As a restaurant writer, I get invited to many culinary events. Some are great media gatherings to discover a new restaurant, others to taste new menus. These events have been suspended during the pandemic in favor of individual media visits.
Larger media gatherings returned. I was lucky enough to attend a spring menu tasting at Farm at Roger’s Gardensalong with two dozen other food writers and guests.
Summer may be approaching, but the farm owner and chef Rich mead knows that California has longer growing seasons and he can incorporate seasonal dishes no matter the time of year.
This casual farm-to-table tasting took place in Farmhouse’s new event space adjacent to the restaurant and its expansive patio; see the May 9 print edition of the Business Journal for more on the growth and success of the Herbert family-belonging to Roger’s Gardens.
Many restaurants claim the nickname “farm-to-table”. With Mead, it’s obvious. He incorporates unique local and sustainable ingredients that he sources on weekly trips to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market and other specialty suppliers, which he has done for nearly 20 years for Farmhouse and its previous Newport Beach restaurants, Sage and Sage on the Coast.
The relationships Mead has cultivated with local farmers and ranchers are what have made Farmhouse the go-to place for fresh, seasonal dishes and flavors. Even the Farmhouse bar program uses seasonal ingredients in its creative cocktails.
Mead also cultivated a relationship with her clientele, which was important during the uncertain days of the pandemic when restaurants were under multiple restrictions.
“If you were in business a long time and you were doing takeout, people would be doing it to support you and help you stay afloat,” Mead told me. “We were lucky to have a lot of outdoor space. We have 100 seats, compared to many other restaurants.
For a time, Mead created and sold produce boxes filled with a week’s worth of fruits, vegetables, and other food staples.
“It helped support us and gave us liquidity,” Mead said. “We generated enough to keep people working. I feel responsible for a lot of people. I could go to the farmers’ market and buy produce from people who were my friends. When I had the Sage restaurant, which was a real labor of love, I didn’t have a lot of money, so they gave me items that were damaged and I figured out how to use them. So it’s a give and take.
When Farmhouse first reopened during the pandemic, Mead had separate menus for lunch and dinner, but he was forced to rethink his dishes and decide how many people could be in the kitchen at the same time to preparing and cooking food.
“We reconditioned the air, kept the kitchen doors open, separated prep areas with shower curtains, lengthened the day by having people come in earlier and having two or three shifts,” recalls Mead. “I changed the menu and removed the extensive prep and decided to offer the same menu all day.”
The OCBJ magazine
The latest menu features Chef Rich meadtalent for creating dishes that reflect the ingredients.
The media tasting started with a prosciutto and Pink Lady apple pizza, and a spaghetti squash and greens quesadilla with white cheddar and peach salsa.
“It’s a way for me to showcase the ingredients of the farmers we work with. The tortilla that accompanied the quesadilla came from Tehachapi Grain Project. I think tortillas are wonderful, when I get something like that I try to create a dish that works with it. Another example is the butter from a farm in Petaluma, its milk from sheep and cow together, and the bread is from Rye goods at the Lido,” Mead said.
Next came a simple dish of roasted carrots with cilantro and cumin, which was so remarkably flavorful that I had to ask where the carrots came from. The answer: Weiser Family Farms based in Tehachapi.
Next is the grilled snow peas with roasted radishes and turnips. Again, full of flavors and textures.
I know Mead enjoys working with cod – it was already on his menu, but always with unique presentations. This time he served us Icelandic cod in a cilantro and cumin crust with pickled cauliflower, shredded fennel, arugula, roasted carrot mash, kumquat relish and onion. marinated red. It’s a culinary cantata with cod in the lead while the other ingredients accompany it perfectly.
Next: grilled Autonomy farms Pasture-Raised Flat Iron Steak with Roasted Magic Myrna Potatoes, Grilled Asparagus, Dijon Horseradish Aioli, and Black Garlic-Herb Jus.
“The flat iron steak is pasture raised near Paso Robles,” Mead said. “The beef would have been grass-fed, but with the drought there was a lack of water, so they were fed leftover beer mash. The aioli is like bearnaise but not really , it’s good on asparagus, it’s good for everything.
Mead was right – I’d order some on the side for potatoes or anything that calls for aioli.
According to Mead, added desserts include Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, Chocolate Berry Cheesecake, and Chocolate Truffle Cake.
Instead, we were served a unique treat: sweet potatoes with creme de marshmallow flambé and apple cider molasses. An instant success at the media tasting.
By the way, the event space can accommodate 30 people at a long table and around 40 people with round tables. Event menus can be customized. Speak to Tony Romero at [email protected] about booking space for your next private event.
Farm at Roger’s Gardens: 2301 San Juaquin Hills, Newport Beach (949) 640-1415, closeg.com