Artisan Cheese Selection @ Hearthstone Lounge

Price: $17.00

When: June 4, 2016, 8:40 PM

Reservations: n/a

Verdict? Recommended

Hearthstone Lounge is the official watering hole of the Grand Californian Hotel. It’s located just off the (spectacular) main room, diagonally opposite from the checkin desks. If you’re staying at the Grand Californian, it’s the place to go when you want a beer, a snack, and to clock a few more pages in your vacation novel.

The ambiance at Hearthstone is decent, but a tad sterile. They have a fireplace, and a few plush chairs here and there, but the furniture is mostly tables-n-chairs (plus stools at the bar), which makes the place an odd mix of “relaxation space” and “functional restaurant.” As luck would have it, we were able to snag two plush chairs near the fireplace, which gave us the best seats in the house. (It also meant that other guests were circling our spots, trying to figure out when we were leaving. I considered this free entertainment.)

It was getting late. Dinner was underwhelming. We wanted to end the evening on a high note.

Hearthstone’s menu is incredibly limited – just seven items, many of which are offered at other restaurants in the Grand Californian (Hearthstone shares a kitchen with Napa Rose).

After a bit of discussion, we went for the Artisan Cheese Selection (“with toast points and candied pecans”). The dish arrived promptly.

My first impression: wow, this is a lot of food. And it is. The plate is big, and offers six distinct types of cheese. You also get the pecans, the bread, and a large dollop of fig jam. You could easily split this between three or four people.

We dig in.

This is high-quality stuff. Each of the cheeses was fresh, flavorful, and made my tongue happy. Our selection was Humboldt Fog Cypress Grove, Manchego, Port Salut, Sage Derby, Port Wine and Point Reyes Blue Cheese. Each provided great variety and balance. There’s something for everyone here.

The bread, for its part, was nicely toasted (but still soft). I worried it might be a tad stale, but this was unfounded. An excellent accompaniment. The pecans, too, are right where they should be: candied/toasted, not burned. And the fig jam has a terrific flavor and texture complement, should you want it.

I definitely recommend this dish. It may be “just a cheese plate” but I’d gladly order it again. Give it a shot.

(And remember: get the seats near the fireplace!)