Palm Springs is a place that I visited briefly once many moons ago when I used to be friends with a guy named Bill. Bill was a punk rock loving banker who didn’t like his job and he was an incredibly full of life person. The only reason I ever visited Palm Springs before was because Bill wanted to show Alyssa and I around the town even though we had just spent a few hours stuck in traffic on the way back from Las Vegas. We were tired and still had a drive ahead of us to get home, but we did indulge him and took the briefest of tours around town. The only thing I remember of that visit was that there were these mist things spraying mist everywhere and I thought that was so cool they did that. As a native San Diegan who’s spoiled rotten with the nice weather, this idea that people needed mist things was a bit astounding to me.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago when I was invited to come to a media dinner at Circa 59 at the Riviera Palm Springs. I initially turned it down but then ended up going on a last minute getaway to Palm Springs with my partner in crime (and life!), Jake. Jake used to live in the Palm Springs area in the late 1990′s, so it was a trip down memory lane for him as well since he was able to show me all of the places he lived and worked. What a great little trip this turned out to be!
So… be prepared for road trip/Palm Springs posts this week!
The Riviera Palm Springs was opened in 1959 and became a destination hot spot in Palm Springs where the Rat Pack, Elvis Presley and many other stars stayed and performed in the 1960′s. “Circa 59″ gets its name from the hotel being around since 1959. How cool is that?
This is the inside of the Circa 59 restaurant inside the Riviera Palm Springs hotel. How swanky is this place?! I loved the red and black decor, the crazy elaborate chandeliers, and just the glamorous art deco feel of the restaurant (and the hotel overall – hotel review coming this week).
This is one of the outdoor eating areas. This part was outside but still under the building eaves with a large open spare. I love the drapes, the chairs and the high red booth off in the distance.
These high backed chairs and seating area was out on the patio, which overlooks the pool. Pretty much the only time you want to eat outside in the summer in Palm Springs is either early in the morning, or way after the sun has gone down.
For the media dinner, we ate in a private room with other guests and we sampled items from Chef Jesse Souza’s new summer menu. Above is the menu. Everything was served family style so we were able to try a little bit of this and that for dinner.
While waiting for the rest of the guests to arrive, Jake and I snagged a few of these tasty, warm bread rolls to tide us over. We literally had been at the hotel for about 20 minutes before we walked into the dining room since our drive up took a little longer than expected.
[warm goat cheese with grilled figs, pistachios and local honey]
I knew we were off to a good start when this plate of goodness was set before us. We’ve got a warm, creamy goat cheese in the middle. Then there’s the warm, grilled, sweet figs, crunch pistachios and drizzles of honey all over it. I put everything onto a slice of warm bread and was in pure heaven. It was a brilliant way to do “salty and sweet” with the saltiness coming from the pistachios and the goat cheese and the sweetness shining through from the figs and honey. The grilling of the figs really brought out some depth of flavor and this was one of my favorite dishes of the night.
[lettuce wraps with chilled shrimp, vegetable slaw and ponzu sauce]
At first it was hard to see the shrimps hiding in the lettuce when this was first placed on the table, but a quick peek showed me shrimp and I got excited. The chilled shrimp on this one almost made me think of eating a shrimp cocktail in a wrap. The slightly sweet ponzu sauce and the cilantro and slaw gave these wraps a distinctly “Asian” flavor to me. I loved the crisp coolness of this dish – a perfect item to enjoy on a warm summer night.
[flatbread topped with heirloom tomatoes, gruyere cheese and basil]
I’ve had flatbread and similar things like this tons of places, so I didn’t think this one to be too original – but it was still quite yummy, especially with the addition of fresh heirloom tomatoes. I also did like the touch of basil done in two ways – as a sauce and in a chiffon of basil leaves.
[wedge blt salad with candied bacon and jalapeno ranch dressing]
For whatever reason, I looooooves me some wedge salads. It’s pretty much the only way I want to eat iceberg lettuce since otherwise iceberg lettuce is completely boring. Cut it into wedges though and somehow this makes me happy. I think it tastes crisper this way instead of just boring leaves. This Wedge “BLT” salad really knocked things out of the park with the addition of delicious candied bacon and a creamy, slightly spicy jalapeno ranch dressing. Little cherry tomatoes poked the plate to complete the “BLT”. Jake and I both gushed over the candied bacon. The jalapeno is a wonderful added spice and addition to the ranch, giving it a nice kick in an otherwise cool and creamy ranch dressing.
