When locals lamented the closure of Solvang’s Bacon & Brine in August 2017, many didn’t know that Crystal DeLongpré — better known as Chef Pink — landed a new job just two months later. That’s because Chef Pink had so many changes to make at Root 246, the restaurant at Hotel Corque owned by Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, her arrival there wasn’t announced until last fall.
“I don’t think of this place as being a hotel restaurant,” said Chef Pink recently, “but we had to prove ourselves when I started. Hey, we can do this kind of food in this environment, and people are going to embrace it.”
“This kind of food” is not only scrumptious, but also sustainable, fresh, regional, ethical — as usual. Chef Pink says the goal is “not just to make food delicious, but to maintain the integrity and keep the price down.” The volume at Root 246, with banquets and room service, is too great to do what she did at Bacon & Brine, namely raise her own pigs. “But everything [at Root 246] is pasture-raised, sustainable,” she pledged, “done the correct way.”
The new spring menu is the first true reflection of her hopes for the kitchen and its staff, whom she’s “taught from the ground up.” Expect many vegetables because, as she said, “There’s so much beautiful produce — I’m just in love with everything we grow here.” She’s particularly fond of peas and pea shoots right now — you might enjoy them in a salad alongside a subtle smoked ricotta, or with exactly seared scallops lifted by dollops of burstingly green pea sauce.
Root 246’s wide-ranging menu aims to both please and push. “I don’t like to follow any rules,” said Pink. “That’s not a signature of mine.” But delivering crazy flavor sure is. Take the organic chicken liver pâté that will make it clear you don’t need foie gras to delight in bird innards. Rich and unctuous, it stops short of that biliousness some liver can have, particularly because it’s drizzled with Minus 8 IPA vinegar for a tiny bit of tang and topped with crispy shallots for crunch. “If you train in Paris, you better make a good pâté,” is how Pink put it, “or else they don’t let you back into France.”
The regional focus is strong on the beverage program, too. Prominently featured breweries include Figueroa Mountain, Firestone, and M.Special; the wine list hits Kita, of course (as the Chumash house wine of sorts) and well-known brands like Margerum, Brander, and Jaffurs, but also smaller pleasers like Press Gang, Kessler-Haak, and No Limit.
Of course, no limit could be Chef Pink’s motto. You can see her on television — on Spike TV’s Bar Rescue and Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen, say — as well as in Root 246’s kitchen. Beyond the new menu, there are third-Wednesday Asian cuisine pop-ups. “I’ve trained in Vietnam and Korea, and I love doing this food,” she said. “We get to have some food for folks in the Valley who crave that.”
And there’s the Chef’s Table for up to 10 people that’s a dream culinary hangout. “You get a curated menu by me, you get to hang out, listen to music, read books — it’s an all-night affair,” Chef Pink explained. “From the second we open to the second we close, you just hang out and I keep feeding you until you can’t take any more.”
In the Hotel Corque, 420 Alisal Rd., Solvang; (805) 686-8681; root-246.com.