Time in the Desert...

I know you have all read here and there of my somewhat "boycott" against, or at least a diversion towards the corporate giants in this industry and the mere thought of dining there. I know they have a lot of bells and whistles, mega-bucks to throw at decor, space, lavish fixtures and the like, but so what! The amount of staffing does not ever seem to change, because if any of you have worked in this business, one of the main things that you need to control, that can make the difference between making it or going bankrupt(and still there are no guarantees) is controlling your labor. The food quality generally is about the same at those places...nice read on the menu, usually large menus at that, somewhat high prices(they have to pay for that Chihuly above you), good seasonal ingredients and such. Great...you order and then what typically comes before you is a huge plate of disappointment. I know that there are exceptions to any rule, and I never claim to be perfect in my own craft, hell, far from it, but that seems to be the norm as I travel and dine around. Well...here I am in the middle of the desert; Palm Desert that is. On a trip with my family, and with two young kids, I can not go to Per Se, Daniel, "The Laundry", or the like all the time. In fact, it gets tough to do so any time, but that is another story. So, we find ourselves in LA~ the thoughts of Sona, Providence, Nobu, Kerry Simon, Table 8, Craft, Patina, and Melisse come to mind. Oh well, maybe next trip. We head to the desert. Wanting to get some sun. We did. Towards the end of the day, we looked for a place to re-nourish ourselves(as that is the mere meaning of the word), yet with some cool substance. Little places, ok, but perhaps too formal...hotel dining rooms, a bit stuffy for now...As we drove down "El Paseo" a popular road lined with designer shops, boutiques and eateries, we saw a place where we like to shop...Tommy Bahama's. What we found is that they have a rather large restaurant above the store with a patio/deck to dine on. With the temperature at about 78, that was a no-brainer. We were greeted by very nice, attractive ladies(go figure). We sat outside and from the moment we did, our server took care of us to the likes of Per Se and the Laundry. Obviously, not as polished or food savvy, yet very meticulous and refined in their own way and for their own business model. It was great. If it made such an impression for me to mention to our server that he had a great attitude, it definitely struck a nerve...a good one! The food was not foie gras or squab...kampachi or fluke...morels or white asparagus, yet the food served was quite tasty, and attractive. They were huge portions(ok...it worked for my kids and family). It was fun to fill the table with family-style platters like we would at home. We were made to feel very welcome and allowed to order in any fashion, all apps, split portions, other sauces...whatever, all in a tropical nuance! It was great. We started with Big Island Goat Cheese with a warm Macadamia Nut Crust, Mango Salsa, Crisp house made Flatbread and a Sweet Soy Glaze. That was tasty. We enjoyed the "South Seas" Diver Scallop Sliders, fun minis with Asian Slaw of Cabbage, Carrots, Ginger, Roma Tomatoes, Basil, Chipotle Aioli and Crispy Mini Onion Rings. Since my kids passed on this one, I enjoyed most of it myself. We also had the Antigua Quesadilla..fresh Asparagus, Monterey Jack, Goat Cheese tucked into flour Tortillas. Topped with Tomato Jam, Lime Sour Cream and Queso Fresco. Tasty! We then opted for the Tortola Torilla Soup, which had a nice blend of tortillas, chicken, spices and lime. The Boca Boca Beet Salad was very nice and refreshing. Nothing I would expect at a corporate chain, at least executed as it was. Roasted beets, both red and gold, fresh Arugula, Yellow Bell Peppers, Hearts of Palm, Cabbage and Passion Fruit Vinaigrette. To round out the table amongst my kids bowl of pasta and cheese quesadillas were a Big Bucket of Fries with a Mango Ketchup and the "Perfect Storm" Smashed Potatoes, laden with Grana Padano, Roasted Garlic and yes...heavy Cream. We ended the feast with the Barbados Brownie, a typical rendition, yet served warm and gooey with Coconut, Warm Chocolate Sauce, Caramel and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. Topped off with some soothing Island tropical drinks, this was nice stop in the midst of the heat and heart of the desert. It worked. It did not mislead. The staff lived up to the task and their potential and well as our expectations. The food was tasty, fresh, and lively. Hell, even The Chef's Garden was represented on the Scallops. If I am now labeled as going against my grain, I can live with that. I would recommend this to anyone looking for that kind of entertainment. Sometimes, the experience can be more than just a fancy menu degustation, and usually is.


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