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Rustic Canyon/Huckleberry/Sweet Rose/Milo&Olive Newsletter
Newsletter: Volume 47 – FALL
High praise, new openings, and lots of year end celebrations at the Rustic Canyon Family of Restaurants
Happy Fall everyone! After months of brutal heat that grated on everyone’s nerves and escalated the pace of the seasonal produce at the markets, we’re excited to be settling into a cooler and hopefully wetter late Fall and early Winter. The past few months have been filled with a great deal of excitement and growth within our restaurant group as we’ve updated our menus at Rustic, ramped up for Thanksgiving catering at Huckleberry, opened two new neighborhood locations for Sweet Rose and opened our two newest projects, Cassia and Esters in the Telephone building in Santa Monica. With all of this activity we’ve missed a couple of seasonal newsletters, so without further ado, here is some news about all of the new happenings within our family of restaurants.
News from the Rustic Canyon Kitchen
Last week Rustic Canyon was honored by Jonathan Gold and the LA Times, when we were named number 5 on his list of Los Angeles’s 101 best restaurants. It’s an honor for Rustic, which will be nine years old this December, to be placed at its highest spot ever in these rankings.
This is due in large part to Chef/Partner Jeremy Fox’s unbelievable creativity and deeply soulful cooking. The idea of Rustic’s food has always been to cook simple, timeless, and delicious dishes that speak to the amazing farms that surround us.
To this point we’ve recently redesigned our menu to better reflect the food that Jeremy and our kitchen are creating. Some examples of these fantastic dishes include a plate of Thao Farms White Yams, steamed and then fried, and warmed with Garlic Butter, Okra, & sprinkled with a Dukkah of Hazenuts and Sesame Seeds. Another delicious larger plate is a Brined and Poached Sturgeon from Passmore Ranch near Sacramento. This is poached in a deeply flavorful Smoked Fish Bone Broth and served with Fried Chickpea Panisse. And if you’re in the mood to celebrate come in and order our massive Dry Aged Cote de Bouef, a beautiful and celebratory cut of meat meant to be shared by 2 or more people and served with Roasted Bone Marrow, Crispy Potatoes and Chili Butter.
Finally, it’s time to start planning for New Year’s Eve, and of course we believe there’s no better way to celebrate than with an epic meal surrounded by the people you love. This year we continue the tradition of doing our own approach to ringing in the New Year, with a multi course family style feast, where you and your table choose eight dishes from a menu of fifteen options, which are then put together for a special dining experience. The menu will be posted online soon. Dinner is $125 per person plus tax and gratuity and reservations book up fast so please call us at 310.393.7050 to reserve your spot to ring in the New Year with us.
News From the Huckleberry Bakery
Fall is an exciting time at Huckleberry as pears and apples flood the pastry case and the cooler weather calls for bowls of warm Chocolate Caramel Bread Pudding, Glazed Brioche Donuts and so much more.
New items continue to work their way onto the Huck menus. Some of our favorites currently are a White Bean and Radicchio Tartine, where Roasted Garlic and peppery Radicchio are balanced beautifully by the hearty puree of White Beans and the sweet finish of a touch of syrupy Saba. We also have a whole chalkboard filled with new salads, including a healthy and super satisfying Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale Salad with Arugula, Pomegranate Seeds, Parmesan & Pepitas.
If you’ve been in recently and seen Pumpkin Pies returning to the pastry case, you know that we are in full Thanksgiving mode. This year, just like the past 5 years, we’ll be offering our “everything but the whole turkey” Thanksgiving catering menu. Place your order now for Organic Braised Turkey Thighs or Smothered Organic Turkey and Gravy, as well as great holiday sides like Roasted Sweet Potatoes topped with sweet and savory Pecan Crumble, Bunched Rainbow Carrots with Carrot Top Pesto, Classic Macaroni & Cheese, Stuffing, Cornbread Pudding and so much more. For sweets, in addition to Pumpkin Pie there’s a delicious Apple Cheddar Pie, Mini Pumpkin Cream Cheese Cupcakes, plus an assortment of breads and dinner rolls baked that morning at Milo & Olive and put together with your order at Huckleberry.
All Thanksgiving Catering orders need to be placed by 7PM on Friday November 20th and will be ready for pick up between 9-12 AM Thanksgiving morning. Feel free to browse the menu and order form on our website and call us any day after 2PM to place your order. We look forward to making Thanksgiving a bit easier and more delicious for you.
