Experience the Oaks Grille at TPC this Holiday Season
By Dave Bossert
In the Santa Clarita Valley, restaurant goers often have to settle for an array of chain eateries that masquerade as fine dining. Establishments like Bone Fish Grill, Lazy Dog, and others have proliferated in recent years, offering a homogenized fair of semi-processed, pre-packaged food prepared in a factory like kitchen with little room for customization. It’s edible and provides sustenance, but it’s not exciting.
But for those who enjoy a great gastronomic experience, there is a hidden gem nestled in the hills on the western edge of the valley. The Oaks Grille at the Tournament Players Club is a culinary oasis in an otherwise bland foodie landscape. And in recent months, Peyton Paulson has taken the reigns in the kitchen as the new executive chef.
Paulson, is a native son of the Santa Clarita Valley, received his culinary training at La Cordon Bleu. He did his cooking boot camp at a series of four- and five-star restaurants along the Northern and Central California coast, honing his skills. After stepping up from sous-chef to the boss he has been slowly morphing the menu to more of a fresh farm to fork selection of inventive dishes.
On a recent visit to the Grille, I was seated at a table along the glass-walled atrium, which has panoramic views of the Santa Suzanna Mountains to sample a few of these dishes. The restaurant is perched above the 18th hole of the championship golf course. During the holidays the warm, wood and stone appointed dining room is decorated magnificently with classic wreaths, garland and a lovely holiday tree.
After being shown to our table and sinking into the padded chair, I proceeded to order the ahi tuna crudo starter. When it arrived, the dish was beautifully plated with a one-inch-high disc of sushi grade tuna mixed with cucumbers, tomatoes, and topped with an avocado mousse, green onion, peanuts, and sweet soy vinaigrette. The plate had painterly brush strokes of sriracha in an abstract design with an added garnish of wonton strips; delicious.
The main course, a perfectly cooked wild boar rack, flame grilled and served with a potato puree, balsamic cipollini (pronounced chip-oh-lee-ni), and roasted apples in a blackberry jam with a red wine reduction. Tender and juicy, it’s the kind of meat that cut with ease and melted in my mouth. I savored the blend of flavors with every sublime bite.
This marvelously orchestrated meal was complimented by a bottle of 2012 Spur; an estate grown red wine blend from the Livermore Valley. Maestro Chef Paulson takes care in all aspects of the meal including the often eclectic wine list that had some moderately priced wines that paired exceptionally well with his varied dishes. I enjoy a wine list that has unusual and different wines from around the world and at price points to appeal to everyone. The Oaks Grille has such a selection which gets added to on a regular basis.
The new menu offers the latest fresh fare from the area farmers markets and is a testimony to Peyton Paulson’s vision for The Oaks Grille. He has a firm grasp on his culinary skills and knows that his restaurant is a refuge in a wasteland of formulaic eateries. The best part is that you are sitting in one of the most beautiful locations in the valley and the holiday season is a wonderful time of year to experience it in this culinary sanctuary.
(The Oaks Grille is open to the public but call first to verify the hours and availability; 661.288.1995)