In my 20+ years as a food writer/critic, I’ve been invited to a myriad of events, meals, experiences on different continents even. Some I wish to forget, but others, will remain etched on my memory for years to come. This is one of them. But I must warn you, this review is long, but deemed necessary, in order for me to recant the truly remarkable afternoon I spent in the company of other food writers and food lovers alike.
Over the weekend, I was invited to a luncheon at the Edwards Ranch Estates, the farm which supplies produce to The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon in Anaheim (and is owned by Andrew Edwards, owner of the restaurant). I had visited when they first opened and if you are interested in reading my post from that visit, you can find it here.
It was a hot and balmy day and I balked at the thought of having to be outside for three hours lingering in the hot weather I loathe. Tents were set up but my easily over-heated body was already breaking out in perspiration as I sipped on my iced tea trying to catch the cool mist spraying down on us.
I grabbed a Tempura Zucchini Flower stuffed with Sierra Nevada Goat cheese, garden herbs and meyer lemon off a passing tray. It was deliciously hot and richly gooey, just one of the 17 items we were to taste over the course of the afternoon.
Next came the refreshing Baja Stone Crab Gazpacho with sweet crab meat, gala apple for crunch, both swimming in a soup of champagne mango and Valencia orange juice, dressed with Easter egg radishes. It was a tropical delight in my mouth!
After the mouth teasers, we took a tour of the Farm, home to about 400 heirloom tomato vines, ranging from Brown Sugar, Persimmon, Brandywine to name just a few.
If you wonder why everything you eat at The Ranch tastes so damn good, it is because everything grown on the Farm is picked the morning of the day you’re enjoying that evening. Cucumbers, chilis, citrus, fresh herbs, the gorgeous variety of squashes, tomatoes etc is truly a farm-to-table experience.
When we return to the table, our feast begins with a Trio of Spreads — eggplant hummus, a tart creamy concoction eaten on grilled naan bread. In fact, we dipped everything on the naan — fennel tzatziki and black Mission fig & olive jam, the latter being my absolute favorite. The figs are grown on the Farm and the salty sweet mixture of olive and figs is absolute genius.
Grilled Peaches so sweet and aromatic is served with La Quercia Prosciutto, Di Stefano Burrata, Wild arugula and lemon verbena honey. Seriously, no words are necessary to describe this super simple dish with a highly complex marriage of flavors.
This next dish is the epitome of summer. Not only is the presentation outstanding, but the flavors are sublime. Chilled Cucumber Soup is light and refreshing while the hot smoked Skuna Bay salmon lends a salty, decadent contrast to the subtle coolness of the cucumber.
Heirloom Tomatoes pretty much sum up the Farm on a plate. These beautiful tomatoes required nothing but a sprinkling of sea salt and a drizzling of Napa Valley olive oil to enhance the natural flavors. The fruits speak for themselves, each embodying a unique taste with its own personal texture — a symphony of color and the true essence of summer.
Making use of seasonal fruits, Watermelon & Heirloom Tomato Salad is not only vibrant in color but vivacious in personality. Lemon basil, mint, feta, radishes and red onions are tossed together with the sweet watermelon cubes and luscious tomato chunks, and definitely what I want to eat outdoors, so our environment was the perfect setting for this dish.
Up till now, I had taken only one bite of everything put in front of me. However, it was really hard to resist just one taste of the Country Fried Petaluma Quail. The fowl was crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside with the distinctive taste I so love. Home-made agave mustard was an ideal accompaniment as well as the apricot jam if you preferred a sweeter alternative. This was indeed my favorite entree.
Maplewood Smoked Jidori Chicken was incredibly aromatic and the smokiness wafted into the air the minute the platter was placed in front of us. Served with The FARM’s version of panzanella (bread and tomato salad) using jalapeno cornbread, picholine olives, heirloom tomatoes, yellow corn and torn purple basil, it was the perfect summer meal.
My second favorite entree was Citrus Grilled Mexican White Shrimp. The shrimp are skewered on thin sugar cane slivers and when eaten with the red quinoa, cucumbers, radishes, Hass avocado and watercress salad, the complexity of textures and flavors were an explosion in my mouth, blowing me away.
If you are a fan of salmon, then Skuna Bay Salmon with heirloom beets, English peas, spring onions, Sicilian pistachios and dill yogurt is sure to please.
Meat lovers can enjoy Certified Angus Skirt Steak, rare slices of meat served atop plump chunks of eggplant and summer squash with bits of rainbow chard and sweet baby carrots.
Or, Certified Black Angus Tenderloin, a roulade stuffed with fontina, sopressata and pine nuts brushed with basil pesto using incredible grass fed meat, is seasoned perfectly and cooked to a medium rare. Moist, tender and succulent are all the words I have to describe this.
If I loved the tenderloin, I was IN love with the Miniature Lamb Chops! These mouthwatering chops are cut thick and no words were needed to describe how tasty they were. The silence surrounding our side of the table spoke volumes!
As everyone waited patiently for dessert to be served, I knew my meal had come to an end. No matter how enticing dessert was going to be, there was no room left for even one bite. When the platter containing Peach Parfait with elderflower sabayon, Miniature Blueberry Crostatas with Meyer lemon frozen yogurt, Hand Crafted Macaron Ice Cream Sandwiches — butter popcorn and mint n chip was brought to the table, I snapped my photo and then sat back and watched the debauchery surrounding me.
I watched as those around me took a bite of the macaron and their eyes rolled back, letting out a sigh, and then immediately take another bite. I didn’t have to taste any of it to know they were a hit.
As the meal drew to an end, and guests, one by one, left the premises, I realized that the heat was a minor interference, a non-issue if you will, to this exquisite repast I’ve had the honor of being invited to. It will eternally be remembered as one of the best meals of my life.
**everything mentioned above is available on the menu, or, will be available within a few weeks of this post**
The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon
1025 E Ball Road
Anaheim, CA 92805