The Hard Rock Cafe has been iconic since I was a teenager when having a shirt from any (and every) location was a bastion of pride. Last year, I visited the Hard Rock Cafe in Hollywood during my own mini LA Duran Duran tour before I ran the Hard Rock Cafe 5K so imagine my delight when HRC invited me to a their Media Dinner previewing their new menu. Being both a foodie and a music geek at heart, I was more than thrilled that this little blog allowed me to be considered “media” enough to be invited to this dinner.
While the Hard Rock Cafe may mean little more than a tourist destination for many of my generation (the theme restaurant chain has been around since 1971), I can attest that HRC takes their “Love All, Serve All” mission to heart with food that is delicious and more on trend than you might expect! I was definitely imPRESSed by the new menu (odd capitalization intended – read on!).
Our gorgeous 9 course meal (yes, 9 courses!!!) began with appetizers which included Balsamic Tomato Bruschetta (see collage photo) Spinach Artichoke Dip, Nachopalooza and Rockin’ Wings. While the apps may be a bit dated in terms of being trendy, there’s a reason why you can find these dishes on menus everywhere – people love them! The appetizers I tasted were all delicious (I don’t eat wings). The food was fun and familiar which made socializing with everyone at the table (including some of the key members of the HRC team) feel like you were with old friends.
Hard Rock knows people like their drinks and so they offered 3 drink courses during our evening. The Magical Mystery Mojitos (see collage photo) and the Air Mexico were a fun way to begin the night. You may have seen the photo below in my Instagram feed. This flight of 3 mini margarita drinks all included AVION Tequila and came in flavors like Wildberry, Pomegranate, Watermelon, Blue Curaçao, Mango and Cucumber. I loved the Blue Curacao and the chips and salsa side.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t know that AVION was a real tequila. I thought the TV show “Entourage” made it up. If you already knew that AVION was a real tequila, I hope you’re not laughing at me.
The next drink absolutely blew my mind – take a look at the Red Berry Press (below)! Yes, that’s a French Press used for an alcoholic drink. This gem of homemade lemonade, SVEDKA Clementine Vodka, fresh lemons, strawberries and raspberries was pressed tableside. Not only was this drink right up my alley taste wise, I now have another use for my coffee French Press (which has seen very little action since the Krups K-cup machine took up residence). I am definitely stealing this idea for my next summer get together! Is this not brilliant?!? Color me imPRESSED (see why now?)!
If it were up to me, I would have finished all the drinks but then my 9 courses would have ended at 2. I was saved by a salad.
The Grilled Chicken Arugula Salad was close to everything I want in salad when I have one made at the “choose your own” salad places – grilled chicken, arugula, dried cranberries and feta cheese. In addition, this salad also had spicy pecans, fresh oranges and a lemon balsamic vinaigrette. I know salad is easy to make at home but I’ve said it many, many times but a salad is always better when someone else makes it and this one was no exception.
Course number 4 was Grilled Norwegian Salmon. This fish was wrapped in cedar paper, grilled and had a barbecue sauce drizzled on it. As a dietitian who knows that salmon is a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids (known for proven cardiovascular benefits), seeing this selection on the menu made me happy. I did forget to ask if the salmon was wild or farmed but I’m hoping the former.
For the next two courses, I had to rely on my friend Elizabeth@FlourishInProgress for help because I don’t eat red meat. I don’t avoid red meat (or pork) for health reasons, I have never cared for the taste. Elizabeth gave me the thumbs up on the following meat courses:
- The SmokeHouse course included a Hickory-Smoked BBQ Chicken & Ribs Combo and a Smoked Beef Brisket.
- The Legendary Burgers course was a flight with the Legendary Burger (smoked bacon, cheddar cheese and a fried onion ring), the Fiesta Burger (roasted jalapeño salsa, melted Jack cheese, guacamole and pico de gall0) and the Tango Burger (two sloppy joe patties with American and Jack cheeses, barbecue sauce, blue cheese and horseradish mayo). My picture came out nice and I can confirm that the fries were yum!
Next was the Local Craft Beer Flight. With this course I got to return the favor to Elizabeth and help her out because she is not a beer drinker. Reed Bowlby, the General Manager of the Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood, let us know that each Hard Rock Cafe partners with local breweries to offer a taste of what’s locally available. We’re talking trendy IPA’s, Hefeweizens, Lagers and Pale Ales in CA (each location is different). Reed was especially helpful in explaining the properties of each beer and I think may have even converted Elizabeth to (dare I say it?) like beer!
The dessert and last drink courses were super decadent! Fresh Apple Cobbler, Hot Fudge Brownie (with Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream) and a Cheesecake Made with Oreo Pieces. I honestly could barely take a bite of each because I was stuffed but they were quite sinful. I wish I took a picture of the desserts but instead I was bowled over by one of my favorite dessert trends – Salted Caramel.
For those that don’t want to eat their dessert, HRC offers liquid adult (read: alcohol laden) sweet drinks as well. The Twist and Shout Shake (Bacardi OakHeart Spiced Rum, Guinness, DeKuyper Dark Creme de Cacao, salted caramel, chocolate and bacon – yes BACON!) and the Salted Caramel Cafe (Tia Maria, Bailey’s Irish Cream, Salted Caramel, half and half, whipped cream and caramel corn). I’m not normally a dessert drinker but these I liked. I don’t like bacon (it’s true, hold your tomatoes please) but I actually tried it in the Twist and Shout and it was pretty good!
By the time the eating (and drinking) part of the night was over, I was stuffed. However, it was nice to talk directly with the Executive Chef of the Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood, CA, Leonard Delgado and learn two interesting facts:
- There are no “secret” menus at Hard Rock Cafe. If there’s a special request due to taste preference, allergies or anything else, any and all HRC locations will try to honor that request. They want all guests to feel like VIP’s every day.
- The Hollywood and Highland location is one of two HRC’s that have a special pizza oven. We didn’t get to try the very famous pizza but it may be another reason to get me to return.
Hard Rock Cafe definitely imPRESSed me with their dedication to appreciating good music, interesting people and delicious food and drink. They even gave me a very cool parting gift (that keychain is a mini flask)!
I’m happy to say that I look at Hard Rock Cafe in a new light, one that’s relevant to me NOW. I can see why HRC is using the hashtag #thisishardrock. I’ve already said that I’m impressed and I really am looking forward to visiting a HRC in the future and I know that I’ll be participating in the Run Hard Rock Cafe 5K in November!
Disclaimer: I was invited to attend this dinner as a member of the media (which still astounds me a bit) but was under no obligation (financial or otherwise) to write about my experience. All opinions and photos are my own.
What dish or drink sounds best to you? If you’re in the LA area, come and join me for the Run Hard Rock Cafe 5K (link above) in November!