Simply sitting outdoors last evening with friends at the new SO•PA Restaurant while the lit moon kept its slow rise above the dreamy sea of clouds, casually swayed us into an inviting mood of love. We’re talking about the love of fine dining while comfortably ensconced in a brilliant design setting that reeks of Palm Springs elegance.
You readers often wish this column to alert eager diners, foodies, and wine lovers to the latest dining experience about town to speak of. Well—in this case, SO•PA (an abbreviated take on South Palm) is a culinary phenomenon materializing right before our palates. It’s an eventful treat that we desert dwellers can enjoy early on—that is to say, before the whole world takes notice and packs up the place. Hyperbole?
Actually—not to worry just yet. The restaurant and the luxurious wine bar are entirely outdoors with very spacious seating and owns a design scheme that energizes the artist in us, and, did I mention how romantic is the ambiance ?
It’s located at the luxurious L’Horizon Hotel & Spa, which was recently purchased by L.A.–based designer and admitted luxury-hotel devotee Steve Hermann. Built in 1952 by legendary Desert Modern architect William F. Cody as a retreat and later becoming a hotel which had hosted the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable, the Nixons and the Reagans during its heyday. Check out the mid-century architectural contours at lhorizonpalmsprings.com.
As with all great restaurants, its personnel has to match the inspired decor. Avanti!—enter Italian-born chef Giacomo Pettinari, who has worked and trained at famed restaurants all around the world, including Chef Ferran Adrià’s El Bulli, and Piero Salvaggio’s Valentino, where Pettinari earned a Michelin star!
Along with Pettinari’s given talent of preparing Mediterranean cuisine, the chef also showcases an immense range of culinary artistry gleaned from his international accomplishments. Now opened for breakfast, we can view his fresh selection seasonal dishes for a fabulous lunch and exquisite dinners at the above-referenced website or simply click here at /sopa-restaurant.
Let’s look forward to interviewing Giacomo for some follow-up restaurant reviews. His stint at El Bulli has to be an eye-opener: an extraordinary life and work experience on the Costa Brava, some two hours north of Barcelona. Chef Pettanari will no doubt continue to unleash the art of deconstructing and reconstituting all types of food and libations in such a specialized craft.
Our group enjoyed the chef’s Tasting Menu. We enjoyed the Black Quinoa Salad, prepared with hazelnuts, cranberries, celery, scallions along with an IPA Beer vinegar. Wonderful and recommended. Next we were treated to an amazing Arancino, the coated fried rice balls prepared with Val D’Aosta Fontina Cheese along with a bright and tasty Red Pepper Sauce.
When served the Durham Ranch Poussin in Confit, we all simply sat back to dwell on the arresting aroma of the young bird that was prepared with Apple Purée, Red Wine Gastrique, and Baby Artichokes. Another dish not to be missed.
Our dessert, 5 Spices Medjool Date Cake amidst Butterscotch Sauce, Honey Powder, Chai Tea Sherbet and Filbert Tuille was as scrumptious as it sounds.
We met Michael Worth, the restaurant manager, who is also—as I so deem—one of the new wine wise guys in town. As one would expect with an evolving menu and accompanying wine list, the wine section will increase with both focus and variety. Michael describes his ensuing collection to include both vintage and sought-after bottles to match and pair with Chef’s enticing dishes. Of course we checked out the luxurious wine bar pavillon surrounded by sleek bungalows and poolside cabanas with a view overlooking the most dramatic desert mountain views in Palm Springs. Enjoy the fresh craft cocktails, the evolving wine list, and many fresh food options into the night as the pool and ambient backgrounds illuminate.
For our meal, on the current wine list, we were graced with the Sonoma County, Dry Creek Vineyard Chenin Blanc. This wine originated in the famed Loire River Valley and is often referred to Vouvray. Here in our own Sonoma surrounds, this grape is produced dry with a very fresh melon and tropical fruit profile. The red wine provided was an Italian Merlot from the Trentino area in northern Italy. Barone Fini produced the medium-bodied Merlot that remained fresh in the glass and paired perfectly with the Arancino and Poussin.
And great news! SO•PA has announced that Chef Giacomo Pettinari will create the restaurant’s first THANKSGIVING DINNER, November 26, and will serve this five-course meal in a single 4 PM SEATING.
The first course served is Smoked Salmon morsel (Fermented Cream, Sweet and Sour Preserved Lemon, Confit Grape Tomato, Osetra Caviar), followed by a Torchon (Poached Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Last Summer’s Balsamic Pickled Black Figs, Marcona Almonds, Liquid Brioche), Puna Garden Hawaiian Hearts of Palm (Warm Bechamel Sauce, Gelled Egg, Shaved White Truffle, Smoked Sea Salt Flakes), and Pulled Organic Mary Turkey Roulade (Brown Butter and Sage Butternut Squash Pillows, Black Winter Truffle and Porto Sauce). The dessert course features Cranberry Sorbet and Traditional Pecan Pie, Modern Presentation.
Wines for each course are smart pairings of Italian, French, Austrian and Australian vintages.
Thanksgiving at SO•PA will be served at 4 pm. Prices for the five-course dinner are $125 per person or $149 per person including the wine pairings. Reservations: 760.323.1858
So heartfelt felicitations to the staff at SO•PA, and, to our dining public who now get to experience the aim and objective of such talented and artistic minds as this venue continues to enlighten our valley
Cheers! and Bon Appétit!
SO•PA L’Horizon Resort & Spa Palm Springs 1050 East Palm Canyon Drive Palm Springs, CA 92264 760-323-1858 Now serving Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner daily.
Rick Riozza is the valley’s somm-about-town who’s beat is to eat and drink at various food and wine venues in Palm Springs and its surrounds. A freelance writer and contributor to Tasting Panel Magazine and a wine reviewer for palmspringslife.com, he is also the Brand Ambassador for the historic Galleano Winery. Rick entertains and conducts locally at wine tastings, food & wine events, and fun wine seminars. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.