Catalan Restaurant's Tapas Convey Spanish Culture, Cuisine

Summer tasting menu runs through July

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A sultry mid-week summer evening, squares of gold sunlight pouring into the dining room at Catalan Mediterranean Cuisine found nearly a full house enjoying Chef/owner Drew Davis’ new prix fixe tasting menus and the 5 p.m. happy hour with 20 percent off tapas in the bar.

“There are two prix fixe options; one is $19.95 and the other $24.95,” says Davis. “Option one also includes our new Kobe beef burger, and option two offers our signature Catalan paella.”

The first course choices are the same for both options: a Bibb wedge salad, heart of romaine, heirloom tomato gazpacho, or pork belly and water melon salad.

Besides the Kobe burger, other entrees on the option one menu are black spaghetti and clams with Fresno chilies; garganelli with zucchini, late spring peas, mint and roasted garlic; rigatoni with Fulvio’s hot and mild Italian sausage; Buccatini con sardo (sardines) with pine nuts, golden raisins, tomato, and herbs; and the signature 24-hour brined Jidori chicken with roasted peppers and Spanish olive sugo.

Option two features a choice of Serrano ham-wrapped cod with marinated, sunbaked heirloom tomatoes; grilled line-caught swordfish with leeks and chorizo; Berkshire port tenderloin with heirloom carrots and Kalamata olives; or grilled prime iron steak with grilled asparagus, crushed Yukon gold potatoes and salsa verde.

Davis (at right) offers his creative spin on tapas, which are an informal way of sharing small dishes and a popular social style of eating in Spain. Throughout the year, Davis offers tapas specials to introduce patrons to a true Barcelona adventure: Meet with friends, enjoy a glass of wine or beer, and sample a various hot and cold dishes. Davis' creative tapas convey culture and cuisine from Spain’s coastal and inland regions.

On a recent visit, we opted for the watermelon and feta cheese skewers, and goat cheese stuffed piquillo peppers in a champagne vinaigrette. The fresh catch of the day crudo was a salmon tartare with pickled vegetables and grain mustard sauce.

A warm, spicy dish of Fulvio’s hot and mild Italian sausage (at left) came with caramelized onion and roasted peppers. (FYI: Fulvio’s Italian sausages are locally made by KESQ weatherman Patrick Evans).

An off-the-menu tapa, bacon-wrapped figs were lightly sprinkled with Spanish queso cheese, drizzled with balsamic glaze. For dessert, a light rice pudding topped with fresh sliced strawberries and sweet reduction, satisfied the sweet-cravings.

We shared a bottle of De Alto Amo, a dry white wine from Spain’s Rioja region. On Wednesdays, bottles of wines are half off.

During happy hour, wines by the glass for $5 encompass a delightful array of Spanish reds and whites as well as some California vintners.  pecialty cocktails like the watermelon margarita or pomegranate basil martini, and signature drinks like the Catalan Very Berry Refresher and Red Signature Sangria, are also offered for $6 or $7. Beers such as the Estrella Damm Inedit from Spain, Abita IPA from USA, and Stella Artois from Belgium are only $3 during happy hour.

The tasting menus are available all evening Wednesday and Thursday, and from 5-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and all evening at the bar. Happy hour is from 5-6 p.m. in the bar Wednesday through Saturday during Catalan’s summer hours of 5-9 p.m.

But here’s the caveat: The summer tasting menu and summer tapas will only be available until the end of July. The restaurant closes for August, reopening with a new fall menu in September.

Catalan Mediterranean Cuisine, 70026 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage, (760) 770-9528

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