Just as pop music culture is the theme at the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs, the culinary team has been rockin’ out creating a fun, music-inspired menu for the hotel restaurant, aptly named “Sessions,” located off the lobby just past the loudspeaker sculpture.
As this is an independently operated Hard Rock Hotel, the food operations are unique to the venue, and not based on Hard Rock Café’s menu.
- See related video: Palm Springs Welcomes Hard Rock Hotel to Downtown
Popular local caterer and sous chef Aaron Kiefer has emerged as executive chef at Hard Rock, putting his hip food concepts to music, as it were, for breakfast, lunch and dinner at this 1960s-inspired restaurant.
“In the kitchen we have music turned up full blast every day,” said Kiefer. “We do a sound check at our stand up meetings in the morning, and have a request list of tunes from employees.”
What's Good For Breakfast
Kiefer was inspired by Elvis’ favorite peanut butter and banana sandwich in creating “My Way, the King,” a peanut butter banana stuffed French Toast on the breakfast menu; and by country great Johnny Cash for the Johnny Hash of the day. The Little Monster, one of Kiefer’s own favorites, is Frosted Flake crusted French toast.
The Who’s Omelet is a kind of do-it-yourself special, the chef’s spontaneous creation of ingredients, probably never to be duplicated again.
Play on words for Jimi Hendrix is the Jimi’s Steak and Eggs, a Chimichurri hangar steak served with eggs, potatoes and toast.
The Purple Haze Baby Kale Salad is a complex riff of dandelion greens, frilly kale leaves, and micro herbs with a perfectly poached egg whose yellow center runs off into the greens once it’s poked open.
A white balsamic emulsion filters through the greens, and four tiny nuggets of fried lardoons add crunch to the whole tune.
The “Boss” Burger — Boss Skaggs inspired? – (pictured right) is a juicy, mellow affair that melds the flavors of caramelized onions, Jersey cheddar cheese and smoky cured thick cut bacon around a nicely grilled beef patty on a brioche bun. It’s topped with tomatoes, lettuce and a secret sauce. More likely Bruce Springsteen.
Wish they could all be “Cali Girls” – the name for the seared Ahi Tuna dish that layers thin slabs of seared tuna with slices of sweet pineapple and garnished with fried capers, Maui pineapple confit, and micro salad. A swoosh of cilantro Green Goddess vinaigrette makes any Cali girl feel like a surfin’ mermaid.
Kiefer’s nod to his mom’s tuna sandwich – albeit a bit more urbane – is found in Nana’s Tuna Sandwich, made with olive oil poached fresh albacore tuna on brown bread with parsley aioli and a soft boiled egg.
And the “Phish” and Chips is another fun twist with tempura beer battered Atlantic halibut presented in a torn brown paper bag with a Mason jar of remoulade sauce and hand cut fries.
Night Sessions menu features a few “headliners” like the Deconstructed North East Chowder, an esoteric take on Kiefer’s east coast background. This nifty number turns chowder upside down with a beautifully poached Pacific halibut atop a fingerling potatoes – kind of like on a raft in a shallow sea of halibut cheek chowder. It’s topped with crispy cole slaw.
On the dessert menu, “She’s Come Undone” is a deconstructed tiramisu with ladyfingers, espresso ganache, and Amaretto zabaglione with dark chocolate dust.
Kiefer is also the composer of the hotel’s banquet and catering menus, with similarly music-inspired creative dishes.
The Look for Palm Springs
Sessions was created by Palm Springs architect James Cioffi and interior designer Charles Doell. Together, they brought in recycled wood planks for the flooring that were blow-torched to add texture and age as part of the hotel's $10 million renovation, according to Hector Moreno, general manager of Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs.
The room is paneled with end pieces of tooled wood, some with scroll work designs, some plain.
Several brass light bars with clear glass bulbs illuminate over the semi-circular cream colored booths and café tables.
Focal point in the room is a blue and white tiled bar that juts out at an angle into the room with psychedelic painted drop ceiling. A closer look at the elaborate artwork reveals guitars, stars, swirls, geometrics and words referencing the Hard Rock experience.
”Some kid from Miami did the graffiti,” said Kiefer. “He just plugged in his headphones and painted 12 hours a day. He also did the painting on the building by the pool.”
Splashes of blue reverberate against the rugged wood: Clear blue Plexiglas divides the restaurant from the lobby; sea blue placemats top the polished wood tables; wait staff wear blue shirts; and floor to ceiling curtains that fade from brown to blue open to sliding glass doors leading to the roof-top swimming pool area.