Article written by Henry Fenwick is a regular contributor to The Desert Sun.
Palm Springs is rich in places to lunch, but the classic Palm Springs lunch will always be outside, under the trees and probably at Le Vallauris.
Before we moved to the valley, wife and I drove from Los Angeles one day for a birthday lunch at Le Vallauris, and it’s been a personal landmark ever since.
Owner Paul Bruggemans recently introduced a prix fixe lunch menu that features some of the restaurant’s best spring dishes. At $37 per person it includes an appetizer, a main course and a dessert, and the selection of dishes makes it hard to choose. Yes, it’s possible to find a cheaper three-course lunch, but it would be very hard to match the quality of the food and the overall experience.
I say the food and the experience because I believe the two things to be inextricably linked. This is particularly so at Le Vallauris, where the patterns of light and shade change with the seasons. A spring lunch is its own special pleasure.
The appetizer list offered a choice between the soup of the day, the house smoked salmon salad, a roasted red beet and apple salad with goat cheese and a pistachio raspberry dressing, or the wild boar house paté.
I love the salmon and paté, and Chef Jean Paul Lair creates brilliant salads, but nothing could stop me from trying a soup of the day. Two soups were listed — the lobster bisque (hot) and a fresh garden pea soup (cold). My wife is a very conservative eater, and when she knows there is a good lobster bisque in the vicinity she has it. But it struck me that the cold garden pea soup was a perfect spring dish and so I chose that.
I was glad I did because it combined freshness, delicate vegetable sweetness and a lovely texture. There were little whole peas swimming in there that tasted as though they had just been taken out of the pod and then cooked lightly before being chilled. They didn’t have the bite of a pea just shelled — that would have been too much for the gentleness of the soup — but they had their own independent existence. They spoke of spring.
There were three main course options: the grilled petit filet with black peppercorn and cognac sauce; the sautéed veal scaloppini with truffle sauce, spinach and wild mushroom ravioli; or crunchy Boston scallops with baby frisée and green apple vinaigrette. I’m not a steak man, so the filet didn’t call to me. The combination of truffle sauce and wild mushroom ravioli with the spinach and veal had a tempting, earthy sound. But those scallops whispered spring as well and I chose them.
I expected the textures to be great — the combination of crunchy scallops and baby frisée was just as good as I thought it would be. What took me by surprise was the green apple vinaigrette. It played off the sweetness of the scallops with a refined and loving bite. I always forget how subtle and clever Chef Lair is until something like this reminds me.
Dessert is a very personal choice and at Le Vallauris there’s a choice between profiteroles with warm chocolate sauce, a Grand Marnier soufflé with vanilla sauce, and a trio of homemade sorbets. The sorbets have clear, bright, infinitely refreshing flavors but I would never say anything against chocolate or Grand Marnier either.
Before I ordered, sitting there in the garden, reading through the menu and thinking about my possible selections, I had a flash of realization. It was time for rosé wine again. With the sun, the food, the relaxed atmosphere, it could have been Provence — without the hassle of getting there.
It’s spring in the desert. We should enjoy it.
Henry Fenwick is a regular contributor to The Desert Sun and co-author of “Palm Springs Flavors.” Contact him at email@example.com.
- Easter Sunday Brunch at Le Vallauris (levallaurisrestaurant.wordpress.com)
- Le Vallauris Restaurant Video (levallaurisrestaurant.wordpress.com)
- Weddings in Palm Springs California (palmspringsrentals.wordpress.com)