Classically Fresh: Escena Golf Club in Palm Springs
Dining and golf can often prove boorish playing partners: Grab an energy bar while running to the first tee; pound a hot dog at the turn; drink a fast can of macrobrew post-round.
But at Escena GC in Palm Springs, golfers come for the fairways and stay for the fare.
Surrounded by views of the San Jacinto Mountains, Escena’s 1950s-style clubhouse and the Grill & Lounge therein, present a vibe of classic Palm Springs cool. Architecturally modeled in the wood, glass and stone materials which defined the desert’s signature building era, the menu offering all-day service of updated standards, along with a fun, refreshing cocktail list which matches time-honored mixology with modern day twists.
Restaurant manager Kelly Kidd oversees the menus, along with Happy Hour, Sunday Brunch and myriad on-site functions. “To be honest, my first season here, I made a menu that matched the building and atmosphere,” Kidd says. “But it didn’t really sell that well. I realized that what works best for this property is what works best for our golfers, our locals and our homeowners. So I toned it back a bit, and went with more All-American food that’s affordable, looks nice and tastes nice. I want high-quality, mainstream food that’s very, very fresh.”
During the high-season months Kidd & Co. offer a mobile barbecue station with (terrific) hot dogs, pulled pork sandwiches, burgers and street tacos.
Cooling down post-round is delightful with either the Bees Knees (gin, lemon and agave) or a vodka-based East Side cocktail mixed with basil, cucumber and grapefruit juice. Old school imbibers will enjoy a handcrafted Old Fashioned or potent Sazerac, while fans of modern interpretations can select the Not-So-Classic Martini, made with cucumber vodka, fresh grapefruit juice and orange liquor.
During lunch or Happy Hour, steak nachos and some seriously flavorful pork belly tacos prove popular, while a few of Kidd’s personal favorites echo Escena’s uniqueness. “Take the blackened chicken salad on our lunch menu: Honestly, that’s what I make at home,” she says. “I told our GM, ‘I’m putting it on the menu because I like to eat it and I think our guests will like it, too.’ And it’s become our best-seller at lunchtime.”
And while a host of additional salads are in play, Kidd hasn’t forgotten the joy of guilty pleasures. “We roast the pork belly here and it’s a five-hour process,” Kidd says of Escena’s Cuban sandwich. “It’s a messy sandwich, and that’s how I like it. A lot of places nowadays with all the diets and people all into CrossFit … to me, the best part of the Cuban is having it large and juicy. Personally, I don’t count calories, and I don’t cut out the butter or sugar in my cooking.”
Evenings find seasonal menus with a succinct entrée list presenting pleasurable diversity in its minimalist approach. Southern fried chicken, lamb chops (with a terrific cherry and port compliment), seafood risotto and baby back ribs (seasoned and marinated for 24 hours before a slow cook), all make for highly-recommended dinner options.
Keeping with her theme of putting a little backspin on American classics, Kidd further enjoys the Prosciutto Wrapped Meatloaf. “It’s not your standard ketchup meatloaf,” she says. “I put jalapeños in there and prosciutto, and more of a spicy barbeque than ketchup. I just feel like food should never be set in stone.”
Like the clubhouse surrounds, the flavor of tastefully updated American classics always tastes fresh.