As the Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs hotel prepares to open in November, complete with a rooftop bar and pool offering sweeping views of Palm Springs, the food set to accompany that experience is also reaching for new heights.
Executive chef Stephen Wambach recently offered a special preview of his menu for two of the three restaurants at the Kimpton. Juniper Table and 4 Saints will feature bold cuisine inspired by Wambach’s culinary work domestically and abroad.
He has more than 20 years of experience as a chef, including stints with the Four Seasons and the BLT Group. A Manhattan native, Wambach has been mentored by famous chefs such as Claude Troigros and Marc Meneau. Upon completing his apprenticeship at the three-star Michelin restaurant L’Esperance in Burgundy, France, Wambach returned to the States and put his French cooking skills to work at the Delano South Beach hotel’s Blue Door restaurant in Miami, which has since closed.
VIDEO: Executive Chef Stephen Wambaugh shows how he creates his Hamachi dish.
Prior to coming to Palm Springs, Wambach headed Formento’s in Chicago where he introduced a Southern Italian-inspired menu with an emphasis on high quality seafood and fresh vegetables.
In Palm Springs, Wambach plans to serve dishes like sea urchin “tofu”, lobster cassoulet, roasted eggplant, and foie gras “bread and butter.” Ingredients local to the desert, such as Coachella Valley dates, are the starring players in dishes like Wambach’s Broccoli and Date Crunch Salad.
Snap peas for the Dungeness Crab dish (at left) with avocado, and grapefruit and poppy seed.
For the preview tasting menu, Wambach showcased recipes that draw from the full culinary spectrum — from fish to duck to boar to farm-fresh vegetables. One of the clear standouts of the tasting was the hamachi, a raw fish that Wambach had shipped directly from Japan, plated with green apple, celery, and coriander. Its simplicity in the preparation allows the natural flavors of the fish to tantalize the palate with full force.
“I really enjoy raw fish. I really enjoy the preparation of it,” Wambach says. “If you have a beautiful fish you obviously don’t want to do too much.”
His meat dishes showcased wild boar, prepared with parsnip, radish, and red wine, and dry-aged duck, with foie gras, fennel, and dates. He makes the sauces from scratch to complement each combination of ingredients, marrying the flavors harmoniously. If you’re a fan of duck, you’re in luck. Wambach says he enjoys experimenting with its versatility, and finding new ways to serve it with different seasonal flavors.
“This is one of my favorites. This is something I like to have on the menu year-round,” he says. “Normally people would reserve it for colder months, but it plays so well —because it is fatty — with rhubarb in the springtime, with peaches in the summertime, with squash in the fall, and now with fennel and dates for the midseason. There are so many things you can do with duck. You can use every single bit of the duck just like you can with the pig.”
Other dishes on the preview tasting menu included Dungeness crab with avocado, snap peas, grapefruit and poppy seed, and a tasty artichoke with black truffle, watercress, and pecorino.
Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs, 100 W. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs. 760-904-5018; rowanpalmsprings.com
Executive Chef Stephen Wambach sets the table for his Wild Boar dish.