California Pizza Kitchen – Good Food, Good Wine, Good Cause
When I accepted the opportunity to review the new offerings at California Pizza Kitchen, I have to admit that I wasn’t entirely honest with their representative. I say that because it’s one of my go-to places when I’m at the Fashion Show Mall. Which, according to my whimpering wallet, is entirely too often. I stop at the CPK there and order my favorite – Italian Chopped Salad (with extra garbanzos, thank you very much) and a glass of Clos du Bois Chardonnay. Works for me.
I recruited Don and Mark to help me taste the new flights of wines and some of the new offerings on the menu. They thought about it long and hard (say, five seconds or so) before accepting the invitation. We went to the California Pizza Kitchen at Town Square because it’s pretty equidistant between our homes.
We sat down and were immediately presented with three flights of wine. They are 3 oz pours and each flight is a set (no substitutions, please) – Whites, Reds, and Adventurous. Each flight is made up of what I call “dependable” wines; that is, those wines that are always consistent and tasty. The Whites flight was made up of Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling, Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc, and Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay. The Reds flight was made up of La Crema Pinot Noir, Ravenswood “Vintner’s Blend” Zinfandel, and J. Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon. The Adventurous flight was made up of Jacob’s Creek Moscato (over which we fought – yummy!), Markham Merlot, and Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon.
We each tasted the wines and they were as expected. Good, solid wines whose popularity isn’t a mistake. Now it was time to see how they paired with food.
The two new dishes that are being promoted by CPK are the Brussels-Bacon Pizza and the Roasted Beet + Whipped Goat Cheese salad.
The first to arrive was the Brussels-Bacon Pizza.
Before I review it, I have to state that the three of us are middle-aged plus, (okay, I’m the “plus”) and we grew up sitting at the dinner table and not being allowed to leave before we finished everything on our plate. The “everything,” more often than not, was usually Brussels Sprouts. Cooked to a washed out greenish gray mushiness, they were usually flavorless with a strange bitter aftertaste. I was lucky enough to have mine doused with vinegar which helped the “flavor.”
So we’re looking at this pizza, and it’s very different from what we’re used to. The Brussels Sprouts are a brilliant green and actually look as if they have texture. The crust was crispy thin and there were generous chunks of Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Bacon largely hidden under the Sprouts. In addition, there were caramelized sweet onions, Romano goat cheese, and cracked black pepper. Very much an artisan pizza.
It’s good. For three anti-Brussels Sprouts people to declare that it’s good is a sea change, believe me. The crust was exactly as I had figured it would be – crispy and flavorful. The Sprouts were scrumptious and well-flavored by the bacon, onions, and goat cheese. We were genuinely surprised and pretty much scarfed it up. Never in life would we have even conceived of the thought of making Brussels Sprouts the center of attention on pizza. I mean, Really!? An amazingly creative idea and it was surprisingly good. And it paired well with both the Zin and the Sauv Blanc.
Next came the Roasted Beet + Whipped Goat Cheese salad. It was served on an oblong plate with generous chunks of red and yellow beets, watercress, and pistachios on a base of creamy goat cheese. I’m a salad aficionado, and I could eat this one all day long. The sweetness of the beets and the tanginess of the creamy goat cheese were a perfect foil with the Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc. I think I may have allowed Don and Mark to taste it. I pretty much inhaled it by myself. Sorry guys!
New dishes now taken care of, we ordered from the menu. I stepped out of my comfort zone and ordered the Moroccan Spiced Chicken Salad, with roasted butternut squash, dates, avocado, toasted almonds, beets, red peppers, chopped egg, and cranberries. A Champagne vinaigrette dressed the salad. I am not an expert on Moroccan, but I am an expert on what’s good. And – with the decided exception of the cranberries – “there are no bogs in Morocco,” stated Don – it tasted authentic. It was very good, but I couldn’t find a wine to pair. So I ordered a bottle of Rogue IPA, and that, as it turned out, was ideal.
Don and Mark ordered the Meat Cravers Pizza and inhaled most of it. Turns out that they are regular customers of CPK, too and the Meat Cravers is their go-to pizza!
Next on the list was the Butter Cake with Häagan-Dazs® ice cream.
As Don stated, it’s a stick of butter disguised as a cake. It’s so good. So rich. I felt my thighs fluff and my arteries harden from just one bite. You can use any adjective – sinful, luscious, unctuous, yummy, whatever. Although by this time we were bursting, we fought over the last of the crumbs. It was sooo delicious! And it didn’t even have chocolate!
We finished up by leisurely sharing a bottle of the Wine of the Month, which was a nice blend called Colby Red. It didn’t have the varietals listed on the label anywhere, but we figured it had at least Cabernet and Shiraz in the blend. The wine is a project by the winemaker, named for his young son who has struggled with heart issues. Each sale of the wine donates a percentage to the American Heart Association. How could we not buy a bottle?
As it turned out, the wine was quite good and very drinkable. The “good cause” part of it made it that much more fragrant and that much more delicious.
It always amazes me when I can get such good food at a major chain restaurant. I have had some some less than stellar experiences in some chains (“swill”) and always walk into one with a decided skepticism. You’d think that after all of these years, I would be less than skeptical with CPK. And you’d be correct. I walked into the store with a sense that I’d receive really good food. And I did.
Thanks to our server, Zammy, our every need was met. Her smile greeted us at each course and made our meal special. Zammy has great hair – okay that has nothing to do with pizza, but if my hair had looked like hers when it was short, I’d still have short hair. She also has a terrific sense of humor and loves what she does. Be sure to ask for her if you can when you visit!
Will I be back? Be Back?!? I never left! But I promise to be more adventurous and keep exploring a little outside of my Italian Chopped Salad and glass of Chard.
California Pizza Kitchen
6659 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Bldg. C1
Las Vegas, NV 89119