Last week, an article was published in San Diego Magazine about the myths of the farm-to-table movement. The article points to various restaurants stipulating a farm-to-table menu, but in fact, is far fetched and often, untrue. This brings me to once again bring attention to The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon in Anaheim. This is possibly the ONLY restaurant in southern California which can truly boast a farm-to-table menu. Did you know that founder Andrew Edwards owns Edwards Ranch Estates, a farm located in the foothills of Orange and Santa Ana mountains. With 0ver 600 heirloom tomato vines and 90+ varieties of tomatoes, plus several varieties of heirloom cucumbers, peppers, pumpkins and squash, zucchini, beets, corn, kale, melons and fresh herbs, the property is also home to original orange and fig trees, as well as newly planted blueberry bushes.
Each morning, the produce is harvested for the restaurant’s evening service. With produce THAT fresh, it is no wonder the restaurant has become one of the top contenders in the fine dining arena in just a few short years. It is also a restaurant which I always recommend whenever friends and readers ask me for a spot to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, or simply, where they can get an all around top-notch experience.
Each year, Andrew and his wife Morgan host “Sunday Supper on the Farm”, an exclusive invite-only event showcasing not only what the Edwards Ranch Estates has to offer, but also, the culinary finesse of Executive Chef Michael Rossi and his team. I have often referred to this as “the most coveted event of the year,” but quite frankly, that isn’t even enough to fully describe the experience. This is the same feeling one gets when dining at The Ranch — exceptional quality all around.
This year, we bask under a huge tent with a gorgeous vintage setting with tables and chairs provided by Sweet Salvage Rentals. The turquoise and yellow theme runs throughout the table down to the glassware and flower centerpieces. Everything is perfect! I especially love the “distressed” wooden tables we will be eating on.
The afternoon begins with a tour of the grounds led by Chef Rossi. Parasols are provided to shield us from the sun, and some of us hold on to glasses of iced water as we wander onto the grounds. Chef Rossi encourages us to run our fingers through the herb garden and smell the aromas of lemon basil and lemon verbena. From there, we move on to rows and rows of vines dangling with lusciously plump tomatoes ready to be plucked. As Chef Rossi takes us further in, we see beans, squashes, a giant fig tree, Valencia orange trees, various chile plants plus a lot more.
Along the way, we stop for a shot of refreshing nectar — tomato water — which Chef Rossi has prepared for us. It is so refreshing, quenching and replenishing us on this hot afternoon.
Once we return back under the tent, we are greeted with icy cold copper mugs of Orange County Mint Julep created with farm Valencia orange-infused Bourbon. There is also Southern Belle Negroni composed of peach & rosemary infused Don Julio Reposado Tequila, Aperol and Antica Carpano Sweet Vermouth served “on the rock.”
As we sip on our cocktails, tray-passed nibbles are presented, including light-as-air Tempura Squash Blossoms, filled with ricotta, fried to absolute perfection, and a drizzle of farm basil pesto sauce.
Cucumber and Skuna Bay Salmon Tartare is exquisite, especially because I have a weakness for the fragrant yuzu kosho in the vinaigrette it is tossed in. I eat two, and want more, but hold off because we are about to sit down for a sizable meal ahead.
Our menu consists of both plated and family-style courses starting with Edwards Ranch Estates Strawberries & Di Stefano Stracciatella, a gorgeous palette of lime basil, California pistachios, and three types of strawberries: fresh, pickled and dried. The textural components are sublime, comprising soft creamy cheese and crunchy nuts, but it is the sweet-tart-crispy composition from the various strawberries which blows me away.
Next comes Dungeness Crab Gazpacho, a work-of-art which tastes even better than it looks — if that is even possible! We are presented with a generous mound of sweet crab and the orange gazpacho is served table-side. Prepared with Valencia oranges from the farm, the orange ambrosia is invigorating, especially when I am enveloped by the mugginess of the late afternoon. The farm radish and Fresno chile garnishes lend a lovely burst of heat to the palate — one which I greatly welcome!
The third course is a perfect example of why The Ranch stands above other restaurants. While there are many restaurants in OC which offer house-made charcuterie, the Homemade Charcuterie board here is the most lavish and extravagant I’ve ever come across. I am captivated by the rabbit pâté en croûte, enamored by the chicken liver mousse with boysenberry preserves, and most of all, fascinated by the wagyu beef tongue & foie gras terrine. Accoutrements include house-pickled vegetables from the farm, grain mustard and country toast. I wish I had more room for an extra bite of everything!
After that decadent course, our palates are greeted with Heirloom Tomato — a vibrant platter of tomatoes including Tie Dye, Red Lightning, Taxi, San Marzano and Mr Stripey. If you’ve never eaten fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes, you are certainly missing out. These succulent, luscious and absolutely juicy tomatoes require only a sprinkling of sea salt and a drizzle of Napa Valley olive oil, nothing else. Chef Rossi allows the stunning fruit to shine — not mired by unnecessary seasonings — each with its own unique flavor and texture.
Whenever I am dining at the restaurant, I always make sure someone orders a pasta dish. Chef Rossi makes all the pastas in-house, and today, we enjoy a toothsome Homemade Scarlett Beet Gnocchi in a sauce of golden beets, dotted with English peas and strewn with smoked goat cheese. The morsels of gnocchi are immaculate, like pillows in my mouth, each bite better than the last. All the components come together harmoniously, and reminds me how lucky we are to be amid the wondrous bounty surrounding us.
While The Ranch is proud of everything that’s brought to the table, meat definitely places pretty high on that list. Offerings such as the Cowboy Ribeye (on the menu) and the 72oz Porterhouse (a verbal special) will bring even the most staunch carnivore to his knees.
When it came time to serve this course, Chef Rossi, with the help of his team, sear these Flintstone size chops table-side in butter and thyme, generating an exalted waft of redolence, causing tastebuds to salivate, even when minutes ago, we swear we are too full to eat another bite. The meat is a perfect medium rare and a choice of Bearnaise, Bordelaise and Chimicchuri sauces accompany.
With the porterhouse, we are also served a platter of 2lb Maine Lobster with decadent drawn butter. My mouth craves another bite, but my stomach is not willing to comply for much longer.
An exclusive cabernet sauvignon from Andrew’s personal reserve (not publicly available) is served with the entrees, along with some side dishes: The Ranch Vegetables include simply roasted corn and green beans, as well as roasted carrots from the farm.
My favorite is the crispy Tuscan Kale with Calabrian chile, preserved lemon, and a pinch of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
The sun sets slowly, taking away the humidity of the afternoon with it. A rainbow appears in the backdrop — apropos ending for a phenomenal event. Hand-crafted Macaron Ice-Cream Sandwiches by Executive Pastry Chef David Rossi appear on the table — I eat two, blueberry and strawberry.
As we leisurely disperse, we are handed zucchini bread and North Carolina peanuts to enjoy the next day. The immense hospitality of Andrew and Morgan Edwards is unrivaled. Each year, I walk away feeling honored and blessed to have been included in a group of peers and colleagues to relish in the extravaganza Chef Michael Rossi and his team put together. A special shout-out to Melissa Cunningham, without whom, this event will not come to fruition.
Make a reservation at The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon and see why it is the ultimate dining experience in Orange County.
The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon
1025 E Ball Road
Anaheim, CA 92805