Last week I had the pleasure of joining my friend Lori's mother for a terrific foodie outing in Santa Monica. Lori's mother, who lives in New York City, was given a very nice gift and asked me to be her guest for part of it. She spent three luxurious nights in a beautiful suite overlooking the beach at the Casa del Mar hotel in Santa Monica. On day two of her visit, last Wednesday, I met her at the hotel at 9:00 a.m. and we went to the Santa Monica Farmers' Market with the hotel's chef, Michael Reardon. We helped Chef Reardon pick out ingredients that he then prepared for us that night at Catch, the hotel's restaurant that overlooks the Pacific. We spent forty-five minutes or so walking the market; Chef Reardon looked through the amazing produce, spoke with a few of the purveyors, and listened to our likes and dislikes. Later that night we returned to the hotel for our special famers' market dinner. Here is the menu that Chef Reardon created for us:
Alaskan Halibut with Piperade and Littleneck Clams
Braised Beef Short Ribs with Wiser Farms Carrots, and Potato Puree
Panna Cotta with Local Strawberries
The food was wonderful; perfectly prepared. No fancy tricks here. Good, clean, straight forward preparations and flavors. Honest cooking. The exciting part for me was knowing where the ingredients came from, and being part of selecting them. I knew they were local, very fresh ingredients because I was with the chef when he chose them. Both Lori's mother and I were very pleased with our meal. Every dish was prepared with care and an eye for detail. The short ribs were so good that Lori's mother made a reservation for the next night on our way out so she could have them again. Some of the menu items that Chef Reardon picked out at the farmers' market included the figs, arugula and the Tomcord grapes in the fig dish. I'd never heard of Tomcord grapes before, and just as the name implies, they're a cross between a Thompson seedless and a Concord grape. To make the piperade for the halibut, he used several varieties of peppers from the market. Wiser Farms is a well-known local, organic farm that supplies many of the local farmers' markets and chefs with amazing produce. The carrots and potatoes in the short ribs dish came from Wiser Farms. And the strawberries in the panna cotta came from Harry's Berries at the market. Harry's Berries is a berry farm out of Oxnard, California.
Chef Reardon oversees the restaurants at three properties in the Edward Thomas Collection (ETC) of hotels: Shutters on the Beach and Casa del Mar in Santa Monica, and Hotel Andalucia in Santa Barbara. He has also cooked at Tra Vigne, and Cantinetta and Wine Bar in the Napa Valley. While living on the East Coast he had his own restaurant, Bistro Zella in Upstate New York. His early cooking days found him in the kitchen of the legendary New York restaurant Le Bernardin.
The day and evening were a pleasure. I thank Lori's mother for inviting me to be her guest. And I thank Chef Reardon for a delicious and enjoyable meal at Catch.