4 1/2 Golden Spoons
Superb Way to Start Your Day
While we weren’t impressed with our suite at the US Grant Hotel but the Grant Grill was exceptional. We enjoyed both breakfast and lunch during our stay. The setting is elegant. The staff is warm and attentive. And the cuisine is creative, perfectly presented, and delightfully delicious.
Focusing on breakfast, I had the Pork Belly Benedict. Slices of smoked pork belly atop medallions of corn bread with a rich hollandaise sauce. Garnished with watercress and herbs, it was unique, flavorful and a symphony of taste and texture. My husband enjoyed the Summer Squash Quiche. Zucchini, corn, bacon, spinach, aged cheddar, parmesan, and shallots served in a pie wedge with a melt-in-your mouth buttery crust. Lovely. Both dishes were accompanied by the house twice-cooked potatoes. Baby Yukon golds baked, torn in half, and then flash fried. Decadent but worth the calories. What a superb way to start your day. We’ll be back….not for the hotel, but certainly for the Grant Grill!
4 1/2 Golden Spoons
On a Fantastic Roll!
Pho 533 has been a favorite of mine since Chef Chad Gardner took over the restaurant in 2015. His twist of adding a bit of French flair to traditional Vietnamese recipes results in an incredibly flavorful fare of everything from Sumptuous Banh Mi Sandwiches to Fantastic Pho Soups to Vibrant Vermicelli dishes, all served in a newly remodeled and expanded dining room and lounge complete with a “Vietnamese Roll Bar.” How fun is that! Best dishes I love include the Five Spice Pork Belly. Braised for 5 hours and served with house-made pickled Napa cabbage and daikon, topped with fried garlic and shallots, it’s an explosion of tastes and textures that will not disappoint.
Five Spice Pork Belly
The Vietnamese Crepe is spectacular too; a coconut cream delicate pancake filled with sautéed shrimp, lemongrass pork, bean sprouts, carrots and scallions. One of the best I’ve ever had….anywhere. On the roll front, the BLT Roll is a wonderful surprise that demonstrates the Chef’s creativity. Five-spiced braised pork belly, poached slipper lobster, local farm-fresh lettuce, soba noodles, pickled carrots and daikon radish with a secret Sriracha sauce. A must-order. The Lemongrass Duroc Pork Roll is also something to savor. Duroc is actually a breed of pork that is exceptionally tender, juicy and flavorful. It’s the star of this roll, matched with fresh greens, mint, pickled carrots, vermicelli noodles and crunchy won ton strips. Almost always part of my lunch or dinner here. I must admit that I was a bit nervous when Pho 533 recently closed to double the size of the restaurant which can often be a fatal mistake, but in this case the transformation was seamless and the new hip atmosphere (complete with a huge light-up Hello Kitty) just adds to the dining experience. Kudos to Chef Gardner and team (always wonderful service, I might add). You’re on a fantastic roll that I hope never ends.
5 Golden Spoons
What a find. We had heard good things about I.d., but I had no idea we were in for such a fantastic culinary adventure. We were a group of six, that arrived without reservations. Quite luckily, they were able to seat us at a high-top family style table in the bar area. Really great atmosphere with lots of energy and a full view into the kitchen. When I first looked at the menu, I must admit I was taken back by the unique categories – Snacks & Spreads, Leaves & Roots, Feathers & Tails, Fins & Shells, Sugar & Spice. I thought to myself, this could either be some sort of gimmick leading to a disappointment or an absolutely creative new twist on menu design. Luckily, it turned out to be the latter. The concept is for shared plates. So glad there were six of us so we could enjoy a lot of different dishes. We started with the Cuban Fritters. Roasted garlic, house pickles, gruyere formed into lovely round spheres garnished with crispy thin sliced ham. Perfect presentation in a charming ceramic hand-thrown pottery bowl garnished with microgreens. Upon first bite, the texture was crisp on the outside and wonderfully creamy on the inside. And the flavor….somehow the chef had managed to capture the perfect Cubano sandwich in a fritter! Outrageous. Next course, Pig Head – braised face, 10 year cheddar grits, bbq peas, crispy ears, and chard. Who does this? While it sounds a bit exotic and questionable, it was another dish prepared to perfection that was absolutely delicious. Wow. On to the Organic Chicken – asparagus, ramps, morels, fiddlehead, tarragon and quinoa. Really? Fiddlehead fern, morels, and quinoa in Delafield, Wisconsin? Another inspired dish that was the ultimate pairing of flavors and textures. The list of outrageous and outstanding culinary treats continued. Wood Grilled Octopus, Radicchio, Arugula and Fennel Flatbread, Pancetta and Artichoke, Trofie Pasta…..and more. Even the deserts were amazing. Carrot Cake-Less – cream cheese, candied walnuts, vanilla roasted pineapple, ginger and cilantro. Stunning flour-less treat. Was I dreaming? This was Michelin Star level dining. Honestly I still can’t believe the experience. It rivaled dinners I’ve had in some of the finest restaurants around the world. On top of that, dishes ranged from about $6 to $16 on average. Crazy. I had the privilege of meeting the Chef, Jonna Froelich, at the end of the meal. I couldn’t give her enough praise and you could see the passion she has for her work which shines in every plate. I’m not exaggerating when I say that dining at I.d. was one of the most memorable and delicious experiences I’ve ever had. While I live in Palm Springs, California, I will literally be flying to Delafield again, just to enjoy I.d. Incredibly delicious.
