When I travel by myself for arts-related business, I make sure to locate a hotel that is not only within walking distance of key attractions and close to train stations, but also offers an adjoining restaurant.
After a long day of walking and shopping (or hiking and beaching if you’re in Santa Cruz) it can be comforting to simply dine in. A good hotel restaurant has to offer a wide range of dishes, ideally a full bar plus discerning and local wines, comfortable seating, and soothing visuals. A swimming pool view can’t hurt. And Hotel Paradox’s Solaire Restaurant has all of the above. Coastal sophistication, a smart grey interior, an intimate bar with fireplace—Solaire has a lot to recommend itself, and not just for visitors or business travelers. This is a sweet spot to spend an evening out even if you actually live just a few miles away.
And from what we tasted last week, the menu that chef Ross McKee originally designed continues to evolve. Beautifully presented non-tricky dishes. Starting with fresh francese bread and three accompaniments (horseradish-laced cheddar, oil and balsamic, and butter topped with salt crystals) to the generous pours of well-priced wines, we found ourselves lulled into contentment throughout the meal.
My main course of fresh diver scallops involved three full-figured, perfectly sauteed scallops joined by witty visual doppelgangers in the form of roasted cipollini onions ($30). The shellfish, presented on a shallow tide of pureed parsley root (delicious!), were topped with frisee and dotted with delectable Virginia ham. The scallops were perfection, practically quivering with moisture, yet golden crisp on the outside. Infant branches of frisee punctuated the rectangular plate.
An abundant entree of King salmon, farm-raised under eco-savvy conditions, offered lots of moving parts, including a topping of shaved fennel ($24). The thick fillet arrived surrounded by fresh mussels, tomatoes, succulent cipollino onions and fingerling potatoes. Both entrees were incredibly generous in proportion and incredibly satisfying. For starters, we split an arugula and chicory salad ($14) luxurious with a tart citrus vinaigrette, tiny mandarin orange sections, and a terrific goat cheese that played counterpoint to each bite of tangy greens.
My companion liked his rich Doña Paula Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina ($11/glass), but I preferred my Cigare Volant 2011 from Bonny Doon Vineyard ($12), a true regional classic with its own bold complexity and the grace to partner even delicate scallops.
The dessert menu here is temptation in and of itself. Many classics are artfully deconstructed, such as a reimagined strawberry “shortcake” with crème mousseline, or a banana brûlée with chocolate and rum caramel. Next time. Sweet spot, Solaire.
Eat Your Flowers
The College of Botanical Healing Arts throws its second annual Flower Festival and Feast, from 1-5 p.m. on Sunday, May 22. Set on a 17-acre private propery in Bonny Doon, the event features the inimitable garden-to-table culinary creations of Jozseph Schultz, who will utilize edible flowers in the afternoon of hors d’oeuvres followed by a sit-down meal. Tour the garden, watch steam distillation demos, check out the essential oil blending bar, and, of course, the wine bar. Live jazz and bossa nova is courtesy of Trio Passarim, with vocals by singer Jeannine Bonstalle. Speakers during dinner include Roy Upton and Elizabeth Birnbaum of the Curated Feast. For more information and to get tickets visit COBHA.org/news. $125.
Restaurateur Paul Cocking called to let me know that he has the green light to purchase the old Sentinel building and launch a deli next door to his Gabriella Cafe. “Along the lines of Gayle’s,” Cocking added, “but with less emphasis on pastries.” Cocking envisions outdoor seating as well as an in-house U-shaped wine and food bar. Major funding is already in place, but Cocking is looking for a few more investors to make this project fly. Maybe you? Invest in downtown culinary history. Contact Gabriella—457-1677.