Kerriann Eats: Big Changes at California Pizza Kitchen

avocado drink california pizza kitchen

It’s not just pizza and salads at California Pizza Kitchen. Their “Next Chapter” menu has just arrived and it’s fantastic!

I was recently invited to try the new menu, so I headed to Huntington. At first glance, I was skeptical when I saw fire-grilled ribeye and hearth-roasted halibut. Fish and steak at CPK? I couldn’t imagine. Well, I have news for you. This is not your old CPK.

If you’re a fan of classic CPK, don’t worry, you can still order off their old menu. They have simply added some new items. I have to say that I have always been a fan of CPK. My favorite standards are their Thai crunch salad with a side of California flatbread. My favorite pizza is the bianco with whipped truffle cream, gorgonzola, mozzarella and fresh sage. It will be a tough decision the next time I go back, because I was blown away by how wonderful the new dishes are.

I was greeted at the door by managing partner, Ken Myers, who has his own interesting culinary background. Myers, a Johnson and Wales graduate, was the owner and chef of the popular Piping Plover Café in Southold, which ran for eight years. He started working at the California Pizza Kitchen in July 2014, and was extremely happy when he found out about the new menu.

“I love the new menu items and I think that they go a long way in surprising and delighting our guests,” said Myers. “We are striving to be one of the most admired brands in the country through culinary innovation, unparalleled hospitality and community involvement. We have put our teams in the kitchen and on the floor, and put them through an intense retraining process which focuses on guest satisfaction.”

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Myers started me off with a new drink from their cocktail menu, a strawberry lime margarita. I love strawberry margaritas, and this one was delicious. It was made with Casamigos Tequila Blanco, fresh strawberries, strawberry puree, fresh agave sour and lime. While I was enjoying that, he brought out a creamy, pale green drink with a mint leaf. I had never seen a cocktail look like this before. He wouldn’t tell me what it was at first, he simply said, “Try it.”

I have no problem trying things even if I don’t know what it is. I took one sip, and I was in Heaven. I have never tasted anything remotely like it. It was light, creamy, refreshing, and perfect for this time of year. I knew Myers would return and ask me what I thought it was. My taste buds detected the slight taste of avocado. Avocado in a drink? Yes, it works. At least in this cocktail it did. It’s called California Roots. It contains Svedka Vodka, fresh avocado and mint, fresh agave sour, with a fennel dust rim. The summer season has just started, and I’m already declaring this my new favorite drink. I moved the margarita off to the side in favor of this new drink, when Myers brought out another two drinks! I now had four alcoholic beverages at my table and I prayed that nobody I knew would come in and see me. The Coconut Blossom was beautiful and reminiscent of a pina colada. Served in a tall glass, it contained Hangar 1 Mandarin Blossom Vodka, Casamigos Tequila Blanco, fresh agave sour, coconut puree and fresh pineapple. My fourth drink was called Blueberry Ginger Smash. Even though I don’t like whiskey, this drink was light and refreshing and had great flavor to it. It contained Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, Monin Organic Agave Nectar, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, fresh blueberries, lime and cranberry juice. It was topped with a blueberry and candied ginger skewer, and it looked gorgeous. After trying all the drinks, I decided it was best to stick with just one, so I chose the avocado cocktail. Now it was time for the food.

My taste buds detected the slight taste of avocado. Avocado in a drink? Yes, it works.

“The ‘Next Chapter’ menu showcases the best of our culinary creativity with exciting options in main dishes,” states G.J. Hart, CEO of California Pizza Kitchen. “Our diverse menu blends fresh, seasonal ingredients with bold, global inspiration.”

Along with the new menu is a seasonally inspired menu that will change every three to four months. The first dish I had was from the seasonal menu, and was a delicious California Fields Salad, which contained fresh watermelon, strawberries and field greens in their house-made champagne vinaigrette with feta and California pistachios. The salad was fresh and delicious and also huge. It’s good for sharing or for a main meal. The dish also comes in a half order, and with grilled chicken, shrimp or salmon if you’d like to add a protein. The baked potato soup came next, and what a treat that was. It tasted just like a loaded baked potato, and was creamy and rich. Puree of potato was mixed with applewood smoked bacon and scallions. So good. The Farmers Market soup was also great, and is a good choice if you are looking for something a little lighter. It was made with roasted squash and market vegetables with just a touch of cream, and finished with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

The entrées were up next. The halibut came first, and it proved to be an amazing dish. Not only was it beautifully presented, but the fish was super fresh, flaky and cooked perfectly. The halibut was wild caught Alaskan halibut which was roasted on a cedar plank and served with grilled asparagus and butternut squash farro with baby kale. The farro was so delicious and had the creaminess of a good risotto. It paired perfectly with the fish, as did the grilled asparagus. I really could not get over how great this dish was. I will definitely order it again on my return trip.

Following the fish, I had the roasted garlic chicken served in a lemon-garlic sauce with hearth-roasted fingerling potatoes, cauliflower, Mediterranean herbs and seasonal vegetables. This seasonally inspired dish was packed with flavor.

The last entrée to arrive was a 12-ounce, USDA choice fire-grilled ribeye which was seared perfectly and served rare. It was seasoned with housemade pinot noir sea salt and topped with a creamy blue cheese butter. On the side were deliciously roasted fingerling potatoes and a lemon-garlic wild arugula salad. I thought the combination of the steak, potatoes and salad worked quite well together.

For dessert, was their huge strawberry shortcake, of fresh strawberries piled on top of a shortcake biscuit, with lots and lots of whipped cream.

Also new on the menu are the lunch duos, where you can get a lunch size pizza plus a soup or salad, a half sandwich with a soup or salad, or a soup and salad. There are several options, and the duos range in price from $8.95 to 10.95, which makes it a great value.

This fall CPK’s Huntington location will undergo a major renovation. The restaurant, which has been there since 1999, has changed very little over the years.

California Pizza Kitchen at Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station is open seven days a week beginning at 11 a.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday they close at 10 p.m.; Friday, Saturday and Monday they close at 11:00 p.m. and Sunday at 9:30 p.m.

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