The idea of Restaurant Month was created when “Visit California”announced its first statewide California Restaurant Month for January 2012 to promote business during the slow season. Temecula’s Convention and Visitors Bureau accepted the invitation to join in and coordinate the celebration city wide.
Temecula Valley has named the month of January as Restaurant Month. Restaurant Month gives local residents and visitors the opportunity to indulge in special prix fixe and specialty menus from participating restaurants throughout Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country.
Already a boutique tourist destination, known for its wine region , casino, Old Town activities, and golf offerings, Temecula is blessed with a beautiful year-round climate (January: 68-degree, daytime-average temperature). It is a 1-hour from San Diego, Orange County, and Palm Desert; 1½ hours from Los Angeles.
Perhaps the best time to enjoy Restaurant Month is midweek. Less-busy weekdays make for prospective conversations with chefs, winemakers, and owners. Midweek also means more personalized attention throughout the valley. Think about booking an overnight stay as hotels-motels-resorts are offering special Sunday-through-Thursday (better than weekend) nightly rates starting at $59.99 during Restaurant Month.
1-Meritage at Callaway
Enclosed terrace dining provides vineyard views at Meritage at Callaway. Based on the small-plate/tapas concept of big flavor and variety, Executive Chef Michael Henry uses the freshest local, sustainable ingredients to create tapas, salads, and Mediterranean entrées. “Local is always better,” says Chef Michael. “And the menu is very adaptable with plenty to choose from, whether guests are in a conservative dining mode or seeking a bit more finesse and adventure.” Chef Michael has worked with acclaimed chefs including Robert Irvine of the Food Network; and developed culinary perspective traveling Europe, Central, and South America. Awards: best restaurant; best chef. Lunch: daily; dinner, weekends.
2-Pinnacle at Falkner
With panoramic, hilltop views, Pinnacle at Falkner features fresh, local, seasonal Mediterranean cuisine – a natural for Executive Chef Gianni Ciciliot, the son of Italian immigrants who instilled cooking garden-to-table. “Simple and bold is better,” says Chef Gianni, and so it is with Pinnacle’s Mediterranean-inspired appetizers, sandwiches, pastas, entrees, and desserts like the house-made apple crostata. Chef Gianni apprenticed at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel where Chef Yvon Geotz (now Chef-Partner of The Winery Restaurant, Orange County) was one of his mentors. Awards: best restaurant; best chef. Lunch: daily.
3-Vineyard Rose at South Coast
With views of the estate vineyards and surrounding hills, the casually elegant Vineyard Rose at South Coast offers California-contemporary wine-country cuisine. With the restaurant since its beginning almost 8 years ago, Executive Sous Chef Mike Terry creates signature dishes using natural California beef, fresh seafood, and local and estate-grown vegetables. Among culinary professionals, Chef Mike has worked with and admires for his passion is Executive Chef Bernard Guillas of the Marine Room, La Jolla. Awards: best restaurant; best chef. Dinner: nightly; weekdays: breakfast, lunch, late-afternoon lounge menu; weekends: brunch.
4-Café Champagne at Thornton Winery
The upscale-casual Café Champagne is a French Chateau inspired property. Award-winning Executive Chef Steve Pickell is committed to using local produce and sustainable products. While Chef’s menu changes monthly to adjust to seasonal opportunities, it also reflects longtime customer favorites. Awards: best restaurant; best chef, best wine list. Open 365 days a week for Lunch and dinner and sit down wine tastings, Brunch: Sundays.
5-Shorty’s Bistro at Mount Palomar
Situated on 315 acres, Shorty’s Bistro at Mount Palomar adjoins the Early California-style winery with tasting room, vineyards, and citrus groves. Executive Chef John Hausotter draws upon Mediterranean, Southwestern, and California culinary styles and influences to create wine-country bistro cuisine. “Pairing of food and wine can bring out so many elements in both the food and the wine; it is a challenge I embrace,” says Chef John. Lunch: daily; dinner: weekends.
