I have a crazy theory regarding seasons in SoCal: Various fruits and vegetables ripen according to ladies’ fashion. Wait, hear me out! When women wear boots and sweaters, you’re likely to find chard, beets and hardy herbs at the local farmers’ market. As boots are shed in the warmer months, berries, currants and passionfruits are ripe and ready. One of the best places to experience both at the same time is at Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens, where chef/owner Rich Mead and head of cocktail research and development Anthony Laborin handpick what will end up on your plate and in your glasses based on the latest trends. The fashion, of course, is provided by you.
Farmhouse’s al fresco eatery is essentially Project Runway for what’s fresh, eye-catching and snappy. Combine that with the sweet-smelling roses from the adjoining Roger’s Gardens permeating the warm Corona Del Mar air, and the scene is set for a memorable meal. One day, berries are in. . . . The next day, they are out.
The new summer menu has some first-timers, including Autonomy Farms chicken-liver paté with pickled green garlic, mustard greens, onions and house-made jam on a super-satisfying grilled Rye Goods bread ($15), which goes great with a fresh local craft pilsner beer on tap or a brut rosé. However, the new Icelandic cod dish ($33) caught my attention, with its panko-dijon crusted cod perfectly contrasting the plate’s base of bright-yellow passionfruit purée alongside gorgeous, brown, wild rice adorned with currants, crunchy pine nuts and leggy asparagus. I found myself dipping the asparagus in the purée as if they were paint brushes and I were going to paint a happy yellow sun—oh, the things you do while drinking.
“When the guy at Sea Wind Farms in Fountain Valley started growing passionfruit, that’s when we made up the dish because he’s a really nice guy,” notes Mead before darting off to greet other tables, as he does.
To pair with the dish, I ordered Laborin’s Farmhouse Whim. What I got was a chilled, polka-dotted drink in a martini glass featuring a new gin he discovered from Amass Los Angeles that, on its own, is citrus-and-cardamom-forward. “I’m still looking for a name on this one, but it has wild honey, lemon juice, gin, lemon twist and this really cool Tuscan olive oil [Mead] found that I infused with grapefruit,” Laborin tells me. Seeing how some of his drink names can be somewhat risqué (Nut Up Piña, anyone?), I ask, “How about you call the drink a pregnancy test, and it’s garnished with either a plus or minus sign?” The cocktail has a nice citrus zing on the nose, followed by a velvety texture from the Tuscan EVOO.
“I’m pretty sure this meal got me pregnant,” I say, winking, on my way out.
Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens, 2301 San Joaquin Hills Rd., Corona Del Mar, (949) 640-5800; farmhouserg.com.
Greg Nagel has been writing about beer since 2011, is an avid homebrewer of wine, cider, and beer, is a certified Cicerone Beer Server, a podcaster with the Four Brewers Show, and runs a yearly beer festival called Firkfest.