So I will admit up front that I’m not much of an upscale spa resort kind of guy. Don’t get me wrong, I get off on a good physical indulgence and pampering as much as the next guy, but I just find the smooth jazz atmosphere that permeates most resort type environments a bit white bread for my tastes. This coming from, as my son calls me, “a middle age white guy.” So I’m a walking contradiction. Keeps things interesting right? And I’m not knocking white bread either, I actually prefer my BLTs on it.
Anyway, with La Costa Resort & Spa practically in my backyard, and the memory of a very nice meal there a few years back, I thought it would be worth a revisit with “Lick the Plate.”
I must say, La Costa Resort & Spa is a beautiful place and despite pulling up in the Artichoke Creative truck, we were greeted as enthusiastically as the couple in the Bentley in front of us. We were met by manager Joey Alfano who brought a refreshingly real New York attitude to the table with his stories of driving a bread truck growing up in New York and years in Vegas managing bars and driving limos there. Good stuff Joey.
The Bluefire space itself is stunning, with clean lines, warm earthy tones, multi fabric backs covering the booth seating, and a very spacious outdoor deck that overlooks a courtyard with live music, fire pits and custom fountains. The open kitchen is a treat for foodies to observe and we planted ourselves in front of it to watch Chef Gina Rodriguez conduct the kitchen like a symphony. Chef Rodriguez came to La Costa from the Ventana Room at the acclaimed Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson, Ariz. She was the first female chef to lead the Ventana Room kitchen and the only female chef to earn her restaurant the coveted AAA Five-Diamond rating for 2008. Her success at the Ventana Room also resulted in an invitation to prepare dinner at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City. Although her mother and grandmother are retired cooks, Rodriguez nearly missed her culinary calling. Armed with a degree in Behavioral Psychology, her professional life began in human resources. Unfulfilled, Gina enrolled in the Scottsdale Culinary Institute and has been a rising star in the kitchen ever since. Chef Rodriguez has developed a culinary style she describes as Contemporary New American, which combines classical French technique with Spanish, Italian and Mediterranean influences. This eclectic combination is serving her well at Bluefire.
We started with a seafood roasted Piquillo pepper stuffed with shrimp, scallops, herbs, ricotta cheese and a balsamic reduction lobster veloute. The soup was a really nice spring turnip and Yukon potato with smoked duck, English peas and basil pesto. We rounded out our starters with risotto pearl pasta with duck confit, Parmigiano reggiano and crispy sage. This was a great concept and I loved the combinations but it came out dry and lacking flavor. I will definitely give it another shot next time around and was OK with one miss. We shared a Tat Soi and frisee salad with California goat cheese, creamy orange balsamic dressing and a fun hazelnut Florentine. For those unfamiliar, Tat Soi is an Asian variety of field mustard grown for greens.
Our entrees were very solid with a Muscovy duck breast and Colorado Rack of Lamb.
The duck came with roasted garlic pommes, sautéed pea tendrils, steamed baby carrots, baby turnips, and a blood orange gastrique. It was nice to see a Muscovy duck on the menu as they tend to be meatier and heartier while still full of flavor. The Colorado rack of lamb was served with red beet hash, jumbo green asparagus and mint gremolata and was cooked perfectly.
The service at BlueFire is spectacular with a very knowledgeable and attractive staff that also were very adept at pairing wine with each of our courses. Speaking of wine, the list includes an impressive selection that runs the gamut from moderate to expensive. BlueFire is pricey, yet given the environment, the quality of the food, and the exclusive atmosphere, it’s definitely worth a big night out.
For more information and to make a reservation, visit www.lacosta.com or call (800) 854-5000. Also note that BlueFire is closed Monday and Tuesday.
Filed Under: Lick the Plate