It was my birthday and the company was holding an employee golf tournament at the Temecula Creek Inn, in Temecula, so I booked a room at the special rate for the Mrs. and myself for the weekend, and forgot about The Liquid Diet for one day. We were not there for the golf, just a little R&R.
After enduring the Friday evening traffic jam on I-15 between the 60 and the 91, and then again at the Highway 79 exit in Temecula, we arrived at this small hotel surrounded by 27 holes of golf course, which meant trees, grass, water, boulders, hillsides and assorted plant and animal life. A very pleasant oasis, surrounded by the urban sprawl that has become the Temecula area.
Friday evening was room service. All food and beverage service is supplied by the
Temet Grill kitchen. The room service menu offers a very small sub-set of the Temet Grill menu, so our options for a room service evening meal were fairly limited. The Mrs. opted for the Char-Grilled Cheeseburger listed on the menu as Certified Sterling Beef, Parmesan Garlic Fries, and Cheddar Cheese. I started with the Young Country Greens, listed on the menu as Cherry tomatoes, Kalamata Olives, Orange Segments, Zinfandel Feta Vinaigrette and also had the Temecula Creek Club, listed on the menu as Roasted Turkey, Melted Swiss, Crispy Bacon, Basil Aioli.
The salad was pleasant and refreshing, if just a bit smaller than I would have preferred. The club sandwich was one of the better club sandwiches that I have had recently. It arrived on grilled sourdough bread, the turkey was smoked turkey breast and the bacon was thick cut, possibly peppered, and was of very good quality. Normally I dont care for cheese on my club sandwiches nor do I care for the sandwich to be grilled, but rather room temperature meant on toast, however, this rendition, together with the basil aioli had just the right balance of flavors and textures. It became quite apparent from this meal and our dining the following day that the chef in this kitchen and his staff have achieved a balance between the ingredients they choose and their preparation that comes that results in a very pleasing experience for the diners. This not large scale, hotel/institutional food, but rather food prepared with an understanding and appreciation of what each component brings to a dish. I also scored a small corner of the Mrs. burger, which was ordered as well done (but really seemed to have come out medium-well) and this was excellent beef, flavorful and with a nice char, I would put this burger up against any product from any venue in the L.A. area.
We also had two diet Pepsis the Mrs. had a piece of carrot cake. She ate the whole piece and did not offer to share any. Dinner from room service ran about $54.00, which included a room service charge and a mandatory 20% gratuity
We slept in Saturday and presented ourselves at the Temet Grill at about 12:30 for lunch. The dining rooms overlook the golf course, and is apparently one level above the golf course starter, so during the day there is plenty of activity to observe as the golfers practice their mind over muscle control on the golf course and their driving skills on the cart trails. We were able to greet some of my work colleagues as they came in from their rounds, and I was assured by one of them that my eyes were not deceiving me, I did in fact observe the water level of the lake in the middle of the course rise, due to the number of golf balls sent swimming by my esteemed hacker colleagues.
We each had a Caesar salad for starters, and the Mrs. opted for a burger again and I ordered the Pan Seared Snapper Filet (sandwich), which was garnished with a Chipotle Mayonnaise and served on grilled cibatta bread, with a Passion Fruit Cabbage Slaw. The salads were good, all they consisted of was Romaine leaves, some shaved Parmesan and a creamy Caesar dressing, (they seemed to have forgotten the croutons, which were not missed). The dressing was flavorful and applied with a light hand, so the salad did not taste overpoweringly of salad dressing; the cheese was very good and had a robust, pure flavor. The balance of greens, dressing and cheese was a perfect beginning. The piece of seared snapper was outstanding, a thick, chunk of snapper filet cooked perfectly, the chipotle mayo was just the right proportion, enhancing the fish, giving a fleeting bite from the peppers, but not overpowering, and certainly no way near in comparison to a glop of tartar sauce. The fish and the mayo on the warm, grilled bread were a perfect balance of tastes and textures, then the slaw on the side added another dimension, the cabbage fresh and crisp, the dressing imparting a sweetness to the cabbage and a perfect counter-point to the bit of heat from the chipotle mayo. This was a very satisfying sandwich. My stomach was full after this meal, but if another sandwich had materialized on my plate, I probably would have inhaled it. For beverages the Mrs. had a flavored iced tea (probably raspberry), my palate disdains flavored iced teas and I had a plain iced tea, with lemon and Equal. The tab for lunch came to about $48 excluding tip.
After lunch we took a drive through Old Town Temecula, which has been "touristified" and then out Rancho California Drive to the wineries. The last time, which must be 10 or 15 years ago, that we visited the Temecula wine country the drive out on Rancho California was a nice, slow paced country drive no more, wall to wall urban development, from the I-15 all the way to the first winery, Thornton, with all the courtesy that can be expected from young, foolish, urban drivers on the road.
