By Raymond Bill
With spring upon us, many of our valley’s best restaurants have modified their menus to allow for seasonally available ingredients. Butternut and Tahitian Squash soups have been replaced with chilled Gazpachos. Prepare to see more pineapple and mango instead of citrus and pomegranate. At the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs, Simon Kitchen and Bar (created by celebrity Chef Kerry Simon, also known as, “Rock n’ Roll Chef”) has introduced some new menu items showcasing some of the freshest seasonal ingredients available. Recently, I was fortunate to have met Executive Chef Jeremy Saccardi and try some of his new creations.
Many of the menu items are intended to be shared as, “Social Plates” and several are intended to be individual entrees; however you choose to enjoy your meal, every dish will be bursting with flavor! Among the shared appetizers, our group shared Wok Charred Edamame with a touch of lime. These little bean pods had a mild smoky spice coating that made them unique and addicting.
One of the table’s favorites was the Veal Meatballs “Parmigiana”. This interpretation of an Italian classic had our mouths watering for more! These tender veal meatballs were coated in panko bread crumbs and fried golden brown before being served with fresh burrata mozzarella cheese and rapini. A crunchy exterior with a tender, meaty center perfectly complimented the creamy mozzarella.
My favorite small plate was the Tuna Tiradito. Presented before us was a thin layer of fresh tuna, prepared much like a carpaccio. It was topped with little beads known as, “lime caviar” showing off chef’s knowledge of molecular gastronomy. For texture and flavor, the dish was completed with avocado and pieces of crunchy popcorn. I have yet to see a similar dish presented in this valley and the chef certainly knows how to combine unique flavors and textures.
Flatbreads have become increasingly popular among many, “farm to table” restaurants because it allows for chefs to combine several seasonal ingredients in a dish that everyone loves. Who can say no to pizza? Well flatbreads are just a fancy name for pizza and I am a huge fan! The Wild Mushroom Flatbread is paired with asparagus, walnut pesto, and little bites of cabrales blue cheese, a Spanish cow’s milk blue cheese rich in flavor.
The entrées are great to enjoy individually but I preferred sharing each dish, experiencing many different flavors while getting to know new friends. The Double-Cut Pork Chop was reminiscent of the home cooked pork chops and applesauce my grandmother made for us growing up. The pork was tender, served with a bacon and apple relish that combined both sweet and savory.
Another favorite of mine, that I will likely order every time, is the Shrimp n’ Grits. Fresh rock shrimp with a crisp cornmeal coating, served with creamy grits and chunks of ham. This dish has got to be one of their most popular items as it is like popcorn shrimp taken to a much higher level. The shrimp were crunchy with a little spicy kick to them, you are certain to love them.
With all that food, one would certainly understand if I had passed on dessert, but that was not going to happen after seeing the Mixed Berry Cobbler being served to the table with a scoop of crème fraiche ice cream. The cobbler is made with a little grand marnier and meyer lemon. I think I will do myself a favor and begin with dessert on my next visit so that I may actually finish for once.
If you have not yet visited the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs, now is the perfect time to do so. The lobby is covered with pictures and memorabilia of Rock and Roll history, and the pool is the place to be on these 90+ degree days. Get your closest friends together for a night on the town and make your first stop at Simon Kitchen and Bar, located at 150 South Indian Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs. Visit them at www.hrhpalmsprings.com or call 760-969-6645