I’ve had to do a turnaround on hotel restaurants this past couple of weeks — the most recent being in response to dining at Meritage, the signature restaurant at the iconic 99-year-old Claremont Hotel Club & Spa on the Oakland / Berkeley border.
The focus of the Meritage “chef’s table” sampler was to introduce Chef de Cuisine Scott Quinn, who began his tutelage under Thomas Kellar of The French Laundry in the Napa Valley, Per Se in New York — and in the case of the Quinn-Keller link, Bouchon Bistro in Las Vegas — fame.
Quinn started at the stylish Meritage, with it’s fabulous San Francisco Bay views, in October last year. “Chef Quinn refused to speak to me before I’d tried his food,” Claremont Food and Bev manager Sean Hubbard said, recalling the interview process. “He was confident, not cocky. He just wanted his food to speak for itself.”
The Meritage opened three years ago, replacing the old Jordan’s, as part of an upgrade of the classic, grand hotel now preparing for its centenary. The concept, said Hubbard, came from the Boston Harbor Hotel. (The Meritage in Boston has been called the city’s most romantic restaurant and — with the right person — the Meritage at the Claremont is a pretty romantic Bay Area option.)
Since Quinn arrived, he has taken Chef Daniel Bruce of Boston Meritage’s original concept, adapted it “and never looked back,” said Hubbard.
We were served selections from Chef Quinn’s dinner menu, all with wine pairings (one of the Meritage nighttime dining options) designed to showcase the chef’s 2013 culinary vision.
True to form, he waiting until we’d eaten to come out to answer questions — by which time his food had done the talking.
See what we were served, below, as a sample of Meritage menu dinner offerings.
- Sweet-savoury-crunchy bacon-wrapped Medjool dates (with Marcona almonds (from Spain), Maytag blue cheese and pickled red onions).
- Champagne Poached Pear Salad (Belgian endive, Laura Chenel goat cheese laurachenel.com/ “croutons” and Marcona almond vinaigrette) — paired with Domaine Carneros Le Reve Blanc de Blancs, Carneros, ’06.
- Roasted Baby Beet Salad (Proscuitto de Parma, toasted pistachios, Point Reyes blue cheese mousse) — paired with Di Bruno, Sanford and Benedict Vineyard Pinot Grigio, Rita Hills, ’10.
- Yellow Fin Tuna Tartare (with confit winter citrus, fennel, petite mint, blood orange and espelette viérge) — paired with Duckhorn Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Napa, ’11.
- Maine Sea Scallops (with toasted quinoa, cauliflower, capers and sultana raisin emulsion) — paired with Barnett Vineyards Sangiacomo Vineyard Chardonnay, Carneros, ’11.
- Oxtail Rillette (with persimmon gelée, pickled winter vegetables, horseradish and toasted baguette) — paired with Chimney Rock Cabernet Sauvignon, Stag’s Leap district, Napa, ’07.
- Sonoma Breasts of Duck (with grilled Belgian endive, vanilla parsnip mousseline, cara cara orange and huckleberry gastrique) — paired with Kokumi Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, ’10.
- “Elvis” Bread Pudding — (carmelized banana, peanut butter ice cream and maple bacon) — paired with Arrowood Late Harvest Riesling, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, ’07.
Quinn received his formal culinary education at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute. His impressive experience includes work as the executive sous chef at Red Rock Café, garde manager and chef de partie at Fiamma Trattoria — and sous chef at Bouchon Bistro in Las Vegas (under the tutelage of Keller).
The other venue that caused me to do a turnaround on hotel restaurants the past couple of weeks? Chef Ken Frank’s La Toque restaurant at the Westin Verasa in downtown Napa, which hosted a Napa Truffle Festival cocktail party and dinner. See Romancing the Exotic, Erotic Black Diamond Truffle. I sometimes forget hotels are home to some of pretty classy restaurants. My bad!
Meritage at the Claremont serves breakfast 6:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Sunday; brunch 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday; lunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday; dinner 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, lounge 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Read more about The Claremont here.
Wanda Hennig, 2013