wine and beer (small tastings of several options) which is beneficial for those who want to try out many selections before making a full-fledged commitment to a glass…sort of like alcohol dating.

Colette went on to order small plates from their well-planned summer menu. The Crispy Cauliflower (sriracha aioli, pine nut gremolata, pomegranate molasses) came out first, then the Shrimp Summer Roll (prosciutto, basil, mango, sweet peppers, glass noodles, chili sauce) Ahi Sesame, Poke ‘Nachos’(togarashi aioli, sweet soy, wonton chips, avocado, wasabi caviar) and then the Filet Mignon (sriracha aioli, pickled red onion, avocado, micro cilantro), and Tequila Lime Shrimp (chipotle lime aioli, cotija cheese, Applewood bacon, tomato, micro greens) Street Tacos. Oh…and then there was the Heirloom Tomato Salad (burrata mozzarella, basil aioli, arugula, pickled red onion, balsamic glaze) and Prosciutto Wrapped Scallops (garlic-scallion rice, Whidbey island saffron crema, sweet peppers, chive oil). They came out in a succinct parade of beautiful food, and for the four us, it was more than enough. The dishes that I could have had my own greedy plate of were the cauliflower, tomato salad, Ahi nachos (get a Big gold star), and both the filet and shrimp tacos…ok, so basically all of it. Oh, it was so good! And again, I feel as if I had deprived myself for not going there sooner.

The manager sent us over some luscious Port to finish out our experience, and two unnecessary for fitting into my clothing, desserts. A phenomenal Sunday, Sundae (dark chocolate brownie, salted caramel gelato, ganache, candied pecans) came out with its cohort King’s Hawaiian Bread Pudding (fresh banana, white chocolate chips, ’99 Bananas’, whiskey caramel) tagging along, both sent to no doubt taunt me. I gave in and explored the Sundae and its friend to the best of my ability, but I eventually had to throw in my napkin, and give up.
Cork & Fork is open all summer for dinner from 5pm (closed on Mondays), with their last seating at 8pm, reservations are suggested. Their prices are moderate, and they even have a great Happy Hour daily from 5-6, with $2 off all small plates and $6 glasses of selected wines. Besides their small plates, they also offer some pretty awesome looking pizzas, which I will be trying on my next outing there.

Cork & Fork was all that I heard it was and much more. It is an unexpected dining enjoyment, and I am so looking forward to my return, and enjoying more of their summer menu. There is no wonder why it has become a Coachella Valley treasured dining spot!

For reservations call 760-777-7555 www.corkandforkwinebar.com

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