I was hunting for a sweet, smooth Gewürztraminer and we ended up at Van Roekel. I have said it before and am not ashamed to say it again, the Mrs. and Yours Truly are admitted and unabashed wine hicks, we make no pretenses to any knowledge let alone expertise in the art of producing wine or in the ability to distinguish between and appreciate fine wines, we are, however, eminently qualified in judging the wines we consume and determining if they are to our own personal liking. We tasted a few wines at Van Roekel, but alas, they were sold out of the Gewurtz. We did taste a champagne, a raspberry champagne and a rose. I declined a taste of chardonnay, as that just does not ring my bell. We ended up bringing two bottles of their brut champagne back with us. This was mellow and just sweet enough that I wouldnt mind drinking it straight (as opposed to masked with fresh orange juice). Since my back had tolerated about all of the standing up that it could at that tasting room, we gave up on trying any others and headed back to the hotel.
Dinner Saturday evening was back at the Temet Grill. I chose this venue for this dinner with the Mrs., my sister and my elderly mother who is wheelchair bound because it was convenient, and the menu looked good. I was not disappointed.
Three of the four diners, none of them Chowhounds, although the Mrs. is a Chowhound-In-Training, opted for steak, one charred filet mignon, medium rare with crumbled blue cheese, and a Cabernet demi-glace, accompanied by mashed Yukon Gold potatoes and green beans, one charred filet mignon, medium without the cheese, but with the Cabernet demi-glace, and mashed potatoes accompanied by grilled young asparagus; one charred fillet that was butter flied with the cheese, potatoes and spinach (photo below). I opted for the Pan Seared Halibut with Burnt Brown Butter Noisette, Melted Spinach, and Wild Rice Pilaf (photo below). I also had a side of grilled asparagus.
For starters my sister had the Charred Tomato Bisque with Tarragon (she has always been a Campbells tomato soup kind of gal). I opted for the Five Spiced Blackened Ahi Tuna with a Cucumber and Tangerine Salad, with Drizzled Lemon Oil. I cant speak for the tomato soup, I guess my sister enjoyed it, I was busy enjoying a couple of Absolut and tonics and a few pieces of lavosh spread with a tasty tapenade. I ordered the Ahi because, common folk that I am, I had never had ahi before, ever. I figured that since this dish achieved au courant status about 15 years ago, that it was finally time for me to try it. It might have been excellent, and I suspect, based on my other experiences with this kitchen, the flavors may have been balanced very well, but in all honesty, the four thin slices of seared tuna tasted like nothing, like cold nothing, to me. I though the julienne of cucumber and tangerine segments had more discernable flavor than the fish. I suspect that my unsophisticated palate may be too crude to appreciate this delicacy, but it just did not do anything for me.
On the other hand, the halibut was outstanding. A big, thick chunk of pearl white fish, with a browned butter crown that imparted a subtle flavor enhancement to the fresh, clean taste of the perfectly cooked fish. This was layered on a bed of lightly sautéed (melted) spinach leaves, which were layered upon a wild rice pilaf. Each of the three major components, fish, vegetable and grain, stood on its own, but when a little rice and a little spinach were put on my fork, and then a segment of fish balanced on top of that, it was a wonderful melding of flavors, and an affirmation that this kitchen knows how to achieve the perfect balance of ingredients, flavors and textures. I tried to pace myself with the entrée, I really did, but it disappeared from my plate far too soon.
The grilled asparagus were perfect. I suspect they had been brushed with some olive oil and then laid on the grill. This were very young asparagus, so the diameter of their trunks was very small, and therefore, there was no woodiness at all in these stalks. They were grilled briefly; just barley cooked through and was delicious. I also tried to carefully apportion these wonderful cylinders, but they also disappeared all to quickly.
While I was not able to prolong my enjoyment of my entrée and sides (it really was quite involuntary) that did afford me to attend to mopping up operations on the plates of two of my dining companions. I snagged about a bite and a half of the Mrs. filet, and even though it was butter flied, her desire to make sure that the kitchen did everything short of thermonuclear incineration to that beef, still did not ruin an exceptionally good piece of beef. Even though the meat was well done, it was still so very flavorful, and of course the cabernet demi-glace juices on the plate were all mine. I was the beneficiary of about 1/3 of my mothers medium filet, and that was thoroughly enjoyable also. The meat here is obviously of high quality and the cooking staff respects it.
At the end of the meal a slice of tiramisu cake with a candle arrived in front of me, which was shared. I love tiramisu, but this did not come close to the best rendition of tiramisu that I can recall having. It was more cake-y than lady finger-y and must have come out of a commercial bakery. It was not too sweet, very wet, but not worth blowing the Liquid Diet on more than half a teaspoon taste.
All and all, this was a fine meal and it was very gratifying to find it amongst all of the wall to wall chain schlock or tourist traps that seem to comprise most of the local surroundings. (I have yet to try the dining operations at the nearby Pechanga hotel/casino, but have perused the menu of their seafood restaurant, and that looks very promising, but also a little pricier than the Temet Grill.)
Total tab, exclusive of tip for four entrees, two first courses, one dessert and four mixed drinks was $185.00.
I have put a link to the Temecula Creek Inn below, from that page you you be able to find the Temet Grill and can download their full menu. In addition to the rest of the dinner menu, the weekday breakfast fare looks interesting; the Sunday brunch also sounds like a winner.
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