Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Vivace at the Aviara: When Brunch is a Long, Leisurely Lunch

There was a time when I would drool at the prospect of an expansive hotel Sunday brunch. I'd hit the omelet station for big gooey cheesy guac-packed egginess. Then I'd load up on oysters, pile lox on mini bagels with cream cheese, surreptitiously shove slices of bacon in my mouth while canvassing the rest of the offerings. It was bad. And now, of course, I don't even desire it.

So when I learned about the new Sunday meal that Vivace at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort launched last month--essentially brunch that isn't brunch--I was intrigued. They call it pranzo, which means lunch in Italian and what they have in mind is a leisurely, family-style midday meal, Italian style.

Mozzarella and Antipasti Bar
There are only three all-you-can-eat stations. Well, four if you count the house-made desserts.

When you first walk in through the breezeway there's the crudo bar with Carlsbad Aqua Farm oysters, Caledonian prawns, shrimp, Octopus salad, and Skuna Bay salmon.




Then there's the Burrata Bar, where chef de cuisine Jesse Paul makes mozzarella and burrata using warm salty water held in an induction burner into which he adds cheese curd. The curd melts and Paul removes it, stretching the curd until it forms a shiny mass. He folds it into a ball, tucking it into itself from the bottom, then shocks it in ice water to set, even as the inside remains nice and warm. Yes, he does all this in front of diners, explaining the process throughout. 


Accompanying the cheese was a tangy teardrop tomato salad, olives, a red pepper salad, a beautiful fennel and orange salad, mushroom Parmesan salad, roasted asparagus, pickled garlic cloves, and a selection of breads.



Finally, there's the Artisan Salumi Bar--a dangerous place for me what with Lonzo, Picante Salami, Coppa, and Prosciutto all available, along with cheeses such as the soft Robiola Tre Latti and Pecorino Toscano. I loved the pickled strawberries and candied walnuts, too. And the honeycomb was a nice touch.



This is the kind of food that's meant for sharing, which I did with my two friends. But it's just the prelude to a true family meal because they also have a menu for the main course and sides that are served family style on platters. Yes, they have ravioli and rigatoni, but we ordered the Waygu Flat-Iron steak with Red Wine Mostardo, the Wood Roasted Jidori Chicken with Fruit Mostardo, and the Roasted Sea Bass served with grilled Meyer lemon, capers, and brodo.




All three were light, juicy--even succulent. I especially enjoyed the sea bass, with its tender flesh and very crispy, decadent skin topped by the capers.

We had to order all the sides. There just wasn't one we could discard. So, out came caramalized cauliflower with anchony, currants, and pine nuts; creamy polenta, roasted peewee potatoes seasoned with rosemary and garlic; and a melange of English peas, asparagus, and spring garlic.



As you can see, the portions are modest. It's plenty for sharing, particularly after feasting at the appetizer tables. And, the food is fairly light. So, you don't leave feeling bloated and uncomfortable, even if--as we did--you linger over your Sunday meal for three hours.

When you dine with a pastry chef--in this case, Tina Luu--you sample all desserts. So between us, we, chef Amiko Gubbins, too, probably sampled everything. I recommend the Torta di Cioccolato e Nutella (chocolate Nutella tart), which was rich but not too sweet, the Zuppa Inglese, the Cannoli alla Ricotta, and the Panna Cotta alle Fragole.



Vivace uses local produce from Peterson, Crows Pass, and Valdivia Farms. The cheeses are imported from Italy, and the salamis are a mix of local (Angel Salumi based in Encinitas) and Italian imports.

With your meal, you're served glasses of Prosecco, but you also have a few cocktail choices. Altogether, it's $45 for the meal, which is served from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. And valet parking is free with validation. We sat indoors, but next time, I'd choose a table on the balcony with its splendid ocean view.

Vivace is located in the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort at 7100 Aviara Resort Dr.

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