Newsletter: Volume 48 - Spring 2016
Happy Spring everyone. It’s a fun time of year for all of us, as the markets are starting to preview the beautiful fruits and veggies that will inspire and nourish us over the next few months. Cherries are here and peaking; apricots, peaches and plums are around the corner, followed closely by corn, great tomatoes and the rest of summer’s special offerings. While this bounty begins to work its way onto our menus, we’re unveiling lots of new things to celebrate, including a series of dinners to commemorate Rustic Canyon’s 10 year anniversary, a new-but-familiar superstar Chef at Huckleberry, Cassia’s lunch opening, special wine tastings at Esters and so much more.
Last week Every day we ask ourselves how we can make our restaurants better. Our goal is to grow and improve, so it’s been particularly gratifying to see Rustic Canyon flourish as it moves through its 10th year. Chef Jeremy Fox continues to dazzle with his imaginative yet uncomplicated dishes, utilizing all of the best ingredients around to make the most delicious and satisfying dishes we’ve seen at Rustic to date.
Jeremy was recently rewarded with another James Beard nomination as a finalist for Best Chef West Coast. Anyone who’s been in recently and had the addictive White Yams with Green Garlic Butter, Celery and Hazelnut Dukkah or the sumptuous Local Rice Congee with Duck Confit, Preserved Cherries and Opal Basil can attest to how tuned-in Jeremy is to the ingredients around him and his ability bring out the best flavors in every dish he cooks.
It’s with great pride that we feel that Rustic Canyon is better than ever in its 10th year, and we’re excited to celebrate with a series of three dinners taking place in October, November and December, with the last one falling on our actual anniversary, December 8th. We will provide more details in the next month or two, but the first dinner will feature Jeremy cooking with buddies from his past in San Francisco, a group of very talented Michelin-starred chefs coming down to celebrate their friend. The second will involve some of our ultra-talented local chef friends cooking together to celebrate Rustic. The final will culminate with the chefs of Rustic’s past coming back to celebrate with us and cook a dish with our current team. Tickets will be very limited so keep an eye out for the official invites for these dinners and we hope we get to celebrate with as many of you as possible.
Spring at Huckleberry is such an exciting time. Not only do sweet stone fruit begin to top tarts and galettes throughout the pastry case, but new salads and sandwiches pop up on the menus. Spring is also a time for new beginnings, and we are so excited about one very special addition to the Huck team. Chef Erin Eastland, whom many of you have known as the ray of sunshine that’s served as Executive Chef at Milo & Olive for the past three years, has joined us at Huck to run the savory kitchen here. Erin will run both kitchens simultaneously, with a focus on creating new menu items at Huck that represent the best of what Huck is: comfort food that takes its inspiration from our great local ingredients.
New dishes include a salad of Roasted Beets with Local Berries and Stone Fruit, Gioia Burrata, Fresh Herbs and Sherry Vinaigrette; and a wonderfully virtuous yet satisfying Market Veggie Sandwich with Laural Chenel Goat Cheese, Cucumbers, Radish, JJ’s Lone Daughter Avocados and Carrot Romesco on Toasted Multi Grain Bread.
In addition, we’ve recently reworked our catering menu and large order processing to make it easier for you to order for your businesses, parties and more. Starting next Monday, we’ll be sending out a weekly email with the week’s special soups, prepared salads, specials and nightly take home dinners so you can plan your large orders in advance. Orders can be placed online through our website or over the phone. For orders off the catering menu, please remember to give a 24-48 hour advance, depending on items. Everyone on this list will receive the first email weekly menu blast, but you’ll need to opt in at that point to continue to receive them so we don’t flood people’s inboxes - so please opt in if you want to continue receiving them in the future.
Sweet Rose now has 5 stores around the city, and one of the most enjoyable parts of this expansion has being getting to know the people throughout these wonderful Los Angeles neighborhoods. Our newest two stores, Pacific Palisades and Tujunga Village in Studio City, are off to great starts. In the Palisades we’ve gotten to know kids from all of the great local schools and enjoyed the tight-knit community’s support.
The store in Tujunga Village, our first venture into the Valley, is a charming little bungalow with its backyard coziness, reflecting the warm intimate quality of that street. The Tujunga store back patio can be rented for birthday parties, little league celebrations, work gatherings and more so please reach out to us at https://sweetrosecreamery.com/catering/ if you would like to learn more about having a private event.