*Beside the Rainbow Gap
The hallmark of TVSCWC’s natural gifts of climate and geography is the Rainbow Gap located at the valley’s southwest corner. The Rainbow Gap and sister Santa Margarita Gap, a dramatic canyon formed by the Santa Margarita River, play a significant role in funneling coastal influences into the valley from the Pacific Ocean just 22 miles away. TVSCWC’s Mediterranean-like climate is distinguished by a general weather pattern of morning coastal mist, warm midday sun, and afternoon ocean breezes. Adjacent the Rainbow Gap is TVSCWC’s original, prestigious golf resort, Temecula Creek Inn.
6-Temet Grill at Temecula Creek Inn Resort
Surrounded by 350 acres of rustic, natural beauty, Temet Grill is nestled within the Temecula Creek Inn (TCI) Resort with expansive views of TCI’s golf course and the San Jacinto Mountains to the east. Creative dishes and classics with an emphasis on sustainable and local are served at casually elegant Temet Grill where Executive Chef David Fuñe is “redefining a modern farm and plant-to-plate approach.” Creative and innovative (he apprenticed with celebrated Chef Tadashi Ono), Chef David often serves a vegetable three ways on a plate, in progressive variety. His menus also facilitate communal dining with many small plates and meals prepared for ease of sharing. Chef David’s culinary background includes esteemed properties like the Hotel Del Coronado. Awards: best restaurant. Breakfast, lunch, dinner: daily; brunch: Sundays.
Here’s a partial round-up of several of the restaurants participating. *For a complete up-to-date list of restaurants participating in California Restaurant Month in Temecula Valley, menus, and promotions please see http://www.temecula.org/restaurant/. Over the next week look for spotlight articles on 4 of these restaurants – complete with insider recipes.
*Downtown Old Town Temecula district
Downtown Old Town Temecula is TVSCWC’s hip-and-historic, pedestrian-friendly, 12-block, dining-shopping-entertainment district. All restaurants, bistros, and cafés are independently, family-owned and operated; many feature Temecula Valley wines*, and offer alfresco/outdoor patios as well as indoor dining.
Near Old Town Temecula’s southern Gateway Arch, Baily’s Restaurant is located upstairs in one of Old Town’s most handsome neo-Romanesque buildings. Co-chefs Bracken Blucher and Esuan Torres create California/Continental cuisine inspired by the use of fresh, seasonal ingredients using traditional French cooking methods. Fine dining and the romantic-dinner experience are complemented by elegant surroundings. On the dessert menu: an excellent crème brûlée. Dinner: nightly.
8-Front Street Bar & Grill*
Sharing the building and enjoying like ownership as Baily’s, Front Street Bar & Grill is an upscale-casual bistro with indoor and patio dining. Co-chefs Bracken Blucher and Esuan Torres create gourmet burgers, flatbread pizzas, BBQ, and Cajun fare, as well as daily soups and specials that keep the menu fun and fresh. Breakfast, lunch, dinner: daily.
9-The Gambling Cowboy*
The Gambling Cowboy features an elegant, late-19th-century setting. The menu is classic steak-and-seafood, and features high-quality, aged, corn-fed beef along with other selections. Dinner: nightly; closed Mondays.
10-The Bank Mexican Restaurant*
Located in the historic First National Bank of Temecula in the center of Old Town, The Bank Mexican Restaurant features authentic cuisine with recipes from Juana Jato, Mexico. A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu-North America, Executive Chef Mariya Crisler embraces her Mexican heritage; and “loves creating dishes that make the mouth water, the heart beat faster, and the eyes widen. That is success!” Call ahead to dine in The Vault. Awards: best flan. Lunch and dinner: daily; breakfast: weekends.
