A King’s Feast: Arnold Palmer’s favorites
Arnold Palmer’s longtime friend (and former LPGA commissioner) Charlie Mechem shared many a meal with the King, and more than a few of them at Arnold Palmer’s Restaurant in La Quinta, California. At Palmer’s memorial this October, Mechem recalled a conversation the two shared regarding fans who came to the spot to dine:
“People come into the restaurant and virtually every day—and they have now for years—say to the manager, ‘Where does Arnold sit? What does he eat when he’s here?’” Mechem said. “So I said to him one day, ‘What should we tell them?’ He said, ‘Well, you know what I like. What should we tell them?’ I said, ‘Let’s tell them that he always eats the most expensive thing on the menu.’ He said, ‘I like that.’”
Jokes aside, Palmer’s tastes were rather straightforward and the restaurant reflects that, serving high-quality fare beyond “comfort food” but without pretension. The following recipes aren’t from the restaurant directly, but they are inspired by the King’s favorites. None is the most expensive thing on the menu—but don’t let that stop you from ordering big when you visit La Quinta!
Down-home, comforting, and oh so good
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 medium yellow onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup chicken or beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 ½ pounds ground chuck
½ cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup ketchup
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
pinch of Cayenne pepper
- Preheat the oven to 325˚F
- Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan and add the onions, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and cook over medium-low heat until the onions become soft and translucent—but not brown. Remove pan from heat and add the Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and stock. Allow to cool
for ten minutes.
- In a large bowl, combine the ground chuck, breadcrumbs, parsley and eggs. Toss together lightly with a fork until well combined – do not over mix or mash the mixture as it will make the meatloaf dense. Shape the mixture into a rectangular loaf and place it on a sheet pan lined with parchment.
- In a small bowl, combine the ketchup, brown sugar, mustard and cayenne and mix until well combined.
- Spread ketchup mixture on top of meatloaf and bake for 1 to 1 ¼ hours, or until the loaf is cooked through. A pan of hot water in the oven on a rack below the meatloaf, will keep the top from cracking. When it’s done, let the loaf rest for ten minutes before slicing.
Rack of Lamb
Fit for royalty and rustic alike
2 Frenched* lamb rib racks with 7-8 ribs each and roughly an 1/8 inch of fat left on
1 ½ tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- In a mixing bowl, combine salt, rosemary, thyme, garlic, olive oil and vinegar and whisk until well combined.
- Remove lamb racks from refrigerator and place on sheet pan. Cover all over with the mixture and leave them out to come to room temperature—at least one hour.
- Preheat oven to 450˚F.
- Once lamb has come to room temperature, place on a parchment or foil lined sheet pan with the ribs curving down. Wrap each rib with foil to prevent burning.
- Roast lamb for 10 minutes and then reduce the heat to 300 F and roast for another 10 minutes for rare and 15 minutes for medium rare. Remove from oven and tent with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 15 minutes.
- Cut in between rib bones and serve individually.
- *Frenching the rack means that the fat and meat is scraped from the end of each rib, giving the rack a clean look. Ask your butcher to do it for you.
A few tips for serving this great appetizer:
- Invest in an oyster knife—it makes the shucking much easier. Never use a paring knife, unless you like Band Aids. If you don’t have an oyster glove at least hold the oyster in a folded dishcloth to protect your hand.
- Buy them fresh from a reputable source. Obvious, but we cannot overstate the importance of this.
- Bring a cooler with ice to the store. Unless you live next door to your fishmonger, you need to put the oysters in a cooler for the ride home. They should stay in the cooler with ice until they are ready to be shucked and served.
- Look online for a good shucking instruction video. There’s no point in making a mess of this.
- Split a banana lengthwise in a long dish.
- Add scoops of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice creams.
- Pour on pineapple, chocolate and strawberry syrups.
- Cover the whole thing with whipped cream and chopped nuts…and don’t forget the maraschino cherry.
Dan Mechem, Charlie Mechem’s son, says the ribs at Arnold Palmer’s Restaurant are from the Montgomery Inn in Montgomery Ohio, explaining that the inn sends its sauce and that they’re cooked to the inn’s famous specifications. The source is a storied restaurant in its own right, purchased in 1951 by Ted & Matula Gregory as McCabe’s Inn, which they renamed as the Montgomery Inn. Their extended families pitched in to make it a real family business and a success, but everything changed sometime in the late 1950s when Matula decided to make ribs for Ted and his buddies at the bar. The next day Ted asked her to make them again and the rest is history. Beloved by Presidents and everymen alike, the ribs at the Montgomery Inn have made a place for themselves in history (and at Arnold Palmer’s Restaurant), but Matula’s sauce recipe will always remain top-secret.