Girasol: Foraging the New Fall Menu

Girasol Chef CJ Jacobson goes wild for Southern California flavors.

Like many top-rated area restaurants, Studio City’s Girasol unveils new menu offerings for fall—but don’t expect an overload of pumpkin, cinnamon and hot-and-heavy comfort food from Executive Chef CJ Jacobson. Chef CJ, a Top Chef alum who grew up in the OC, wants dishes to reflect the realities of SoCal’s fall/winter—not some generic snowy season from an East Coast Christmas card.

The Girasol team goes beyond the local farmers market and into the wild to find those California flavors. While the drought has cut down on the selection of plants, Girasol goes to the Angeles National Forest area, Lancaster and other locations in search of indigenous herbs, vegetables, leaves and grasses.

Forget cinnamon, most of which comes from Sri Lanka, CJ tells The Sauce. Girasol is on the hunt for wild bay, wild juniper, white and black sage, sweet clover and California sagebrush. A tea brewed from forest leaves and grasses serves as the basis for a vinaigrette. “It’s really all around us. For me, California is not all about heirloom tomatoes and melons,” he says. The chef credits urban forager Pascal Baudar with teaching him the ropes.

Chef CJ also wants the menu to reflect our weather—not, say, Minnesota’s. “We live in Southern California. We don’t have to have a whole of lot of heavy roasts and stews and stuff,” he observes. “If it’s hot in the Valley in the wintertime, I’m going to cook what seems right.”

Fall items on the Girasol menu include persimmons and burrata; roasted sunchokes with local honey and wild white sage; carpaccio accented with wild white sage; and a pan-roasted duck breast including local juniper. Fall’s featured cocktail is the Thai-tucky, including lemon grass shrub, lime, Elijah Craig 12-Year Bourbon and a seasonal mint garnish. Says mixologist Jonathan Joy: “The scent and flavor remind you of the first fallen leaves.”