Five Golden Spoons
On a recent trip to San Diego, we had the pleasure of dining at Osetra The Fishhouse in the city’s historic Gaslamp District. What a fantastic find. Gorgeous contemporary décor with a hip bar area and elegant dining room complete with a wine tower served by a winged Wine Angel that floats on cables up a three-story climate-controlled “cellar.” But would the cool, impressive atmosphere match the menu and service? That’s always the question. And the answer is YES. We were greeted by a friendly hostess and welcoming staff before being escorted to our table by our waiter, Jeremy. We had a delightful table for two in a busy, yet quiet, dining area just off the bar. The perfect spot to catch all of the action, yet quiet enough to enjoy conversation. Jeremy was quick to explain the extensive menu and daily specials which offered a plethora of seafood choices and a nice selection of steaks and poultry for those that are not fish friendly. We started with an order of fresh shucked oysters. What you would expect. Traditional presentation on ice with horseradish, cocktail sauce, and a mignonette. While it sounds simple, you really can ruin oysters if not fresh and properly cleaned and shucked. These were perfect.
We also enjoyed the Poke Trio, crispy won ton “tacos” with salmon belly, ahi tuna, and scallop fillings. Bright, vibrant, fresh, delicious, and generous portions of seafood with a lovely marinated seaweed garnish. Yum. As new diners to the restaurant, we were treated to a complimentary appetizer of tempura shrimp and calamari. Beautifully battered, delightfully light, and crisp, with two accompanying sauces. A nice transition to our main courses. I opted for the daily special – a seafood tower. Garlic mashed potato base surrounded by a light wasabi cream, a layer of house made lobster ravioli with locally caught seabass and diver scallops on top. While it sounds overwhelming, it was actually a stunning mix of flavors and textures each perfectly prepared. The seabass was flaky, moist, and flavorful. The scallops carefully seared. Amazing. My husband chose the Jumbo Sea Scallops as his entrée. Served atop a stripe of soft polenta with lobster bites, tobiko caviar, ginger, and a blood orange reduction. In general, he does not like polenta. This preparation changed his thinking. Scrumptious. (I must also mention that Jeremy’s service was outstanding. Attentive, engaging, and informed without being too “hovering”. Excellent.) While we had hoped to end our meal with one of the many delightful desert selections, we were too sated for sweets which we will have to save for another visit. Osetra The Fishhouse is now high on our list of top seafood restaurants in the country. It is absolutely Fishilicious. We hope to enjoy it again soon.
2 Golden Spoons
I’ve been to dish before and was dish-appointed. However, friends pushed me to give it another try. I decided to stop by for lunch. I sat in the bar area. Looks nice, but the high-boy tables with low back seats are really uncomfortable. Also of note, at noon, the place was empty. Hmm. I ordered the grilled cheese sandwich. The description sounded lovely. White cheddar, guacamole, zucchini, mushrooms and sprouts. $12 Served with pomme frites or a Caesar salad for an additional $2. I opted for the Caesar. The service was friendly but the delivery was slow. A little surprising considering the lack of customers and the simplicity of the dish. Took about 35 minutes. When the plate arrived, the presentation was actually quite nice. The sandwich was diagonally sliced into two halves, perfectly stacked on top of one another and secured with an embellished toothpick. The Caesar was neatly set to the side, lightly dressed and the romaine was beautifully dark and fresh. My mouth was watering. I picked up the sandwich and took my first bite, expecting something special. But…the sandwich was dry with way too many sprouts and almost no cheese!!! The raw zucchini and mushrooms were a nice touch, but again, dry and overpowering and there was almost no guacamole. This really was a misrepresented dish. More like grilled bread with a load of veg, no seasoning, and little flavor. What a disappointment. And on to the Caesar. How could such a sumptuous looking salad be so bland and flavorless? I guess the beauty of dish lies in the presentation, but I have to dish dish when it comes to timing, texture, and taste.
4 1/2 Golden Spoons
Tyleriffic – Best Fast Causal Burgers
Tyler’s Burgers in Palm Springs has been a well-known haunt in Palm Springs for locals and visitors since 1996. I have no idea why I’ve waited so long to visit this place, by today was finally the day. A terrific outdoor setting in Palm Spring’s historic downtown Plaza shopping area, Tyler’s offers terrific fast-casual fare. We tried two of their burgers with an order of fries to share. The traditional Cheese Burger was moist, perfectly cooked and loaded with lettuce, pickles, and onions on a wonderfully soft bun. Yum.
Like the burger you expect at a great a family picnic. Fresh ingredients, a generous patty, and a simple presentation in a paper lined basket. The Turkey Burger had similar traits. Again, moist and delicious. What a value at $7.50 with full table service.
