By Raymond Bill
Recently, I was invited to dinner with a few of my closest friends to try a fairly new restaurant that has been getting much attention. I immediately accepted the invite to Cork & Fork for a memorable evening of culinary genius. There is certainly no place like this in the desert. This humble yet intimate eatery serves unique, sharable plates using the freshest, natural, organic, seasonal and local ingredients. The seating space is limited but when I noticed a very talented chef from another restaurant dining nearby, I could not deny that they are doing something very right!
As we entered, we admired the beautiful bar and decorative chandeliers that added a modern, yet comfortably welcoming appeal. Though we were seated near the window, we noticed their beautiful open kitchen where the talented culinary staff was on full display. Our server, Christina was as charming as she was attentive, reassuring us that we have some great servers in this valley. After a quick tour of the menu, we were off and running! We began with a few appetizers and shared everything family style.
An order of Bruschetta with creamy Laura Chanel goat cheese, roasted tomatoes, and crushed pistachio was placed before us, accented with pesto and a touch of truffle honey. We also shared the Ahi Sesame Poke Nachos: four crisp wonton chips topped generously with fresh Ahi tuna, avocado, togarashi aioli and wasabi “caviar”. The plating on both of these starters was photo worthy and the molecular gastronomy used to create the little caviar-like beads of wasabi was brilliant.
Another incredible plate we would share was the Crispy Cauliflower. Flash fried bites of cauliflower, drizzled with a sriracha aioli and sweet pomegranate molasses. Simply delicious! My friends insisted we try the Blistered Shishito Peppers, where one out of every 10 or 15 peppers will set your mouth on fire. I was fortunate to enjoy a few mild peppers with a garlic mayo and hint of lemon. All of our starters were great to share and unlike anything I’ve tried locally.
After our few small plates, we shared a couple salads for the table. The Farmer’s Market Salad is a favorite that my friends always order and I could understand why after just one bite. Fresh shaved Brussels sprouts are tossed with baby kale, candied pecans, gorgonzola cheese and diced apples in a light white balsamic dressing. Our other salad selection was the Luau Salad with baby beets and mango, creamy goat cheese, crushed pistachio, crispy wontons and baby greens in a citrus vinaigrette. I am undecided as to which salad was better but we could all agree that they were the best salads we have tried. So many flavors come together, complimenting each other perfectly.
Next, we made a few entrée selections and continued to share. The Grown Up Grilled Cheese filled with braised short ribs and aged sharp cheddar was to die for, topped with truffled arugula. Another favorite was the Pan Seared Scallops served over a spiced bourbon sweet potato puree with chunks of bacon and a pine nut gremolata. I’m certain that every dish on this ever changing menu is a masterpiece as we savored every last bite presented before us. A surprising star of the show was their Beef Sliders with 100% Angus chuck, cabernet onions and garlic mayonnaise, served with potato salad. Every bite of these two sliders was better than the previous! The flavors are intense and never seemed to overpower the other flavors in the dish, creating beautiful layers of flavor that can be appreciated by any palate.
Finally, we shared a few desserts that were mouthwateringly addictive. The Sunday Sundae was the best sundae you could ask for, with a rich, dark chocolate brownie, topped with salted caramel ice cream and candied pecans, finished with a chocolate ganache. I did not share my Butterscotch Pot De Crème topped with savory bits of Applewood bacon. The combination of sweet pudding and crisp salty bacon was heaven! The featured, Pumpkin Gelato was creamy and perfect for the fall season.
Cork & Fork offers craft beers and over 50 wines to choose from, as well as specialty cocktails made with soju infusion, a lower alcohol spirit. Though the bar does not serve harder alcohol, I have noticed many of the finer restaurants let the food and wine speak for themselves. My first experience was a home run and I look forward to many more visits as this restaurant will surely become a great success. Cork & Fork is open Tuesday through Sunday from 4pm to 9pm with happy hour from 4pm to 6pm. Visit them at 47875 Caleo Bay Dr. #A106 in La Quinta near Washington and 48th, or check them out at www.corkandforkwinebar.com