The holiday season brought me to California’s Central Coast, where I had the chance to dine at Root 246, Bradley Ogden’s seminal Solvang, Calif., restaurant at the Hotel Corque (400 Alisal Road, 805-686-8681). When I look back on 2011—and I had a number of great meals during the year, including one at Dinner, Heston Blumenthal’s London restaurant—this meal truly stands out.
Rumors of the chef’s impending closure at Caesars Palace have swirled around town for a long time, but he’s a force of nature, without a doubt one of America’s great chefs, and he’s not closing his eponymous restaurant at Caesars anytime soon.
Ogden himself was there to greet us, and he graciously offered us the kitchen table. We had a number of appetizers including a grainy country pork terrine with onion jam, Picholine olives and homemade saltines, terrific oysters from just up the 101 in Morro Bay and flatbread with locally foraged chanterelles.
Main courses, especially the spicy “bouillabaisse” linguini with sausage and blackened shrimp, were incredible. We polished off the hardwood Duroc pork chop with chestnut spätzle in record time, with just enough room for the chef’s legendary butterscotch pudding. But then I spotted a grilled, foot long Hobbs hot dog on the bar menu, and had to try it.
So, think you could do my job?
Speaking of California, everyone’s favorite local pizzeria, Settebello Pizzeria Napoletana at the District in Henderson, has opened a sister restaurant in Pasadena, Calif. (625 E. Colorado Blvd., 626-765-9550). If you’re in town, stop by for a VPN pizza, an Italian acronym for a “real Neapolitan-style” pizza, cooked in a wood oven. You tear it by hand.
Locally, in honor of what would have been Elvis’ 77th birthday (also 35 years since his death), all guests who dine at 35 Steaks + Martinis in the Hard Rock (693-5000) will be treated to a complimentary dessert amuse bouche combining all of the King’s cravings—Elvis that is; the place is named for his birth year of 1935. From Jan. 8-14, enjoy brioche banana-bread pudding flanked by peanut butter mousse and topped with grape jelly sauce. The King would be pleased.
Meanwhile, I want to report a pair of openings on opposite corners of the Valley. In the southeast, Xing Asian Bistro in the Village at Lake Las Vegas (10 Via Brianza, 667-7777) offers Chinese faves such as kung pao spicy chicken, Mongolian beef and wonton soup.
And in the northwest, Bottles & Burgers by Double Helix is featuring adult milkshakes, more than 30 wines by the glass, gourmet burgers and signature sharing plates in Tivoli Village (450 S. Rampart Blvd., 431-5456).