When Mel Haber serves his lunch and dinner at his fabled Palm Springs restaurant Melvyn’s - it’s often served with a side of Hollywood nostalgia. Melvyn’s is attached to the historic Ingleside Inn, the Hollywood haven of such Hollywood stars as Gable and Lombard. After Haber bought the property Melvyn's became the Palm Springs celebrity haunt for lunch, dinner and late night socializing since it opened in1975.
“When I came to Palm Springs 50-percent of the town was celebrities. There was Sinatra and his Rat Pack, Hope, Lucille Ball and Elvis. They were all here,” said Mel. “ I caught the tail end of the old Palm Springs Hollywood glamour in the day when Palm Springs was referred to by celebrities as the Racquet Club.”
When Haber arrived and bought the Ingleside Inn and opened Melvyn’s it was right after the old racquet club had been closed and sold. According to Mel, at the time it made his place the only happening place town.
Melvyn’s is still a happening place. Not just because of its celebrity clientele it still enjoys but because the menu still features a classic continental cuisine, now considered retro, that’s moderately priced and served with style. It’s an affordable luxury that you don't have to have a movie star’s salary to enjoy.
“Most people don’t realize how affordable it is here,” said Mel. “ And it’s just not my place – look around. What would be a high price place (restaurant or hotel) here in Palm Springs is what a moderately priced place is anywhere else in the country.”
Over the last 35 years Melvyn’s menu has seen some changes but luckily some things have remained. There's still tableside cooking where steaks are flambéed and salads are tossed, a culinary art still preformed daily. And Sinatra’s favorite Veal Ingleside along with the Melvyn’s Cobb Salad are still customer favorites.
“You got to try the Cobb Salad,” said Haber. “When the daughter of the creator of the original Brown Derby’s Cobb Salad ate our Cobb Salad - she told me that our salad was the best she outside of the one her father made.”
With Oscar night arrives consider adding a touch of Hollywood glitz to your dinner with Mel's recipe for Veal Ingleside, a favorite of Frank Sinatra. The Cobb Salad recipe is from the Original Brown Derby, the now shuttered Hollywood landmark. To learn more about Mel Haber and Palm Springs check out www.visitpalmsprings.com.
3 ounces veal cutlet, pounded until thin
1/4 cup peanut oil
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup sherry wine
1/4 cup demi glaze
1/4 avocado, thinly sliced
2 ounces mousseline sauce
Heat oil over a medium high heat. Dust veal with flour, and then dip into the beaten egg. Sauté veal for about 30 seconds or until lightly brown on each side. Remove veal from pan, and then pour off any oil left in sauté pan. Return veal to pan, add the sherry and demi glaze and cook fro another minute. Remove from pan, plate, garnish with avocado slices and cover with about 2 ounces of Mousseline sauce.
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup Hollandaise sauce
Whip together until thick and smooth.
2 egg yolks,
2 tablespoons lemon juice
dash of white pepper, optional
1 stick butter, divided into thirds
Combine egg yolks, lemon juice and pepper in a saucepan. Place over a medium heat and whisk in one piece of butter at a time stirring constantly until all the butter has melted and sauce is thick. Makes about 1 cup.
Editor’s note: recipe has been adjusted for the home kitchen. Demi glaze can be found at higher end grocery stores and gourmet shops.
The Original Brown Derby Cobb Salad
1/2 head iceberg lettuce (about 4 cups)
1 bunch watercress
2 1/2 cups chicory (curly endive)
2 1/2 cups romaine
2 medium tomatoes peeled and chopped
6 strips crisp bacon, crumbled
2 cooked chicken breasts, chopped
3 hard cooked eggs, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1/2 cup Roquefort cheese
2 tablespoons chopped chives
For the dressing:
Finely chop the lettuce, watercress, chicory and romaine together and arrange in a large shallow bowl. Arrange in strips on op of lettuce the tomatoes, bacon chicken, hard cooked eggs and avocado. Sprinkle with chives. Serve with dressing on the side or toss with 1 cup of dressing.
Cobb Salad Dressing
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon dry English mustard
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup vegetable oil (salad oil)
Blend all ingredients together, expert oils. Whisk in oils. Dressing will store refrigerated for two weeks. Whisk dressing together again before tossing into salad.