Our menu approach is new too. Based on customer feedback, we’ve increased our classic flavors from 5 to 9, adding Shiho’s ever popular Cookies n Cream with her homemade cookie bits, a rotation of Strawberry and Banana, and the addition of two great non-dairy classics, Dark Chocolate and Coconut Vanilla. The other 6 flavors will change monthly or every other month based on produce availability and we will feature the best of our revolving favorites and seasonal small batch specialties.
Finally, Sweet Rose has officially launched online ordering so you can ship your favorite pints to friends and family around the country. You can also order for real-time local delivery through Caviar and Grubhub. Click https://sweetrosecreamery.com/our-shop/ for more details.
Milo and Olive continues to make friends and satisfy bellies with its delicious pizzas, handmade pastas and seasonal specialties. Lately Chef Erin’s been working new dishes into the rotation, sometimes pushing the boundaries of Milo & Olive’s menu in a fun and tasty way.
One of our favorite new dishes is a Whole Branzino, roasted in our Wood Fired Oven, and served over a Warm Grain and Caramelized Fennel Salad with Herbs and Lemon. Also new is a Creekstone Farm’s New York Steak with Potato Cauliflower Gratin and Marinated Zucchini that hits the spot. For pasta and shellfish lovers, the Hand Cut Fettucine with Clams is a must order with a Tomato and Garlic Broth. For pizzas, the Shady Lady pizza is an instant classic with Wong Farms Shady Lady Tomatoes replacing our regular tomato sauce and covered with Mozzarella and Oregano.
Also, a quick reminder that the Milo & Olive bakery produces all of the breads for our group, including our generous Country Boule and Loaf, Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread, Baguettes, Brioche and even Bagels. While we sell some of these breads at Huckleberry and Esters, stop by Milo for the biggest selection of breads to take home and enjoy and let us know if you want bread special ordered for any occasion. We can generally make any of our breads with enough notice even if they’re not in our regular rotation.
What a first year it’s been for Cassia. As we approach our anniversary in mid-June, we’re honored to have topped so many best new restaurant lists in 2015 and to have received so much recognition from local and national media. At the end of the day however, our goal, like with the other restaurants, is to be a local favorite for years down the road so we’re constantly working on ways to improve.
One key way has been the long-awaited introduction of lunch service, which begins this week. Cassia will be open for lunch Monday-Friday from 11:30-2:30 (reservations can be made by calling 310.393.6699 or by visiting our website cassiala.com.) Bryant’s lunch menu is a mix of some of our nighttime classics such as Oysters and Raw Bar Items, Kaya Toast, and Creekstone Farm’s Steak Frite.
In addition, there’s plenty of new plates to drool over too, including an amazing Prime Rib Dip, where smoked Prime Rib is sliced thin, layered with Horseradish Anchovy sauce, Emmental cheese, and wrapped in our Clay Oven Flat Bread and served with a bowl of traditional Pho broth to dip into. Also new is a Chickpea Curry Sandwich, also on the Clay Oven Bread, with Crispy Eggplant, Mizuna, Cucumbers, Pickled Shallots and Feta. Bryant has created his play on classics as well, like his Chinese Chicken Salad with Organic Mary’s Chicken, and the Cassia Burger, a revamp of his beloved Spice Table Burger, with a Short Rib Patty, Shallot Mayo, Sambal, Curry Pickled Cucumbers and choice of organic American or Cheddar cheese.
Weekend Brunch will be around the corner in a few months but come join us for lunch soon in the meantime. Our private dining room and wine room are also both available for private lunch events so email us at email@example.com if you want to book a private daytime event.
The newest addition to the RC family is a beautiful baby boy born just last week to our fabulous partners and fearless leaders at Esters --Kathryn & Tug Coker. No better occasion than that to celebrate the special gathering place that Esters has become. Beloved for its fantastic wines, beautifully curated menu from Chef Jeremy Fox and casual atmosphere, Esters has become our favorite place to meet with friends and loved ones for a drink to catch up.
Esters has recently launched two special nights. Each Sunday we have a special tasting focused on a different boutique winemaker or group of winemakers. Past favorites have included Women Winemakers and the wonderful Soliste wines from our friend and talented winemaker, Claude Koberle. Upcoming events include a tasting of Biodynamic Wines, and an exploration of Tuscan small production bottlings. For more info on our tastings click here.
We also have seen that Monday evenings have become an industry night with our friends throughout the restaurant world coming in and opening interesting bottles. In recognition of that, we’ve decided to do a special no corkage Monday where any bottle off our shelf can be opened in house at retail cost.
Jeremy and Jun have created a decadent Monte Cristo sandwich to complement that special evening which can only be ordered on Mondays. You don’t want to miss this sandwich, where our pressed Grilled Cheese is filled with Ham and then battered in a Sweet French Toast Batter, grilled and topped with Powdered Sugar. Yum.