News From Sweet Rose Creamery
It’s been a busy past few months for Shiho and the team at Sweet Rose as we’ve recently opened our 4th and 5th stores. Sweet Rose Pacific Palisades opened in August in the shopping center at 970 Monument Avenue just off of Sunset. The Palisades store is nostalgic for a certain owner who grew up in Rustic Canyon and used to walk into the Palisades as a kid to get ice cream at Baskin Robbins.
The Palisades store, featuring a beautiful mural by local artist Kris Chau features all of our classic and seasonal flavors and is open daily from 11AM-11PM. Our most recent opening is our Tujunga Village store in this adorable stretch of neighborhood between Studio City and Toluca Lake. This store located at 4377 Tujunga Avenue is set in a beyond charming little storefront that looks like an old house, complete with small backyard and picnic tables, and like our Mid-City store is certified Kosher.
We’re so excited to be growing Sweet Rose with the goal of serving some of the best neighborhoods in LA and look forward to getting to know our Palisades and Studio City neighbors. As we approach the holidays, Shiho will begin running some of our favorite holiday treats, like Pumpkin Ice Cream, seasonal Holiday Sundaes and fresh made candies like our highly addictive Peppermint Bark.
News from Milo & Olive’s Pizzeria
Milo and Olive continues to rock and roll as we head into our first holiday season in our expanded space. There is so much to be excited about as Chef Erin Eastland continues to work her magic on pizzas, pastas, farmers market veggies and so much more.
New dishes that we’re joyfully devouring include a Warm Roasted Pear & Baby Greens Salad with Goat Cheese, Pomegranates and Pistachio Aillade as well as a Roasted Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Pizza topped with Fontina Cream, a drizzle of 25 Year Aged Balsamic and Thyme. Yum!
Also, Milo & Olive will continue our casual New Year’s Eve tradition of being the place to go if you don’t want to book in advance or have an elaborate special menu. Erin will be cooking up specials from the wood-fired oven so if you love Milo & Olive and simply want something a little more low key, consider spending the New Year with us here.
Welcome Cassia & Esters
Cassia opened to great fanfare and an overwhelmingly positive response from friends and critics alike, all of whom seemed to be counting the days to be able to eat Chef/Owner Bryant Ng’s fantastic food again. For those of you that haven’t visited Cassia yet, it’s a 200 seat Southeast Asian Brasserie, with a beautiful chilled seafood bar, wood fired grill, large marble bar and patio for outdoor dining. It’s been so fun to partner up with Bryant and his wife Kim, and watch people devour plates of Vietnamese Sunbathing Prawns, Spicy Wontons, Clay Oven Breads and Spreads, Whole Grilled Sea Bass and so much more.
As the holidays approach, we have plenty of holiday party options at Cassia, as we have a Family Table that seats 12, a Private Dining room that seats 18, and other rooms in the restaurant can be reserved to accommodate larger parties. Cassia is also now offering take-out and, as of November 23rd, Cassia will be open on Mondays! We plan to add lunch and brunch at some point in the New Year.
Finally come celebrate a grand New Years Eve with us at Cassia. Bryant’s playing with a whole bunch of new menu items that will comprise a 6 course family style feast, starting with a beautiful assortment of Raw and Chilled Seafood and includes a delicious Lobster Chowder made with Coconut Milk, Duck Confit in Lettuce Cups and much more. Dinner is $125 per person and reservations will be accepted by phone only so please call 310.393.6699 to book now.
Esters, our Wine Shop and Bar, opened in late July just across the hall from Cassia and it is quickly becoming a neighborhood favorite. Wine Director and Co-Owner Kathryn Weil Coker continues to dazzle with an incredible wine list of small production bottles from around the world. The small bites menu comes courtesy of Chef Jeremy Fox, and features a beautiful selection of house cured or artisan made charcuterie, cheeses, and yummy small plates like a Panzanella Salad with House-Cultured Yogurt, Dill & Sunflower Seeds and a dish of Melted Raclette with thinly sliced Weiser Farm Potatoes, Ham, Cornichons & Mustard. Esters is also a fantastic place to shop for wine to gift to your loved ones or enjoy yourself as well as other great goodies like cheese, crackers and more.
Esters will be open on Thanksgiving Day this year from 10-2 so that you can shop for your last minute Turkey day wine, and if you’re looking for inspiration for your Thanksgiving selections, join Kathryn at the November edition of her monthly wine tasting which is appropriately focused on wines that go great with a traditional Thanksgiving meal.
To learn more about Esters’ tastings and other great events go to the Esters website. We also have beautiful gift baskets with goods from favorite local artisan producers paired with fantastic wines which are great to give to family members, co-workers, or anyone you know who likes to eat good food and drink great wine.
