california grapes demo with chef marcela valladolid
Last week I was invited to attend an event on behalf of the California Grapes Commission with spokesperson Chef Marcela Valladolid. We were there to learn more about grapes and how to add grapes into recipes. Apparently you can do more with grapes then just stuffing them in your mouth (or freezing them and putting them in your drinks)!
There was a big beautiful box with three styles of grapes: green, red and black. I honestly have never really purchased black grapes. They look a little too close to raisins to me and I feel like maybe they’ll taste more like them, too. But they are actually quite sweet and delicious, just like their counterparts!
Okay. This doesn’t have any grapes in it. But this was the initial food item that was set out for the bloggers to enjoy. It was kind of like “make your own guacamole” but all of the usual add-ins were on the side (chopped onions, diced tomatoes, limes, and cilantro). The only itty bitty thing? That avocado really needed some salt!
[black grape margarita]
The staff also passed around a few “adult beverages” for us to enjoy. I actually only tried this one since I drove myself and didn’t have a guest with me. I love, love, loved the color on this one! It uses black seedless grapes, tequila, and sweet and sour mix. It had a nice bright, fresh flavor from the grapes and was a little sweet. I loved that you could see the grape skins floating in the drink, too.
[rosemary grape martini]
No way could I have two drinks before having more food in my stomach so I just looked at these pretty beverages. It’s basically vodka, freshly made green grape juice and rosemary (all shook up and then strained into a glass). I love the garnish on these. It makes the grapes look like mini pineapples to me.
Chef Marcela came to greet us a little while later and she did a quick demo using the California grapes. The food was pretty much prepped for her and she demoed and explained how the grape pico de gallo was made. The pico de gallo was quickly made with a combination of red and green seedless grapes, pickled red onions, and jalapeno. The salmon is grilled and shredded and assembled with the grape pico de gallo, salmon, and a little garnish of cilantro.
Chef Marcela told a few other stories and answered a few questions about grapes along with other ideas and suggestions for what to do with grapes and how to use them in recipes. Shortly afterwards more food came out showing off some ideas for grapes!
[grilled salmon taco with grape pico de gallo]
Here’s a closeup of one of the salmon tacos they served us. I wasn’t sure if I would like this at all but it wasn’t half bad. Luckily I didn’t get a ton of the pickled onion but a little more cilantro was in order! The grapes gave it a nice little bit of sweetness.
[grilled antipasto skewers]
Can I confess something to you?
Roasted grapes are kinda gross.
They taste more like raisins when they’re roasted/grilled/hot/whatever. I’m pretty sure I made a weird face when I ate the grape on the end there. The REST of this though I really liked! What’s not to love about shrimp, prosciutto and onions?! There’s an easy marinade on top of the skewers made with garlic, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, salt, pepper and olive oil.
[spring rolls with peanut sauce]
No grapes here. But they are pretty! Spring rolls are just a vessel for peanut sauce, if you ask me.
Again… not grape related. But these little suckers were oh-so-tasty. I think I ate like 5 of them. I couldn’t help it! Whatever sauce they drizzled over these were delicious and slightly sweet. I love the shrimps!
[banh mi style flatbread with grapes from california]
One of my favorites of the night were this Banh Mi inspired flatbread with grapes. The magical elements in this flatbread are: lemongrass paste, garlic, chicken breast, soy sauce, carrots, a pinch of sugar, rice vinegar, green seedless California grapes, cilantro and a jalapeno pepper. The “flatbread” used here was just a cooked pizza dough and then you top it off with the chicken and other goodies. I loved the bright, fresh flavors and again… the grapes added a really lovely little touch of sweetness that complimented the rest of the dish. It tasted really yummy with the chicken, carrots and other fresh flavors.
[toastadas with grape jicama salsa]
My favorite dish we tried that night were these little mini toastadas that were not only super cute but super tasty! This one was completely vegetarian and really packed with a ton of flavor. It includes: black and red seedless California grapes, jicama, avocado, cilnatro, jalapeno, lime juice, vegetarian refried beans, and toasted walnuts.
The crispiness from the little toastada was so nice with the flavors on top. I would have never imagine grapes and walnuts on top of a toastada, either, but it really works with all of the flavors and textures here. I definitely want to remake this one at home!
Here’s a little overview of the spread of food available for us to munch on. And to think I was a little worried I’d leave hungry!
Chef Marcela was so nice, warm and friendly. It was fun being able to meet her and to try out a few recipes with California grapes!
If you want any of the recipes from the food featured in this post or want more recipe ideas using California Grapes, visit the California Grapes website.
We also received cookbooks with even more recipe ideas for California grapes!
Non grape related notes… starting now.
The event took place last Tuesday when we had that freakishly hot weather and a storm rolled right on in. We were up on the 17th Floor at the Hotel Palomar which had some really stunning views. The weather got a little crazy. There was a bar outside on the balcony but the wind was so strong out there that the tablecloths on the tables almost all flew away.
Can I tell you I didn’t actually look down to take this photo? I just kind of barely put the camera over the ledge and snapped a shot. I peeked down briefly and then immediately stepped back. I’m kind of getting vertigo just looking at this photo… haha.
There was a beautiful view of the bridge.
Along with some really stunning clouds for the sunset.
After the event, I got stuck on the 163 because an eucalyptus tree tree fell onto the freeway! Luckily it had happened about an hour before I got stuck near the 8 and only had to wait 10-15 minutes before I was on my merry (mary) way again. Luckily my belly was full of delicious treats and I had A/C to combat that awful heat!
Disclaimer: I was invited to attend this event sponsored by the California Grape Commission and FleishmanHillard. I was not compensated for this post and all opinions here are my own.