Finally, we have started offering private wine tastings for special events such as work gatherings, birthdays and even baby and bridal showers. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information.
As always we would like to say a big thank you to all of you for being such great supporters of the RC Family restaurants. We love seeing your faces on a regular basis and look forward to eating and drinking with you soon.
Happy Spring to you and your families!
We’re really excited to announce that beginning October 1st, we at the Rustic Canyon Family of Restaurants will be offering fully covered health care coverage to all of our employees who work 30 or more hours a week. Offering health care is something we’ve always wanted to do, but for a long time felt it was financially unrealistic. We’ve recently sat down with other like-minded local chefs and restaurant owners like Suzanne Goin, Carolyn Stein & David Lentz, Jon Shook & Vinny Dotolo, and Josiah Citrin to come up with a plan to offer coverage and have decided to implement a 3% employee benefit surcharge added to all of our checks beginning September 1st to pay the October 1 premium. This will cover the majority of the cost of providing this benefit. Everyone on this list will also be offering health care plans to all full time staff beginning on October 1st or by the end of the year.
We understand that health care related surcharges have been a hot topic at times, both in San Francisco, where they’re widely used in many of the best restaurants in the city, and here locally when Walter Manske and Bill Chaite introduced the first charge of that sort at Republique. We felt that it was best that we take a minute to explain why and how we’ll be offering benefits, the reason for the surcharge, and how we intend to show transparency so that our customers can understand how the money is spent. The major point is that this is not a political statement or endorsement of any kind. Our desire to offer health benefits is not even really tied to the Affordable Care Act, which at this point wouldn’t require businesses to provide health benefits to their employees until January 2016 at the earliest, and where ultimately businesses of our size might not be required to provide health benefits at all. Our desire to do this is because, quite frankly, we believe it’s the right thing to do, and that as a community of independent and family run restaurants we want to provide the best work environment we can so that we can provide long term jobs and careers for our staff instead of the usual transient employment that is associated with the restaurant business.
The plan to roll out health care coverage is pretty simple. We will be offering all staff members who work full time (30 hours a week) an opportunity to have a fully covered HMO plan with a top tier carrier, or if they choose, we’ll pay a significant portion of a PPO plan if the employee chooses a more specialized plan. In addition we’ve pledged to work with any employee who is currently below the minimum hours threshold to give them enough hours to meet the minimum so that they can qualify for benefits.
The cost of offering these benefits is significant and the reality is that restaurants, particularly smaller restaurants like the ones many of us own, have a very high ratio of staff members to revenue and run on very slim profit margins. Successfully run restaurants generally make between 5-10% net profits so a health care benefit which eats away 3% of gross sales will take away anywhere from 30% to 50% of annual profits for a restaurant. We’ve discussed simply raising menu prices, but ultimately food prices are tied in many ways to the ingredients we purchase . Those ingredient costs have increased astronomically recently so we’re already struggling with working creatively to keep menu prices down and don’t feel it’s right to try to factor health care costs into menu prices as well. We’d rather keep our menu costs as an accurate refection of our ingredient prices so that customers know that if we have to raise them it’s because we can’t avoid passing on our increased costs.. So that leaves with us a surcharge, which based on our calculations of 3% allows us to cover 100% of our employees in full. In addition, a 3% charge on your bill gives the customer options they wouldn’t have if the cost was simply folded into menu prices. Customers can simply pay the surcharge and support a healthier staff, choose to adjust their gratuity down by 3% in order to end up paying the same amount they originally anticipated while still supporting health benefits for the entire staff, or if they strongly oppose, ask to have the charge removed from their bill. In addition, to avoid any misconceptions, we as a group pledge to post total transparency on our websites by the end of the first quarter of each year for the previous calendar year showing the total that was collected for employee benefit surcharges the previous year, how it was spent, and in the case of a surplus how every dollar of that surplus will be applied to employee benefits. Rest assured that none of us would use any of this surcharge for anything other than wellness benefits for our staff.
We’re extremely happy to be able to offer these health benefits to our staff and our staff has been extremely excited to get signed up to receive them. Many of our staff were not previously covered or were covered but it was a significant financial burden. Feel free to check in with our staff and ask questions about the health plan or the surcharge on your next visit and we’ll happily address them in a candid and transparent manner. We are eternally grateful to you, our customers, who support our restaurants and allow us to do what we love for a living. We thank you all for your support and as always will constantly strive to be the best restaurants we can be day in and day out.