Michael Beckman, chef/owner of Workshop Kitchen + Bar in Palm Springs’ Uptown Design District, finds his daily inspiration at the local farmers’ market, and sources from farms within an hour of Palm Springs.
“What they have is what we cook,” he said. “Each season inspires both the kitchen and the bar.”
While fall and winter crops generally overlap with many of the same produce – root vegetables for example — the menus don’t change too dramatically. But in contrast, spring brings a completely different bounty to the table and to the handcrafted cocktails at Workshop, according to Beckman.
Delicate fruits such as strawberries and grapes, vegetables such as baby kale, asparagus, and carrots signal springtime with foods ripe, ready and succulent during spring’s shorter season.
Fresh flavors and colors brighten Workshop’s Kitchen such as Wong Farms tomatoes with fresh Burrata, walnut pesto and arugula; or Babe’s Farm roasted heirloom carrots with local dates, goat cheese, walnuts, and green onions. Crispy local goat cheese with braised lentils and glazed beet with scallions are another tasty sharable small plate.
Under “bowls” on the menu, Beckman created a shaved Brussels sprouts salad with toasted hazelnuts and deep red pomegranate drizzled with balsamic and olive oil, and topped with grated pecorino Romano cheese. Taylor Farms baby kale salad tossed with blood orange sections, pecans, shaved red Brussels and with Verjus and unfiltered olive oil.
Full entrée plates haven’t missed Beckman’s attention either: Pan roasted Texas redfish with sautéed fava tops, grilled spring garlic grits, all lavished with brown butter. A mesquite-grilled Correia Ranch 10-ounce rib eye is served with roasted bone marrow, sautéed nettles, hedgehog mushrooms, roasted pearl onions, and red wine.
Beckman’s cooking technique and menus are a harmony of modern yet classic: At once Avant Garde yet rooted in the earth’s seasonal bounty. He’s perhaps the only desert chef who uses “sous vide” cooking – meaning “under water” – a technique that was developed for the airlines food service industry in the 1970s.
Food is vacuumed sealed and allowed to cook slowly in water, keeping temperatures stable. His other cooking methods include a wood-burning pizza oven and wood burning grill.
Workshop’s Bar offers classic, original and specialty hand crafted cocktails, with vintage and new American bourbons, rye and scotch. Original cocktails vary on the market availability.
“I’ve researched classic cocktails that were on the market since the 1800s, pre-Prohibition era,” said Beckman. “We offer classic and original cocktails and the list changes regularly with the seasons.”
Just coming onto the spring cocktail menu is an innovative Shotgun Dove made with hibiscus infused Zapopan, fresh grapefruit and lime, Demarara syrup, finished in a Collins glass with a pinch of salt, spritz of soda, garnished with a lime wheel.
The Xuxa blends “spanked” mint, Cachaca, strawberry rhubarb shrub, lemon juice and Demarara syrup, shaken and poured in a martini glass.
One of the classics is Ward 8, made with rye, house made grenadine, fresh lemon and lime juices. A little history: This drink originated in Boston around the turn of the 20th century and named after a notoriously corrupt voting district.
The Palm Springer mixes vodka, fresh pineapple juice, house-made grenadine, and angostura bitters. A brief narrative describes this provocative drink: “uncertain and at odds, this drink is icy cold and a little bitter … but has a certain sweetness and complexity, similar to the kiss of an ex-lover, only without the early morning awkwardness and wayward feelings…”
Workshop’s bar also offers an equally thoughtful compilation of west coast and international wines by the glass or bottle, and dozens of craft bottled and tap beers that are listed under their flavor profiles – yeasty, crisp, malty, and so forth.
Workshop Kitchen + Bar, 800 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Ste. G, Palm Springs, (760) 459-3451. Hours: Dinner 5-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday