Sweet Summertime


Guests at The St. Regis Monarch Beach will find plentiful seasonal offerings throughout the resort.

By Vicki Hogue-Davies

Guests can relax poolside at The St. Regis Monarch Beach with a summer drink in hand.

“Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language,” wrote 19th-century author Henry James. Often marked by the ripening of flavorful fruits, vegetables and other seasonal produce, the season not only brings bountiful offerings but also countless ways to use them. At The St. Regis Monarch Beach, the resort’s food and drink experts use nature’s seasonal bounty to prepare delicious cuisine, creative cocktails and elegant desserts. And at the resort’s renowned Spa Gaucin, hydrating treatments that keep skin and hair moisturized add to the summer-inspired experience. Here, discover all the ways to keep the season alive at The St. Regis Monarch Beach.

Garden-Fresh Dishes 

For Frederic Castan, executive chef of  The St. Regis Monarch Beach, summer dining is about using the freshest seasonal food on the market. “There are so many things to choose from at the farmer’s market,” he says. “There is zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes, beautiful fresh veggies and other foods.”

Castan’s passion for truly fresh food comes naturally to a chef who was raised on a farm in Avignon, France, and grew up eating flavorful foods in their peak seasons. He brings that cooking philosophy to the resort and Motif Restaurant, where the focus is always on fresh, seasonal ingredients.

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Executive Chef Frederic Castan attends local farmers markets to buy fresh produce.

Examples include the resort’s signature olive oil that Castan uses in the restaurant, which is blended exclusively for the The St. Regis Monarch Beach by Temecula Olive Oil Co., a farm and business located approximately one hour east of in Southern California’s Temecula Valley.

“We go there once or twice a year and pick out the olives, and they crush them and mix it up,” Castan says. Another ingredient he buys locally and enjoys using in summer salads, on flatbreads and in other recipes is fresh goat cheese, sourced from Drake Family Farms in Ontario, Calif., also about an hour away. A summer flatbread on the menu, which uses the oil and goat cheese, also includes seasonal stone fruits like peaches, nectarines and apricots.

Pastry chef Frederic Moreau incorporates seasonal fruits into his desserts.
Pastry chef Frederic Moreau incorporates seasonal fruits into his desserts.

“A nice summer sandwich we make for lunch features a good pita bread, Petaluma chicken and local feta cheese, which is also sourced from the same farm as the goat cheese,” he says. “For dinner, we have a grilled Kobe beef, which is very tender and flavorful, with basil chimichurri. It has nice tomato, capers and sauce over it that is just amazing.”

The restaurant also offers a sensational slow-cooked lamb. “The meat is more flavorful in summer than in winter because the lambs go to pasture in spring, just before they are to be [harvested],” Castan adds.

At Michael Mina’s Stonehill Tavern, freshness is also top priority. Raj Dixit, the restaurant’s executive chef, believes a perfect summer meal is easy and uncomplicated. He finds inspiration for creating the restaurant’s summer meals from seasonal ingredients, warmer weather and places he wants to visit.

“These dishes tend to be lighter conceptualized in style and flavor, and tend to rely on more delicate techniques of cooking,” Dixit says. “The dishes are mainly designed around the seasonal vegetables and proteins one would expect in the summer.

“We look for great California market vegetables that are in season, ripe fruits, sprouted grains, unusual herbs and botanicals, seeds and tree nuts, day-boat West Coast fish and seafood, and great quality, responsibly raised meats and poultry,” he continues.

The restaurant’s seasonal offerings also include a butcher’s cut that features a different cut of bison each week, rotating throughout the summer months. The heirloom tomato sundae with crescenza cheese, freshly picked rocket leaves (another name for arugula) and California Mission olive oil sorbet is another summer-inspired, palate-pleasing menu offering.

Warm Weather Sips

The attention to fresh summer ingredients extends to the resort’s countless cocktails. “I always like to talk with the chefs and see what is in season,” says Jenny Buchhagen, Stonehill Tavern’s lead mixologist. “All it takes is for me to smell one herb or try something delicious to get my excitement going about a new cocktail recipe.

“It makes a huge difference when making a cocktail with fresh fruits, syrups or purees,” she continues. “The flavor is always so much more authentic, and the drink doesn’t have as much sugar. Dixit is always getting ingredients fresh and local. We get these strawberries from Harry’s Berries that are so amazing. They almost taste like they are enhanced with extra flavor, they are so good.”

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Mixologist Jenny Buchhagen creates The Chauvinist, a beer blend of hefeweizen, bourbon, fresh citrus juice and pepper.

A couple of the cocktails highlighted on this summer’s drink menu at Stonehill Tavern are The Chauvinist and The Jezebel. The Chauvinist is made with Basil Hayden’s bourbon, Meyer lemon and a hefeweizen beer, she says. The Jezebel is made from Azunia Tequila, orange juice and fresh strawberries, and features cinnamon on the rim of the glass.

