There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars. — F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
I kept thinking of the above quote during my most recent dining experience at Le Vallauris. Jay Gatsby would have felt quite at home dining in Paul Bruggeman’s elegantly imagined tree-laced garden of a courtyard. (To call it a patio would be to do it a grave disservice.) On this perfect Palm Springs evening, lights flickered from the trees, piano music hung in the air, and the faces of diners glowed from candlelight, convivial conversation and good red wine.
For those unfamiliar with this historical landmark, Le Vallauris is the Desert’s most award-winning 5-star restaurant. In fact, Zagat awarded it their highest rating of “Extraordinary to Perfection” in all categories for Food, Decor and Service, and Jerry Berns of New York’s 21 Club says “Le Vallauris is not only the best restaurant here, I would rank it as one of the best restaurants in the world.”
This year, Le Vallauris celebrates its 40th anniversary season. The glamorous Palm Springs eatery will commemorate its milestone anniversary with a season-long celebration featuring special menu items, signature anniversary cocktails and a sumptuous prix fixe menu created by talented Executive Chef, Jean Paul Lair.
Truly the place to “see and be seen” in Palm Springs, Le Vallauris is located in the exquisite Roberson house (built by George B. Roberson, son of Palm Springs pioneer Nellie Coffman). This historic restaurant embodies taste and style with a finely-honed European sensibility. Upon entering, you are warmly welcomed as if you’ve entered the home (complete with Flemish tapestries and Louis-XV furniture) of a wealthy French relative who makes your enjoyment of the evening his first concern.
Whether you dine in the sumptous dining room or in the courtyard under the desert sky, you will be treated to a feast for the senses. The appetizers and entrees created by Chef Jean Paul Lair are all equally fantastic and selecting one over the other will not be an easy task. You’ll be dazzled by the daily offerings–handwritten on an easel and brought to your table. Luckily, the expert servers are as knowledgeable as they are attentive and will guide you to elegantly imagined pairings of food and wine.
I have been enjoying memorable dining experiences at Le Vallauris for fourteen years now (in fact, it was the site of my first birthday dinner in Palm Springs!) and my personal favorites include their divine Escargot in classic garlic butter (heaven when paired with the fresh French bread), Caesar salad in an aged Parmesan basket, and the Belgium Endive Hazelnut Salad with Goat Cheese Fritters. And those are just among the appetizers! My favorite entrees include Maine Lobster Raviolis with cream of basil bisque and lobster claws, Roasted Rack of Lamb with rosemary garlic, harissa reduction, pomme Anna and vegetable medley, and the delectable seared Lake Superior whitefish with mustard sauce–always a crowd pleaser.
My most recent dining experience included chatting with general manager, Tony Bruggemans, who elevates charm to an art form. He, like everyone at Le Vallauris, is there to ensure that their patrons enjoy the best food, wine, service and ambience the Valley has to offer. Executive Chef Jean Paul Lair also joined our table and regaled us with story after story about his beginnings in cuisine, how he came to California, and how he met his wife. The man’s talent extends far beyond his elegantly imaged and executed cuisine–he is quite the raconteur!
Born in the spa city of Vichy, France, Chef Jean Paul enjoys a reputation for his extraordinary French Mediterranean cuisine, honed in world-class kitchens in both France and the United States. During his 29 years with Le Vallauris, Chef Jean Paul has helped the restaurant evolve from traditional French cuisine to a lighter Mediterranean influenced style–relying on carefully curated ingredients of the highest quality. His menus are extensively researched, and passionately prepared and presented–providing patrons with a consistently memorable dining experience.
I count the days till my next enchanted evening at Le Vallauris, dining under the canopy of ficus trees and stars, the whisper of the desert wind–each bite more perfect than the last. It is always an evening to remember!