There are some tough tables to get during the holidays, but I had no idea how valuable my reservation was until I arrived at Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens at 5 p.m. on a Wednesday. The current wait? Only 100 minutes with a completely full bar. The al fresco eatery, covered in patio umbrellas and propane heat lamps, is warmly lit with twinkle lights reflecting on hundreds of wine glasses. In the soft afterglow of Corona del Mar’s golden hour, it’s commonplace for diners to snap selfies tableside.
As I strolled past the bar and kitchen, a familiar face caught my eye. Koire Rogers, previously of Arc Food & Libations and Cucina Enoteca, was training on the line. Koire is the creator of one of my favorite drinks of all time: Coffee and Cigarettes, a drink with rye whiskey, smoke and a kiss of coffee beans. Just when I thought one of Orange County’s best bar programs couldn’t get any better, the addition of Koire at Farmhouse solidifies that.
As the menu changes hyper-seasonally, so does the bar. Anthony Laborin, head of cocktail R & D, is constantly crafting new whims; the current cocktail involves a classy fundraiser for the devastating Northern California fires, which affected several of the purveyors from which Farmhouse sources its ingredients. Served in a classic coupe, the drink smells like petrichor in a citrus grove. The whim is built on freshness with grapefruit cordial, citrus simple syrup and a 4-year-old rum. Drinking for charity? Yes, please!
I heard Farmhouse’s veggie bowl can add years to your life, and considering my booze consumption, I’m probably breaking even. “Did you ever hear of that S.O.S. taco event?” asks owner and executive chef Rich Mead. “Everyone was doing big, meaty-greasy tacos, and we decided to go veggie, and I did this cauliflower-tortilla thing with a purée of sweet potato, other fresh ingredients with pickled vegetables . . . This dish is a variation of that.” It has blistered guajillo-glazed Brussels sprouts, cipollini onions and persimmon-pomegranate relish. All of these ingredients combine to make something so fresh, warm and perfectly snug in the toothy tortillas that I feel like I’m a kid who’s being tricked into eating healthy.
Slicing into the grilled dijon-soy-glazed pork tenderloin, the cool evening air forces the blanket resting on the back of my chair across my lap. The steamy Parmesan potato cakes, vibrant braised red cabbage, and warm apple-raisin compote drizzled in Apple Jack brandy sauce is layered, heartwarming and so damn fresh. The only bad part? I need to make reservations to try it all again.
Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens, 2301 San Joaquin Hills Rd., Corona Del Mar, (949) 640-1415; 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.