Whilst there is still no exact opening date, “early fall” is the best guess for the re-imagined California Grill to debut at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Meanwhile, Chef Brian Piasecki is working on the new menu in an off-site kitchen, snapping photos like these as he creates deliciousness. He has a few favorites, like the three-meat meatballs he shared at a recent media event. “We’re really trying to think of creative new ways to use our wood-fired oven,” says Piasecki. Those meatballs are one way, with pork, lamb and veal spiced with house-made harissa. An oaky, crispy crust makes them perfect for dredging in Meyer-lemon-scented chimichurri with a side of marinated picholine olives and a little orzo. “Perfect for sharing,” says Piasecki. Piasecki is sourcing as much as possible locally, like the Cape Canaveral prawns, “still alive when they arrive at the kitchen door,” he says. He roasts them head on in the wood-fired oven and serves with oven-roasted tomatoes, charred lemon and a handful of peppery baby arugula. (And he’s using the shells to make prawn oil.) Light, crisp, contemporary cooking. He’s playing around with house-made charcuterie – prosciutto, sausage, rillettes, butter and mousse, all made with duck and served with house-made pickles, chutneys and an earthy whole-grain mustard. A delectable new entrée includes beets roasted three ways with pan-seared halibut, and the beets share a starring role on the plate: salt-crusted and oven-roasted, with beet syrup and beet microgreens. Pair that with parsnip “silk” and a rich macadamia nut vinaigrette for a sublime plate of healthful eating. Speaking of fish, the kitchen will have new custom, cast-iron planchas (flat-top grills) just for cooking fish. “Dual temperature zones so we can sear the fish on one side, then slide to the other with a lower temperature for cooking the rest of the way,” says Piasecki. State of the art and a chef’s dream come true. The new kitchen also expands the sushi area with a classic look, including a glass case to showcase the beautiful seafood. A fun new feature is a 12-course “omakase” menu, which essentially leaves the selection up to the chef, with a chance to show off a little and showcase some unusual presentations you won’t taste otherwise. Aside from the kitchen, new tables and chairs are arriving, and the new lighting fixtures are “spectacular!” says Piasecki. Stay tuned for updates on the dining room.