11-Sweet Lumpy’s BBQ*
Across from the California Mission-revival-style, Temecula Civic Center, Sweet Lumpy’s BBQ is casual, rustic, and savory. This is Old Town Temecula’s authentic barbecue establishment, popular for Chef-Owner John Syroka’s flavorful, slow-roasted ribs, tri-tip, brisket, and chicken; and proprietary-recipe barbecue sauce with its signature hint-of-citrus. From a family of 11 children and with parents who created family-style barbecues, Chef John’s passion for cooking was instilled at an early age. Insider tip: Sweet Lumpy’s barbecue sauce is available for purchase only-at-the-restaurant in 16-ounce jars. Awards: best BBQ. Lunch, dinner: Tuesday-Sunday; closed Mondays.
12-Texas Lil’s Mesquite Grill
Texas Lil’s is Temecula Valley’s original ranch-style steakhouse popular for steaks, bunkhouse favorites, burgers, and greener-pasture salads. Lunch and dinner: daily; country brunch: weekends and holiday Mondays.
13-Robin’s Nest Desserts
For “southern comfort” and to “Live…Love…Dessert!” Those are philosophies of Robin’s Nest Desserts’ Chef-Owner Robin McCoy. Located on the corner of Mercedes and 5th Street, the bakery and dessert room are “the sweeter side” of Old Town: gracious and charming with the specialty of baking memorable, southern-style desserts from scratch (pecan pie, red velvet cupcakes, sweet potato pie, lemon bars, and more). Closed January 1-4 then open daily, closed Mondays.
*Uptown Temecula district
North of Old Town along Jefferson Avenue is Uptown Temecula. To the west, between Jefferson Avenue and the foothills of the coastal mountain range, is the creek that flows to the Santa Margarita River.
14-E.A.T. (Extraordinary Artisan Table) Marketplace/Café
With a casual, friendly atmosphere, E.A.T. Marketplace/Café features the locally sourced Nouveau American cuisine of Executive Chef-Owner Leah Delyte. The daily menu board offers salads, flat breads, soups, artisan sandwiches, and entrees for lunch as well as dinners-to-go. “Fresh, local produce and sustainable meats from small family ranches are the ingredients and products I love to cook with because the flavors are all so bold and true,” says Chef Leah. She has had the immense privilege of working with Alice Waters on Slow Food events and “edible garden” trainings. Of Waters, Chef Leah shares, “As a chef, she has inspired me to be fearless with simple ingredients, and to let them shine in all their beautiful glory.” Chef Leah loves “bringing people to the table, and inspiring them to slow down and savor the moment.” Open: Tuesdays-Saturdays; closed: Sundays/Mondays.
*Promenade Temecula neighborhood
Promenade Temecula is a distinctive, indoor/outdoor, shopping, and dining destination. The retail neighborhood features more than 170 specialty shops including sought-after stores like Macy’s, COACH, LOFT, White House Black Market, Apple, Pottery Barn, and Williams Sonoma.
15-Qdoba Mexican Grill
Fast-casual, Qdoba Mexican Grill creates fresh, handcrafted, made-to-order Mexican fare. Ingredients are prepared fresh each morning and throughout-the-day; and guests play an active role in the creation of their entrée (burritos, tacos, nachos, quesadillas, and taco salads) by personally selecting each fresh ingredient while it is handmade in front of them.
16-The Flame Broiler
Also fast-casual, The Flame Broiler creates simple, healthful Korean-style rice bowls and entrees that are widely appealing. Healthy choices include chicken, beef, and vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, carrots, and green onions.
17-Broken Yolk Café
Casual, home-style Broken Yolk Café serves an amazing variety of omelets plus breakfast favorites like pancakes, waffles, and French toast. Breakfast is served all day; plus signature salads, and half-pound burgers for lunch.
Casual and festive, El Torito is a full-service Mexican restaurant serving fare like enchiladas, carnitas, carne asada, and tacos. Lunch and dinner: daily; brunch: Sundays.
19-Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery
At Celtic-themed sports-bar-and-restaurant, Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery, hospitality-industry veteran Andrea Maue and her staff create English-, Irish-, and Scottish-inspired fare like Gaelic Chicken and Shepherd’s Pie. Lunch and dinner: daily.