FoodBuzz 24, 24, 24: The Palm Springs Three-Way

rosemary skewered shrimpwatch video

Well, we did it. We had another successful “three-way”. But before you throw your arms up in the air and call Jerry Falwell on me. Let me explain exactly what the “three-way” is and why I am so proud to participate in it year after year.

The “three-way” is a group of parties in Palm Springs. It started 7 or 8 years ago with a small group of friends who own weekend places in the desert. This group liked to get together on the last weekend in May and have a casual party. Most of the people in this group close up their houses during the hot summer months. Meaning they would not see each other until the following winter.

Eventually this morphed into a bigger, more organized event. Now, the homeowners act as hosts to their friends. They invite as many people as they can squeeze into their houses to come out and spend the weekend. The houseguests all become a team and are expected to throw a party for the other teams staying in the other two houses.

one laptop per child charity event palm spring three-waySomewhere along the line we decided to make these parties not just a way to celebrate friendship, but a way to give back for all the happiness and prosperity that the hard work, luck and blessings that we can never really understand, have brought to our lives.

Each year one of the host teams chooses a charity. This year was our turn to pick the charity. We chose One Laptop Per Child (OLPC). The money we raise will go directly towards purchasing very special laptops for children living in developing countries. I encourage you to go to the OLPC website and learn more, or watch this video showing how one person’s gift empowered this one child named Zimi. If it doesn’t convince you of the power of this program, nothing will.

But this is a FoodBuzz 24, 24, 24 challenge & you’re here for the food! Of course what would a party be with out food? 

But before I get to that let me tell you a bit more about the event. This is a group of accomplished, hardworking, creative (mostly) gay men and their close friends and family. As you can imagine the competition to throw the “best” party can be fierce (and fun!!). So certain “rules” had to be established.

The most important rule is everything must be done and paid for by your team. That means no caterers, no take-out, and no hired servers. Just plain old hard work and creativity by you and your friends. Which may not seem like that big a deal until you realize you are cooking and serving cocktails, appetizers, wine, dinner and dessert for 50 plus people! Which of course can get pricy. But none of the funds you raise at your party can go towards financing the party. I think these rules really keep the spirit of friendship and generosity alive and well. They also help bond you and your team, which is a big part of why I love this event: because I have grown to love these people.

Gay Cocktail party in Palm springsIt also makes for a very full kitchen of friendly “chefs” vying for space in already packed ovens and refrigerators.

Which finally (you say) brings me around to the food.

Friday Night’s Welcoming Cocktail Party is hosted in Old Las Palmas. It’s in a beautiful old 1930s Spanish hacienda-style home owned by Gregg and Doug who live in Chicago. 

Most of the guests are driving in from California cities. The traffic can be horrendous. So most people arrive needing a cocktail. The featured cocktail was an excellent Italian lemonade spiked with vodka. But I knew it was going to be a long weekend so I mostly stuck to beer.

One of the team members at Las Palmas is Vince. His family owns working in the kitchen at the Palm Springs Three-Wayone of the best seafood markets in Los Angeles and is a major source of the responsible and sustainable seafood I feature on SippitySup. So as you can imagine he can get his hands some pretty spectacular seafood. And he did not disappoint. He grilled up some marinated shrimp that caused my jaw to drop when I laid eyes on them!

The rest of the menu is a smorgasbord of grilled treats including lamb chops that were cooked to perfection. Which is no easy feat when you are making enough of them for 50 people. Lamb chops this good cannot be made ahead. So Sup’s hat is off to these guys and the impeccable job in putting together one of the luxest buffets I have ever seen. You can get a look at my dinner plate in the attached movie. Click on any of the video links or most of the images to take you to that video.

palm springs three-way appetizer tableWhen our night rolled around we knew the bar was set very high. Our homeowners are Peter and Jeff, who (along with their 4 1/2 yo son Johnny) are the driving force behind our event. Our team is called the Cat City Tigers and we have a reputation of being the scrappiest of the three teams. We decided on a Kasbah theme. We draped colorful translucent fabrics over all the tables and hung more fabric draped over chandeliers at each table on the lawn.

I generally like to plan a menu for these events that includes a lot of make ahead items. Also, our team is blessed with many very good cooks. So I think we had a pretty good handle on the food and it came to the table fairly stress free.

We did a rather large appetizer table this year. Miyoshi and Jeff made lamb meatballs with two yogurt based dipping sauces. One was fiery hot with peppers and the other was cool and rich with cucumbers.lanterns in palm springs

Beth and her sister Holly were new team members this year. They whipped up a spiced beef with cinnamon, cumin, cloves, mint, onions, and dried fruit combination that was served alongside toasted pita triangles topped with an herbal mixture called zaatar.

We also used this beef mixture to stuff fillo-dough pouches called briouats. Peter then deep-fried these as well as some delicious falafel balls. Kevin passed these around with a cucumber sauce. His talent for making up a series of sillier and sillier names for them was a highlight of the evening. It got to the point where nobody knew what these things were actually called. Talk about revisionist history. And this man works in education! 

