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Comfort Food #3: Disney, California farm boxes, and BAR CECIL!

Sarah Lacy
Sarah Lacy
You know what makes me feel better? A PLAN!

Part of a gorgeous citrus box from Four Star Seafood
Part of a gorgeous citrus box from Four Star Seafood
I am reeling. 
I need a plan. 
I need a framework. 
I need a new system for how I’m going to eat now. 
The throw-a-dart-and-hit-something-delicious way of eating I had in San Francisco isn’t going to work in Palm Springs. The endless take out on DoorDash back up isn’t a thing here. 
So what does that plan look like now? 
As I’ve written, this is a me problem not a Palm Springs problem. How do I adjust? 
It strikes me it’s two fold. It’s editing out what’s making me feel unsatisfied or angry, and then prioritizing what I’m missing or is making me delighted. 
Let’s talk about the first one, first. 
I always eat worse and drink too much and move way less in Palm Springs. That’s not gonna end well. I don’t want to live in a space of diet but I do hate eating things (and paying for things) that are indulgent or unhealthy when I’m not fully enjoying them. 
Lunches are an issue. Lunches were my biggest problem meal in San Francisco too. Lunches are when the ratio of total enjoyment to cost and calories is the most out of whack. Lunch is easily my most unhealthy meal. “I guess I’ll order that sandwich” and then 700 calories later, I feel like I didn’t get my calories-worth or $20 worth of rapture from it. 
Lunch is my linchpin meal when it comes to a balance of healthy eating, that isn’t restrictive, but also isn’t too indulgent. When I have a good relationship with lunch, the rest usually falls into place.
So, I need to take control of lunch. From now on my default is Daily Harvest smoothies for lunch. Easy. Don’t have to think about it. Not distracting from work. Cool. Refreshing. Filling without feeling heavy. Made with coconut water, hydrating. Won’t spoil in heat. All things I need in the desert summer. 
I like this plan. I have a freezer full and had one today. Strawberry, peach with coconut water. It’s incredibly delicious. I have some allergies and feel super run down after the last week, and it feels like a comfort milkshake without being a milkshake. Yay. 
I had been feeling the urge to go to King’s Highway and sit down with a breakfast bagel, because that’s what I’ve been doing here. But I had this smoothie instead, and I’m feeling smug about my positive choices. This will be a nice reset. 
I usually fast through breakfast, and now lunch is simplified. Two-thirds of my food life is solved! High five!
So let’s put ALL of our focus and planning on DINNER! My favorite meal in San Francisco, and the one I’m constantly banging my head against the wall of in Palm Springs.
Dinner will be the thing I plan and make great. 
But how? 
We’ll do dinner out twice a week. We’ll rotate favs, try new places. Plan in advance so we can get in the places we want, not just what’s there. There are easily two great dinners out in Palm Springs if we are thoughtful about it. 
So that leaves the other five nights. 
In my last newsletter about the rancid ground turkey, I remembered that pre-pandemic I got really into vegetarian cooking. I think that might be part of the answer here. Clearly meat and fish are challenged in the dessert. 
But the produce isn’t great either. 
So first things first: I’m gonna dust off all my great bean, chickpea, lentil, tofu, halloumi, and paneer recipes and put them back in rotation. I’m gonna stock up the pantry with polentas and heirloom beans and pastas and other shelf-stable favs. 
Maybe doing something that feels indulgent here instead of just hitting up Albertson’s? Dinner is the comfort meal, after all. It still needs to feel special.  
As I was writing this, I headed over to Four Star Seafood’s site, because that’s my favorite, favorite source of premium, foody goodness in SF, and– as I learned during crab season last year– they ship overnight to Palm Springs! I can get a little bit of SF delivered straight to me TOMORROW. And every two weeks (or week?) after that! (VIVA FEDEX! Oh, look a Memphis contribution to the answer too…)
I started with the Summer Produce and Summer Citrus boxes. I also got some Cochon Volant brisket and some frozen walnut chocolate chip cookie dough, as a surprise for Paul. I also ordered some Wise Sons bagels. If I’m gonna have carbs, let’s make ‘em walking around in the Mission on a Saturday kind of carbs.
It was the first time I’ve checked out Four Star’s pantry section and it felt like a walk through the Ferry Building. Loads of high end oils and vinegars and misos and beans and pastas. 
Ooooohh!! I’ll take this and this and this and this and this!
I went a little over-the-top. I was grabbing heirloom beans and fancy pastas and oils and sauces and harissas and za’atars and… well. I had to stop. 
