By Andy J. Gordon
The greater Palm Springs area is getting a big influx of tennis fans from around the world for the next two weeks, as hundreds of thousands flock to one of the biggest tournaments on the pro tennis calendar, the BNP Paribas Open. That thrilling tournament kicked off in Indian Wells on Wednesday, March 6, 2019. But for a lucky few that arrived early, there was a chance to mingle with some of the top players while enjoying amazing food provided by some of the best area restaurants and resorts at the Citi “Taste of Tennis Indian Wells.”
That special charity event happened at the Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa on March 4, one leg of this multi-city culinary extravaganza that takes place in cities around the United States in conjunction with major professional tennis tournaments. Supporters at the Indian Wells event enjoyed an evening of excellent food and beverages while socializing with some of the stars on the tennis tour, all the while knowing that the proceeds from the event were donated to the United Way of the Desert.
The Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa is a luxury destination just minutes from the Indian Wells Tennis Center that hosts the BNP Paribas Open. Their beautiful, tropical-themed pool area was an excellent setting for the Taste of Tennis. Chefs, restaurants, the Hyatt Regency staff and premium beverage vendors set up several tasting stations around the perimeter of the pool area. There was a centrally located stage, too, used for both cooking demos and a DJ, who played music throughout the evening.
Recent pro tennis tournament winners Gael Monfils and Nick Kyrgios as well as Sasha Zverev, Mischa Zverev, Stan Wawrinka, Frances Tiafoe, Sam Querrey and John Isner got out of their sports comfort zones by assisting the chefs with food prep, much to the delight of the attendees. There were plenty of laughs as they moved from food station to station, attempting (with varying degrees of success) to turn their tennis skills into culinary wizardry. Other tennis standouts included Genie Bouchard, Elina Svitolina, Amanda Anisimova, Donna Vekic and Alize Cornet, who glad-handed with both the celebrity chefs and happy guests.
Popular toque Richard Blais, from the TV show “Top Chef,” put on a cooking demo with Venus Williams. Williams held her own with some witty banter and chef skills while Blais wowed the crowd with some gastronomic pyrotechnics. The star chef and tennis champion made tostadas infused with wood smoke that Williams dramatically released out of a large glass cake cover. They also used liquid nitrogen to make Diplomatico Rum sorbet cocktails. Blais was having so much fun with Williams that he ran overtime and put together a chopped tuna dish with sea-salt seasoned potatoes. The crowd really enjoyed the show.
The night was as much about eating as it was about rubbing shoulders with the stars, however. Everything was artistically presented and delicious, but a few dishes truly stood out. The short-rib tacos from the Hyatt Regency were tender, juicy and flavorful. The marinated smoked salmon on a sweet potato dill waffle by Chef Hervé Glin at Counter Reformation restaurant at the Parker Palm Springs melted in your mouth. Chef Justin Jenkins’ shrimp and grits was a tasty reminder of Mardi Gras.
The imperial wagyu bolognese pasta and stir-fried green beans by Chef Paul Hancock at the Miramonte Indian Wells Resort Spa had bold, dynamic flavors. The charred octopus on a nori chip by Chef Jason Moffitt of Chi Chi at the Avalon Hotel was smoky and tender. Some very special dessert treats made mouths water, including Chef Brandon Weimer’s creamy toffee milkshakes and flavored popcorn. The Hyatt Regency served decadent mini shortbreads smothered with fresh berries and cream.
Our favorite beverages included the Diplomatico Rums, Oban and Lagavulin Single Malt Scotches and La Quinta Brewing Company’s Poolside Blonde and Even Par 7.2 IPA beers. Guests also could choose between Zonin Prosecco, Malfy Gin cocktails, a variety of wines and Voss water.
The Taste of Tennis Indian Wells was a fun evening where excellent chefs, professional tennis players and some very lucky guests got to spend an enjoyable evening in the desert. Additional Taste of Tennis events will take place this year in Miami, Washington, D.C. and New York, as each of those cities host major tennis tournaments. Details and ticket information can be found on the Taste of Tennis website.