Hummus, tabuleh and more pita, put together by yours truly, rounded out the appetizer table.
pom wonderful cocktail with orange-blossom water
Of course we had to do a cocktail. In a bit of well timed fortuitous-ness the wonderful folks at Pom coincidently asked me to promote their healthy and delicious pomegranate juice. Well pomegranates and the Kasbah were born to be together. So Ken, Rocco and I created a vodka based drink with lots of Pom Wonderful, orange slices, and orange-blossom water.  We called it a Pomegranate Orange-Blossom Vodka Punch. It was an exotic, but potent little tippler. The flowery essence in the orange-blossom water infused its delicate flavor into the mix, making this a cocktail to remember. Plus Ken’s orange slice decorated swizzle sticks were a nice touch.

For our main course we decided to do big platters of food served family style at each table. I made a platter of Bachelor’s Stew Marrakech with Lamb. Which is a spiced lamb baked in a flavorful sauce “tangine” style. I also roasted chicken tenders in garlic and lemon slices, which I topped with, tomatoes, roasted red peppers and caramelized onions. Rocco made a very flavorful couscous to go with these meat dishes.

making baklava for the Palm Springs Three-wayThe genius part of our meal was these three things were the only items that needed last minute preparations. We also had several room temperature side dishes we made at a leisurely pace in the days leading up to the event. These included Moroccan Spiced Carrots with paprika, cayenne and apple cider vinegar. Which was my favorite of all of the things I personally made. There was also a cucumber, tomato and mint relish that acted as a cooling device on the palate. Plus a super flavorful hearts of romaine salad with spiced orange slices and a date infused vinaigrette.

Rocco and his sister-in-law Lisa were on dessert duty. They pitched in together to adapt a standard baklava recipe into a masterpiece. Between all those layers of honey soaked buttery fillo-dough they spread marzipan and booze-marinated dried fruits. Do I even need to tell you how delicious that was? They were fun to watch in the kitchen too; each of them with separate baklava pans. Goading each other into trying to out-bake one another. A little friendly competition between family members is a good thing. It made me happy to watch them.

stuffed and candied datesAs if that weren’t enough, Rocco also made Candied Dates, which he skewered on long sticks for a very dramatic presentation.

Not to be out done Peter had the very messy job of making date ice cream. If you have never had date ice cream stop what you are doing and seek it out. I am serious. WOW!

After a feast like that you can imagine that everybody would want to waddle off to bed. But no. We had a tennis tournament. 

Lots of people wanted to participate in this thing. So many that if we had let them all play we’d still be sitting by the court watching them. So this year we put all the names in a hat and randomly drew 16 players to form 8 teams of doubles. The teams faced off through a series of elimination rounds. It was a lot of fun watching. 

Palm Springs Three-Way Tennis WinnersThe final two teams battled their way into the championship round. It was Lisa and Clay against Chris and Wade. In a nail biter, Chris defended his previous title. He and Wade squeaked past new-comers Lisa and Clay to much cheering and wine guzzling.

The third party started a new tradition. Mike and Bill had an afternoon BBQ at their beautiful place in La Quinta, with it’s spectacular view of the mountains. No matter how many years I show up at their house I cannot get enough of that mountain!

Did I mention it was a BBQ? And by BBQ I mean Bar-Be-Beautiful‑Q!

This thing was 8 feet long. I can’t say how long they must have spent heating this up, or just how many tons of briquettes it took, because I was not there. But I can say that it was very well-staffed by Chip (his adorable daughter Madellne) and crew. And the food that came off it grill set for palm springs three-waywas amazing.

They produced some mighty tasty rosemary skewered shrimps and a bunch of beef tenderloins. And by a bunch I mean break the bank a bunch. That’s the kind of love and generosity all these parties have in common. This meat was a sight to behold. You can also see these things and the rest of the grilled goodies by watching the Palm Springs Three-Way video I have attached.

There was also volleyball match this year at La Quinta. Which was an added benefit to having this party in the afternoon. There is nothing like a poolside party in Palm Springs to make you count your blessings, and to help you keep smiling your way through life! Again I direct you to the video to get an idea just how beautiful a setting we were lucky enough to enjoy.

volleyball in the pool at la quintaThe volleyball match was very spirited, and quite the opportunity to show off all that hard work at the gym. Not to mention all those new swim suits!

But I must admit I did not watch too much of the volleyball as I was finally letting loose and partaking of a cocktail which I can only describe as a blueberry mojito. A potent mix of liqueur and anti-oxidants. Like I said it’s a very health conscious crowd!

But I do recall somebody’s wedding ring flew of his finger in a moment of spiking frenzy. The match, the party and all the revelry were suspended. But lo and behold the “other” Mike found the ring in the grass and the festivities re-commenced!

Another fine party. Another great three-way!

Many Thanks To Our Fabulous HostsMany Thanks To Our Fabulous HostsPS To all you who have emailed me wondering why there are no pictures of me in this post (a shocking rarity I know). Thanks for the concern, but let me put it this way. With a crowd this beautiful, nobody was pointing their camera at me. But I promise I was there…

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Greg Henry