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Staying In the Game

New chef at popular restaurant has put his stamp on menu.


If you're already thinking about a big "do" for the holidays, Saddle Peak Lodge--one of the finest restaurants in the region--has a new executive chef and a new menu to tempt you.

Get to the phone now, however, because Thanksgiving is already booked solid, and Christmas and New Year's Eve are nearly so.

Alex Scrimgeour took command of the kitchen at Saddle Peak four months ago, and he has spent the interim training his staff in his methods and tweaking the recipes for his new menu.

Scrimgeour replaces Josie Le Balch, now at the Beach House restaurant in Pacific Palisades.

"The menu at Saddle Peak hadn't changed much in the eight years Josie was here as executive chef," Scrimgeour says, "and when I came on, the owner, Ann Ehringer, told me she wanted to keep things as they were.

"Then she changed her mind, and I got to work on some new ideas. I have a great deal of respect for Josie, and her game dishes were always the dominant element . . . here.

"Game is my specialty too, and I wanted to branch out into some new areas for people who like to eat fish or even vegetarian dishes. So the menu is brand-new from beginning to end."

The English-born Scrimgeour trained at Cordon Bleu in Paris and came to America three years ago, working first as a line chef at Jeremiah Tower's Stars restaurant in San Francisco, then as sous chef at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Most recently he was chef de cuisine at the Ritz Carlton in Aspen, Colo., with a menu concentrating on classic French game dishes.

"My new dishes for Saddle Peak aren't radically different from what people have been served here in the past," Scrimgeour says. "Saddle Peak Lodge has a very stable clientele, and really big changes wouldn't go over well.

"But I've put my own stamp on what was already a very great menu."

Among his dishes:

* Medallions of ostrich layered with eggplant and peppers and finished with a paprika sauce;

* A wild boar ravioli with a sauce of black truffles;

* Mesquite-grilled venison chops with a Madeira sauce;

* Braised buffalo with glazed vegetables in a cabernet sauce;

* California quail stuffed with sage and onions and wrapped in applewood-smoked bacon;

* Three seafood dishes--grilled king salmon with a sauce of sweet roasted corn and shallots; a two-pound mesquite-grilled Maine lobster; and pan-seared escolar (a family of fresh and saltwater fishes including perch and bass) served with jumbo shrimp, Parma ham and a vegetable fricassee.

* Two vegetarian dishes--roasted peppers and eggplant on a plate with an artichoke stuffed with Stilton and a black bean sauce; and a grilled eggplant lasagna.

Reservations are a must. Saddle Peak Lodge is at 419 Cold Canyon Road, Calabasas, just off Las Virgenes Road between Calabasas and Malibu, (818) 222-3888.


Developer Rick Caruso's snazzy new shopping center, the Commons at Calabasas, opens Nov. 12, and fans of the popular San Fernando Valley restaurants Mi Piace and Marmalade Cafe will find both places there.

The opening of Marmalade Cafe will coincide with that of the shopping center; Mi Piace will follow in February or March, as the shopping center builds out.

Selwyn Ysslowitz, who runs the Marmalade Cafes in Sherman Oaks, Westlake and Malibu, says the new place in Calabasas will offer many of the same dishes available in the other three.

These include the trademark dishes of Chef Matty Gillio--crab cakes, sliced lamb served with a sauce of figs and balsamic vinegar, and duck with orange marmalade.

The restaurant will seat 160 inside, plus 40 on a covered patio and another 100 on an open patio outside.

It will be at 4783 Common Way, just east of the Parkway Calabasas exit on the Ventura Freeway, (818) 225-9092. The other Marmalade Cafes are at 14910 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, (818) 905-8875; at 140 Promenade Way, Westlake, (805) 370-1331; and at 3894 Cross Creek Road, Malibu, (310) 317-4242.


Meanwhile, partners Armen Shirvanian and Takis Markoutsis, who run the two Mi Piace restaurants in Burbank and Pasadena, are still looking for a chef to run the new Mi Piace in the Calabasas Commons.

Architect Tony Chi of New York, a noted designer of restaurants, oversaw the layout of the new place, which will offer the same menu available at the other two Mi Piace restaurants, Markoutsis says.

The original Mi Piace is at 25 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, (818) 795-3131, the second at 801 N. San Fernando Road, Burbank, (818) 843-1111.

* Juan Hovey writes about the restaurant scene in the San Fernando Valley and outlying points. He may be reached at (805) 492-7909 or fax (805) 492-5139 or via e-mail at

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