Posts Tagged ‘dessert’

OC: Playground (July 2013)

September 28, 2013 1 comment

Author: Monte
Date: July 26, 2013

I had heard great things about Playground 2.0, the pop-up haute cuisine concept from Chef Jason Quinn in Santa Ana, California, and while I wasn’t able to try the pricey new OC hit, I was able to try the original and pretty affordable gastropub, Playground. I love this restaurant for what it stands for. It’s a no-holds barred, Chef’s way goes (but it’s not yet a dictatorship where the customer’s preference is entirely disregarded), rebel standout. The menu is eclectic, the craft beer choice is extensive, and the overall vibe is hip without the “ster.” I came with my family and we tried a bunch of different dishes, all of which were delicious. The

Here’s the Menu! Really creative stuff, and all on small plates meant to be shared like tapas.

Course 1: Pan Roasted Corn, Tare, Crispy Chicken Skin, Scallion


The tare sauce was really interesting…it had a really complex tangy tamarind-y rich sour umami-ness to it. The sweet corn and sauce paired well together, with the sweet corn undercutting the intensity of the sauce.

Course 2: Pork & Duck Pate, Sweet Potato Puree, Sour Cherries, Pistachio Crumble, Pangratta


The richness of the pate was really well balanced by the cherries and sweet potato. The flavors were complex, although I had wished the pate was a bit more smooth. The texture was much more like a headcheese.

Course 3: Dragon Roasted Summer Squash, Feta, Chimichurri, Mint, Pine Nuts


A really light and refreshing course. The crunchy pine nuts were a welcome contrast to the soft and meaty squash. I wish there was a bit more feta to contrast with the light mint and chimichurri sauce, but it was still a great dish.

Course 4: Pan Roasted Wild Mushrooms, Slow Egg, Garlic Confit, Marcona Crumble, Macrona Puree


Such wonderful garlicky taste throughout the mushrooms. The sous vide egg was tasty too, and made the entire dish a bit richer.

Course 5: Duck Breast, Cherries, Kale, Poultry Jus, Black Pepper Waffle Crispies 


I liked the cherries and the sauce but the skin could’ve been a lot more crispy. Not the best, not the worst.

Course 6: Maple Glazed Pork Chop


Hollllly pig, this pork chop is amazing. It’s massive, about the size of a small bowling ball. I would guess it’s about 2.5 solid pounds. The meat was extremely tender and juicy, with such a sweet maple glaze. The meat itself had the texture similar to a great ham, just being soft while melting in the mouth. The char on the outside is great too. I guess it’s sous-vide, no other way for such a massive chunk of meat to be so tender throughout.

Course 7: Wagyu Tri Tip, Country Mustard Vin, Shaved Red Onion, Baby Kale, Confit Fingerling Potato


I thought this dish was quiiiite disappointing and forgettable. Very bland, and meat didn’t taste fatty and tender like wagyu normally does. I kind of just ignored this dish and turned back to the massive pork hunk on the table that seemed to never end.

Course 8: Coconut Sorbet, Ashley’s Shortbread, Burnt Lime Meringue


The coconut sorbet was pretty refreshing, and was also made via pacojet. I like the meringue but wished there was more besides the tiny smudge across the plate.

Course 9: PacoJet Flavor of the Day: Chocolate Milk Ice


A great ice cream, it’s a little bitter, and overall had a great dark chocolaty taste.

Course 10: Black MIssion Fig Sticky Toffee Pudding


This dessert was amazing. It was so sweet, but with raisin and cinnamon spices undercutting the total sweetness of the caramel. It was warm, sticky, and just oozed all over the taste buds. Incredible.

Cronuts: An Uneasy Phenomenon

June 9, 2013 Leave a comment

The Cronut craze is getting out of control. (For those unfamiliar, see this article). Yes, it tastes amazing. It is flaky yet crunchy, has a great cream filling, and is overall freaking delicious. I love donuts, I love croissants, and the cronut is sort of a dream come true. Still, there’s something VERY WRONG about people scalping them (see this article).