Finally, on a sad note, we’ve spoken over many newsletters about all of our amazing farmers and during the summer no one is mentioned more than our friend Ron Cornelsen who recently passed away. For years Ron had grown some of the most beautiful and inspiring stone fruit anywhere, and we always looked forward to that June day when Ron and his wife Kathy would make their return to the market for the summer and start making us happy with their big smiles and that amazing fruit. We will miss Ron dearly and send our love and thoughts to Kathy and their family.
As always, we are so grateful for all of your support of the restaurants and we look forward to seeing you all soon. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family from ours.
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Newsletter: Volume 45
3% Health Care Surcharge
We’re really excited to announce that beginning October 1st, we at the Rustic Canyon Family of Restaurants will be offering fully covered health care coverage to all of our employees who work 30 or more hours a week. Offering health care is something we’ve always wanted to do, but for a long time felt it was financially unrealistic. We’ve recently sat down with other like-minded local chefs and restaurant owners like Suzanne Goin, Carolyn Stein & David Lentz, Jon Shook & Vinny Dotolo, and Josiah Citrin to come up with a plan to offer coverage and have decided to implement a 3% employee benefit surcharge added to all of our checks beginning September 1st to pay the October 1 premium. This will cover the majority of the cost of providing this benefit. Everyone on this list will also be offering health care plans to all full time staff beginning on October 1st or by the end of the year.
We understand that health care related surcharges have been a hot topic at times, both in San Francisco, where they’re widely used in many of the best restaurants in the city, and here locally when Walter Manske and Bill Chaite introduced the first charge of that sort at Republique. We felt that it was best that we take a minute to explain why and how we’ll be offering benefits, the reason for the surcharge, and how we intend to show transparency so that our customers can understand how the money is spent. The major point is that this is not a political statement or endorsement of any kind. Our desire to offer health benefits is not even really tied to the Affordable Care Act, which at this point wouldn’t require businesses to provide health benefits to their employees until January 2016 at the earliest, and where ultimately businesses of our size might not be required to provide health benefits at all. Our desire to do this is because, quite frankly, we believe it’s the right thing to do, and that as a community of independent and family run restaurants we want to provide the best work environment we can so that we can provide long term jobs and careers for our staff instead of the usual transient employment that is associated with the restaurant business.
The plan to roll out health care coverage is pretty simple. We will be offering all staff members who work full time (30 hours a week) an opportunity to have a fully covered HMO plan with a top tier carrier, or if they choose, we’ll pay a significant portion of a PPO plan if the employee chooses a more specialized plan. In addition we’ve pledged to work with any employee who is currently below the minimum hours threshold to give them enough hours to meet the minimum so that they can qualify for benefits.
The cost of offering these benefits is significant and the reality is that restaurants, particularly smaller restaurants like the ones many of us own, have a very high ratio of staff members to revenue and run on very slim profit margins. Successfully run restaurants generally make between 5-10% net profits so a health care benefit which eats away 3% of gross sales will take away anywhere from 30% to 50% of annual profits for a restaurant. We’ve discussed simply raising menu prices, but ultimately food prices are tied in many ways to the ingredients we purchase . Those ingredient costs have increased astronomically recently so we’re already struggling with working creatively to keep menu prices down and don’t feel it’s right to try to factor health care costs into menu prices as well. We’d rather keep our menu costs as an accurate refection of our ingredient prices so that customers know that if we have to raise them it’s because we can’t avoid passing on our increased costs.. So that leaves with us a surcharge, which based on our calculations of 3% allows us to cover 100% of our employees in full. In addition, a 3% charge on your bill gives the customer options they wouldn’t have if the cost was simply folded into menu prices. Customers can simply pay the surcharge and support a healthier staff, choose to adjust their gratuity down by 3% in order to end up paying the same amount they originally anticipated while still supporting health benefits for the entire staff, or if they strongly oppose, ask to have the charge removed from their bill. In addition, to avoid any misconceptions, we as a group pledge to post total transparency on our websites by the end of the first quarter of each year for the previous calendar year showing the total that was collected for employee benefit surcharges the previous year, how it was spent, and in the case of a surplus how every dollar of that surplus will be applied to employee benefits. Rest assured that none of us would use any of this surcharge for anything other than wellness benefits for our staff.
We’re extremely happy to be able to offer these health benefits to our staff and our staff has been extremely excited to get signed up to receive them. Many of our staff were not previously covered or were covered but it was a significant financial burden. Feel free to check in with our staff and ask questions about the health plan or the surcharge on your next visit and we’ll happily address them in a candid and transparent manner. We are eternally grateful to you, our customers, who support our restaurants and allow us to do what we love for a living. We thank you all for your support and as always will constantly strive to be the best restaurants we can be day in and day out.