Beets with goat cheese

Hyatt Vineyard Creek Inn’s Brasserie, has had it’s ups and downs. Starting life as the chef-inspired Brasserie de la Mer with Liz Ozanich in the kitchen, it was managed until 2007 as Seafood Brasserie by Portland-based McCormick & Schmick’s. There were some heady days, but for the most part, the restaurant has struggled to find a consistent local audience. To be honest, there wasn’t always a lot to get jazzed about.

Which isn’t terribly surprising when you consider that corporate hotel restaurants aren’t known for inviting their chefs to put a strong personal point-of-view on their cuisine. There are just too many competing demands: The weekend eggs Benedict and Mimosa crowd, harried corporate lunchers, mandatory Happy Hours, budget vacationers, families and luxury expense accounters — not to mention banquet catering and various corporate bigwigs nitpicking the menu. It’s not the easiest gig.

So I’m giving big props to Brasserie’s Exec Chef Richard Whipple who recently simplified things up at the Brasserie with a refreshing, accessible all-day menu that brings together all those demands while maintaining some solid gastronomic cred and his own farm-to-table philosophy.

Still in it’s early days, the menu is an easy-going combination of small plates (earthy roasted beets with truffle oil and goat cheese mousse, chicken satay, addictive crispy green beans with chipotle aoili);  $10-$13 sandwiches (sweet and savory slow-roasted pulled Kurobuta pork on a ciabatta bun, burgers with applewood bacon); salads (goat cheese tomato galette, seafood Louie); and larger plates (roasted local halibut with lemon-dill potatoes and caper butter, fish and chips, grilled pork chop, ). Smaller portions are available for most entrees (and half portions for kiddos), and a number of the small plates are available during the restaurant’s popular Happy Hour. Regulars will recognize many of Whipple’s signature dishes (the galette, halibut). The French-trained chef (Whipple worked at Domaine Chandon with Philippe Jeanty for nine years, as well as at Mustard’s and Deuce Restaurant in Sonoma) has a solid Wine Country background and makes a mean Swedish cream cannoli that took big awards at the 2010 Harvest Fair.

After tasting through a good part of the menu, call me jazzed.

Brasserie at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek,170 Railroad Street, Santa Rosa, 636.7388. Lunch daily from 11:30 to 2:30pm; dinner from 5pm to 10pm Sunday through Thursday, and Friday and Saturday until 11pm.