Whipping up a special entree from scratch is what chefs do. Creating from scratch an entire menu of 120-plus dishes requires culinary know-how only a mere handful of chefs can accomplish. Fortunately for Mary Polidoro, who works for HB Daisy, the new Santa Monica eatery with a breezy feel to match the “Hotel Row” block of Ocean Avenue on which it resides, executive chef and ownder John Schenk happens to be one of them.
“Obviously, it was quite an undertaking,” said Schenk, “but it wasn’t hard to draw from my past. Every item on the menu has a story.”
Indeed. Harking back on 36 years as a chef in both cultural epicenters as well as mere outposts – and at times reminiscing prior to donning his chef’s hat — Schenk has gone for a balance at HB Daisy of, as he puts it, “Items on the menu that make you live longer… and others that can kill you table-side.” Seemingly, a fitting Jeckyll and Hyde to cater to both health-minded Santa Monicans as well as the throngs of tourists who descend upon the city each year.
Take, for instance, the Daisy Veggie Burger, which can be traced back to Schenk’s Buffalo, NY, upbringing. Full-flavored (and big) but evenly balanced, the beet-based – and visually beet-red — blend of black beans, chick peas, quinoa, cloves and other spices is the centerpiece of HB Daily’s vegetarian faire. “Growing up on a beet farm, beets have a flavor profile I clearly understand,” says Schenk.
Not to be outshone on the healthy side, HB Daisy offers a Crispy Sliced Tofu Steak, Lovie’s Garden Patch vegan sandwich (Hummus, Quinoa, Lentils on toasted seven-grain), and – brace yourself – the Falafel Waffle. Pulling from his vegetarian days snacking at King Falafel in Greenwich Village, Schenk opts for a gluten-free, hummus-injected, chick pea mix as a substitute for the traditional batter that the traditional waffle look, but a flavor as different as Harlem is to Upper East Side. “We wanted to do a falafel,” Schenk says, “but didn’t want to do a traditional pita.” (Mission accomplished.) “It’s a quirky sell, but everything on the menu is meant to be unique and special.”
At the opposite end of the proverbial healthy/not-so-healthy spectrum, HB Daisy offers a Fried Buttermilk Chicken Breast, a Chicken Fried Steak, and an All Day Breakfast Burrito that boasts both chorizo and bacon. Not ruinous enough? How about indulging with a side of fries and your choice of mayonnaise-based sauces: spicy Sriracha, garlic aoli, or lime-cilantro mayo. Okay, we might be creating a false narrative here: all mayo products are made fresh on site – eggs, oil, vinegar and spices – and therefore not really the arterial nemesis the story would like to make it out to be. That said, the other sauce option is Bleu Cheese, a case of Buffalo once again rearing its indulgent head.
Metaphorically taking the neutral role (fittingly with Swiss cheese), is perhaps HB Daisy’s most popular and delectable item: the Turkey Cubano. With two distinct layers of turkey: one a cumin-lime braised dark thigh meat; the other a smoked turkey breast and layered around the Swiss cheese and dill pickle slice (“I tried so many different pickles for this sandwich I can’t even tell you,” said Schenk), it’s a healthy… make that healthier, take on the pork-based Floridian ethnic staple. Continuing in the usually/not necessarily healthy theme, HB Daisy offers a rotating menu of 22 different salads, ranging from a wasabi-laced Kale Salad to a bocconcini-based caprese salad.
HB Daisy – short for Honey Bear, although less a reference to the natural sweetener’s iconic plastic container than to Schenk’s two dogs – also provides a full bakery and gelato bar. And while honey is not generally used as a substitute sweetener, the Honey Cappuccino, sweetened with the real thing, is a must-try as either a morning starter or dessert finisher.
Written by Eric Bauer/Edited by Todd Elliot
More at www.honeybeardaisy.com