Pechanga festival boasts beer, chili and philanthropy

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More than 48 beers will be available for tasting at the Pechanga Microbrew and Chili Cookoff, benefiting Habitat for Humanity Inland Valley Saturday, June 15. Pechanga Resort Casino photo

Where else besides the Pechanga Microbrew and Chili Cookoff can people taste nearly 50 craft beers, devour more than a dozen chili offerings and contribute to social good at the same time?

The 11th annual event returns to the casino resort’s Summit event center Saturday, June 15, and once again, it will benefit local charity, Habitat for Humanity Inland Valley.

“We are honored to have Pechanga allow us to participate in this great event every year,” Tammy Marine, executive director for Habitat for Humanity Inland Valley, said. “Pechanga has been a wonderful partner for Habitat for Humanity Inland Valley and we truly appreciate everything they do to help us make sure that everyone has a decent place to live in the Temecula Valley.

“Pechanga is such a huge part of our community and they continue to provide great economic opportunities, tourism and recognition for the region. We look forward to continuing to partner with Pechanga for this event, and many others,” she said.

Ticket-holding beer enthusiasts are afforded the opportunity to taste unlimited samples of craft and small production brews from San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles and Orange counties, as well as selections from Northern California, the Midwest and the East Coast.

Scheduled to appear so far are Breckenridge Brewery, Golden Road Brewing, Kona Brewing, Elysian Brewing, Saint Archer Brewing Company, Belching Beaver Brewery, Ballast Point, The Boston Beer Company, Anchor Brewing, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Santa Monica Brew Works, Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Stone Brewing, Refuge Brewery, Galway Spirits Distillery, Garage Brewery, Inland Wharf Brewing, Indian Joe Brewing and Speakeasy Ales & Lagers. More breweries could be added.

“We’ve added more and more microbreweries every year,” Duane Owen, Pechanga Resort Casino’s executive chef said. “This year I believe we’re at 20-something breweries, and at last count, there’s going to be 48 different varieties of beer and possibly even more once we get to next Saturday.”

Tasting all those beers requires a healthy amount of sustenance in between sips – and the chili cookoff will provide just that for guests.

All of Pechanga’s restaurants participate in the judged competition, and each year, the stakes are raised higher and higher. Guests will be asked to pick their favorites.

This year, resort chefs will try to unseat Chef Hunter Gonzalez of the Pechanga Banquets and Catering department. Gonzalez and his team won the popular vote for the best bean melange with his Pork Four Ways chili.

“Now we have 14 different chilis competing, whereas five years ago we had seven or eight,” Owen said. “The restaurants are actually adding something to complement the chili, so many of them are doing a different cornbread. They’re adding in a frozen dessert, something along those lines to kind of enhance their station.”

For an idea of what to expect from the chili-making chefs, Owen gave a preview of what’s on the menu from a few of the restaurants.

Blends will present coffee smoked brisket chili on cornbread mini waffles with a signature blended drink; Bamboo will offer lamb and beef chili; Great Oak Steakhouse is bringing steak chili with spicy tomatillo-lime foam; Paisano’s will make chili with spicy Italian sausage and risotto cracker; Journey’s End is going with chili mac ‘n’ cheese with chipotle and smoked Gouda cheese sauce; and Coveside Grill, new to the competition, will present an island-style steak chili with pork belly, Portuguese sausage corn dogs.

Some of the more unusual flavors that are promised include the Lobby Bar’s Beef cheek and pork chorizo chili with beer cheese wiz and malt chicharron, with Mexican elote with mayo, Parmesan cheese and hot Cheetos dust and watermelon and cucumber Popsicle with Tajin and lime.

Like it hot, check out Kelsey’s smoked beef chili with habanero and wasabi, and Blazing Noodles blazin’ chili.

“It’s a friendly competition with the chefs, but they are looking to step it up every year,” Owen said. “It’s kind of a badge of honor here at Pechanga, which chef wins the competition. We have a good time with it.”

There will be live music during the event, as well as an extensive silent auction with valuable items on which to bid, with the proceeds going to Habitat for Humanity Inland Valley, which will be at the event as well.

“Our team will be at a table at the event to share information about our programs, volunteer opportunities,” Marine said. “We’d love for everyone to stop by and learn more about Habitat for Humanity. We will also be hosting a raffle for a variety of wonderful items. Proceeds from the raffle will go toward building and repairing homes for deserving residents in the region.”

Owen said the event has improved year after year.

“It’s an exciting event, the entertainment, the band, you get a lot of energy in the room,” he said. “It’s something we’ve built into quite the event. Once it gets rolling it’s a lot of fun, people taste the beers, there’s a lot of interacting with the chefs …. It’s hard to get people to leave at the end of the event. Once they turn the lights up, people are still having a great time and don’t want to leave. It’s a great time.”

Marine agreed.

“The event is a great way to kick off the summer,” she said. “It is truly a culinary experience and social event you don’t want to miss.”

The 11th annual Pechanga Microbrew Fest and Chili Cookoff is from noon to 5 p.m. for VIP pass holders and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. for general admission ticket holders.

Tickets are $65 for VIP, $50 for general admission and $40 for designated drivers and can be purchased by calling (888) 810-8871, by visiting www.pechanga.com or in person at the Pechanga box office.

Pechanga Resort Casino is at 45000 Pechanga Parkway in Temecula.

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at jpack@reedermedia.com.