For the last three years, Orange County media, and a select few from other industries, wait with bated breath to see if they make it on to the guest list of one of the most coveted events of the year. The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon‘s Sunday Supper is held at owner Andrew Edwards’ farm — Edwards Ranch Estates — and I equate this annual event to finding Willy Wonka’s golden ticket. I am so honored to have been invited all three years.
Besides the incredible menu, the chance to break bread with Andrew Edwards and his beautiful wife, Morgan is in itself an experience I look forward to. Mr Edwards is one of the most charming yet, down-to-earth gentleman you’ll ever meet, and everyone who has ever had an encounter with him, no matter big or small, will remember it — just ask my son and he’ll tell you!
The experience begins right as we make our way from the parking area. Executive Chef Michael Rossi is grilling flatbread at the entrance and seems very excited to see us.
Familiar faces from the restaurant greet us as we make our way under the tents to enjoy a cocktail before the festivities begin. I stick with refreshing cucumber water throughout the day in order to stay cool.
Our first tray passed appetizer, Grilled Flatbread is topped with sweet peaches from the farm, goat cheese and speck. The combination of sweet and salty, crispy and soft is delightful on the palate.
Of course, we cannot forget the famous Zucchini Squash Blossoms which have been on the menu since the beginning. These tempura-fried beauties are stuffed with Boursin cheese and sits on brightly hued basil pesto adding a hint of freshness to the crispy blossoms.
After the hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, we embark on a tour of the grounds with Executive Chef Michael Rossi leading the way. I am always impressed by everything The Ranch Restaurant does, especially the little touches they always bring to each and every experience — the parasols offered to help shield us from the blaze of the scorching sun while we stroll around the property.
The farm looks fantastic this year, everything is flourishing and appears so lush and abundant. We walk through the herb garden as well as the beds of squash before heading over to the “orchard”, where another surprise awaits us.
We are met with a bowl carrying little shots of tomato water, offered as a respite to the sweltering heat. The refreshing liquid is indeed a thirst quencher, and invigorates us for the second part of the tour.
As we make our way into the other side of the farm, we see plump, luscious fruits hang off the vines. There are too many varietals of tomatoes to name, but we are mesmerized by the plentiful harvest at eye-level. Chef Rossi and Mr Edwards invite us to taste the tomatoes as we walk through the rows. I pick some orange and red cherry tomatoes to pop into my mouth. The incredible flavors are indescribable, nothing I have ever tasted from even those bought at a farmer’s market. They are so sweet one might think they have been pumped with sugar.
After the tour, we take our seats at the table. Wines are poured and our first course of house-made Charcuterie arrive amidst ooos and ahhhs from the group. It is a sight for sore eyes.
Chicken Liver Mousse, Chicken Galantine, Pastrami, Country Pate, Head Cheese, Vegetable Terrine, Sausages (Kielbasa, Louisiana Hot Links, Jalapeno-Cheddar) with pickled farm vegetables and grain mustard are all served with a bread selection from OC Baking Company. I regret later that I overindulged so quickly.
The next dish to hit the table is Farm Beets & Kanpachi Crudo featuring the beautiful bounty from the farm. Valencia oranges, radishes, Fresno chiles and smoked avocado are artfully arranged with syrupy sweet red, golden and Chioggia beets which refresh and tickle the palate.
The next dish is one which I hope will always be featured because it is so perfect for summer. Chilled Cucumber Soup, prepared with buttermilk, is light and welcoming on a sweltering day. Hot smoked Skuna Bay salmon is delicate, making for one of those “eyes-roll-to-the-back-of-the-head” moments with each spoonful I savor.
No Sunday Supper is complete without a showcase of the gorgeous Heirloom Tomatoes from the farm. I encourage my table-mates to try each variety to fully grasp how diverse and distinct each one is. A handful of chopped basil, a sprinkling of sea salt, and a drizzle of Napa Valley olive oil is all it requires, nothing more.
By now, I am already feeling the effects of the charcuterie. I am only able to take one bite of the Crab Stuffed Poblano Chile Relleno with the deliciously savory zucchini succotash and golden tomato. The almond romesco sauce is piquant and pairs nicely with the chile. It is phenomenal but I am unable to take another bite. Perhaps next year, might I suggest taking the walk around the farm right about now?
Homemade Maine Lobster Campanelle is perfectly al dente hand-made pasta dotted with bits of lobster and English peas in a baby carrot sauce. It is a a little sweet for my salty palate, but my neighbors relish it with delight.
Every year, quail is featured on the menu and this year, Chef Rossi serves Roasted Quail stuffed with black fig and fennel sausage. I hear murmurs of quail “turducken” as we chuckle at the indulgence, but we all agree, it is a definite skill stuffing a bird as small as a quail, roast it, and keep it as moist as this one is.
Before our next dish is presented, a cart rolls out with a mammoth rack of the Cowboy Ribeye — the piece de resistance of our feast. Everyone jumps up and rushes to snap photos of this incredible showcase of the best of what The Ranch has to offer.
As we watch the cowboy ribeye roll away, plates of Rosemary Roasted Colorado Lamb Shoulder appear before us. Stuffed with homemade merguez (North African-style sausage) and Swiss chard, it is at a perfect medium rare temperature, tender and flavorful. The accompanying corn succotash is delicious and I wish I had saved some room for another taste.
A delicious bowl of Kale hits our table next and we all forget how stuffed we are. Tossed with Calabrian chile, preserved lemon, parmeggiano reggiano and pine nuts, these crispy leaves are alluring and hard to resist.
Of course, the star of the show is the cowboy ribeye. I am only able to muster half a slice but manage to take small bites accompanied by the assortment of sauces including bearnaise, horseradish, chimichurri and Bordelaise. It is truly a treat!
As our meal comes to a close, we are presented with Executive Pastry Chef David Rossi’s creations, including an array of Farm Inspired Macarons: strawberry basil, fig, chocolate mint, creamsicle; and other delicious offerings.
From top left clockwise: Shoo-Fly Panna Cotta is my absolute favorite possessing a crunchiness from the streusel, rich dark chocolate balls and hints of molasses; Strawberry Shortcake is too pretty to eat and I sit there staring at it for a long time debating how best to dig in without destroying it visually. Compressed Melon sees finely diced watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe floating in a Valencia orange soup infused with lemongrass, mint and star anise. This soup was a palate cleanser at last year’s event, but works so well as a refreshingly end to our meal. Lemon Blueberry Verrine, is a cheesecake-like dessert with hints of citrus and garden thyme.
We are all stuffed to the brim and possibly, have slipped into a coma somewhere between course eight or nine, when Mr Edwards had Aaron pour the gorgeous Napa Valley Reserve from his own private collection. As always, it is the ultimate treat to sip on an exclusive wine and listen to Mr Edwards tell us about this full-bodied red he is so passionate about.
I don’t usually write about an experience my readers are not able to enjoy themselves, but I can assure you, when you visit The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon, you can be sure your experience will be one to remember. Although you won’t be getting a parasol, or a sip of the tomato water, or a seat at the farm table, the same attention-to-detail service is applied to every guest. One word of advice though, make a reservation please! You don’t want the disappointment of being turned away when there are no tables available to accommodate you.
The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon
1025 E Ball Road
Anaheim, CA 92805