The celebration of Passover and Easter this past weekend had many of us planning holiday brunch and family get togethers, some in the comfort of your own home and many at favorite special occasion spots. Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale’s South Coast Plaza certainly puts on a magnificent brunch – every Sunday, not just Easter Sunday, with a spectacular make-your-own Bloody Mary bar included!
Personally, I avoid the brunch crush on two days of the year: Easter, and you guessed it, Mother’s Day. I prefer the mid-morning church service and/or egg hunt, or sleeping in, followed by the (relative) calm, leisurely flow of brunch at home with bottomless glasses of champagne (or mimosas) overflowing with my choice of bubbly.
What suits me better is joining friends for a cocktail and a few delectable small plates after a hectic day or maybe a post-theatre nibble to linger a little longer with that special someone. The location and chic ambiance of Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale’s is an ideal place for both, and their Small Plates menu and selection of handcrafted cocktails is sure to please, whether your taste leans toward sliders and beer or escargot and champagne.
The Kobe Style Beef Sliders and Blue Cheese Stuffed Dates are perennial favorites, but let me show you a few of the newer additions to the Small Plates Menu that I had the opportunity to experience when, as one among a group of Orange County food writers and bloggers, I was invited to taste and offer input on the menu to Executive Chef Seakyeong Kim and General Manager Christopher Moran.
First things first, tastings of three of the signature cocktails: Scratch & Sniff (top) Bombay gin, Aperol, lychee puree, guava and lime juice is pleasantly sweet and tart; Blood Orange Mojito (center) a vibrant twist to the classic mojito, and Little Gypsy (bottom) scored with a lovely garnish of dried slices of Meyer lemon and Charlie Palmer’s shared the recipe so you can try it at home.
As far as the small plates are concerned, the hits for me were the two salads – fresh and crispy with layers of flavor that nicely offset the richness of the richer meat plates and the dominant Asian flavors in the dumplings and steamed buns. Plus, they’re good for your bod and I always try to feature lighter, healthier options here.
Yes, everyone seems to have a Roasted Beet Salad and there’s a reason for it – they’re popular! I really liked the textural addition of hazelnuts along with bright citrus and creamy goat cheese.
The other standout was the Seaweed Salad (above) -colorful plate with fantastic flavors from the apple-miso vinaigrette and crispy nori.
Other small plates included Steamed Clams, Roasted Bone Marrow, Lamb Belly Steamed Buns, Steamed Escargot Dumplings, and Head Cheese Croquettes. By far, the crowd pleaser was the Bone Marrow with a sweet and savory black garlic and prune pesto which was heavenly schmeared on the slices of grilled bread. With California outlawing foie gras, bone marrow is the new delicacy on practically every upscale menu. If done right, it makes a stunning, primordial presentation and a richly decadent splurge when dining out since most of us are not preparing fancy bones at home.
Steamed Clams | chorizo, roasted garlic aioli
Roasted Bone Marrow | black garlic, prune pesto, grilled bread
Lamb Belly Steamed Buns | gochujang, cucumber, tamarind, sesame
Steamed Escargot Dumplings | herb garlic butter, parmesan cheese
Head Cheese Croquettes | kimchi remoulade
Upscale and unique small plates for sure! Personally, the buns, dumplings and croquettes were a miss for me. In my opinion, expensive ingredients are best when highlighted in their purest form and I found the buns to be too big and the dumplings too thick glutinous. General Manager, Christopher Moran and Executive Chef Kim requested our honest feedback after the tasting, which they may have regretted, and perhaps they have made some adjustments. Regardless, there is plenty to be appreciated on Charlie Palmer’s small plates menu and you need to try them for yourself!
In the meantime, try the Little Gypsy – a refreshing cocktail that will impress your taste buds and relax & revive you after a long day 🙂
- 2 ounces Bombay gin
- 3 dashes rhubarb bitters
- ½ ounce simple syrup
- 1 sage leaf
- 2 ounces grapefruit juice
- Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add in one scoop of ice. Shake well. Pour into rocks glass and serve. Garnish with lime or lemon slices if desired.
South Coast Plaza
3333 Bear Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626