Dawson's Doubletake

Dawson's at the Hyatt on Urbanspoon

OK. So I'm playing with a bit of alliteration to catch your attention. Of course, I could just say, "LOBSTER MAC N CHEESE TOPPED WITH LOCAL CAVIAR" and that would probably do an even better job of getting your attention. It certainly got mine when I tasted it! But that's not the only item worth noting at Dawson's.

Food blogging has its privileges and this was one. I was invited to a special tasting of new menu items that will start on Monday, September 17th. Dawson's has a new Executive Chef, Jason Poole, and Dawn, from Kitchen Travels, and myself were invited to lunch to meet the chef and taste some items. 

Dawson's is the finer restaurant in the Sacramento Hyatt Regency. I recently realized I've now lived in Sacramento 25 years and it turns out the Hyatt will be celebrating 25 years in 2013.  Over the last couple of years the entire hotel went through a complete remodel from top to bottom. That includes all the guest services such as restaurants and bars. Everything is updated with a slick, contemporary look.

We were introduced to General Manager Scott VandenBerg and to  Tyson Warren, Executive Assistant Manager for Food & Beverage. They talked a little about the remodel and Warren gave us a brief tour. He showed us the revamped Vines Cafe where you can eat breakfast and a casual lunch. They have standard menus, but Vines also offers a buffet lunch called Market at the Vines. This buffet costs $14.95 and each day features a different line of hot items - flatbreads one day, paninis another. 

We also took a quick look at Amouranth, the bar area that includes indoor and outdoor seating. Outdoors there were two nice fireplaces and updated high bar tables and stools.

But the feature of the day was to meet Jason Poole and try the food. We sat down to a beautiful table and VandenBerg explained Chef's resume and prior locations. Turns out that Poole graduated culinary school and immediately joined Hyatt. Over the years he's been in some of their biggest hotels in Washington, D.C.,Chicago, New York City, and elsewhere. He's helped revamp many of the Hyatt's best restaurants in each location. VandenBerg said that Poole was excited to come to Sacramento, the center of agricultural bounty.

Chef returned and set out the first course of appetizers. Along with a baby iceberg salad, we also had...

Shrimp Cocktail - not the traditional style, this has New Caledonian prawns, cocktail tomatoes, and avocado puree.

LOVED the Mangalista cured pork with bourbon mascarpone, blackberry jam, and grilled country bread. You can see how the pork fat is just melting at room temperature.

The meatballs were served with a tomato jam, wild arugula, and aged provolone. To make the meatballs they take the beef trimmings from the sides of beef after they have butchered. They also take the extra fat trimmings from the Mangalista pork and some pork butt and grind that all together with the beef. The meatballs were, therefore, juicy and delicious.

As we waited for the second course to come out Warren explained that Hyatt has started a whole new food philosophy throughout the company: Food thoughtfully sourced, carefully served. This philosophy revolves around serving people, serving the community and serving the planet. They source food from within 50-100 miles of the hotel and look for cage-free eggs and natural meats. 

Hyatt teamed up with Alice Waters who helped them to design an organic “FOR KIDS BY KIDS” menu that doesn't include any fried items and instead "provides more nutritious, fresh and interactive offerings". For instance, Build Your Own Whole Wheat Sub Sandwich comes with turkey, lettuce, tomato, cheese on a whole wheat mini-sub.The child diner is given the pieces to assemble his/her own sandwich. 

These new programs are Hyatt's part in Partnership for a Healthier America. We talked more about how these ideas match what I'm trying to do with the Sacramento Food Film Festival via educational documentaries. Hopefully we will be teaming up for the second series of films that I'm planning for in March. 

Chef came out to carve out the meats for the next course. There was Brandt Prime Flat Iron Steak and Mary's Free Range Chicken. He didn't do anything fancy, only seasoning them with salt and pepper before cooking. Both were perfectly cooked, the chicken moist, the beef medium rare.

Also served were heirloom baby carrots with applewood smoked bacon, cracked chili, and local honey butter. 

My favorite dish of the day, though, was the aforementioned lobster mac n cheese. It was topped with local caviar. VandenBerg explained that a local caviar producer had come by to sample his caviar for Poole and they were impressed by the quality. And it comes right from our Sacramento sturgeon. I will be back for this mac n cheese. It had plenty of lobster and the caviar gave that slight hit of saltiness that really made it divine. 

Unfortunately I had to leave. They kindly packaged the fig rosemary tart to-go for me, thus the container in the photo. After all, you didn't think it made it all the way home for plating did you? 

Chef Poole has only been here about six weeks, but we will hope that he sticks around. As I rode my bike back to work I wondered about the traveling life of a chef and what it takes to make them finally set down roots in a city for good. Sacramento has a lot to offer just from location alone, but we also have a thriving dining scene and Poole's addition can only make it better. 

As for the Hyatt and Dawson's, they aren't going anywhere. The changes, both structurally and philosophically, are attractive and bring them truly up to date. As they go into their 25th anniversary, take the time to visit them and celebrate.