Chef Stawinski is the new Executive Chef at the Creekside Grille at Wilson Creek Winery in the Temecula A.V. A. The Creekside Grille is tucked into the back courtyard of the picturesque family-owned winery and features unpretentious cuisine with ingenious twists on classic technique. It’s familiar territory but full of little surprises.
No stranger to Wine Country cooking, having helmed neighboring Ponte Family Estate Winery for nearly six years. In the process he brought it from a deli to a restaurant of renown, with wait lists of up to three hours on the weekends.One interesting tidbit is that Chef Stawinski was married at Wilson Creek nine years ago, so it is an estate filled with fond memories for him.
He was one of the first in the Temecula Valley to embrace and promote what has been come to be known as the ‘localvore’ movement. Which is simply trying to source as many ingredients as close to the restaurant as possible. Doing so he established fantastic relationships with artesian producers, which he is carrying over to the Creekside Grille. He is interested in placing a much greater emphasis on local purveyors, and is eying a big switch at his next seasonal menu revision.
Having been at the Creekside Grille for just under 4 months, Chef Stawinski has finally dialed the operation under his control and is able to come up for some air and look towards the long-range plan. His first new menu has just been released, while not a radical change has updated all the established dishes, and added his own creations. It’s still early days, and the best is yet to come as Chef Stawinski settles into his new position and makes it his own.
What’s on the new menu?
There is definitely some interesting things to keep the gourmands interested, and the staples have been rethought and refined. Sable fish, also known as Black Cod makes an appearance, artesianal sausages from T&H Prime Meats in San Marcos. A wicked-good vegetarian gnocchi from Pasta at Large in Hemet. Pretty much 75% of the menu is new, and what has remained has been refined and fine tuned. There is more of a push on this menu towards sustainable, natural foods, a taste of things to come once Chef Stawinski hits his stride.
The goal is to be smart, use local vendors, use an element of surprise and push the cooks to become creative and wow the dinners.
The old Sous Chef becomes the new Sous Chef.
Chris Hartman, former Ponte Sous Chef set out to pursue his own career as a Chef and was Executive Chef of a Palm Springs area hotel…then the phone rang. Chef Stawinski needed a good Sous Chef for his new operation. Chris jumped at the chance to get back to work with his old boss from Ponte, and turned in his notice and came back to Temecula to help write the next page in the culinary journey of the valley.
Sensor humor is critical
Having worked with him for several years as a member of his staff I can tell you that no matter how bad the stress of the day, that his self-effacing sense of humor is just dying to get out. He demands a lot out of his staff and is extremely serious when the time calls for it, but has achieved that rare balance of levity and respect from all who cross his path. Most importantly he has reached a sense of harmony that is so elusive to chefs, meeting the needs of his young family and his very demanding career.
Do you want to eat at the Creekside Grille? You’d better plan ahead.
Many in Temecula locals are quite used to dropping into the local restaurants whenever they are hungry. The Creekside Grille is a little more popular than most are used to. You may get lucky on a Saturday or Sunday, but do not count on it. Lines are frequently in excess of an hour or more, the smart money is calling ahead to make reservations. Mondays are also quite busy, why nobody seems to know the answer for, as Mondays are typically dead in most restaurants. Tuesday through Thursdays are good days to just drop-in.
Big Group, no problem.
Unlike many restaurants the Creekside Grille encourages large groups to dine with them, and can accommodate groups up to 25 without any undue fuss. If your group is even larger, but does not require the full-use of the banquet hall there are numerous options on property including beautiful verandas, the Barrel Room which is lined with slumbering wine, a meeting room upstairs, receptions on the lawn and the most beautiful terrace in the valley. In fact Wilson Creek’s Banquet services have been awarded the Best of 2009 for Southern California Meeting and Events Magazine and have a fantastic events team.
Banquets, Events, Galas, Corporate Meetings?
Wilson Creek runs a very busy banquet and events operation with Chef Stawinski overseeing the food operations. They can accommodate groups as few as 20, and frequently host large events up to 300, and over a thousand for concerts and the like. Same great food, just a larger scale.
What’s the service like?
“Would you like to try a tasting to see if you are happy with the wine?”
“and if we are not, does it go back?”
“Yes, and we will bring you another one that makes you happy”
This was not taken out of a training manual, it was overheard while a waitress was serving a table. It was busy, she had 4 other tables of hungry dinners, yet took the time to ensure the guests were going to be satisfied. This type of service cannot be taught, it is a matter of hiring a great team with the right motivation to bring a little magic to that portion of their guests day.
I have a bottle of Chateau Lafite, can I bring it to lunch with me?
The Creekside Grille has a very affordable corkage fee of only $10. Before you bring your prized wine on property and risk a glare from the winemaking team you might want to explore their wine list. It is quite deep for a mid-sized winery, and there are some real winners on there.
Gluten Free Menu
No lip service here, this is a complete menu for those wishing to—or are forced to– limit or eliminate gluten in their diets. The impetus for this menu was brought to the forefront when two of the Wilson family were diagnosed with Celiac disease. Rather than being a challenge, it has inspired it’s own menu. Cross-contamination is eliminated through special care in the kitchen requiring a new cutting board, utensils and dedicated pans are used. The pasta is exceptionally good, and a recent guest said it was the best in her life.
Visit Creekside Grille at Wilson Creek Winery
35960 Rancho California Road, Temecula, CA 92591 | 951.699.WINE (9463)