First, it’s extremely unfair for those who have waited for an hour to not be able to have one, but those with extra pocket money to easily just buy them off a scalper. Yes supply and demand control the economy blah blah but it’s still messed up for that guy waiting in line (that guy was me, see story below) to have wasted an hour of his life for nothing.

Second, and on a related note, the scalpers are creating a race to the bottom. The more scalpers there are, the earlier people will begin to line up for the cronuts, and the more artificially-inflated the wait (and price, apparently) for a cronut will become. This is not desirable.

Third, it’s stupid and a waste of time for the scalpers themselves. If you’re buying 2 pastries for $5 each (apparently Dominique is limiting customers to 2 cronuts now), waiting in line for 2 hours, and then reselling them for $20 each, that’s $30 profit you made after 2 hours of “work.” I know not everyone has a job that pays $15/hour or more, but if you do, stop scalping cronuts! It’s a waste of your time!

Anywhoo, story of how I got a cronut:

I went to Dominique Ansel’s every couple of weeks since first stopping by back in February. I stopped by on a random May afternoon and saw it as a new menu addition, but that it was sold out. Turns out, I had stopped by on about the 4th day of the cronut debut. I was told by the worker that if I wanted a cronut, I needed to arrive early since they sold out in 20 minutes. The following week, my sister and I woke up at 7 AM to get to Dominique Ansel’s by 8 when they opened. We got there at 8:01, and the doors didn’t even open up until 8:04. As fate would have it, the couple immediately in front of us got the last cronut. I was raging pretty hard, although the rest of the pastries there are great too so I had a consolation almond croissant. But I swore to myself that I was done trying to get a cronut – it was too difficult and not worth the effort.

A couple days later though, my sister got up at 6AM and went down by herself, and brought me back a cronut for my birthday (she’s awesome, I know). So that’s how I got to try a cronut.

But seriously, it’s getting ridiculous. And I hate the idea of scalping cronuts. Shouldn’t the people who love the cronut, who appreciate food and innovation, and have the dedication to wait in line, be the ones who are able to enjoy it?

NYC: Per Se (Apr. 2013 #1): Canard à la Presse!

April 21, 2013 5 comments

Author: Victor and Tad
Restaurant: Per Se
Exec Chef: Thomas Keller
Chef de Cuisine: Eli Kaimeh

Date: April 8, 2013
Dinner: Mom’s Visit Meal #4!

Victor’s Notes:

As some of you know, my mom and my cousin visited me last weekend, and I decided to show her some of my favorite fine dining restaurants in the city. This is stop #4 of 4: Per Se!

This was an amazing meal, and pretty much everything was impressive. My mom, cousin, and friends had a fantastic time, and it really was a wonderful experience that I will never forget. I really have to give my thanks to the staff at Per Se for making this meal possible!

P.S. We had “canard à la presse” during this meal! My life is now complete. (That is all haha.)

Tad’s Notes:

Make no mistake: Per Se is so highly lauded for very good reasons. In addition to the impeccable service, the food this time reached hitherto untouched heights. Victor and I have often discussed our favorite restaurant in New York; he loves the consistency and quality of Per Se, while I prefer the sometimes (literally) magical experience at Eleven Madison. Today, however, I can say with very little reservation that I have had the best entrees I’ve ever tasted in New York. We will gush more about these later; suffice to say that you owe it to yourself to experience this at least once in your life.

At the same time, there were a couple of stumbles here today that I didn’t expect from Per Se. These were small errors that may have had more to do with my personal preferences than any actual mistake by the kitchen. They were also quickly overwhelmed by the highlights so it didn’t take away too much from the overall experience. At the same time, in the interest of fairness, they must be mentioned, so you don’t think that Victor and I are actually on the TKeller payroll.

Click here to see pictures of the meal!