New Solera chef overhauls menu

New Solera chef Jorge Guzman is ready to put his own stamp on the restaurant. Starting late last month, a new menu with 95 percent new items was put into use.

"What J.P. (Samuelson, the former exec who left at the end of 2010) was doing was good, but Solera needs to come back to where it was," Guzman says. "This is something that we are all excited about. New menus are always great if they work, and this one will work."

Guzman, whose resume includes time as the chef de cuisine at the Corner Table, is applying a less-is-more approach to the restaurant. "My style of cooking is simpler," he says. The menu also focuses on local ingredients, including produce and meat. The time spent at the Corner Table and in touch with other similar minded chefs in the area helped Guzman develop strong connections with plenty of area farms.

All of this will bring a fresh taste to the restaurant known for its Spanish dishes and tapas menu.

One of the newcomers is a poached chicken dish. The birds are butchered in house. The breast is brined for a day in thyme, garlic, and herbs, then slow-poached to order--taking about 10 to 12 minutes--in reduced chicken stock, garlic, and bacon. The original item had a heavier, winter-inspired fruit sauce. With the warming temperatures, Guzman chose to change it up with one that has a "brighter," spring-like flavor.

New Solera chef overhauls menu

These types of changes will continue as the seasons change, with another shake-up planned for April or May as the weather (hopefully) turns fully to spring and early summer.

Several familiar items--the other 5 percent--will remain from Solera's old menu, including the scallops and the stuffed peppers, Guzman says.

After nearly two months of building the menu, Guzman is thrilled to let the customers in on the changes."I find that if you do too much with the ingredients, you lose what you have," he says, explaining his cooking philosophy. "These are simple dishes done very well and executed the right way every time."

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