BY RICK RIOZZA

As this column is wont to do at this perfect time of year, we welcome the 8th annual presentation of the valley’s largest foodie weekend festival:  Pacific Sales Kitchen & Home Palm Desert Food & Wine presented by Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa.  It takes place March 23-25, 2018, at the Gardens on El Paseo.

This Palm Desert event is so large and celebrated that one can go on-line or find any publication nearby on the entire goings on including wine & food tastings from over 60 world class wineries and 40 local restaurants and eateries, along with a line-up of over 20 celebrity chef demonstrations.  And here you go—check out the calendar and the events till your heart’s content: www.palmdesertfoodandwine.com/experience

So why don’t we just cut to the culinary chase and comment out loud on some of the booths and spots we’re especially looking forward to encountering.  Apart from the other cookery activities, there are the two weekend days of Grand Tasting:  So come early and stay late; and give it that old college try to stay thirsty & hungry throughout the three day event.

A couple of months ago, we did a column on cheese & wine pairings.  The amount of likes received tells me that you may well wish to consider buying tickets ($50 per) to the experiential seminar “Cheese” with Laura Werlin, this Thursday, March 22 at 6pm, at the On The Mark Cheese Shop, 777 N. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs. 

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Ms. Werlin will no doubt show & tell and the audience will learn about the key to pairing cheese with wine: determine the texture of the eight styles of cheese, which provides a window into its flavor; then work light wines with light cheeses and heavier wines with heavier cheeses.

All attendees to the seminar will also receive an autographed copy of Werlin’s All American Cheese and Wine book, wherein she states, “cheese will influence the flavor of wine, more than the other way around…and the best way to figure out what works for you is to taste, taste, taste.”  Well—I’m in on that!

There’s also another fun-sounding presentation: Gale Gand’s Vanilla 101 to be held on Thursday, March 22 at 6pm ($25 per) at the Savory Spice located in the heart of the shopping district on El Paseo, in Palm Desert.  I like the Savory Spice store—I get my Ghost Peppers and Sichuan pepper-berries there. 

Serving complimentary samples, award-winning chef Gale Gand will explain everything you wish to know about the vanilla bean that’s grown from the only orchid that bears edible fruit.  This includes how to incorporate vanilla in our cooking.  The only problem here is that attendance is extremely limited—so act!

Think of some of your favorite chefs in our valley and you’ll probably find them performing a cooking demonstration here at the event.  On Saturday afternoon, March 24, in Tent 2, culinary personality Fabio Viviani, and thereafter, Andie Hubka, chef & owner of Cork & Fork and Heirloom Craft Kitchen, will be accomplishing their foodie feats; and, up next will be Bella Francisco, a 13-year-old eighth grade student at St. Theresa School in Palm Springs, who won Food Network’s Chopped Junior.

As to the Grand Tasting affair, one needs to work efficiently—or, play efficiently.  For instance, like I do at trade tastings, I prefer starting things out with an awakening Champagne and sparklers. This perks the mind to calmly assess the wine and food layout.  Meet me early and we can meander about with an itinerary that will include a bunch of wineries and their wines that we have covered in this column over the years. It’s always great to check in with our wine friends for a quick chat to catch-up on things.  Wine lovers always love hearing a little winery anecdote here and there.

Whenever we vino lovers have the opportunity to taste from the portfolio of an historic winery, we jump at the chance. And this weekend we’re all in for a tasting at the Grgich Hills Estate. The lovely Jacquee Renna has been Grgich’s representative in these parts for a while now and hopefully we’ll be seeing her pouring here. 

As you enthusiasts know, Mike Grgich, who is in his nineties, is wine royalty in the world and lives out here during the season.  It was his Chardonnay that won that famous 1976 Paris tasting where California beat out the French stuff.  Also his Zinfandel, Merlots, and Cabs continue to score off the charts.  It’s all history in a glass! Stop by, say hi—and enjoy!

I’m quite happy to see Tom Gore Vineyards pouring here.  You readers will remember our July 2015 column, Tom Gore: The Most Fortunate Grape Farmer, where we got to know Tom and his down-home sensibility providing grapes for many wineries and now making his own stuff.  And we just wrote about his charitable interests in the Sonoma Strong movement helping those recovering from the fires.  He’s got some newly released wines to taste!

Another charming wine representative to chummy up with is Heidi Daniels who represents the famed Duck Pond Cellars and Fries Family Wines. Her line up is always stellar stuff.  I recently tried the latest Duck Pond Pinot Noir and it knocked my silly socks off.  Indeed, I think we’ll cover her broad impressive portfolio in our column next week!

And of course we’ll be greeting Annie Arnold, owner of Organic Wine Exchange, as we taste through her stable of organic and biodynamic wineries on hand.  See you all there!

Bonne Fête & Bon Appétit—Cheers!

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