What do you call cuisine that looks decadent, tastes scrumptious, yet is actually good for you?
That’s chef Deborah Schneider’s catch phrase to describe many of the dishes on her extensive Mexican-influenced menu at SOL Cocina. Stealth is right, because hidden in the menu are more than 30 vegan, vegetarian or wheat-free items.
Make that formerly hidden, because Chef Deb has created a special supplemental menu to clearly show vegan, vegetarian and wheat-free items served at the restaurant.
“There is this misconception that flavorful Mexican food can be unhealthy and limited to those who do not have dietary restrictions, and this could not be further from the truth,” notes Chef Deb, whose menu focuses on fresh, seasonal and sustainable ingredients.
“Great flavor comes from great ingredients, and many are just as bold and satisfying without dairy or meat,” she adds. “The separate menu highlighting options stems from a sense of responsibility and commitment we feel to our guests.”
And what do her guests think of this separate “stealth health” menu?
“So far, the response has been phenomenal.”
Among the highlighted vegan items (most of which are also wheat-free) featured on SOL’s menu are Black Bean Dip, Chipotle-Tomatillo Salsa, White Corn Tostadas with Chiles & Pepitas, Corn Tortillas, Flour Tortillas (unbuttered), Naked Guacamole, Guacamole SOL (no cheese), Borracho Black Beans (no cheese), Spinach-Garlic Rice, Quinoa Cranberry Salad, Spicy Coleslaw, Grilled Corn Side (no cheese or Chipotle Salsa), Rajas Taco (no cheese), Corn-Poblano Soup (no crema), Ensalada SOL, Arugula Spinach Salad (no cheese), El Veg Torta (no butter on bun, no cheese), Mex Chop Salad (no chicken or cheese, with tequila dressing), Vegetarian Burrito (no cheese or butter), Spinach Salad Picadillo (no chicken or cheese), Chilaquiles (no cheese or eggs), and Papas Papi (no cheese or meat).
Vegetarian options in addition to the vegan items are Vegetarian Quesadilla, Warmed Goat Cheese, Chorizo & Mushrooms Con Queso (no chorizo), Huevos Mexicanos (no meat), and Quesadilla con Huevos.
And if that’s not enough, you still have time to enjoy one of Chef Deb’s eight new winter menu items.
“This is a great time of year to really showcase the season’s offerings and get creative with dishes,” says Chef Deb. “I feel a responsibility and commitment to our guests to make sure that they are eating quality ingredients, and I know that many of them appreciate that practice.”
Among the new items featured on the dinner menu is Shrimp & Bacon Guacamole with Chicharron and Green Apple (Signature Naked Guacamole topped with four chipotle-sauteed shrimp, crumbled bacon, chicharron and diced green apple).
“If you’re looking for the ultimate guacamole experience, this is it,” says Chef Deb. “It’s smoky, a little bit spicy and very rich.”
Also on the winter dinner menu is Strawberry, Serrano & Cucumber Guacamole with Candied Walnuts (Basic Guacamole topped with fresh strawberries, diced cucumbers, candied walnuts, and Serrano chiles).
“Fruit guacamoles are very popular in Mexico,” notes Chef Deb. “This is not sweet – a great option for diners who do not want onion or cilantro, but still crave great flavor.”
And, in keeping with Chef Deb’s love of Baja street food, she’s added Grilled Sweet Corn with Butter, Cotixa, Lime & Guajillo Chiles, and Chipotle Sauce (“This is the ultimate “street food” with a SOL twist, of course.”), Yellowtail Aguachiles Verde with Volcano Salsa (“This is a variation of a ceviche – aguachiles can be found on every beach in Mexico. Our “verde” comes from jalapenos, and on a heat scale of 1-10, it’s a 7.”), and Grilled ‘Al Pastor’ Tacos (“Al Pastor tacos are the iconic Mexico City taco cooked on every street corner.”).
For more info on SOL, visit SOLCocina.com.
New Chefs at Island Hotel
A new year mean’s new chefs for one local upscale hotel and restaurant.
Longtime Island Hotel Executive Chef Bill Braken has left the Fashion Island property (and its signature Palm Terrace restaurant).
In his place is new executive chef David Man, who returns to Island Hotel, where he previously served as chef de cuisine and then executive sous chef. He will oversee all culinary operations, including the hotel’s signature restaurant,Palm Terrace, along with banquet and outside catering services, in-room dining, menu development, special programs, restaurant staffing and supervision.
Man didn’t have far to travel back to Island Hotel. Most recently he held chef de cuisine positions at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach and the Diamond Club and Knothole restaurants at Anaheim’s Angel Stadium (proof that there is more than hot dogs at the ballpark).
Prior to holding these positions, he helped reopen fine-dining restaurant Aubergine in Newport Beach, and served as chef de cuisine at the former Troquet in Costa Mesa.