I last ate at Whist in 2002, while celebrating my birthday on the patio of the freshly redesigned Viceroy. I remember enjoying the meal, but for whatever reason, wasn’t especially compelled to return. Thanks to an invitation, I finally returned to attend a roundtable lunch, which was designed to showcase the restaurant’s new lunch menu.
We sat on the back patio, with a view of the cabana-rimmed pool and the grey walls, which were lined with china plates, a decorative touch from Viceroy designer Kelly Wearstler.
Whist Chef Warren Schwartz is only 35, but has already racked up experience in some big-time kitchens. He graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco in 1995 and began working for Bradley Ogden at Lark Creek Inn. From 1996-1998, he worked for Joachim Splichal at Patina’s original Melrose location. From 1998-2002, he helmed the kitchen at Saddle Peak Lodge in the hills above Malibu.
In 2004, Schwartz landed at Whist, where he’s become a leading practitioner of market-driven California cuisine. When stopping by our table, Schwartz said, “Today we were out at the market. 30% of our ingredients come from the farmers market. Another 50% comes from within 200 miles of the hotel.” He’s worked with people at the Santa Monica farmers’ market for 12 years, since his Patina days. By building long-term relationships with farmers, he’s gained advantages over the competition. He gets lists of what to expect on Monday and hits the nearby market on Wednesday. He explained that shopping at the farmers’ market started with just being able to get the best products available. It has become about relationships and supporting local people.
The fairly impressive cheeses were Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog (top left), made from “fresh goat milk”; Pont L’eveque (middle left), a “creamy” cheese made from cow milk; and Gouda (bottom left), a “hard” cow’s milk cheese that had been aged for 26 months.
The charcuterie selection was even better, involving Duck Prosciutto (bottom right) cured with herbs and spices and aged for 1 month, rimmed with luscious fat; Italian Bresaola (top right), air-dried salted beef, aged 2-3 months; and thin-shaved Serrano Ham (bottom center), dry-cured Spanish ham that had been aged 18 months.
Pastry Chef Brooke Mosley soaked tiny Meyer lemon pound cakes in Meyer lemon juice and Stoli Vanil, plating with Greek yogurt ice cream scoops, plump blackberries and blackberry sauce. In the center: warm oatmeal blueberry cookies studded with butterscotch, simple but delicious. On the right: deconstructed Apple Pie Sundae – diced heirloom apples tossed with cinnamon, topped with scoops of apple butter ice cream that had been drizzled with a caramel sauce that was made with apple cider vinegar.
With Chef Warren Schwartz firmly helming the Whist kitchen, preparing high-quality, locally inspired food, it shouldn’t take another six-and-a-half years to return.
Update: Chef Schwartz left Whist to become a chef and partial owner of Westside Tavern, which opened at the Westside Pavilion in March 2009.
Food GPS » Blog Archive » Whist – Santa Monica, CA – March 26, 2008 « Great Chefs
July 30, 2009 at 3:57 PM
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January 9, 2009 at 7:12 PM
How am I the only local that gets what a cool change has taken place at whist! I have dined at whist on several occasions, that being said my recent visit was the best to date! There is a new Chef, with a fresh approach to what only a handful of great restaurants are offering! My only disappointment was the negative older gentleman that served us. We were surround by great atmosphere and cuisine only to be saddled with what seemed like a very disgruntled sever. It almost came across that he did not like the new changes, nor did he make any effort to make our experience a memorable one. I will definitely return and request a different server next time!