Harlow’s Kitchen & Craft Bar

I’ve been watching my friends post photos of their meals at Harlow’s, month after month on Facebook, and those months have turned into more than a year, so it is definitely time to pay them a visit. The restaurant is cozy, with several dining rooms to suit your every occasion. We sit in the room adjacent to the bar which is bustling from the activity from the bar itself.

Our server Marc brings us a loaf of freshly baked bread with house-churned butter. Delicious and addicting, it is so hard to eat only one piece, but I do, and then, I push it away to the other side of the table. So dangerous!

DSC06036Almost everything is made in-house including the syrups and mixes for the craft cocktails on offer. We are intrigued by the house-made ginger beer and decide that a Moscow Mule is definitely the way to start. Besides the Mule, I opt for something with tequila in it and the Harlow’s version of margarita is suggested (cocktails range between $10 and $12).

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The menu is straightforward, featuring seasonal ingredients and simple preparation. Seasonal Oysters ($15/6pc) is a great way to start — well, not for me — and Kusshi from the Pacific Northwest is the featured oyster of the night. My dining companion relish them with delight!

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The Caprese Flatbread ($12) is a must try. The baby heirloom tomatoes are ripe and bursting with flavor, while burrata adds creaminess. The flatbread itself is lovely too, crispy and not at all dry, just the way I like my flatbreads/pizzas. Arugula pesto is an added bonus to an already delicious appetizer.

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I love Tuna Tartare ($17) and here, it is well-seasoned and topped with black tobiko. The quail egg adds an element of lusciousness to the tartare, but it is the housemade sriracha which wins my heart. Hints of ginger, a lovely heat with a touch of tartness adds a kick to the whole dish. Served with rounds of crispy taro chips.

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While I’m not usually fond of salads, Harvest Salad ($9) was rather pleasant. The spicy bitter flavors of arugula melded well with the sweetness of the roasted apples and pears. Add to that crunchy watermelon radish and you have a really lovely salad. The cider vinaigrette is subtle and never overpowers.

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For entrees, there is Seasonal White Fish ($26), which changes regularly. On this particular evening, it is grilled sturgeon accompanied with a sweet pea puree, radish arugula salad and a delightful tempura cauliflower which I wish I had the room to finish.

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However, it is the Colorado Rib Eye Cap ($38) which won me over. Yes, the sturgeon was delicious, and ordinarily, I will always choose seafood over meat, but the beautiful char on the steak is incredible and so utterly packed with flavor, I am not able to stop eating it. The charred tomatoes and Bloomsdale spinach are nice accoutrements, but it is the demi glace that is to-die-for.

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Not that we needed any extra food, but if you’re in the mood for sides, definitely order the Brussels Sprouts ($8) with house cured pork lardons!

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Harlow’s is not only a great neighborhood eatery, but also, one which offers a stellar menu which will definitely entice me to drive to. The dishes are simple, yet well thought out, and the generous portions means you’ll never leave hungry. Harlow’s is a south county gem worth noticing (if you haven’t already).

Harlow’s Kitchen
31111 Rancho Viejo Road
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
Tel: 949-240-8100

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new fall menu items at Seasons 52

It’s that time of year again when restaurants revamp their menus to reflect the changing season. Seasons 52 prides itself in incorporating seasonal produce into the menus and I was able to try some new fall menu items which embodied an autumnal air about them even if the soCal weather isn’t helping us along in any shape or form.

Now, you know I’m not a big drinker, nor do I talk about wines much, but this time, I was quite pleased with some of the wines paired with our meal so I will mention the ones which stood out.

Portabello Mushroom Flatbread ($10.95) has been featured before and I was happy to see it return. Meaty slices of portabello sits atop the thin crispy flatbread the restaurant is known for. I love mushrooms and these are full bodied in both aroma and taste.

One of the new items — Double Hummus & Sea Salt Lavash ($7.50) — was quite lovely. I especially liked the salty crispy lavash which I enjoyed even on its own. The minted edamame hummus was mild in flavor while the red roasted chili hummus packed a slightly stronger punch. I liked both but the latter definitely stood out a little more than the other since I love bold flavors when it comes to food.

(For photo purposes, the flatbread was moved to create a better shot. It usually is served standing up in a cone in between the two plates of hummus).

I was extremely surprised by Cider-Glazed Grilled Chicken Skewers ($9.95) expecting them to be….. well….. chicken skewers. These tender pieces of chicken was so moist and having been marinating in the cider glaze, produced a nice, even flavor throughout. The accompanying Fuji apple slaw was also rather tasty with a slightly sweet finish, working together with the acidity of the cider. Topped with sun-dried cranberries and toasted pumpkin seeds, you get a mouthful of textural contrasts in every bite.

The pairing for the chicken skewers was Farrier Andiron Semillon, Alexander ’09, a crisp, light white wine which wasn’t too dry and worked well with the sweet tartness of this dish.

The Maple Leaf Farms Sesame Duck Salad ($15.25) makes a reprise this fall, with chopped greens, apples, mint, cranberries, butternut squash and toasted pecans. I’ve had this dish before and really like the freshness of the mint with the crunch of the pecans. The portion makes for an ample entree, or you can share it as a starter.

Seasons 52’s use of All-Natural Piedmontese meat is apparent throughout the year and this fall, they are featuring a Bone-In Strip Steak 11oz ($28.95) served with roasted asparagus, cremini mushrooms and Fingerling potatoes.

However, the star of the evening was definitely Manchester Farms All-Natural Grilled Quail ($25.95 dinner only), succulent quail perfectly prepared and served with truffle mushroom risotto, leaf spinach and roasted cipollini onions with balsamic glaze.

With the main courses we were given two wines, but I definitely liked the Michael David Petite Petit, Petite Sirah, Lodi ’09/’10 the best. In fact, it was my favorite wine of the night. Smooth, rich, and incredibly sexy, this red complemented both the steak and the quail perfectly.

If you’re familiar with the restaurant’s Mini Indulgences ($2.75 each), on top of all the familiar dessert shooters, the new pumpkin pie with ginger snap crust is an absolute must for pumpkin pie lovers. Adorned with a house-made ginger snap cookie, this was a dessert even my non-sweet palate couldn’t say no to.

I always suggest you visit when there has been a menu change. The months go by rather quickly and before you know it, the winter menu is in place and you’ve missed out on the wonderful fall items.

This week, Seasons 52 has generously donated a dinner for two to giveaway. Leave me a comment with your FULL name, along with the reasons you love fall for a chance to win. Entries close on Sunday. Good Luck!

Seasons 52
3333 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Tel: 714-437-5252

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