Cast & Plow
I can count on one hand how many times I’ve stepped inside a Ritz-Carlton hotel, most notably in 1997 when my friend Amy absconded me for a quick road trip up to San Francisco to see Phantom of the Opera. Like most of my memories from Junior High, my brain protects me from remembering too much, so I only recall fuzzy edged remnants of my mini vacation. For me, Jr. High was the apex of social drama: lots of flannel and fishnets, an emotionally taut atmosphere, train wreck friends, and other trite cliches of teenage-hood. Now imagine that backdrop with the soundtrack of Marilyn Manson, Stone Temple Pilots Smashing Pumpkins, and No Doubt. Yeah, I was in serious need of a glam injection, thank you, Amy, wherever you are.
That impromptu getaway up north was magical. I was able to take a three day Time Out from my so-called life and spend time in two of the most majestic hotels I’ve ever stayed at to this day: The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, and The Ritz-Carlton of San Francisco. I still have my blue goblet and my bathrobe from the latter, two treasures from my whirlwind adventure that I’ll cherish forever.
Suffice to say, when Ritz-Carlton knocks on my inbox, I answer!
Cast & Plow, a farm-to-table restaurant situated inside the Ritz Carlton of Marina del Rey, specializes in community-made, locally sustainable cuisine. Inspired by Southern California’s small plate communal dining experience, Cast & Plow’s menu offers familiar and international dishes set apart by an approachable style of artisan cooking, and by a special array of signature dishes, most of which I was lucky enough to sample!
Ritz Carlton Marina del Rey image courtesy of Ritz-Carlton
Due to my dimming and set-in-their-way memories, I could never imagine The Ritz-Carlton being so contemporary in design and decor. A spacious open-floor plan flooded with natural light from the setting sun, I couldn’t even tell where the common area stopped and Cast & Plow began. It was so warm and welcoming, much like the staff whom greeted my guest, Michele, and I upon our thirty minute premature arrival. Better early than late!
We decided to begin our evening on the back porch – porch? Patio? Veranda? I’m going with porch, it sounds quainter. Filled with cushy, contemporary couches overlooking the harbor, we kept warm with the new fangled fireplaces I’ve been seeing pop up around the restaurant scene as of late. They’re both aesthetically pleasing and efficient in keeping my thin blood nice and toasty warm.
Michele took our server’s suggestion and ordered The Perfect Storm, a trend seen by other guests and an overall crowd favorite. I saw the word “sangria”, foolishly didn’t bother to read the rest, and regretted my choice after one sip of this especially strong libation. Our lovely server was especially kind about my mishap and switched out my drink to below:
Champagne topped off with St. Germain
Ah, the refreshing taste of champagne and St. Germain to quench my thirst. Much more my speed.
local cress, pickled mustard vinaigrette
Had I known these trays were only going to swing by once, I would have hoarded a few of these meaty meatless vegetable bites. I went for the red beet as golden’s have rarely been favorable to my palate, and oh my does the burst of mustard vinaigrette give this hors d’oeuvre a real zing to my tastebuds.
blood orange, pistachio & cardamom pesto, focaccia croutons
I love octopus. I’ve never cooked it, a slight I endeavor to correct this year, but I am a big fan of it regardless. Hot, cold, grilled, sashimi, in a salad, on a skewer, slice it, dice it, I’m going to eat it. And ate this tender morsel I did. Again, I would have been shameless and greedily grabbed four or five of them had I known we’d only have one pass around. I’m shameless, I know.
Mini Cast & Plow Burger
I think what amazed me most about this perfectly shrunk down cheeseburger was that the chef still managed to cook them to medium rare perfection. This is the mini version of the Cast & Plow burger: all natural prime beef, provolone cheese, grilled onion, ciabatta bun, arugula pesto, mizuna salad.
purple haze goat cheese, mint, salted date bread crisps
I have a love/hate relationship with goat cheese, because when goat cheese isn’t good, it really isn’t good. There is this chalky, pasty kind of texture to it that sticks to my tongue and the roof of my mouth. However! When goat cheese is good, it’s really out of this world, as it was with these fantastic one biters. Inspired, I’ve now been incorporating goat cheese into some recipes at home. Good job, Cypress Grove Chevre.
image courtesy of Ritz-Carlton
After the hors d’oeuvres circulated, we were ushered inside to enjoy the rest of our meal in the main Cast & Plow dining room. The driftwood chandelier (above) utilized driftwood from Los Angeles – after it was treated, of course.
