Living the good life at any age

The Perfect Valentine’s Day Celebration

The Perfect Valentine’s Day Celebration

by Susan Montgomery

What are you doing to celebrate Valentine’s Day — perhaps with your sweetheart or maybe with good friends?  I have a sweet and savory idea for you. Rather than go to one restaurant, way not savor the fabulous food from multiple restaurants, with a focus on chocolate, and an array of elegant wines?  And at the same time, experience the joy of knowing you are helping others who are less fortunate by supporting Habitat for Humanity. What could be more perfect for the day of love and kindness?

We’ll be celebrating at  Pechanga Resort & Casino’s annual Chocolate Decadence & Wine Festival held February 10 and 11.  Chocolate Decadence is held on Friday, February 10, and features more than 30 wine varietals that can be paired with chocolate and other sweet treats. The 9th Annual Pechanga Wine Festival on Saturday, February 11, features wineries from all over the world along with gourmet food (including desserts) from Pechanga’s 11 restaurants. Both events include souvenir wine glasses, unlimited food and wine samples, live music and a silent auction.

Last week we were fortunate to be able to preview some of the treats that will be offered at these gala events. Chefs from each Pechanga restaurant were on hand to present and describe some of the wonderful dishes they will be serving. South Coast Winery from the Temecula Valley Wine Country was also serving some of their outstanding award-wining wines, including some exquisite sparkling wines, that paired beautifully with the dishes being served. 

Here is a sampling of what we experienced and tasted—and what you can taste too at the actual events:

Pechanga chefs gather to present their exquisite dishes for Chocolate Decadence & Wine Festival. Pictured left to right: Kiyo Ideda (Umi Sushi & Oyster Bar), Eric Ugarte (Banquets), Yasmine Escalante (Bakery Chef), Jean-Jacques Granet (Exec. Pastry Chef), Franco Duarte-Piza (Buffet Chef)

The Great Oak Steakhouse served flavorful, grilled Cajun Seared Australian Lamb Chops with Herb Pesto. 


Delicious Peking Duck was served by Bamboo and Blazing Noodles.

Journey's End prepared scrumptious Braised Pork Shoulder with Celery Root Puree and Port Wine reduction.

South Coast Winery's lovely, sparkling Ruby Cuvee paired nicely with so many wonderful sweet treats.

Umi Oyster and Sushi Bar's Scallops and Shrimp with Jalapeno Puree combined unique flavors in a beautiful presentation.

Pechanga's Executive Chef, Duane Owen, oversees all the restaurants and culinary operations at the resort. No wonder he always has a smile on his face.

Kelsey's served scrumptious Maple Glazed Pork Belly with Cornbread Sliders and Smoked Tri-Tip Brushcetta with Roasted Shallot and Blue Cheese Fondue on Crispy Baguettes. (Think about Kelsey's for enjoying great food while watching upcoming post-season football games and the Super Bowl.)

Paisano's served delectable Seafood Ravioli. They also tempted us with Braised Short Ribs and decadent Truffle Macaroni and Cheese.

Pechanga's Catering and Banquet department presented delicious Mini Pitas with Shaved Marinated Lamb or Chicken filled with tzatziki, cucumber, feta, baby lettuce, tomato and red onion.

The most creative dessert from Blends was the clever "lipsticks" made of white chocolate ganache tinted with strawberry and raspberry flavors. They were tasty as well as being so innovative.

Spicy and flavorful Chicken Mini Tacos were featured by the Pechanga Cafe. 

Pechanga's Food Court made tangy mango salsa that they served atop jerk chicken.

Blackened Scallops with Pesto Sauce and Tomato on Fried Pork Salami were as good as they looked.

Now that we have tantalized you with this array of tempting dishes, here are the details on attending these events:

Chocolate Decadence:

When:  Friday, February 10 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. VIP early entrance at 5:30 p.m.

Cost:  $55 per person or $75 per person for VIP tickets.

Pechanga Wine Festival:

When: Saturday, February 11 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Cost:  $65 per person.

Combo tickets are available for both events for $100 per person. Combo VIP tickets are $140. Designated Driver tickets are $30 for Chocolate Decadence and $40 for the Wine Festival. Guests must be 21 to attend either event.

How to Order Tickets:  Visit the Pechanga Box Office. Call 877-711-2946. Or visit

Proceeds from both events benefit Habitat for Humanity Inland Valley programs that provide housing needs and home repairs for senior citizens and those who are no longer able to do such work themselves.

Photos taken by Todd Montgomery.


Posted by Susan Montgomery on Jan 17, 2017