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THE ESSENCE OF HERBS

By Wendy Lemlin    |    PHOTOS BY Noushin Nourizadeh

Herbs. Their volume in a recipe may be small, but their contribution to the flavor profile is tremendous. Herbs bring pizzazz to pasta, vibrance to veggies, and finesse to fish. What would Italian cuisine be without oregano or basil? How could one make chili without cumin? Poultry stuffing without thyme? A julep without mint? On their own or harmoniously combined, fresh herbs elevate the overall deliciousness of these springtime dishes.

NINE-TEN Restaurant & Bar's Poached Salmon in Vichyssoise Sauce
NINE-TEN Restaurant & Bar's Poached Salmon in Vichyssoise Sauce

NINE-TEN RESTAURANT & BAR

“When I think of herbs,” says Executive Chef Jason Knibb, “I think vibrant and fresh, like springtime itself after the winter months. I might use dried herbs in the components of a dish that call for longer cooking methods, like braises and heavier sauces, while the more delicate flavors of fresh herbs shine with little to no cooking.” For Poached Salmon in Vichyssoise Sauce, Chef Jason enlivens one of his favorite seasonal fish with the spring flavors of tarragon, basil, chervil, and chives.

Roasted Heirloom Carrot Salad at Beaumont's Eatery
Roasted Heirloom Carrot Salad at Beaumont's Eatery

BEAUMONT’S EATERY

Fresh basil, tarragon, and chives provide the “green” in the homemade Green Goddess dressing component of the Roasted Heirloom Carrot Salad that rises from the plate like a spring garden. “The slow roasting allows the carrots to caramelize and sweeten, and the herbs complement that sweetness,” explains Chef Shahab Pourteymoor. “Pepitas and radish impart an earthy balance, and the creaminess of the Buratta cheese brings a pleasant textural contrast. A garnish of assorted fresh herbs ties it all together,” he adds.

Bella Vista Social Club & Caffé's Coconut Ceviche
Bella Vista Social Club & Caffé's Coconut Ceviche

BELLA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB & CAFFÉ

Spring is a time of growth and newness and, with a new chef and expanded cocktail program, spring is also a time for celebration at Bella Vista. Chef Kevin Barry’s Coconut Ceviche reflects his years living in Central America, adding the tropical flavor of coconut milk to the tangy citrus marinade that “cooks” the raw mahi mahi. Cilantro is the key herb for ceviche, adding green visual accents to the flavor profile. “Cilantro tastes like spring to me, and helps the ingredients of the raw dish shine,” Chef Kevin says.

The Fishery's Roasted Seasonal Vegetables with Ancient Grains
The Fishery's Roasted Seasonal Vegetables with Ancient Grains

THE FISHERY

This may come as a surprise, but there’s more on the menu here than seafood. One delectable example is the Roasted Seasonal Vegetables with Ancient Grains. Whole rosemary sprigs, chopped fresh thyme, and oregano are roasted with an assortment of colorful spring veggies, served with herbed farro, and drizzled with romesco and chimichurri sauces. Executive Chef Paul Arias points out, “The herbs enhance the sweet earthiness of the vegetables. Keeping the rosemary sprig whole accentuates the flavor without being overpowering.”

The Marine Room's Alaskan Gold
The Marine Room's Alaskan Gold

THE MARINE ROOM

Executive Chef Bernard Guillas presents Alaskan Gold as homage to the memory of his grandmother’s prodigious springtime herb garden in Brittany. Coating an Alaskan halibut fillet with Marcona almonds crushed with lemon thyme and chervil, he accentuates the fish with an herb-rich absinthe infusion, blue crabmeat, and saffron fennel purée. Fresh Origins herbs and flowers beautifully garnish the dish, which is a seasonal favorite of Chef Bernard because “the herbs bring the plate alive with visual radiance and enticing aroma, while their flavors encapsulate the energy of spring.”

Lavender Crusted Sea Bass at The Med
Lavender Crusted Sea Bass at The Med

THE MED

Executive Chef Timothy Ralphs is a big fan of lavender and gives it a starring role in his Lavender Crusted Sea Bass with Herb Scented Cous Cous, Lemon Jus, and Chervil Oil. “Lavender screams ‘springtime’ for me, and reminds me of my time cooking in Provence,” Chef Timothy says. “The pairing of lavender with a fatty fish makes for both a wonderful complement and interesting contrast. Lavender’s distinctive flavor and heady aroma conjures up many sensory emotions, which I strive for in my food.”

Brockton Villa's California Crab Avocado Toast
Brockton Villa's California Crab Avocado Toast

BROCKTON VILLA

For the perfect springtime lunch overlooking La Jolla Cove, Executive Chef Mareyja Sisbarro offers her California Crab Avocado Toast. Tarragon, chives, micro arugula, and micro red amaranth add a hint of sharpness to balance the sweetness of the shellfish and enhance the tangy profile of the lemon zest in the crab salad. “I’m a big fan of herbs,” Chef Mareyja says. “I love the pop of color they add, as well as the flavors they impart.”

Fettuccine with Pesto and Shrimp at Osteria Romantica
Fettuccine with Pesto and Shrimp at Osteria Romantica

OSTERIA ROMANTICA

Fragrant, fresh basil is the star ingredient in a plate of Fettuccine with Pesto and Shrimp at this very romantic of Italian restaurants. The authentic pesto sauce is made with pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, Parmesan, and, of course, an abundance of basil. “Basil is a very important herb in Italian cooking,” explains Chef/Owner Fabio Speziali. “There are many different types, each with their own flavor subtleties. Pesto originated in Genoa, in the Liguria region, whose basil is much sought after.”