Monday, July 02, 2007

Improve Your ‘Taste’ on Tuesdays

There are so many things to love about summer in Southern California, and Chef Warren Schwartz at Santa Monica’s Viceroy Hotel just added another.

Tastes of Tuesday features small servings (tastes) of incredibly edible appetizers-size delicacies, from 5:30 – 10:00 pm, through September.

And by “delicacies” I don’t meant the sliders and chicken wings of usual Happy Hour fare. Oh no! We’re talking elk tenderloin topped with fois gras cherry butter (stunningly yummy); bacon-wrapped scallops (the big, fat, juicy kind) fire-cooked to perfection; pacific oysters with smoky sauce; grilled salmon; and a fire-roasted tomato in a bed of dandelion greens.

Featured small dishes may vary slightly from week-to-week, depending on what Chef Schwartz comes across at the Farmers Market. The 35 year-old LA native is a firm believer in seasonal, sustainable food, as served in the whimsically elegant Whist, located on the ground floor of the swank hotel.

He trained at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and worked in acclaimed eateries such as Lark Creek Inn, LA’s Patina and the Saddle Peak Lodge in Calabasas.

Warren says, "As chefs, we focus on fine food. Sometimes we can get a little stiff." I'd say he has found the perfect balance between quality and fun. His cuisine reflects of a
traditional French foundation with an eye toward contemporary Californian eco-friendly gourmet - a masterful declaration of mouth-watering simplicity.(Oh, and did I mention he is kinda hot, to boot?)

With Tastes of Tuesday, Chef Warren aims to bring a satisfying culinary experience to the beautiful patrons mingling poolside, or in the private cabanas. Tuesday treats can also include shrimp ceviche, Caesar salad and gazpacho. And, dessert bites present pleasures such as green tea panna cotta with honey dew gelee; dark chocolate pot de crème and Harry’s Berries strawberry shortcake.

And, here’s the kicker, people. They are only $5 per order. Yes, seriously. Would I get your hopes up only to dash them? Only F-i-v-e D-o-l-l-a-r-s.

In addition to the gourmet nibbles, drink specials include summer cocktails such as Blue Raspberry Martini, and Key Lime Margarita. Yep. Those are $5, too.

Personally, though, I have to admit that I much preferred the Giggle Water cocktail, which I ordered from the lobby bar, Cameo. It was made with Absolut Pear, not too sweet, and, overall, a decidedly more sophisticated drink, which enhanced the wonderful food.

Photographer, Claire Barrett, and I stuck around for dinner at Whist (twist our arms), turning Happy Hour into Happy HOURS! One fascinating element on the menu that any wanderlust (like me) will truly appreciate, is Warren’s Culinary Journal, where shares his own globe-trotting experiences through cooking.

A whole page is dedicated exotic destinations Chef Schwartz has visited, and a dish typical of that region. After sharing a first course of maple-glazed pork belly with Manchego cheese and dried fruit compote (superb, I might add), we further indulged in a Turkish lamb dish called Patlican Musakkasi. It was so flavorful and satisfying, we almost didn’t have room for dessert. I said almost…

Being The Liquid Muse, of course, the boozy dessert was top choice. The Guinness Chocolate Cake topped with Baileys Ice Cream (formerly know as the Irish Car Bomb) was to die for. Ok – hold on… bad example. It was delicious. Leave it at that.

Stop by some Tuesday. After all, if you’re reading this, you are already a person of ‘taste!’ ;-)

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