The only way to eat kale (aside from juiced, but that would be drinking, wouldn’t it?). Crunchy, crispy, simple and delightful.
truffle salt butter
I almost wish I could say that I exercised ladylike control and only took a mere nibble on these fluffy, herbaceous rolls, but I would be lying. I devoured 60% of these like an unapologetic carb-sucking vortex. As a parting gift, guests were given the mix to this signature bread dish – complete with totally usable and recyclable natural baking box? pan? instrument? Sure. Pick your adjective, it’s the thing the bread is held in. Butter provided by Strauss Farm, Petaluma.
Tomatoes & Burrata
green olives + basil vinaigrette
I’m sad for my friends who dislike tomatoes simply because they’ve only ever eaten the grocery store variety. Nasty stuff, those tomatoes. Now these – these tomatoes from Valdivia Farms (Carlsbad) are real stunners. The burrata lent a creamy contrast, while the green olives surprised both Michele and I when they held their own as strong co-stars to the main features. Would order again in a heartbeat.
farmer’s vegetables, marcona almonds, jerez vinegar
The only dish of the evening that fell flat for both Michele and I. Seasoning was not only off, the whole dish just seemed unsure of itself. I’d definitely encourage Chef to rework this dish.
caramelized cauliflower, romanesco, hazelnut butter
What even is this perfection? So, confession: unless I’m at a seafood restaurant, I don’t crack open a menu and go, “All right, I’m going to order the fish!” because as much as I like fish, it’s just so mind-boggling easy to cook that spending a good chunk of change on it seems ludicrous. However! I have found the exception. I cannot imagine anyone being disappointed with this fresh, succulent hunk of local fish. Purveyor: Kanaloa Seafood, Santa Barbara.
Malbec – Terrazas Argentina
We interrupt this episode of hard core food porn to bring you booze. Mmmmmalbec. I don’t know what it is about Argentinian Malbec, but I’ve yet to meet a glass I did not like. Michele nodded in her approval, but her praise was given in spades to the Zinfandel Blend by The Prisoner and the pinot noir we were both (delightfully) surprised by.
herb salsa verde, asiago potato puree
My favorite of the mains, this cold smoked ribeye could not have been more supple, with its buttery texture and balanced, subtle smokey flavor. Were I to return to Cast & Plow for dinner, this is without a doubt the main I would order. Don’t let me forget to mention the mind-boggling delicious asiago cheese potato puree and asparagus (always a favorite vegetable). Purveyor: Brandt Beef, Buena Park.
Brown Sugar Cake & Salted Caramel Ice Cream
Toasted Coconut Ice Cream
Thank goodness for all of those relatively modest portions, as Michele and I were more than ready to embrace the long anticipated desserts. Pastry chef Adina Rivera-Schaefer certainly knows her way around the ice cream machine as well as the kitchen, giving our tastebuds one last hurrah with these homerun hitting desserts. I was able to personally compliment her on the salted caramel ice cream – something I’ve found to nearly always miss the mark in either too rich or too salty. Chef Adina captured the balance with beautiful execution. Bonus points for the nostalgic inducing packaging of the toasted coconut ice cream, complete with a wooden spoon!
Cast & Plow team image courtesy of Ritz-Carlton
Cast & Plow is the culinary dream of award-winning chef Umit Kaygusuz, who believes that “we all benefit from knowing more about the source of our food and its journey from seed to harvest to table.” Collaborating with Chef Kaygusuz is Executive Sous Chef, Javier Bravo, who grew up in Barcelona, Spain.
Thank you to the warm and welcoming staff of both The Ritz-Carlton and Cast & Plow for an innovative and utterly delicious evening! I must return to try their French Onion and/or seasonal soups and frites with duck fat hollandaise – YUM!
Cast & Plow
4375 Admiralty Way
Marina del Rey, CA 90292