Happy Hour…at the Double Tree
Posted by Shannon on 01/31/2012
A few weeks ago, a few of my friends and I met up for happy hour just a stone’s throw from our office… at the Double Tree just across the street! Evan and I started up a casual conversation with Rick, who turned out to be Executive Chef there. We talked about this blog, he mentioned he’d recently completed his Happy Hour menu overhaul, and invited us for us tasting menu preview. We set a date and stopped by after a long day at the office to try out what turned out to be a thoughtfully detailed menu of appetizers!
The bruschetta was composed of the standard ingredients but each had an enhanced spin: minced basil with a touch of mint too, aged balsamic vinegar, and heirloom red & yellow tomatoes. The change-up in tomato color was a much-needed update, that other restaurants could sit up and take notice of as well. The mint was a fun addition because it broke up the acidity of the other ingredients.
Tri-olive Tapenade was next; Kalamata, Picual and Mission olives intermingled with cold-pressed olive oil, parsley, feta cheese and lemon juice.
Chef Garcia added his technique by rinsing before the olives before dicing them to lessen the salt, allowing the other flavors to shine through side-by-side. The colors were then able to mix together. The elevated presentation in the martini glass added to the “merriment” audible at the table as sample after sample of the new appetizers continued to roll our way…
The sassiest dish that I am excited to order next time I’m at happy hour was the Sexy Nacho. Now, you may be smirking w/ eyebrow cocked ala The Rock thinking, “Oh, the sexy nacho? Really Shannon, what could make this nacho you speak of so alluring?” Well, silence your cynical mental voice and open up your pie hole to try this.
Spicy tuna atop a wonton “chip” with guacamole, a dot of sriracha and nori strips. An entire plateful!
Boomshank eyebrow skeptics, boom. Evan likes spicy foods, and in-between mouthfuls and exchanging happy smiles she said, “Just enough heat, ooh that’s good.”
Chef came out and ensured the appetizers were on par. He took time out and sat to talk with us a bit. I asked him for a few foodie tips while he was a captive audience (Hey, I’ve got to utilize the opportunities for interviews when I can eh?) Right before the Mojito Fries came out of the kitchen he shared a few pearls of wisdom:
Kingston Cafe in Pasadena for mojitos
In-n-Out for a 3×3 burger animal style
Your go-to sushi spot for a crunch dragon roll (his favorite dinner choice)
As he finished telling him about his roots: about how his grandma and grandpa’s restaurant in Lincoln Heights (on Broadway) were the inspiration for him to begin cooking, and how learning recipes like his grandma’s homemade guacamole sauce were his “school” since he was 10 years old… the Mojito Fries came out and silenced us.
We’re talking finely minced garlic, cilantro, lime juice and a splash of rum. We risked finger burns once we caught a whiff of the aromatic scent floating up from the slightly golden fries. The transparent wisps of steam served as a visual warning, but there was no stopping me once I saw the flecks of garlic that triggered food memories of the Gordon Birsch garlic fries served during summertime Mariner’s games at my hometown stadium, Safeco Field.
“Nothing hits the spot like a good potato,” Justine quipped between near-jubilant bites of french fry. We nodded silently, with our mouths full of french fries. Evan braved gluten-intolerance for these bad boys…”Fries are my favorite food.” Stomach pain be damned, in that moment, we feasted on the mountain of deliciously flavored papas fritas regardless of our ability to digest gluten. The consensus was that this is our second favorite appetizer.
To the skeptics… think back to the Sexy Nacho boomshank and saunter over to the El Segundo Double Tree for a try prior to pouring your judginess all over the top of them.
We continued drinking and eating. Chef Garcia shared how he’d removed Bud Light from the beers on tap at the bar in favor of Newcastle and Shocktop seasonal options. He’s also in the process of revamping the breakfast and lunch menu, I look forward to reporting back on the great-tasting updates sometime soon.
Wings came next, served buffalo and Asian-style. The Buffalo style is prepared with melted & strained clarified butter that’s then mixed with buffalo sauce. The Asian style is a sesame ginger sauce accented with black & white sesame seeds. When the final version of this dish hits the menu, one of the preparations incorporate Liar’s Dice Cabernet Sauvignon. I am happy the stand-by veggies made the chopping block. I can go gnar gnar on any given array of appetizers, main dishes and/or desserts, but I always appreciate a chef who can stay focused enough to put her/his play on a dish, yet pay homage to the traditions of its origins.
Koreans named Shannon people cannot feel fully satisfied without a sweet bite to punctuate the experience of a meal. Chef Garcia was about 28 steps ahead of me when he brought out the Deep Fried Double Tree Cookie.
He took the customary welcome cookies that guests receive when they check in and elevated it to a signature level. The cookies are dropped into the deep fryer, then drizzled with a salted caramel sauce, powdered sugar and plated with vanilla ice cream and strawberries. Evan applied her own spin on the dish by nicknaming it the “Deep Fried Business.” You can’t taste the salt, that’s how you know the balance is premeditated wonderful.
Summary: Chef Garcia has made the choice to be at this specific restaurant, revamping each of the menus. He studied at Le Cordon Bleu, and then spent three months in Spain and a month in Italy (Florence and Venice) to learn more in-depth approaches to cooking.
You’ll find Rick here on weekends and weekdays, refining the food with panache, constantly thinking about which personal touches he can apply to the menus. I could tell during my conversation with him that the wheels are always a-turnin’ behind those stylish SPY eyeglasses. Stop by and check in the coming weeks. Thank you Rick!
East Grand Bar and Grille (inside the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel)
Address: 1985 East Grand Ave., El Segundo, CA 90245
Menus examples: http://bit.ly/zlpxjY
This entry was posted on 01/31/2012 at 11:20 pm and is filed under El Segundo, Happy Hour, Interview, Restaurant. Tagged: Double Tree by Hilton, Executive Chef Rick Garcia, Happy Hour menu, Le Cordon Bleu. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.