As the legendary Two Bunch PalmsResort & Spa in Desert Hot Springs undergoes a major transformation and expansion, one of its new “legs” is the completely renovated and re-envisioned restaurant called Essense.
No, that’s not a misspelling of the word, essence. The name conveys the duo concept of pleasing all the senses with the essence of healthy, organic and locally sourced food prepared in a beautiful gourmet style.
General Manager John Trudeau’s culinary training at Johnson & Wales gives him a particular advantage when it comes to shaping Essense’s menu.
“We draw from Mediterranean style cooking techniques that have the accent ingredients to awaken the senses in your mouth,” he says. “There are salty olives, acidic citrus juices, sweet fig and dates, traces of sea salts, peppers, garlic and chili, as well as mangos, cherries, whole grains and nuts.”
During a recent media menu tasting, Trudeau explained how the Wild Alaskan Salmon dish was a careful balance of acids.
“The texture and acidity of the salmon topped with apricot glaze, and the balsamic syrup with creamy pickled vegetable slaw was a balance of five different acids,” he says. “We have a special local source, Geri Neighbors, for our preserves and pickled vegetables. Our chef de cuisine, Angel Toscana, has embraced the direction of local, all organic vegetables and fruit.”
The tasting menu also offered a classic borscht made with organic garden herbs, honey and fat free organic Greek yogurt, giving it a rich, creamy texture and taste without the extra calories of heavy cream.
A beautiful presentation of an heirloom tomato and basil salad (pictured at right) with a freshly made Burrata cheese arrived in wide-lipped white ceramic bowls, framing the colorful orange and red tomatoes.
Another composition, the organic local pear, peach and fig salad, arrived poised on a mound of crunchy greens, fromage blanc and baguette croutons dressed in a Dijon emulsion. The dish again balanced sweet, salty, acidic flavors in an artistic presentation that was definitely eye-pleasing.
The restaurant renovation enclosed a former open patio to enlarge the dining area with length of picture windows framing the soaring San Jacinto Mountains. Essense’ ambiance is a composite of light, natural woods, soothing white walls, and natural stone and fabric textures. Burlap napkins, nubby placemats and small square glazed pots of tiny cactus decorate the tables.
An adjoining espresso bar by day becomes a lounge for evening enjoyment.
Two Bunch Palms “mantra” has always been to provide guests with a break from hectic, busy lives, and a refuge to enjoy the calming grotto, open space, and healing arts.
CEO Kevin Kelly, who attended the lunch, said the direction of the resort is “to become one of the foremost wellness destinations in the world.” Two Bunch Palms’ legacy can be traced back 600 years when indigenous people lived around the natural oasis of mineral springs and hot artesian wells. The oasis has expanded over the past 100 years.
Some of the planned expansion this year has included a 3,000 square foot Yoga Dome where yoga, Tai Chi and other movement programs are held; a lounge for spa day guests, a fitness room, and model guests rooms.
Next year, developers anticipate room renovations and expansion, construction of a new spa, café, boutique, fitness center and eventually a high-energy grotto.
Essense at Two Bunch Palms Resort, 67425 Two Bunch Palms Trail, Desert Hot Springs. Hours: Breakfast 7:30-11:30 a.m.; Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Dinner 6-9:30 p.m. with 8:30 last seating. (760) 329-8791.