We were lucky enough to be seated in Michelle’s area. Greeted with a warm smile and lots of menu suggestions. Michelle was attentive, engaging, and spot-on to make sure our iced teas were bottomless. We also ordered a small order of fries. Crisp, nicely salted, and hot out-of-the kitchen. Delicious and only $3.50 for a portion that was so generous that we had enough to take home for an afternoon snack.
I honestly think that you can’t beat Tyler’s for a quick lunch that is a terrific alternative to flavorless fast-food and over-priced pretentious gourmet burger restaurants. And, again, ask for Michelle if you are looking for super service.
2 1/2 Golden Spoons
I had heard some good things about the newly opened Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge in Palm Springs, so when I was invited by a friend to dine there for lunch, I was looking forward to the experience. When we arrived, we were quickly greeted by several of the staff who clearly knew my host. The lounge is striking. High ceilings, brilliant white furnishings and fixtures, pops of fuchsia and chrome. The same décor flows into the very spacious dining room. Very nicely done.
However, the seating is intentionally mismatched from Victorian high back chairs with pink cushions to low white industrial metal chairs. I ended up in one of the metal chairs which had no seat pad and was very uncomfortable. The menu was eclectic, touted as being West Coast Modern. I actually found it borderline Hollywood pretentious with descriptions like Cypress Grove Truffle Tremor and Olorosso Sherry and Wild Mushroom Ragout. However, I must admit it peaked my interest.
I opted for the Smoked Chicken Breast Caesar Salad. Others in my group made more daring choices, but I always feel you can always judge a restaurant by the quality of its Caesar Salad. Service was prompt and our dishes arrived quickly. The Caesar was odd from the start. A pile of torn leaves of romaine lettuce with sliced chicken breast on the side.
The entire plate was smattered with an over-powering pepper lemon mixture. The dressing was a tart vinaigrette. The chicken was dry and very sweet. I don’t see how they call this a Caesar Salad. It is more of a Nero salad because of the burning sour after taste. Needless to say, I did not enjoy it.
However, one of the other guests had a Ratatouille Tart with squash and eggplant that tasted lovely. But, again, it really wasn’t a ratatouille or a tart. It was stacks of uncooked veggies next to a folded pancake in a tomato sauce. I think the chef is trying too hard. The rest of lunch was unremarkable. Will I give Eight4Nine another try? Maybe….it is a really beautiful setting. But….overall it 8nt4Me. There are just too many fantastic dining choices in Palm Springs.
A Rare Experience
Friends have been encouraging us for years to dine at Palm Springs’ only French/Belgian Bistro, Pomme Frite. I have no idea why we shied away from making a visit until recently, but we were really missing out on a wonderful charming dining experience. Our first outing was for lunch. The Owner, Jean-Claude Constant, greeted us and escorted us to a lovely street-side table in an adorable café style setting with quaint French music playing in the background. We were immediately offered drinks and given menus.
A delectable selection of traditional and innovative fare were offered including an extensive assortment of mussel dishes. I was immediately drawn to the Petite Steak Tartare with Toasts. A “rare” find anywhere today, but I’d never seen it in Palm Springs! If not done right, it can be absolutely awful, not to mention unhealthy. I had to order it.
5 Golden Spoons
A Dash of Deliciousness
Trace has been a favorite lunch stop of mine for years. I don’t know why I haven’t reviewed it sooner because it is an absolute gem with consistently creative cuisine and exceptional service. This week, I popped over to entertain a couple of clients. We were warmly greeted by the hostess and escorted to a terrific mauve/purple leather booth surrounded by white string curtains. An immediate score for ambiance.
We were quickly greeted by our waiter, Damien, who is an absolute superstar server. He has a terrific knowledge of the menu and is incredibly engaging. My guests were impressed. Another score! At his suggestion, we shared appetizers of candied Brussel sprouts with balsamic and garlic and sweet potato fries with a blue cheese mayo. Yum.
Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago
5 Golden Spoons
A last-minute hotel booking turned into a culinary adventure. When we visit Chicago, we usually stay at the Waldorf, but this trip we decided to try something new and reserved a room at the Trump. After a day of travel, we arrived at the hotel in the early evening. We were tired and hadn’t made any dinner plans so we decided to stay in and dine at the hotel. There were basically two options for a meal; a snack type small bite menu in the bar or the hotel’s upscale dining experience, Sixteen.
After dropping our bags in our room, we took the elevator down to the sixteenth floor. Just steps after the doors closed, we were warmly greeted by a charming hostess, Sandy, who showed us menus for both restaurants. One option offered burgers, sandwiches, and diner fare while the other was an elaborate fine-dining tasting experience of what appeared to be a rather pretentious prix-fixe with dishes described in over-flowery detail. We opted for the prix-fixe. Sandy called over the Restaurant Manager of Sixteen, Jessica, who said she would check to see if she could find us a table and if the chef was prepared for additional guests. Hmm. I could see that Jessica took her position very seriously and that maybe, just maybe, we had stumbled into something spectacular.