By JENN HARRIS SENIOR FOOD WRITER
Curtis Stone will open a new restaurant and market at the Grove called Picnic Society by Gwen, inspired by his Hollywood butcher shop. The restaurant, located in the former Dominique Ansel Bakery space, is scheduled to open on Sept. 14.
The Michelin-starred chef, who also owns Maude in Beverly Hills, says the plan is to operate the restaurant for a four-month residency. It’s the latest in a string of temporary outdoor restaurants that have popped up around Los Angeles as a result of the ongoing pandemic. Most recently, that list includes Evan Funke’s Fingers Crossed in Hollywood and Vartan Abgaryan’s Post Script in Venice.
Like many chefs in L.A., Stone transformed his bustling dining rooms into marketplaces and switched to a takeout-only model. Without an opportunity to have outdoor seating at Gwen or Maude, Curtis says, he was contemplating next steps when the Grove owner Rick Caruso reached out.
“This opportunity came up with a beautifully built-out kitchen and a big patio and terrace area,” Stone said. “I thought what if we lean into a picnic concept that encourages people and gives them the option to social distance?”
Since the pandemic, Stone said, there has been an increased demand for the charcuterie, rillets and terrines at Gwen. The menu at Picnic Society will reflect that, with a large selection of dry-aged charcuterie, French-style charcuterie and 30 different types of cheese, dips, olives and other items designed for grazing. Larger dishes include steak frites and mustard, salad Nicoise, lobster rolls and burgers.
Stone and his pastry team plan to make good use of the deck ovens and sheeters leftover from Ansel’s extensive bakery, by making all of the restaurant’s bread and pastries every morning.
You can build your own picnic basket or order a pre-made basket along with miniature tables, blankets and cutlery. The idea is to either picnic at the restaurant, in the large grassy area by the fountain at the Grove, or at home.
“We are pioneering a new concept and dining format that can be enjoyed by all, both on our property and all over our city,” Caruso said.
Guests will also be able to order food at the full-service restaurant downstairs, which seats about 50 on the patio, where there’s also a full bar. And the gourmet market downstairs will offer items for takeaway. Stone partnered with WonderTent Parties events company to outfit the terrace, where you can take your picnic basket, with cushions and other furniture to make it feel picnic appropriate.
“Keeping things as low contact as possible is counterintuitive to how we’ve always felt about hospitality,” Stone said. “We’re trying to figure out little things to make it still feel special for people.”
The opening has also allowed Stone to bring back all of his former staff and create some new positions as well.
“For an industry so badly hit, it feels good to see some faces come back into the kitchen,” he said.
While Caruso said there are a “number of interested parties” looking at using the space beyond the four-month Picnic Society residency, Stone is already looking at how he can expand on the picnic concept and the baskets. He’s planning to have a website that offers picnic basket deliveries up and running within the next week.