The Blind Pig

Rancho Santa Margarita is about to get an infusion of groovy eats and drinks.

Rancho Santa Margarita and Coto de Caza are woefully underserved in the area of high end dining. Dublin 4 in Mission Viejo is a shining beacon, but it is a bit far from RSM for a spontaneous night out. The Blind Pig owners originally wanted a coastal location for their restaurant, but after encountering some difficulty, they decided to bring it closer to home. The Blind Pig is opening in bustling Mercado del Lago shopping center, taking the place of a formerly well-known restaurant. It’s a primo spot, with a patio nearly the same size as the interior seating area and a view of beautiful RSM lake.

My excitement aside, the food was fantastic.

Beet Salad

Gold beets, cumin-guava vinaigrette, pistachio granola, sharp cheddar, hibiscus compressed Maui onion, watercress.

Gold beets, cumin-guava vinaigrette, pistachio granola, sharp cheddar, hibiscus compressed Maui onion, watercress.

Before we ate, Chef Joshua Han had the opportunity to explain his concept: presenting known and established flavor profiles using unique ingredients and preparations. Progressive American without the cliché, he called it. For me, this dish was the one that best exemplified that concept. Some aspects of the flavor profile were very much like those of my parents’ beet salad (beets, walnuts, and bleu cheese)―the sweet vegetable flavor of the beets, the creaminess and sharpness of the cheese, and the toasty nuttiness of the pistachio granola. The compressed onion, watercress, and vinaigrette gave it an edge and an additional aromatic dimension.

Bone Marrow

Smoked shallot marmalade, pickled figs, Maytag bleu cheese, toast.

Smoked shallot marmalade, pickled figs, Maytag bleu cheese, toast.

This blew me away. The marrow was excellently cooked. The flavor profile of the cheese, fig, marmalade and marrow was sublime. I find myself having difficulty composing full sentences while thinking about this dish.

Orange County’s craft cocktail master Gabrielle Dion, of Broadway (of Laguna Beach) fame, is handling drinks. I was heading to work after this preview, so I could only try a couple of sips, but those were enough to enjoy the wonderful and exacting balance of the various ingredients in the various drinks. And of course, like any gastropub worth its salt, The Blind Pig will have a rotating selection of craft beer on tap, including selections from hyper-local brewery Cismontane Brewing Company.

The Blind Pig opens Wednesday, August 21st. I’m so there.

The Blind Pig

31431 Santa Margarita Pkwy
Rancho Santa Margarita, California 92688

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Seventh Tea Bar’s Alpha Dominche Steampunk

I was happy to be invited to Seventh Tea Bar‘s unveiling of their new piece of tea-making machinery, Alpha Dominche’s Steampunk. The AD Steampunk was originally developed as a new tool for quickly producing consistent cups of coffee, but it turns out that the same machine can put out a great cup of tea, too. No single drink takes more than two minutes, and most don’t even take one minute.

As an avid fan of science fiction, I love the Steampunk. It’s a great example of technology and artistry aligning to both benefit and enhance each other. The Steampunk actually looks pretty steampunk itself, with its glass cauldrons, wood details, and integral touchpad. It’s quite entertaining to watch while you wait, too. I tried two teas from Mountain Tea steeped in Seventh Tea Bar’s Steampunk, FengHuang GuiFei Oolong and Dragonwell. The FengHuang GuiFei oolong has quite a story behind it, involving disaster, a triumphant return, and remembrance, but my favorite factoid about this tea was that a rare species of leaf hopper (or “tea hopper) is allowed to bite the leaves to begin the oxidation process on the actual plant! As for the Dragonwell, the first infusion had a rather distinctive taste. I loved the sour and bitter notes, and it was by no means short on aromatics and richness. Multiple infusions dulled Dragonwell’s initial edge, of course, bringing it down to a a flavor one usually expects from this type of tea, but I’d drink it at any number of infusions.

The machine itself and the two teas I tried.

The machine itself and the two teas I tried. Taken from my Instagram.

Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee

Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee is opening its eagerly anticipated 17th Street brick and mortar location this Friday. At a media event I attended, the industrial but cozy space was abuzz with enthusiasm and filled with a sweet, rich smell, which varied depending on which doughnut variety I was standing near.

While I didn’t change my original favorite, huckleberry, after trying each variety, every doughnut was delicious. Sidecar’s doughnuts have a great balance between the flavor of the doughnut itself and the topping, a particularly remarkable feat in the case of the robust maple bacon doughnut. The full doughnut menu is below:

maple bacon, Callebaut chocolate, toasted coconut, malasadas, malasadas with haupia filling, strawberries and cream, huckleberry, birthday cake, meyer lemon, cinnamon crumb

Filling out the other half of the coffee and a doughnut equation is Portland’s Stumptown Coffee. Sidecar selects specific roasts to pair with their doughnuts each month. This was the first coffee I’ve had that compares to San Francisco’s Blue Bottle Coffee.

Sidecar is open nice and early, 7 a.m. on weekdays and 8 on weekends, as is appropriate for a doughnut shop, and goes to the last doughnut.

top: cool lighting; bottom right: spinning Bob Dylan on a vintage stereo setup was a nice touch; bottom left: the sampler plate

Originally posted on OC Food Nation.