Something about dining beneath those towering timbers, that foliage that won’t quit, that soaring A-frame ceiling, it’s the makings of a meal within a meadow laden fantasy. The newly refreshed Maple at Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge is the edible addition these renowned grounds have long longed for. Craftsman construction anchoring a sun-soaked space, beignets dusted in powdered sugar, whether brunch is imitating art or art is imitating brunch, either way, the canvas is irresistible.
Here, California’s much mocked seasons are refreshingly celebrated, embodied, emulated, and ready for consumption. Chef Philip Mack doesn’t have to go far for inspiration. Nature floods the floor to ceiling windows, an unmistakable muse for his market driven menu. It’s mostly American, sprinkled with Latin nuance. And you can expect the offerings to change in accordance with whatever is blooming best outside.
With a slue of toasts to share (the maple roasted squash tartine, featuring feta, pistachio, and pomegranate, is autumn on top of toast, the avocado toast is dotted in edible flowers, and the smoked salmon toast, with those watermelon radishes…), shrimp n grits, and fried chicken and beignets, I won’t even subject myself to guessing which will become a house favorite. But I hope the Vegan Hash remains a staple – it put the whole garden on the plate. Red beets, foraged mushrooms, Tuscan kale, roasted pumpkin and cauliflower, all decorating those California quintessentials, quinoa and avocado. I don’t expect this to become their most popular dish, not when it’s got maple pancakes with brown sugar spiced walnuts and whiskey maple syrup to compete with. Or maple bread pudding. Or what looked like an exceptional breakfast burrito. Still, that vegan hash. I’d come back for it.
And for those declaring brunch next level decadent, for you, the mimosa bar is there. Where you self-select your champagne, and choose from four cold pressed orange juices (pineapple with cayenne, lemon, ginger and agave, Strawberry with blackberry and blueberry)… if ever there was a place to sit back and sip in your surrounds…
Indoors, or out. Farmhouse in the forest, or wrap around patio, not a bad seat in the house. Destined to be designated a dining destination, Maple puts itself on the map with its celebration of California cuisine steeped in California flora. With a matte maple leaf mural that optically eludes us into the treetops.
It’s casual here, but special. The service is warm, knowledgeable, and familiar. If you are lucky enough to live locally, it will make a regular out of you. If you are coming to visit, it will be one you’ll miss once you have.
Intelligentsia fills the steaming mugs and crafted cocktails (Bloody Mary much?) are at the ready. The menu is not massive but it’s comprehensive and thoughtful. The warm kale and farro salad, the biscuits and gravy, the fall vegetable breakfast scramble, its all there. Pancakes with a hardy side of scenery. At Descanso Garden’s newly refreshed Maple, brunch and botanica are officially, perennially, in bloom.
Maple at Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge, CA, 91011, USA.
Tel: +1 (818) 864-6435
Take the 2 Fwy towards Montrose/La Canada. They have Free parking all day. Open for Weekend Brunch. Saturdays and Sundays from 9:00am to 2:00pm. Dinner during Enchanted: Forest of Light from 4:30 to 8:00pm, through January 6, 2019.
Type of Restaurant: Brunch Restaurant
Price Band: Portions are tremendous and price points are an incredible value for cuisine of this calibre.
Insider Tip: Wrap this into your garden experience – leave plenty of time to explore before or after your meal.
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10
Jolie Loeb is a Luxury Lifestyle columnist based in Los Angeles.
Photographs courtesy of Maple at Descanso Gardens and by Jolie Loeb