I capped myself at $260, which is a lot of money. I sat there for a minute thinking about it before paying for it all. 
Can I afford this?
But, then I remembered: I spent $100 on our botched PF Changs/turkey taco night. I’m not gonna be having $20 lunches anymore. Is $260 that much if it solves dinner for that many nights? If it gives me a format? An answer? Makes me feel at home? If the plan WORKS? 
Can I NOT afford this?
F*ck it. I gotta do something. My mental, physical and emotional health hangs in the balance. *Ordered*
And I gotta tell you, IT WAS THE BEST MOVE I’VE MADE SO FAR IN THIS FOOD DESERT SITUATION!
The brisket was delicious. We warmed it on the grill, along with corn from the produce box and some grilled stone fruit. The walnut chocolate chip cookies? Better than Bi-Rite. No joke. I felt like I was eating in my kitchen in San Francisco. I already ordered for next week. I am super excited about whatever they send me in the produce box and what I decide to do with it!
Here’s what else I ate this week…. 
BAR CECIL!!!!
Bar Cecil is the hot new super-foodie LA/SF level restaurant in Palm Springs. It’s operated in front of a low-key Stein Mart in a stripmall, which makes it all the more perfect.
It first got my attention in an article in Eater about a – gasp– $350 tasting menu. Um, huh? I mentally crossed it off my list. Clearly I love and prioritize food, but one of the things I love SO MUCH about the Bay Area is how well you can dine on a fraction of that. Even the James Beard Award nom’d and Michellin starred places in my hood offer tasting menus around the $95 range, and that’s a fun splurge for us. I’m not a fan of opulent for the sake of opulent.
This newsletter is called “comfort food” not “show off how much I can spend food.” Anyone can spend $700 on dinner and get a good meal I SHOULD HOPE!!
But this article in Palm Springs life totally changed my mind. It cast the image of a labor of love, a place where the staff spent 18 months agonizing over every detail, hoping to create a neighborhood bistro. The$350 menu? Kinda a gimmick like the $50 martini that has caviar. But plenty of reasonably priced, well portioned, homey favs underneath the headline.
Of course, a reservation was another matter. It took me three months on OpenTable, and I booked it in JULY in Palm Springs, months out and the start time was still 5:15. EARLY BIRD SPECIAL! NO ONE HAVE LUNCH!
We went with my brother and sister who were in town visiting. I wore a resort-y Cara Cara dress and was so pumped. On the drive over, I said to Paul, “I have enormous San Francisco-like expectations of this place.”
Reader, I was not disappointed. The interior had the look of a place people had spent 18 months obsessing about. I could sit at that bar drinking in every item and placement on that bookshelf for the rest of my Palm Springs life. It reminded me of my home in San Francisco. Nothing in it is unintentional, and every single thing in it I LOVE for a different reason.
Their version of parker house rolls were denser, yeastier but delicious. The cocktails were so good I had…. a few. I ended with an espresso martini which the New York Times says is coming back. Theirs is made with cold espresso concentrate, the server explained and that means something substantial that was lost on me. But it was good.
The famous burgers, I did not eat. But the presentation was gorgeous. I had a pork chop. Not what I intended but the server’s suggestion, and it was juicy and incredible. We had too many desserts. It was a blur in the end.
The service was excellent. Our server was knowledgable and kind and warm. It felt like a San Francisco dining experience, and I’m sorry if that sounds snobby. But there is a “we cannot afford to phone this in” aspect to San Francisco dining that I don’t experience elsewhere as consistently. It’s just so expensive to operate, the space is so limited, and there’s so much competition. The staff aren’t people biding time to get another job, they are career servers, bartenders, chefs etc. We pay extra on each check for their healthcare, by city ordinance. They excel at what they do and take it seriously. That’s how Bar Cecil felt.
It made me wonder what Bar Cecil pays…
Because staffing has been an issue everywhere and the other high end places in Palm Springs I’ve gone to post-pandemic, where even the meal is opulent and the food is flawless, have had some service issues. I will not name names, because the servers were kind and the food was awesome, but there’s been a lot of “It’s my first day, sorry!” going on.
I say that less to neg anyone and more to applaud Bar Cecil who has somehow found a workaround to something plaguing most small businesses coming out of the pandemic. They clearly, clearly have paid and trained their staff WELL, and treat them right. As this SF Chronicle peice details, that’s about as unique as a startup with a good culture.