Guests stopping for a cocktail at the Lobby Lounge will also find the season’s finest flavors. “Citrus, mint, cucumber, fresh berries and basil are some key ingredients in our summer drinks,” says Brian Neubauer, the resort’s assistant food and beverage director. “We are introducing a drink called Botanical Lemonade this summer. We use a rosemary-infused gin combined with fresh lemonade—the rosemary is picked from the resort’s botanical garden and is mixed with lavender-infused simple syrup. The lavender is also from our garden.

Botanical Lemonade
Botanical Lemonade

“We [also] have a drink called California Dream made with Champagne, pomegranate liquor, elderflower liqueur and fresh peach puree,” he adds.

Delectable Desserts

“What I expect from a dessert in summer is something refreshing and cold,” says pastry chef Frederic Moreau. “That’s why I use a lot of sorbets/ice creams in my plated desserts, and then combine them with juicy fruits like peaches. To me it’s like heaven. The fresher it is, the more I want.”

Because seasonal fruits are generally more flavorful, the resort is using cherries, peaches, strawberry, apricots, raspberries and blueberries this summer.
“The fruit is already good when we get it, so I try not to denature the flavor; sous vide cooking techniques or quick roasting are used to preserve their sweet flavors,” he adds. “Then, I will combine them with different textures and other flavors or spices, making sure once combined they enhance the fruit. After all, I want to have a strawberry dessert that tastes mostly like strawberry.”

Two desserts remain on the menu year-round—warm chocolate cake and creme brulee. The other five plated desserts change with the season. One of this summer’s dishes is an apricot glass, composed of rum cream, roasted apricots, vanilla apricot sorbet, apricot marshmallow, pistachio sponge and pistachio foam. Another is the Cherry Black Forest, which combines cherry sauce, mascarpone, steamed cherries with lime zest, dark chocolate sponge, dark chocolate cream, caramelized white chocolate Chantilly and a star anise cherry sorbet.

Wedding cake designs are also inspired by the season within the desires of the bride and groom. “Fresh summer fruits like berries and stone fruits are often used, and we love to decorate with bright colors and fresh flowers and fruits, as well,” Moreau says.

Perfect Pampering

In addition to seasonal food and drinks, seasonal pampering is on the menu at Spa Gaucin. The Intraceuticals Oxygen Infusion Treatment, which can be done as a series of six for optimal results, infuses the skin with moisture for a summer glow. As part of the treatment, skin is cleansed, exfoliated and infused with a moisturizing serum and is available in 60- or 90-minute treatments.

Spa Gaucin offers an Intraceuticals Oxygen Infusion Treatment for radiant summer skin.
Spa Gaucin offers an Intraceuticals Oxygen Infusion Treatment for radiant summer skin.

“Our wellness and Intraceutical oxygen facials, all of our body wraps, our salon hair treatment featuring Moroccan Oil’s Intense Hydrating Hair Mask and our Spirit & Sole upgrade, which is an aromatic massage of the scalp and feet, are perfect in summer,” says lead esthetician Colleen Sanchez.

Indeed, summer brings inspiration, no matter the time of day. And at The St. Regis Monarch Beach, there’s always a way to indulge, whether it’s a handcrafted cocktail or an invigorating spa treatment. B

Summer Inspirations at Home

Food and drink experts at The St. Regis Monarch Beach offer tips for making fresh dishes and cocktails in your own abode.

For summer-fresh flavor, “focus on serving products from your local farmers market,” says Raj Dixit, Stonehill Tavern’s executive chef. “Consider balancing higher levels of acidity and lower levels of sweetness in the summer heat. Buy a Vitamix blender and incorporate fresh vegetable juices into your marinades and dressings … keep it simple.”

Frederic Castan, executive chef for The St. Regis Monarch Beach, also incorporates local produce. “I make a marinade in the blender with fresh herbs, garlic and olive oil, soak the vegetables, and then grill,” he says. “If I have a meat eater, I go pick a good piece of meat from Whole Foods and use the same type of marinade that I use for veggies. I might add a little bit of lemon juice to it while on the grill, which gives it a nice acidity.”

When it comes to cocktails, “have fun with it!” advises Jenny Buchhagen, lead mixologist at Stonehill Tavern. “Try ingredients that you wouldn’t normally use. I made a bell pepper and basil margarita that was so good, but who would have thought it would be delicious together?”

The time of the year is also the perfect time to experiment with lighter spirits, or even Champagne. “Summertime is a great time to incorporate some bubbles into your glass,” says Brian Neubauer, assistant director of food and beverage. “Gin is also becoming more and more popular these days. Nolet’s Silver Gin has phenomenal rose and peach characteristics that mix great with citrus for some excellent summer drinks.”

Finally, for days sitting outside sipping on handcrafted cocktails and dining on freshly prepared appetizers, Spa Gaucin lead esthetician Colleen Sanchez offers important advice: “Start your day with adequate sun protection factor coverage, use a leave-on hair treatment to protect hair from the sun’s rays and be sure to wear a hat or sun visor.”