Sometimes you experience a restaurant that changes your expectations of other restaurants. Like a new lover, The Ranch is the type of restaurant leaves you infatuated and desiring more. The Ranch and Saloon was part founded by two of Orange County’s most respected restaurant industry veterans, Chef Michael Rossi and Master Sommelier Michael Jordan. The restaurant actually has it’s own farm in the city of Orange where they grow most of their seasonal produce; many of the dishes are crafted or customized to what is in season at their ranch. I visited The Ranch on the last days of Orange County Restaurant week with Daniele from Dani’s Decadent Deals, Jamie from Mn Girl in LA. and her boyfriend David. Together we were able to order most items from the prix fixe menu. Here is what we ordered:
Laura Chenel Goat Cheese Raviolis – These raviolis are made with house made pasta that has beets mixed in to give it a pinkish hue. It is stuffed with goat cheese that comes from a small craft goat cheese producer in Sonoma, called Laura Chenel. It was plated with scarlet red beets, golden raisins, toasted walnuts all resting in a puddle of Valencia Orange sauce. The Valencia oranges and beets actually come from their farm. This ravioli was extremely well-balanced in flavor between the tangy creaminess of the goat cheese, sweet acidity from the orange sauce, and proteins in the walnuts. This is a dish that I highly recommend next time you visit The Ranch.
Ravioli Butternut Squash Soup – A creamy butternut squash soup base was formed with chunks of squash and small sweet shrimp. The butternut squash soup was then drizzled with a house made pepita (pumpkin seed) pesto sauce and braised leeks. This soup had several complex flavor layers. On the top of the cup, the flavor was a blend of nutty, herbal flavors with a hint of acidity. Although as I spooned further in the the cup, I started to get the sweet elements from the shrimp and chunks of squash. If you order this dish, I encourage giving your table mates a taste of our soup, although I doubt that will happen after your first sip.
Skuna Bay Salmon – I never order salmon at a restaurant because I can make a really good salmon at home; although I ordered it because our waiter, Aaron, “guaranteed I will like it.” Turns out he was right! The salmon had a deep orange color and crispy skin, it looked like they pan seared the salmon and then finished it in the oven, resulting in a crispy skin and firm exterior. When I cut the salmon open, it was extremely juicy and had the thick muscle characteristics of wild salmon. When I bit down into the salmon, I was greeted with a rush of natural salmon juices, tender flesh and paired with the crispy skin. The dish was served with brocolini, black quinoa, crispy pistachios re-hydrated grapes and a sweet tangerine sauce . This dish was a wonderful experience and yes I would order salmon again from The Ranch.
Certified Black Angus Steak Collate – The collate steak cut is also known as the top sirloin cap steak and it is literally the round cap of a sirloin Although this is traditionally a tougher cut of steak, The Ranch did a really great job with aging and marination to create a tender and flavorful steak. The steak was cooked pink throughout, per our order, and was extremely juicy. It was served over wild mushrooms, black truffle shavings and the rich steak glaze. The steak was served alongside a very impressive potato stack that contained celery root, Gruyere, and spinach.
Confit of Muscovy Duck Leg – For those not familiar with Muscovy duck, it is a superior tasting duck specie due to it’s lower fat content (18%) does not have the oil gland which gives other ducks a strong persistent flavor. The dish was served with beluga lentils , baby root vegetables and house made Guanciale (cured pork cheek…better than pancetta). The dish was presented in it’s own deglazed pan sauce. Our friend Jaime ordered the Muscovy Dug Leg and she said it was was very good and would definitely order it again.
Rustic Blueberry Crostata – A crostata is a Italian style pie in the form of a tart; in this case it was like having a personal blue berry pie! The crust of the tart was both flaky and puffed, creating a nice contrast in flavors. The blueberry pie filling was sweet and had just a slight tang to make it interesting. It was served with a serving of cream fraiche ice cream and swirl of a delicious Meyer lemon curd. Together the flavors made my eyes roll back.
PBJ & MILK CHOCOLATE BAR – The PBJ Milk Chocolate Bar was so good I felt the need to protect my plate for wandering forks. This dish started off with a thin sheet of concord grape jelly, then layers of graham cracker crust, a dense chocolate mouse, creamy peanut butter, a delicious strip of caramelized cream and more graham cracker. I could be wrong about the ingredients in these layers, but the one this I know is that this dessert momentary sent me into a religious experience. The dish was served with crystallized banana ice cream, a subtle homage to Elvis’s favorite sandwich.
My Final Thoughts
The Ranch is a rare unicorn of a restaurant that is doing everything right from the profession wait staff, innovative cooking techniques, growing their own food and impressive wine list. During our visit, everything fell into place for a perfect dinning experience. I have to make a big call out for our waiter, Aaron, who provided one of the best table services we have ever experienced. He shared with us his passion and knowledge about food and wine and elevated our dinning experience. If you consider yourself a foodie, I highly recommend a trip to The Ranch. You just might leave your heart there.
http://www.theranch.com/ – Entree prices run from mid $20- high $30