I’ll have more to say on Bar Cecil in future, including our scheme to dine there more often, since I opened OpenTable while at the restaurant still and nothing was open through October. (IN PALM SPRINGS SUMMER!)
We cornered our waitress for intel. Stay tuned…Much more to say on this one…maybe next week…
Produce box extravaganza
Truly the shipment from Four Star Seafood was a revelation. I think of meals in the desert like Billy Beane thought about replacing Jason Giambi. I don’t need a solution for all seven nights, I just need a reliable solution for one to two nights per week, here or there. That will add up to seven.
Two nights out dining; and I can squeeze at least three good nights out of my Four Star shipments. That’s a lot of dinners solved.
Maybe my favorite night was when my sister and I wanted something light and saw we still had a big ol’ drawer full of vegetables.
“One of my favorite things to do is just roast a pan of vegetables and put it on a salad,” she said.
HUH. I’ve never been a big salad or roasted vegetable person so this wouldn’t have occured to me but it sounded instantly delicious and EASY. We dug into that vegetable drawer and what a bounty. Japanese eggplants, mixed heirloom carrots, mini-potatoes, little gem lettuces, asparagus, tiny little cucumbers. Ahhhhh!
Mary chopped everything up and threw it in a sheet pan with olive oil at 425. I triple-washed the little gems and tossed them with a Japanese sesame dressing I also ordered from FSSF. We chopped the cucumbers and left them cold. And tossed it all together. It was absolutely incredible and what a way to enjoy the end of a mixed and unpredictable produce box from small farms!! Definitely doing this on a weekly basis!
Sonoma Terrace
How am I going to cram this one in here too?????
So this past week, I still had people in town and my kids came back from their dad’s house. Our house in Palm Springs is more yard than house and it’s so hot…no one could be out the whole day and that was a lot to contain in a small home.
So I decided that one day, I’d bite the bullet, miss work and take my kids out somewhere fun to give everyone a break. And I asked Paul to do the same. Wednesday night, we’d bribe them with an evening of Boomers if they’d let us all work in peace.
That felt manageable. Only two work days to survive. After that, we split them next week and then – TYJ– they’re in camp the last three weeks of summer, then new school! We made it!
I was thinking Paul would pick something like the local children’s museum.
He picked…a surprise trip to DISNEYLAND. And kidnapped me for the day too.
WHAT!?!?!?!??! Who’s birthday is it?
Maybe I’ll write more about this experience next week, because this is already so long, but it was magical as Disneyland always is. The limited capacity gave us a truly once-in-a-lifetime (I hope because pandemic!) experience there. Most rides were less than a thirty minute wait. Everyone was so polite. Everyone felt enormously privilidged to have survived a pandemic and made it back there.
But you know, the food…
I wanted to shout out how phenomenal of a day it was in this space, so I struggled to find something culinary to shout out. Sonoma Terrace gave me a delicious glass of wine with a generous pour in the early afternoon along with a bavarian pretzel with a cheese cup. (You know from issue one how I feel about those.)
It was in between Arial’s Undersea Adventure and our second trip around Cars Land. Some eight hours into the day or more. About 9 miles of walking in. Eli and I grabbed at the pretzel, but it was so big and it was so late, I worried it would ruin our dinner. Just then we ran into Paul and Evie who eagerly decended on the rest of it like a pack of crows. I was glad I got it. It was the perfect bite for all of us at the absolute perfect moment. <3
See you next week! Eat well, in the meantime. Nourish yourself.
[PS: You all keep telling me how much you’ve loved this newsletter so far! Can you share it with a friend? My goal is to get to 250 readers by the end of the summer! THANK YOU!]
The pork chop at Bar Cecil
The pork chop at Bar Cecil
We took the Tramway up on the 4th! Low-frills cheese plate and canned Sangria after a long hike.
We took the Tramway up on the 4th! Low-frills cheese plate and canned Sangria after a long hike.
Gargantuan Sherman's Deli cake for the 4th! (gave 3/4 of it away!)
Gargantuan Sherman's Deli cake for the 4th! (gave 3/4 of it away!)
Me and Evie in the line for Radiator Springs Racers, nourished by this sweet surprise trip!
Me and Evie in the line for Radiator Springs Racers, nourished by this sweet surprise trip!
Don’t miss out on the other issues by Sarah Lacy
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Sarah Lacy
Sarah Lacy @sarahcuda

I'm the founder of Pando and Chairman Mom. I live half time between San Francisco and Palm Springs, ferretting out the best food between the two. Food is my love language.

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