by Sari Anne Tuschman
The couple of miles up Malibu Canyon Road to Saddle Peak Lodge are so breathtaking you’re almost sad to arrive—that is of course, until your first bite. Located in the shadow of Saddle Peak—hence the name—only a few miles off PCH in the Malibu Mountains, Saddle Peak is a rustic oasis housed in what was a general store in the 1880s. The space later evolved into a roadhouse frequented by Hollywood legends such as Errol Flynn and Clark Gable. In the early 1980s, Saddle Peak was completely renovated to become the cozy mountain getaway it is today, with bookshelf-lined walls, wooden chairs with gigantic cushions, deer heads on the walls and other Old West relics wherever you turn. And the intimate atmosphere and charming and scenic patio are only matched by the exquisite food.
Naturally, the lodge specializes in game, including a dish of New Zealand elk tenderloin served with parsnip mousselin, sweet-potato gnocchi and a ragout of braised bacon and cherries, as well as buffalo and ostrich entrées. But Saddle Peak isn’t for carnivores only. Both the roasted Pink Lady apple salad with endive, watercress, blue cheese, shallots and candied pecans and fish dishes such as the salmon with roasted beets, clementines, endive, baconbeet purée and pistachio crumble pair flavors to absolute perfection. Try not to completely clean your plate, because dessert is worth it, especially the praline chicory coffee soufflé, coffee anglaise and warm beignets.
Each phenomenal dish comes out of a kitchen run by the talented-beyond-hisyears 26-year-old Adam Horton, who finds 90 percent of his ingredients at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market on Arizona and 2nd, changing his menu weekly depending on what’s in season. Can’t decide with so many delicious offerings? Try the eight-course chef’s tasting menu with wine pairings. Speaking of wine, the expansive list features 650 American labels, the vast majority of which are from small California labels (the main exceptions being Champagne and dessert wines).
Through September, the restaurant is holding monthly wine dinners featuring various California wineries, from Paul Hobbs Wines to Justin Vineyards & Winery. The truth is, the only way you’ll want to leave Saddle Peak Lodge is when you remember how stunning the ride home will be. Open Wednesday through Sunday for dinner only. 419 Cold Canyon Road, Calabases, 818-222-3888; saddlepeaklodge.com.
photographs courtesy of Saddle Peak Lodge
Fashion shoot: December 2013 issue of Los Angeles Confidential magazine.