[kale caesar salad with croutons, lemon and tomato]
Caesar Salad. Made with Kale. WHAT?!
It was never in my life ever occurred to me to use kale like this. The only time I’ve ever had kale is either in a soup (which I love) or it ends up as a side ingredient in another dish or as a garnish on my plate. Jake and I both really loved this one – JAKE, I mean, holy cow, the guy who told me he doesn’t like vegetables when we first started dating liked a whole salad that starred kale.
It might have to do with the fact that the kale was covered in a really delicious Caesar dressing and oodles of Parmesan cheese but damn. It was such a tasty salad. Very light and super refreshing – such a great thing to have in the summer as well. Another of our favorite dishes that night!
[heirloom tomatoes with burrata cheese and olive oil]
This dish had my heart at “burrata”. Have you ever eaten burrata before? Burrata is like mozzarella except it’s filled with cream and is much softer than mozzarella. It is heavenly delicious and this version was no exception. I could happily eat fresh burrata and tomatoes for the rest of my life and be a happy girl.
[flatiron steak with maître d' butter and asparagus]
Flatiron steak – cooked to a perfect medium rare. Oh, thank you, food gods.
Surprisingly to me, the asparagus here was Jake’s favorite thing of the night! It was prepared very simply and was quite delicious, I must admit. I guess cheese always wins my heart so it wasn’t *my* favorite, but I thought you guys should know.
The flatiron was also very tender and simply prepared. A good cut of me like this doesn’t need a lot of bells and whistles to make it special, just a perfect grilled (and some delicious butter helps too – this Maître d‘ butter had a love affair with some garlic, which I highly approve of).
[roast chicken with peas & corn, spinach and goat cheese fritters]
The roast chicken was sadly my least favorite item of the evening. I might have picked out a bad piece because the bit that I tried was quite dried out (it was white meat) and I just ate the skin which was only sort of crispy. The goat cheese fritters sounded really excellent to me, but the intensity of the goat cheese became a little overwhelming. I think it would have balanced better with a sweet sauce or something else mixed in to tone down the richness of the goat cheese by itself.
[lobster mac & cheese with truffle oil]
Everyone seemed to be itching to get these spoons into the lobster mac and cheese dish. I love that golden, bubbly top!
The lobster mac and cheese was creamy and intensely rich. There was some really nice chunks of lobster and the truffle oil wasn’t too heavy handed.
[seared ahi tuna with quinoa tabbouleh, avocado yogurt and jalapeno chimichurri]
This is for documentation purposes only. Mary doesn’t like tuna. Mary did try a tiny bite but her opinion did not change.
The quinoa was tasty though!
[warm chocolate cake with ice cream]
Warm chocolate cake should be served with ice cream like 6 out of 10 times, depending on the cake. I thought this dessert kind of needed the ice cream to pair with the chocolate cake. The cake was a little bit dry. I think I was expecting something like a flourless fudgy like warm cake but this was not what was in my mind. A bit denser, a bit dry, but not terrible. Just not my favorite.
[passion fruit creme brulee]
The creme brulee was the stronger of the two desserts but I think I don’t think I was a super fan of the passion fruit flavor. It was wasn’t bad but again, wasn’t great. But still, it’s creamy creme brulee with crunchy sugar coating so I’ll try not to complain too much about it.
I felt the strong points of the dinner were the appetizers and salads. But overall, we had such an incredibly delicious dinner and lots of good company from the other guests and from a visit with Chef Jesse Souza as well as the general manager Tom Wright who gave us a brilliant tour of the property after dinner. Stay tuned for my review of the hotel itself as well as a few more spots from the Palm Springs area later this week!
at the Riviera Palm Springs
1600 North Indian Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, CA 92262
* Disclaimer – I was invited to attend a complimentary media dinner at the restaurant. I was not paid for this review and all opinions here are my own.
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