I had never even heard of a Calçotada until a few weeks ago. Chef Frank Miller talked with me in detail about the famed Spanish festivals, where calçot onions are charred over coals and served with a Salsa Romesco. Then lo and behold I read there was going to be a Calçotada at Palumbo Family Vineyards in Temecula. Laura and I drove up from the Family Winemakers of California’s tasting event in Del Mar and arrived at Palumbo around 4:00. It was a picture picture sunny afternoon and guests were on the patio clearly enjoying what Nick assures me will be an annual event.
Nick wanted to demonstrate the proper technique for consuming a calçot, tipping his head back and taking a bite dipped in the Salsa Romesco. The crowd was star-studded. Vince and Audrey Cilurzo, who planted the first commercial vineyards in Temecula were enjoying the day and Don Frangipani from Frangipani Winery was keeping a close eye on the calçots, making sure they were charred to perfection. The was also some tasty beef and Portobello mushrooms to accompany the calçots.
I got a chance to visit with Nick who told me he’s been watching Calçotadas on TV “for a couple of years” and thought “that’s kind of a cool idea.” Fate stepped in when neighbor Dave Barnes of Crows Pass Farm asked Nick if he had any use for some calçots. Nick jumped at the chance and when I asked Nick if this would become an annual event his response was “before I even started cooking I thought ‘this is going to happen every year’.”
We looked around his property and at the new storage facility he has built and both of us marveled at how far this valley has come just over the past few years. The growth continues to be exponential. We are blessed to have passionate folks like Nick and Cindy Palumbo leading the charge.