With fundraisers supporting local, as well as international causes, a service staff trained to make you feel like part of the family and an ever-changing seasonal menu focused on providing a Mediterranean flair with inspiration on Spanish and Italian cuisine, the restaurant sets itself apart from other restaurants in the valley.
I sat down with Drew and Cynthia to talk about their restaurant, where they find their inspiration and the restaurant’s new fried chicken night. Here’s some of our conversation:
Q: Hi Drew and Cynthia, thanks so much for inviting me to Catalan. You told me the restaurant opened in 2012. How has it been going so far?
Drew Davis: Good. We’re trying to create something that’s not so available around here. And it has worked for us. Our main focus, besides the focus of any restaurant on service and stuff, is the food. Caring about the food and having a passion for doing something different is working for us.
Q: I read the bio on your website and I can see that you’ve had a lot of experience in the restaurant industry before, so when it came to opening a restaurant, why did you decide to open it here in Rancho Mirage?
DD: Well originally I moved to L.A. to do private chef work and I knew that I didn’t really want to be there. Moving from The Hamptons I felt like… L.A. was The Hamptons, you know it’s gorgeous, there’s a lot of money, a lot of things to do. But moving to the valley was an easy choice, plus my parents live out here. I knew I wanted to be in a smaller area and it’s healthy living out here, we really enjoy it.
Cynthia Davis: When we lived in New York, we constantly visited this area, particularly Rancho Mirage, and I think that every time that we went out to dinner we realized that the area was the perfect middle ground for people from both ends of the valley and then there was already that love and appreciation for this particular city being the fact that my in-laws were residents of it already.
I like that it’s a small community. You know, I don’t want to say everyone, but when you’re in the industry you know a lot of people so you’re able to interact, ask questions and have a better understanding of the restaurant business in this area due to its seasonality.
DD: In cities like L.A., you’re just another restaurant.; Here, we have the opportunity to be something special.
Q: You are known for changing your menu seasonally. Where do you find your inspiration?
DD: I think it comes to me throughout the year, and also my wife gives me a lot of inspiration. Because she’s so into social media, she’s always finding things that give me an idea.
In this business, everything has been implemented. It’s just how you do it. Everything has been imitated, I’m not a founder of anything. I’ve discovered new ways to make things. If I have scallops and I saw that someone else is using butternut squash and something else I say, “I like the butternut squash with this but maybe I’ll make it into a puree and add some more ingredients to give it that Spanish and Mediterranean flair.”
But, as a chef your mind is always going. I have dreams - or nightmares I don’t know which one it is - about food. You go to bed thinking about food and wake up thinking about food if you’re really into what you do.
When I write the menu it’s pretty much not done until the day before we send it to the printer.
CD: Which is a nightmare for me! *laughs*
Q: Why did you decide to go with Mediterranean-style cuisine for your restaurant?
DD: The whole beginning of my career I spent around Asian food, in restaurants like Nobu and Pacific Time in Miami, Fla., so probably around 10 years around Asian fusion food, and a little French. Then I moved on to Italian and Mediterranean and I really enjoyed it, I did that for eight or nine years. And I just decided when it was time to open the restaurant) that Spanish food would be the best route. Definitely Mediterranean, but more Spanish because there’s so many things you can do with it.
When people think of Mediterranean food they think of kebabs, hummus and Greek salad and (Cynthia) gets so upset.
CD: I just realized when we opened the restaurant that it was challenging for me. When I was putting our business out there and trying to explain to people that the mediterranean scene itself covers a vast territory. Like, 21 countries.
(I had to explain) that we focus on a Mediterranean flair with inspiration on Spanish and Italian cuisine that goes beyond a Greek salad or a kebab, which I’m not saying they’re bad, they’re delicious, but we don’t necessarily focus on that end.
Q: One of the new things that you guys are implementing this year is fried chicken night. Tell me more about how this idea came to be.
DD: Fried chicken is one of my favorite things - I think it’s one of everyone’s favorite things - so no matter who you are, you’re going to like fried chicken. If you’re going to put your twist on that fried chicken and get people in here to try it, I think it can be very successful. Also, people want something simple and good.
All of my food is simple, simplicity is my thing. And everyone knows and likes chicken. I’ve been to a restaurant where they’ve done a fried chicken night before and it’s always worked out well, and then of course, my grandma makes the best fried chicken so the recipe is in my blood.
CD: Aside from the comfort that a carnivore finds with fried chicken, I think that we decided to create it on a Sunday because it’s still falling within our idea of being family-inspired and family-owned.
You just make your reservation like any other day, the Fried Chicken Night happens on the first Sunday of every month this season from 5 to 9 p.m. It’s $25 per person, you receive half a chicken - so a leg, a thigh and a breast - and then you have an option of two out of three different sides. Whether it’s mac and cheese, mashed potatoes or Catalan-style spinach.
DD: Being a family restaurant, we like to do events like this. If you had been here that day you would’ve seen the whole restaurant is full and everyone is happy and eating the same exact thing, which you don’t see it restaurants that much. It’s just a very festive night. So, make your reservation and make it early.
Q: So, now that season has started and you’ve introduced fried chicken night. Is there anything else that you can tell us about the future of the restaurant?
CD: We always have new things going on. We have cooking classes every other month, which are very popular. Another thing that we do is our Super Happy Hour from 4 to 5 p.m. We already have a happy hour menu, which is an incredible deal for what we have to offer when it comes to the value and the flavor, but we also wanted to give those early diners the opportunity to join us and enjoy.
We offer all of our specialty cocktails for $4, including the pomegranate and basil martini which we’ve had since the beginning and people go over-the-moon for. We are offering those things that set us apart as well as the typical $3 well drinks.
We also offer bar snacks, which are tapas-sized, for $4 but their snacks so that sets it apart from our tapas menu.
Q: Anything else you’d like to say or that you would want people to know about the restaurant?
CD: To sum it up, I think that more than a restaurant we are an experience and I think about everything as a totality… We share our love for our patrons through our cuisine and through the service we provide. Obviously it’s the job that pays our bills but if you see it as more than a job then people are going to be able to feel that.
By Jose Alejandro Bastidas, The Desert Sun
Read the article on the Desert Sun website here