Avocado Toast at Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa in Rancho Mirage.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MOLLIE KIMBERLING
For Californians, the almighty avocado can do no wrong. We mash it up to make guacamole, toss it into tacos, sprinkle it in salads, stuff it into sushi rolls, and layer it with a perfectly poached egg when we indulge in uber-trendy avocado toast. And though we don’t always give the avocado much thought while we’re devouring it, this little fruit has a big backstory.
The avocado—also known as Persea Americana—is one of the most world’s most common tropical fruits and is technically considered a berry, with a single seed, that grows from a flowering (and partially self-pollinating!) tree. Avocados originated in South-Central Mexico, dating back somewhere between 7,000 and 5,000 B.C., according to the California Avocado Commission. Archaeologists in Peru have traced the first evidence of domesticated avocados to 750 B.C. The fruit finally made its way to the United States when a Santa Barbara resident brought trees back from Mexico in 1871, and by the early 1900s, farmers had begun growing avocados here in California commercially.
Combine that with a massive marketing blitz, the growing popularity of Mexican cuisine, and the fact that avocados are a well-known nutritional powerhouse for an increasingly health-conscious population—they’re packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated “good fats,” dietary fiber, and antioxidants—and most of us can’t seem to get enough these days.
The pear-shaped, buttery green fruit with the thin skin is also delicious … and very versatile, which has made it a staple in most SoCal chefs’ kitchens, including those at the many restaurants across Agua Caliente’s trio of casinos and the Indian Canyons Golf Resort.
What’s in a Name?
There are hundreds of varieties of avocado. The most common you’ll come across in grocery stores, the Hass variety, was named after California postal worker Rudolph Hass, who planted the first seedling in the 1920s.
“We use avocados throughout the whole property,” says Juan Morales, executive chef at Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage. “We are fortunate in California to have access to all these great fruits and vegetables, and avocado is probably the best one. The great thing is it’s one of the few you can use at different levels of ripeness. If it’s nice and ripe and soft, we can use it for guacamole. If it’s a little firmer, we can use it in a salad. So regardless of how the avocado might come in, there are uses for it.”
Most recently, Morales has created his own twist on that millennial mainstay, avocado toast, to create a healthy dish for poolside noshing, perfecting a technique to make the avocado spreadable yet structured. “We’ll mash some of it but keep it in chunk form so it holds its firmness, and you can still see the dice,” he shares. “Then we’re using a multi-grain bread for the toast and adding Campari tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, and some feta cheese. It fills you up without being overly filling, which is great for the summer months.”
More than 90 percent of avocado production in the United States takes place in California.
At The Steakhouse, the property’s marquis dining destination, avocado plays a supporting role in several dishes, including the Steakhouse Salad of butter lettuce, smoked bacon, and hard-boiled egg, done with a thinly sliced quarter of an avocado spread across the top; and the tuna tartare, garnished with a housemade avocado mousse. Morales also occasionally adds a chilled gazpacho soup to the restaurant’s rotating offering of specials, which he amps up with a decadent topping of King crab stuffed inside a scooped-out avocado and finished with a dramatic drizzle of avocado oil.
Avocados make plenty of appearances at the more casual 360 Sports, as well: Avocado comes atop the loaded Home Plate Nachos and the Baja Fish Tacos, blended into the South of the Border Cobb, layered on the Jackpot Wagyu Burger, and added to the kicky Chevela Shrimp Cocktail.
Though the applications for avocados are endless, Morales always keeps the preparation simple to let the fabled fruit shine. “I season an avocado like a tomato, with a little salt and pepper, and when it’s well-seasoned you get the whole flavor profile in there,” he adds. “The flavor and texture of an avocado, it really brings a lot of different layers and elevates a dish.”