LOBSTER FRIES at HOLIDAY HOUSE’S THE PANTRY in Palm Springs, California
A lobster lover’s typical lament lies in the commonly botched dishes found in restaurants worldwide in which lobster is supposed to be the star of the show yet ends up being the bastard child of cheapness and invisibility. Oftentimes I will (salivating for that plump, yummy meat) order a lobster roll only to be delivered a buttery bun with mayo-saturated meat in meager proportion to the bread. Or, I will order a lobster ragu pasta and find myself digging beneath the effusive vodka cream sauce trying to find the meat. I have come to eschew lobster dishes altogether.
This was entirely not the case, though, when earlier this week a friend convinced me to put away my prejudice and share a pile of lobster fries at the new, chic resort Holiday House in Palm Springs. What arrived from The Pantry’s kitchen was a basket of perfect fries, crisp on the outside and creamily, puffy on the inside piled with lobster meat only tenderly infused with truffle oil, not enough to overpower the dish. The lobster was a generous pile, with 4 claws (!) in a dish meant to be shared by two. Nary a potato was left at the end of our meal, accentuated by a scrumptious burger and a cocktail made from rose wine, basil and gin.
P.S. You can even play with LEGOs at the bar.
TACOS AL PASTOR at EL FARO TACOS in Sylmar, California
You park out front on the curb and enter the tiny restaurant where two men never stop working the meats on the grill. For $1.24 a pop, you order as many of these succulent and divine no frills, street style, tacos as you think you might eat. Two tortillas topped with perfectly marinated pork and pineapple chunks. Perhaps a smattering of cilantro and a dot of salsa from the condiment bar on top. Unpretentious perfection.
BRAISED DAIKON by the Cute Gardener
A subtle, al dente rendering of an iconic Japanese root vegetable in a surprisingly simple broth that carries the tiniest hint of dark caramel to counteract softened briny kombu. The daikon acts like a tofu, soaking up its surrounding flavors. A perfect appetizer that goes down like a whisper, barely audible yet entirely complex.
Insanely simple recipe
Slice one daikon radish into 1/2-inch rounds. In about 3 cups of water, place daikon, 3 small strips of kombu, 1 tablespoon mirin, and 1 tablespoon Japanese soy in a pot. Cover and gently simmer until daikon is soft, but not mushy.
PORK POSOLE at the KITCHENETTE in Templeton, California
An elegant interpretation of the homey, yet often muddled, Mexican stew. Tender shredded pork and sliced linguica sausage with a subtle kick mingled with tangy feta cheese, the counteracting coolness of ripe, sliced avocado, crunchy cabbage slaw and hearty large kernels of white hominy. The richness was further tied together by the creamy yolk oozing from the pretty center of a stunning breaded and fried soft boiled egg, all afloat in a luscious Verde sauce. Perfect breakfast to soak up a weekend of wine tasting in nearby Paso Robles.