Monday, June 21, 2010

Copley's Summer Salmon Supper

I have always had an affinity for the historic Cary Grant Estate that is home to the award-winning Copley’s Palm Springs. As a child, I attended kindergarten there, in the days when the iconic building housed Mary’s Playhouse. The grounds, tucked intimately behind a gateway smack dab in the middle of downtown Palm Springs, maintain their intimate charm to this day. With dining tables dotted along the garden paths amongst trees and the glistening of the small lawn hearkening towards an atmosphere of slow eating beneath the elements, the restaurant has become a favorite for locals seeking quality meals in a relaxed yet elegant setting. Chef Andrew Copley does his magic in the kitchen while his wife, hostess with the mostess Juliana Manion-Copley graciously greets and seats guests, welcoming many of the regulars by name. During a recent trip to the restaurant, I was reminded of the serenity that comes from early morning suppers in the outdoor setting that offers views of the glorious San Jacintos while enjoying fine fare.

The new Hawaiian ahi taco appetizer is small but refreshing. Two miniature caramelized sesame miso shells host a tumbling sea of diced tuna tartare with bits of avocado and green onion. Topped with generous amounts of Tobiko caviar, they are the perfect ginger and soy spiked bite for the start of a meal. 

One of the menu’s longtime stars is the Beet and Warm Goat Cheese Salad which comes served atop micro greens, sprinkled with candied walnuts, and all over accented by a honey mustard dressing that warms up the dish and causes the flavors to mingle together deliciously. 

Although my taste buds were tempted to choose tried and true signature dishes like the rich and sinful “Oh My Lobster Pot Pie” or the Grilled Niman Ranch Pork Chop, I stuck with a summery selection of Cilantro Scented Scottish Salmon. The thick filet came served atop steamed basmati rice and sautéed broccolini covered in a tangy Thai curry sauce perfectly complemented by a salad of julienned carrot, mango and mint.

Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t extol the virtues of the exquisite basil ice cream for dessert—a perfect green dollop of refreshing herbal coolness to bring the palate down from a meal of so many textures and flavors!


As a rule of thumb, with the advent of summer comes lighter fare and drink. As a lover of red wine, I find myself yearning for something more in the middle, even when the mercury rises here in the desert. On a recent excursion to Copley's on Palm Canyon, I discovered a bit of both.

Lately, the restaurant has been touting its bright, dog-day inspired menu and there are certainly some standouts. For starters, I chose to pair a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with an appetizer of tuna tartare, avocado and roe. The 2009 vintage from Babich Wines was full of nectarine and passion fruit flavors. The menu's tasting notes also mention flavors of gooseberry...if I knew what a gooseberry was or what it tasted like, I could tell you if this description is accurate...alas, we may never know...that being said, the flinty quality of this wine melded quite well with the flavors of the sea.

My dining partner, food writer Unorthodox Foodie, ordered a cilantro-scented Scottish salmon in a curry sauce, which I paired with a 2007 Zaza Grenache Rose. This gorgeous wine hails from the Campo de Borja region of Spain, which has a knack for producing quality Garnachas (the Spanish name for this grape). The wine was scented with raspberry and strawberry, which stood up to the heat of the Thai-inspired sauce.

This may ruffle some feathers, but I would have married my entree if it were legal in California. I thoroughly enjoyed the fork-tender braised short ribs in a merlot reduction, topped with a beautifully grilled shrimp. In fact, I took such a liking to the reduction that I decided to pair it with a 2007 Camelot Merlot. The flavors matched amazingly well, with the wine a jammy blend of dark fruit, vanilla and spice in a glass.

Sure, it wasn't a traditional summer meal by definition, but its parts certainly equaled one sum of delicious dining.
Special thanks to Juliana Manion Copley and her terrific staff:

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