This Valentine’s Day Weekend, Temecula Boasted Chocolate Galore
Written and Photographed By: Bhadri Kubendran Pechanga Resort & Casino
Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula Valley played the perfect precursor to this year’s Valentine’s Day by hosting it’s 9th Annual Pechanga Wine Festival and Chocolate Decadence on Feb. 10 and 11. Simple motto of this event is to offer an all-inclusive experience of culinary celebration every year through fine wines and a gamut of gourmet chocolates and hand-crafted delicacies while being attached to a good cause. Habitat for Humanity Inland Valley’s ‘Brush with Kindness’ program facilitates housing needs and home repairs for senior citizens and for those that are no longer able to perform such tasks on their own.
Touted as the largest resort/casino in California as well as one of the largest in the country, Pechanga’s unparalleled gaming, recreational, dining and accommodation facilities in a picturesque Temecula wine country provided a grand setting for this extravagant event spread over two days. Pechanga’s chic resort lobby with it’s stunning water and lighting architectural features, led to the Grand Ballroom, the hub of the event.
Friday evening welcomed the eager guests with a sensory chocolate overload along with treats of fine wines, aperitifs and spirits. Pechanga’s own World-Renowned Executive Pastry Chef Jean-Jacques Granet and his Assistant Executive Pastry Chef Sal wowed the visitors with their gargantuan offering of delectable confections. Pechanga Bakery dished out over 50,000 sweet treats for the event.
Staying true to the theme of Day One, the definite showstoppers were the phenomenal chocolate creations. Chocolate lipstick, shooters, mini frozen cones, assorted petite pastries, cupcakes, chocolate marbles, nutty clusters, chocolate truffles of all shapes, sizes and colors with infusions of liquor and exotic flavors were displayed on both sides of a large central space of the Grand Ballroom. Large Ice Sculptures surrounding the live sweet crepe stations were the sure shot head-turners. Scoops of ice cream flavors accompanied the piping hot flambéed crepes. Cheerful staff were having their own gala moments, working their dance moves to the live music on stage. If these did not sufficiently cater to the sweet tooth, the playful white and milk chocolate fondue fountains saw hordes of attendees gathering for that fun chocolate interaction. Fresh cotton candy was another runaway hit.
Chocolate lovers were also the essential wine connoisseurs. They had a field day trying out large varieties of specialty wines from several local Temecula vineyards and other domestic/international wine hot-spots such as Napa Valley, Sonoma County, The Mediterranean belt, South America and Oceania. Interspersed with the grape offerings, one had to also make some room for other distilled spirits such as vodka and craft cocktails.
There was a keen interest towards the cigar selection by Payne Mason Cigars. Other indulgences included infused olive oil and vinegar tasting from the local Temecula Olive Oil Company and Newport Beach based Beautiful Olive Oil, fresh cold brewed coffee and complimentary Fiji bottled water.
Saturday afternoon, all the fun chocolate delights from Pechanga were consolidated to a single booth and the focus shifted towards showcase of bite-sized craft savories from the kitchens of Pechanga Resort & Casino in addition to all the wine selection from the previous day. The acclaimed line-up of Umi Sushi & Oyster Bar, Pechanga Cafe, Temptations Food Walk, Kelsey’s, The Great Oak Steakhouse, Paisano’s Italian, Bamboo, Blazing Noodles and Pechanga Buffet were each trying to outwit the other by pushing the creative envelope.
The festive goers were awestruck by creations such as Hotate and Ebi skewers with fried quinoa, tuna poke micro bowls, braised oxtail in Cabernet Sauvignon on a fried potato, pan-seared scallop with roasted jalapeño pesto, smoked tri-tip bruschetta with roasted shallot and blue cheese sauce, cold cut beef knuckle, fried shrimp wontons with Thai sweet chili sauce, smoked sous vide pork belly sliders, short rib truffle mac n’ cheese, seafood ravioli with micro-greens, lamb and chicken gyros among an extensive line up of dishes.
Silent auction items like rare sports and music memorabilia, curios, branded cosmetics, fine wines, fancy getaway stays and lifestyle holidays were displayed in full glory on both days. Talent-rich artists filled the hall with some scintillating music to keep the crowd on their feet. The guests to this event were also witness to the massive construction activity set around Pechanga as part of their $285 million expansion adding in more stunning features by 2018.
Wine + Chocolate = Love Pechanga Resort & Casino